1961 Rock Music Timeline
Girl Group - The Shirelles 1961
The Shirelles of Passaic, NJ become the first of the early 60's "girl groups" to top the US charts (#4 UK) with the Goffin and King composittion "Will You Love Me Tomorrow". (more)
Feb '61
chubby checker - Let's Twist Again - 1961
Mar '61
Chubby Checker keeps the dance hits coming in '61 with "Pony Time" #1 US, "Let's Twist Again" #8 US, and "The Fly" hitting #7 US. (more)
Blue Moon - The Marcels 1961
Apr '61
A doo wop  reworking of the pop standard "Blue Moon" goes to #1 in the US and UK for Pittsburgh, PA vocal group The Marcels. (more)
Del Shannon - Runaway 1961
May '61
Grand Rapids, MI native Del Shannon has a #1 US & UK hit with "Runaway", complete with a solo featuring an early version of a synthesizer called the Musitron. (more)
Ricky Nelson 1961
Jun '61
"Travellin' Man" hits #1 US, #2 UK for 21 year old American singer and TV star Ricky Nelson. It is his 13th US Top Ten single.  (more)
Gary U.S. Bonds
Norfolk, VA singer Gary U.S. Bonds hits #1 US, #7 UK with his single "Quarter to Three" which goes on to sell over a million copies. (more)
Jun '61
Dick Dale - Surf Music 1961
Dick Dale puts out the instrumental "Let's Go Trippin" on his own Deltone label. The song is a regional hit in California and is considered the first surf rock song. (more)
Bobby Vee 1961
Sep '61
Bobby Vee tops the US charts (#3 UK) with "Take Good Care of My Baby" by the songwriting team of Goffin/King, (more)
Ray Charles - Hit The Road Jack 1961
Oct '61
Ray Charles tops the US charts (#6 UK) for the second time with the single "Hit The Road Jack". (more)
Patsy Cline - Crazy
Patsy Cline continues the cross over success of "the Nashville sound" with her hits "I Fall to Pieces" and the Top Ten pop hit "Crazy" written by Willie Nelson, (more)
Ben E. King - Stand By Me
Ben E. King has his second hit of the year with "Stand By Me" #1 US, #4 UK.  (more)
Dion - Runaround Sue
Bronx, NY singer Dion DiMucci, formerly of Dion & The Belmonts, hits #1 US, #11 UK as a solo artist with the single "Runaround Sue" on Laurie Records. (more)
Oct '61
The Beach Boys 1961
Nov '61
The Beach Boys a group from Hawthorne, California featuring vocal harmonies, have a regional hit with their first single "Surfin".(more)
The Tokens 1961
Dec '61
Brooklyn, NY based vocal group The Tokens hit US #1  with their doo wop hit "The Lion Sleeps Tonight". (more)
The Marvelettes
Dec '61
Inkster, MI girl group The Marvelettes bring Motown their first US #1 hit with the single "Please Mr. Postman". (more)
Ben E. King 1961
Mar '61
After leaving The Drifters, Ben E. King has his first US Top Ten solo hit with "Spanish Harlem" written by Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector. (more)
Bobby Lewis
Mar-Keys Stax Records 1961
Jul '61
Aug '61
The house band at Memphis' Stax Records The Mar-Keys have a #3 US hit with the instrumental "Last Night". (more)
Bobby Lewis of Detroit, MI goes to #1 US with the single "Tossin' and Turnin". (more) 
Jimmy Dean
Paris Sisters
The Highwaymen
Wesleyan University folk group The Highwaymen have a #1 US & UK hit with "Michael (Row The Boat Ashore)". (more)
Sep '61
Producer Phil Spector scores again with the San Francisco, CA act the Paris Sisters, who reach #5 US with "I Love How You Love Me". (more)
Oct '61
American country singer Jimmy Dean has a #1 US, #2 UK crossover hit with the American folklore single "Big Bad John". (more)
Nov '61
Dec '61
1961 in Rock & Roll History:

US regional music scenes develop unique styles and sounds. Surf music emerges from Southern California. While girl groups and the Brill Building sound emanate from New York. Phil Spector begins developing his "Wall of Sound" production technique. In Detroit, Berry Gordy's Tamla / Motown label has it's first number one hit and signs new group The Supremes. The Stax studio and record label in Memphis begins working with Atlantic Records creating southern soul music hits.

Top 60 Singles of 1961

  1   Chubby Checker - Let's Twist Again
  2   Ben E King - Stand By Me
  3   Del Shannon - Runaway
  4   Elvis Presley - Surrender
  5   Elvis Presley - Wooden Heart
  6   Ricky Nelson - Hello Mary Lou
  7   The Marcels - Blue Moon
  8   Highwaymen - Michael Row the Boat
  9   Roy Orbison - Crying
10   Bob Moore - Mexico
11   Buzz Clifford - Baby Sittin' Boogie
12   Dion - Runaround Sue
13   Elvis Presley
       (Marie's the Name) His Latest Flame
14   Bert Kaempfert & his Orchestra                    Wonderland By Night
15   Ray Charles - Hit the Road, Jack
16   Jimmy Dean - Big Bad John
17   The Tokens
       The Lion Sleeps Tonight
18   Henry Mancini - Moon River
19   Billy Vaughn - Wheels
20   The Everly Brothers - Walk Right Back
21   Ricky Nelson - Travellin' Man
22   The Marvelettes - Please Mr Postman
23   String-A-Longs - Wheels
24   Dave Brubeck - Take Five
25   Connie Francis - Where the Boys Are
26   Freddy Quinn - La Paloma
27   Bobby Vee
       Take Good Care of My Baby
28   Roy Orbison - Running Scared
29   Patsy Cline - Crazy
30   Elvis Presley - Little Sister
31   Los Machucambos - Pepito
32   Edith Piaf - Non, je ne regrette rien
33   Helen Shapiro
        Walkin' Back to Happiness
34   Gary US Bonds - Quarter to Three
35   Clarence 'Frogman' Henry
       I Don't Know Why (But I Do)
36   Eddie Hodges
       I'm Gonna Knock On Your Door
37   Etta James - At Last
38   Lawrence Welk - Calcutta
39   The Allisons - Are You Sure?
40   Patsy Cline - I Fall to Pieces
41   Chubby Checker - Pony Time
42   Nana Mouskouri
       Weisse Rosen aus Athen
43   Gus Backus - Der Mann im Mond
44   Petula Clark- Romeo
45   Ferrante & Teicher
       Theme From 'Exodus'
46   Ben E King - Spanish Harlem
47   Helen Shapiro - You Don't Know
48   Tony Dallara - La Novia
49   Dee Clark - Raindrops
50   Pat Boone - Moody River
51   Leroy Van Dyke - Walk On By
52   Neil Sedaka - Calendar Girl
53   Ernie K-Doe - Mother-In-Law
54   Shep & the Limelites - Daddy's Home
55   Bobby Lewis - Tossing & Turning
56   John Leyton - Johnny Remember Me
57   Cliff Richard - When the Girl in Your           Arms is the Girl in Your Heart
58   Timi Yuro - Hurt
59   Pat Boone - Johnny Will
60   Gilbert Becaud - Et maintenant
        (What now my love)

All chart information above is from Tsort and uses a formula based on splitting the world into four regions based on sales, the USA (about 35%), other English speaking countries (about 20%), the rest of Europe (about 25%) and the rest of the world (about 20%).  We feel this is the best methodology available to show the global impact of a song or album. More detailed chart info is available on the Tsort website. Actual US & UK charts are linked at the bottom of each year timeline on this site.

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Jan '61
Brooklyn, NY singer songwriter Neil Sedaka has his third US Top Ten hit as the single "Calendar Girl" goes to #4. (more)
Feb '61
Queens, NY doo wop group The Capris have a surprise #3 hit with "There's A Moon Out Tonight" recorded almost two years before. (more)
Mar '61
Memphis, TN singer Carla Thomas hits #5 R&B, #10 Pop with the song "Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) which she had written at age 15. (more)
New Orleans R&B singer Ernie K-Doe tops the Pop and R&B charts with the song "Mother-In-Law" written and produced by Allen Toussaint. (more)
May '61
Jul '61
New Orleans R&B singer Chris Kenner hits #2 on both the Pop and R&B charts with "I Like It Like That". (more) 
Jun '61
"Raindrops" by Chicago R&B singer songwriter Dee Clark hits #2 Pop, #3 R&B. The song is Clark's fifth R&B Top Ten hit. (more)
Jul '61
Gladys Knight & The Pips, a family band from Atlanta, GA score their first hit with "Every Beat of My Heart" #1 R&B, #6 Pop. (more)
Aug '61
Phil Spector produces Yuma, AZ singer Curtis Lee and they hit the US Top Ten with the single "Pretty Little Angel Eyes". (more) 
Oct '61
Rockville, CT singer songwriter Gene Pitney hits #13 US with the movie theme "Town Without Pity". (more)
After releasing his first album in 1960, Johnny Hallyday, tops the European charts with his cover of "Let's Twist Again". (more)
Oct '61
Dec '61
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