On This Day

Events in Music in 1961

  • Jan 12 "Show Girl" opens at Eugene O'Neill Theater NYC for 100 performances

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Jan 15 Berry Gordy signs The Supremes with Motown Records

Founder of Motown Records and Songwriter Berry Gordy
Founder of Motown Records and Songwriter
Berry Gordy
Singer and Actress Diana Ross
Singer and Actress
Diana Ross
  • Jan 16 "Conquering Hero" opens at ANTA Theater NYC for 8 performances
  • Jan 21 Francis Poulenc's "Gloria" premieres in Boston (Boston Symphony and Chorus Pro Musica under conductor Charles Münch)
  • Jan 21 "Conquering Hero" closes at ANTA Theater NYC after 8 performances

Music release#1 in the Charts

Jan 26 "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" by Elvis Presley hits #1

Singer & Cultural Icon Elvis Presley
Singer & Cultural Icon
Elvis Presley

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Jan 27 Leontyne Price and Franco Corelli make their debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in "Il trovatore", final curtain call lasts 35 mins

Opera Soprano Leontyne Price
Opera Soprano
Leontyne Price

Music releaseMusic Single

Jan 30 "I Fall to Pieces" single released by Patsy Cline (Billboard Song of the Year 1961)

Country Music Singer Patsy Cline
Country Music Singer
Patsy Cline
  • Feb 9 The Beatles first gig at Liverpool's Cavern Club; they would play there nearly 300 times over the next two years
  • Feb 10 Walter Piston's 7th Symphony, commissioned by the Philadelphia Orchestra premieres under direction of Eugene Ormandy; wins 1961 Pulitzer Prize

Music releaseMusic Recording

Feb 13 Frank Sinatra launches Reprise label under Warner Bros Records

Singer and Actor Frank Sinatra
Singer and Actor
Frank Sinatra
  • Mar 1 Cellist Jacqueline du Prés debut in Wigmore Hall
  • Mar 2 "13 Daughters" opens at 54th St Theater NYC for 28 performances

Music releaseMusic Single

Mar 9 The Supremes release singles "I Want A Guy" and "Never Again"

Singer and Actress Diana Ross
Singer and Actress
Diana Ross
  • Mar 18 6th Eurovision Song Contest: Jean-Claude Pascal for Luxembourg wins "Nous les amoureux" in Cannes
  • Mar 21 The Beatles' first appearance at the Cavern Club in Liverpool
  • Mar 25 "13 Daughters" closes at 54th St Theater, NYC, after 28 performances
  • Mar 25 "Gypsy" closes at Broadway Theater NYC after 702 performances
  • Mar 25 Elvis Presley performs live on the USS Arizona
  • Apr 3 "Happiest Girl in the World" opens at Martin Beck NYC for 97 performances

Appears on tv showTV Show Appearance

Apr 5 Barbra Streisand appears on "Jack Paar Show"

Singer-Songwriter and Actress Barbra Streisand
Singer-Songwriter and Actress
Barbra Streisand
Comedian and TV Host Jack Paar
Comedian and TV Host
Jack Paar
  • Apr 8 "Show Girl" closes at Eugene O'Neill Theater NYC after 100 performances

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Apr 11 Bob Dylan makes his 1st appearance at Folk City, Greenwich Village, New York City

Singer-Songwriter Bob Dylan
Singer-Songwriter
Bob Dylan

Music awardsGrammy Awards

Apr 12 3rd Grammy Awards: Theme From a Summer Place, Ray Charles wins 4

Musician Ray Charles
Musician
Ray Charles
  • Apr 13 "Carnival!" opens at Imperial Theater NYC for 719 performances
  • Apr 15 Meredith Willson's musical "The Music Man" closes at Majestic Theater, NYC. after 1375 performances
  • Apr 23 "Tenderloin" closes at 46th St Theater NYC after 216 performances
  • Apr 25 "Young Abe Lincoln" opens at Eugene O'Neill Theater NYC for 27 performances
  • Apr 30 "Tossin' and Turnin'" single released by Bobby Lewis (Billboard Song of the Year, 1961)
  • May 7 "Young Abe Lincoln" closes at Eugene O'Neill NYC after 27 performances
  • May 15 "Bonanza" by Al Caiola Orchestra hits #19
  • May 18 "Donnybrook!" opens at 46th St Theater NYC for 68 performances
  • May 20 Henzes opera "Elegy for Young Lovers," premieres in Schwetzingen
  • May 22 "Mother-In-Law" by Ernie K-Doe hits #1
  • May 22 "Touchables In Brooklyn" by Dickie Goodman hits #42

Event of interestEvent of Interest

May 31 Chuck Berry's amusement park, Berryland in St Louis, Missouri opens

Rock Guitarist and Singer-Songwriter Chuck Berry
Rock Guitarist and Singer-Songwriter
Chuck Berry
  • Jun 3 "Wildcat" closes at Alvin Theater NYC after 172 performances
  • Jun 13 Billy Barnes' musical revue "Billy Barnes People", starting Ken Berry, Dave Ketchum, and Jo Anne Worley, opens at Royale Theater, NYC; runs for 7 performances
  • Jun 16 Soviet ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev defects to West at Le Bourget Airport in Paris
  • Jun 17 Billy Barnes' musical revue "Billy Barnes People", starting Ken Berry, Dave Ketchum, and Jo Anne Worley, closes at Royale Theater, NYC, after 7 performances
  • Jun 19 "Little Egypt (Ying-Yang)" by Coasters peaks at #23
  • Jun 22 Beatles record "Ain't She Sweet", "Cry for a Shadow", "When the Saints Go Marching In", "Why", "Nobody's Child" & "My Bonnie", in Hamburg, Germany
  • Jun 24 "Happiest Girl in the World" closes at Martin Beck NYC after 97 performances

Music releaseMusic Recording

Jun 24 Tony Sheridan, backed by the Beatles, records "If You Love Me Baby" (aka "Take Out Some Insurance On Me, Baby") in Hamburg, Germany

Singer-Songwriter and Guitarist Tony Sheridan
Singer-Songwriter and Guitarist
Tony Sheridan
  • Jul 15 "Donnybrook!" closes at 46th St Theater NYC after 68 performances
  • Jul 20 Leslie Bricusse & Anthony Newley's musical "Stop The World - I Want To Get Off" premieres at Queen's Theater in London's West End

Music concertMusic Concert

Jul 23 American opera singer Grace Bumbry becomes the first black singer to perform at the Bayreuth Festival, Germany, she earns 42 curtain calls

Opera Singer Grace Bumbry
Opera Singer
Grace Bumbry
  • Jul 29 Bob Dylan injured in car accident
  • Aug 2 The Beatles 1st gig as house band of Liverpool's Cavern Club
  • Aug 21 American country singer Patsy Cline records then-struggling songwriter Willie Neslon's song "Crazy", in Nashville, Tennessee
  • Sep 26 "From the Second City" opens at Royale Theater NYC for 87 performances
  • Sep 28 "Purlie Victorious", a farce by Ossie Davis, opens on Broadway
  • Sep 29 Bob Dylan's 1st recording session-backup harmonica for Caroline Hester
  • Oct 1 The Beach Boys record their debut single "Surfin", introducing a new musical style

Music releaseMusic Premiere

Oct 1 Premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich's 12nd Symphony

  • Oct 3 "Sail Away" opens at Broadhurst Theater NYC for 167 performances

Music releaseMusical Finale

Oct 7 Charles Strouse and Lee Adams' musical "Bye Bye Birdie", starring Dick Van Dyke, Chita Rivera, and Dick Gautier, closes at Martin Beck Theater, NYC, after 607 performances and 4 Tony Awards

  • Oct 10 "Milk & Honey" opens at Martin Beck Theater NYC for 543 performances
  • Oct 12 "Let It Ride" opens at Eugene O'Neill Theater NYC for 68 performances
  • Oct 14 Frank Loesser's musical "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying", starring Robert Morse and Rudy Vallée, opens at 46th Street Theatre, NYC; runs for 1415 performances, winning 7 Tony Awards, and a Pulitzer Prize

Film release premierFilm Release

Oct 18 Film adaptation of the 1957 Broadway musical "West Side Story", directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, and starring Natalie Wood, debuts (Academy Award - Best Picture, 1962)

Singer, Dancer and Actress Rita Moreno
Singer, Dancer and Actress
Rita Moreno
Choreographer, Director and Theater Producer Jerome Robbins
Choreographer, Director and Theater Producer
Jerome Robbins
  • Oct 21 Barbra Streisand opens in "Another Evening with Harry Stones"
  • Oct 23 "Kwamina" opens at 54th St Theater NYC for 32 performances
  • Oct 24 "Evening with Yves Montand" opens at John Golden Theatre, NYC for 55 performances
  • Oct 28 "Fiorello!" closes at Broadhurst Theater NYC starring Tom Bosley after 796 performances and a Pulitzer Prize
  • Nov 2 "Kean" opens at Broadway Theater NYC for 92 performances
  • Nov 4 American folk singer-songwriter Bob Dylan makes his Carnegie Hall (NYC) debut; tickets priced at $2.00 [1]
  • Nov 18 "Gay Life" opens at Shubert Theater NYC for 113 performances
  • Nov 18 "Kwamina" closes at 54th St Theater NYC after 32 performances

Event of interestEvent of Interest

Dec 3 The Beatles meet future manager Brian Epstein

Music Entrepreneur and Beatles Manager Brian Epstein
Music Entrepreneur and Beatles Manager
Brian Epstein
  • Dec 9 "From the Second City" closes at Royale Theater NYC after 87 performances
  • Dec 9 "Let It Ride" closes at Eugene O'Neill Theater NYC after 68 performances
  • Dec 11 Elvis Presley's "Blue Hawaii" album goes #1 & stays #1 for 20 wks
  • Dec 13 The Beatles sign a formal agreement to be managed by Brian Epstein

Film release premierFilm Premier

Dec 13 "The Young Ones" directed by Sidney J. Furie, starring Cliff Richard, Robert Morley and Carole Gray premieres in London

  • Dec 16 "Evening with Yves Montand" closes at John Golden Theatre, NYC after 55 performances
  • Dec 18 Britain's EMI Records originally rejects the Beatles
  • Dec 21 Beatles record "Sweet Georgia Brown" & "Ready Teddy"
  • Dec 27 Styne, Comden and Green's musical "Subways Are fFor Sleeping" premieres at St James Theater, NYC; runs for 205 performances
  • Dec 30 Premiere of Dmitri Shostakovich's 4th Symphony in Moscow (completed 1936)
  • Dec 31 "lrma La Douce" closes at Plymouth Theater NYC after 527 performances