'60s Music Facts

By Scott Shpak
The road to Woodstock was crowded -- concert-goers closed the New York State Thruway in August 1969.

The 1960s still stand for many as a decade of epochal change, from the optimism and hope of a "Beach Party" movie to the despair of assassinations and the Vietnam War. Rock music became the soundtrack behind the events as the baby-boom generation moved into their teens. With all that action in the flower power decade, there are a multitude of stories, anecdotes, trivia and facts covering the music scene.

The First British Invasion

The Beatles generally get the credit for starting the British Invasion in 1964. However, two British records scored the top spot on Billboard's Top 100 in 1962. Acker Bilk's "Stranger on the Shore" and The Tornadoes' "Telstar" were both one-hit wonders in the U.S. However, orchestra leader Annunzio Paolo Mantovani was a resident of the U.K. from the age of 7. Between 1955 and 1972, more than 40 albums by his orchestra made the charts in the U.S., providing a wealth of easy-listening music for the rock audience to disdain.

The Motown Record Corporation

Based in Detroit and started by former car factory worker Berry Gordy, Motown had much in common with the assembly lines that fed car-crazy America. Songwriters such as Smoky Robinson and the team of Holland, Dozier, Holland provided the fuel for artists that included the Miracles, the Temptations and Martha and the Vandellas. Under the hood, though, were the high-horsepower Funk Brothers, a collection of studio musicians who likely played on more hits than the combined totals of the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys and Elvis Presley.

The Festival Explosion

Communing with nature to a rock back beat may seem to be the quintessential 1960s music experience, and with good reason. The Monterey International Pop Festival of 1967 started three years of classic outdoor rock festivals -- although Bob Dylan did play his first rock set at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival. Festivals followed in Miami, various locations under the Newport Pop label, Atlanta and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The yin and the yang of the '60s festivals were Woodstock and Altamont, in August and December 1969, respectively

The Guitars

The big four electric guitars were Telecasters and Stratocasters made by Fender, and Les Pauls and SGs, both Gibson models. The Telecaster's design had mass production in mind, not aesthetics or tone. Those features were built into the Stratocaster in spades, and it may well be the most influential electric guitar. Les Pauls were named for the guitarist and inventor. When sales went soft, Gibson introduced the SG but called these models Les Pauls until the stock of "Les Paul" truss rod cover plates was exhausted.

About the Author

As an operations and technical projects manager in the photofinishing industry, Scott Shpak is also an experienced audio engineer and musician, as well as Editor-in-chief, feature writer and photographer for Your Magazines Canada.