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100 Best Rock Bands of the ‘60s

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These great '60s rock bands left their mark on everything from fashion to politics.

These great '60s rock bands left their mark on everything from fashion to politics.

Rock music came into prominence in the ‘60s. In this decade, musicians experimented with a diverse array of sounds to create eclectic compositions that challenged the world's preconceived notions of popular music. While ‘50s rock paved the way for these artists, many bands evolved those techniques by blending the bluesy origins of rock with the improvisational spirit of jazz, not to mention a whole array of emerging technologies that were used to create sonic depth that was impossible to record prior to the '60s.

While every decade in rock music has had something special to offer, the ‘60s were truly special. The innovations that happened throughout the decade, both technologically and sonically, evolved from the generations' emphasis on freedom of expression. These boundary-breaking groups have inspired countless bands and singer songwriters. While that decade is long gone, its influence on music and culture can still be seen and heard today.

The list below showcases a diverse number of ‘60s rock bands from different rock genres. If you love music from this trippy-hippie decade, then you will definitely have a lot to say. Feel free to share your views and opinions in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Rock Bands of the ‘60s

  1. The Beatles
  2. The Rolling Stones
  3. Jefferson Airplane
  4. Cream
  5. Pink Floyd
  6. Simon & Garfunkel
  7. The Byrds
  8. Creedence Clearwater Revival
  9. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  10. The Beach Boys

How Did Rock Music Come Into Existence?

Rock is an American tradition. The roots of rock music can be traced to the late ‘50s. Rock 'n' roll owes its sound to the blues. In fact, the immediate roots of rock 'n' roll lay in the R&B, then called "race music," and country music of the 1940s and 1950s. Jazz, blues, gospel, country, and folk were particularly significant influences of rock 'n' roll. The emerging genre of "beat music" would also draw from these influences.

The Beatles in their hippie heyday.

The Beatles in their hippie heyday.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘60s #11—20

11. The Who

12. The Kinks

13. The Doors

14. The Yardbirds

15. The Moody Blues

16. The Animals

17. The Mamas and the Papas

18. The Velvet Underground

19. The Shadows

20. The Grateful Dead

Beat Music in the ‘60s

As the rock scene of the ‘60s came alive, beat groups (bands that infused their music with a wide range of influences, including R&B, soul, and surf music), burst onto the scene. Beat music was pioneered by British musical acts music, and it played a pivotal role in the development of mainstream rock music. The beat movement was characterized by a guitar driven sound that was structured around a flurry of rock ‘n roll riffs. Although their compositions were complex, these tunes were aesthetically pleasing, being danceable and easy to sing.

Early in the decade, a number of British rock bands from the beat movement charted on American pop charts. In the mid-'60s a number of beat groups broke away from their traditional pop sound, showcasing their blues influences. This led to what was known as "The British Invasion," when a number of U.K. rock bands dominated the American music charts. This moment was epitomized when The Beatles' “I Want to Hold Your Hand” charted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. From that moment on, the British sound would influence hundreds of American copycats. It was the tremendous success of the Beatles that would come to redefine rock 'n' roll.

The four-piece band became the rock standard in the '60s.

The four-piece band became the rock standard in the '60s.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘60s #21—40

21. The Ventures

22. The Lovin’ Spoonfull

23. Herman’s Hermits

24. The Hollies

25. Country Joe and the Fish

26. Steppenwolf

27. Gerry and the Pacemakers

28. The Troggs

29. The Mothers of Invention

30. Paul Revere & the Raiders

31. The Flying Burrito Brothers

32. Led Zeppelin

33. Vanilla Fudge

34. Ten Years After

35. The Holy Modal Rounders

36. Fleetwood Mac

37. The Monkees

38. Nitty Gritty Dirt Band

39. King Crimson

40. The Spencer Davis Group

Folk Rock in the ‘60s

The political shifts that took place in the '60s led to the folk music revival. These new folk groups blended rock 'n' roll and folk music to write some of the greatest protest songs in American history. Although certain independent folk artists and music critics were critical of electric instruments being used, the folk rock movement became incredibly popular throughout the ‘60s in the United Kingdom, the United States, and Canada. The folk rock scene influenced a broad spectrum of musical movements globally, helping to spawn new musical genres.

The folk revival movement was a huge part of '60s culture.

The folk revival movement was a huge part of '60s culture.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘60s #41—60

41. Moby Grape

42. Procol Harum

43. The Great Society

44. The Incredible String Band

45. Them

46. Deep Purple

47. Big Brother & the Holding Company

48. The Kingsmen

49. Fairport Convention

50. Iron Butterfly

51. Canned Heat

52. The Amboy Dukes

53. Pretty Things

54. Steve Miller Band

55. The Band

56. John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers

57. Soft Machine

58. Jethro Tull

59. The Butterfield Blues Band

60. The Guess Who

Psychedelic Rock in the ‘60s

The psychedelic music scene came into existence through the independent folk scene of the ‘60s. A number of folk rock musicians started experimenting with psychedelic drugs, LSD in particular. This mind-altering experience led to the development of new sonic textures and odd song structures that formed the crux of psychedelic rock. The movement originated in California, but soon spread to other parts of the U.S.

While most bands in this genre were rooted in blues, folk, and jazz, other bands adopted elements of Indian classical music, forming a hybrid sound called "raga rock." Long improvisational instrumental segments were a noteworthy part of the psychedelic rock experience.

Long hair was not just a fashion statement, but a political statement as well throughout the '60s.

Long hair was not just a fashion statement, but a political statement as well throughout the '60s.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘60s #61—80

61. Savoy Brown

62. Buffalo Springfield

63. Santana

64. The Music Machine

65. The Jeff Beck Group

66. The Nice

67. Manfred Mann

68. The 13th Floor Elevators

69. Love

70. Traffic

71. Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band

72. Family

73. Colosseum

74. Sly and the Family Stone

75. Blue Cheer

76. The Electric Prunes

77. Spirit

78. Free

79. Crosby, Still, Nash & Young

80. The Seeds

Blues Rock in the ‘60s

Another genre that became exceedingly popular in the ‘60s was blues rock. The genre combined blues with rock music to form eclectic compositions that experimented with new sonic elements. Although a number of bands came form the blues scene in the mid-'60s, every band had a different approach to instrumentation and lyricism. Blues rock bands from the U.K. and the U.S. became hugely popular, gaining large, devoted audiences. The genre played a pivotal role in paving the way for the Southern rock, hard rock, and heavy metal genres of the ‘70s. Extended boogie jams often played around the twelve-bar blues were a notable feature in blues rock. The heavy riff-oriented sound was characterized by bluesy improvised solos played at faster tempos than traditional blues songs.

The advent of the television talk show gave many bands the opportunity to reach large audiences in the '60s.

The advent of the television talk show gave many bands the opportunity to reach large audiences in the '60s.

Best Rock Bands of the ‘60s #81—100

81. Jan and Dean

82. ? and the Mysterians

83. The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band

84. The Shadows of Knight

85. Small Faces

86. The Zombies

87. Blind Faith

88. The Easybeats

89. The Grass Roots

90. Sir Douglas Quintet

91. Quicksilver Messenger Service

92. MC5

93. Humble Pie

94. The Charlatans

95. Strawberry Alarm Clock

96. The Youngbloods

97. Jay and the Americans

98. The Fabulous Wailers

99. Stone Poneys

100. The Syndicate of Sound

Roots Rock in the ‘60s

While roots rock is used as an umbrella term to describe rock music that incorporated elements of Americana (roots music), in the ‘60s, the genre evolved, incorporating elements of country music, blues, and folk. The term "roots rock" was meant to distance the genre from the excesses of the psychedelic movement. This music emphasized a "back-to-basics" philosophy for songwriting. A number of bands associated with the folk revival movement and the country folk movement released albums that were inspired by this roots rock philosophy. The roots rock genre played an important role in shaping hybrid subgenres, such as Southern rock and country rock.

Jimi Hendrix playing a guitar solo.

Jimi Hendrix playing a guitar solo.

Other Notable Rock Bands of the ‘60s

  • The Searchers
  • Freddie and the Dreamers
  • The Dave Clark Five
  • Zakary Thaks
  • The Champs
  • Chad & Jeremy
  • The Beau Brummels
  • Keef Hartley Band
  • The Surfaris
  • Shocking Blue
  • The Dillards
  • Moving Sidewalks
  • The Chocolate Watchband
  • Silver Apples
  • The Knickerbockers
  • The Heard
  • Juicy Lucy
  • The Savages
  • Blodwyn Pig
  • The Dartells
  • Amon Duul
  • The Frost
  • Goldie and the Gingerbreads
  • The Grodes
  • Kaleidoscope
  • Steamhammer
  • The Atlantics
  • Count Five
  • The Savage Resurrection
  • Zager and Evans
  • The Del-Vetts
  • Hearts & Flowers
  • The Trashmen
  • Ultimate Spinach
  • The Rockin’ Ramrods
  • Caravan
  • The Leaves
  • Sons of Champlin
  • The Left Banke
  • The Remains
  • Hunger
  • The Move
  • Five Americans
  • The Astronauts
  • It’s a Beautiful Day
  • The Moods
  • Chicago
  • The Crazy World of Arthur Brown
  • Pacific Gas & Electric
  • The Fugs
  • Climax Blues Band
  • The Tornados

Surf Rock in the ‘60s

While most people remember surf rock for it's fun lyrics and catchy upbeat riffs, there was more to the genre. In fact, instrumental surf rock was a big part of surf culture. While instrumental surf was characterized by a reverb-oriented guitar sound played to evoke the imagery of oceans and crashing waves, vocal surf added elements of the original surf sound with melodic vocal harmonies. While southern California is considered the epicenter of the movement, surf rock was popular around the country. The shimmering reverb-drenched guitar tones caught on with listeners, becoming the key element of the genre. Today, there are still indie bands that are influenced by the genre's complex pop harmonies.

Frank Zappa and his band.

Frank Zappa and his band.

  • Euphoria
  • Red Krayola
  • The Stooges
  • Golden Earring
  • The Creation
  • The Strangeloves
  • Zephyr
  • The Premiers
  • Sopwith Camel
  • The Northwest Company
  • Freedom
  • The Creation
  • The Pyramids
  • Sweetwater
  • The Lemon Pipers
  • Rotary Connection
  • The Peanut Butter Conspiracy
  • Fifty Foot Hose
  • The Ace of Cups
  • Simon Dupree and the Big Sound
  • Tully
  • Richard and the Young Lions
  • The Escorts
  • Can
  • The Wilde Knights
  • Three Dog Night
  • Apple Pie Motherhood Band
  • The Choir
  • Circus Maximus
  • The Pleasure Seekers
  • Chicken Shack
  • The Outsiders
  • Evil
  • The Outcasts
  • Edgar Broughton Band
  • The Royal Guardsmen
  • Mythology
  • The Box Tops
  • The Daily Flash
  • Rising Sons
  • The Equals
  • Coven
  • The Masters Apprentices
  • High Tide
  • Tyrannosaurus Rex
  • Clouds
  • Thunderclap Newman
  • Earth Opera
  • The Rip Chords
  • Rare Earth
  • GONN
  • The Litter
  • Episode Six

Garage Rock in the ‘60s

This raw and energetic style of rock 'n’ roll was developed in North America in the mid-'60s. The term "garage rock" comes from the fact that a number of upcoming bands started rehearsing, jamming, and writing songs in suburban family garages. The garage rock sound is characterized by its simplicity—the lyrics are structured around basic riffs and chord progressions, which are accompanied by unsophisticated singing styles.

The garage rock sound was characterized by aggressive lyrics and angst-ridden vocal deliveries coupled with distorted instrumentation (often played through a fuzzbox). Garage rock songs often lamented the difficulties of high school life and the trauma related to bad relationships. That said, garage rock's style tended to vary drastically depending on which region the bands came from. Although a number of garage bands had regional hits to their credit and were signed to major record labels in the ‘60s, only few managed to gain mainstream popularity.

  • The McCoys
  • Lothar and the Hand People
  • The Rugbys
  • Gary and the Hornets
  • The Fifth Estate
  • Yes
  • The GTOs
  • Pearls Before Swine
  • The Lords
  • Dr. Strangely Strange
  • The Turtles
  • Crow
  • The Godz
  • Tomorrow
  • Os Mutantes
  • The Groundhogs
  • Fever Tree
  • Motherlode
  • The United States of America
  • The Sacred Mushroom
  • Andromeda
  • Flower Travellin’ Band
  • The Monks
  • Flamin’ Groovies
  • Magna Carta
  • The Barbarians
  • Ronny & the Daytonas
  • The Sorrows
  • Ekseption
  • The Blue Magoos
  • Ohio Express
  • The Nashville Teens
  • We the People
  • The Buckinghams
  • The Standells
  • The Detroit Wheels
  • Vanity Fare
  • The Swinging Blue Jeans
  • Marmalade
  • The Ugly Ducklings
  • Love Sculpture
  • Badfinger
  • The Bluestars
  • The Rooftop Singers
  • Pentangle
  • The Honeycombs
  • Dillard & Clark
  • Tommy James & the Shondells
  • Spooky Tooth
  • The Midniters
  • Aphrodite’s Child

Progressive Rock in the ‘60s

The term "progressive rock" envelopes a broad spectrum of rock music. Prog bands abandoned the traditional song structures that typical audiences were used to. These bands were known for experimenting with compositional techniques, often blending multiple genres together and juxtaposing structural elements from folk, jazz, and classical music. While not all prog bands had lyrics in their music, the more popular prog groups often sung about large philosophical concepts through intricate stories that took place in science fiction and fantasy settings.

Progressive bands are known for their long instrumental passages, often structured in the tradition of classical or neo-classical music. A few bands even wrote rock operas that became wildly popular. '60s progressive bands paved the way for the explosion of concept albums that were released in the '70s. Prog rock is also credited with inspiring the "Canterbury scene," which flourished in the ‘70s.

  • The Rockin’ Berries
  • The Mindbenders
  • Omega
  • The Sonics
  • Steam
  • The Deviants
  • Van der Graaf Generator
  • The Little Boy Blues
  • We Five
  • The Golden Dawn
  • Rare Bird
  • The Sandpipers
  • Nashville West
  • The Paupers
  • Amen Corner
  • The Rascals
  • International Submarine Band
  • The Allman Brothers Band
  • Cuby + Blizzards
  • The Yellow Balloon
  • The American Breed
  • Wigwam
  • The Mystery Trend
  • Q65
  • The Rivieras
  • Ray Brown & the Whispers
  • The Castaways
  • Poco
  • The Squires
  • Luv’d Ones
  • The First Edition
  • Black Widow
  • Third Ear Band
  • Status Quo
  • The Unrelated Segments
  • Alice Cooper
  • The Applejacks
  • Ray Columbus & the Invaders
  • The Gentlemen
  • Renaissance
  • The Chantays
  • Smith
  • The Haunted
  • Wimple Winch
  • 3’s a Crowd
  • The Action
  • Mason Profit
  • The Attack
  • The Mynah Birds
  • Daughters of Eve
  • Taste

© 2020 Ansel Pereira

Comments

Kally on July 27, 2020:

TOMMY James and the Shondells, not Tony.