Rolling Stone Issue #1
Rolling Stone Issue #1

Rolling Stone Magazine

Underground weekly papers and small-scale magazines are the primary news media of '60s counterculture. Rolling Stone is arguably the most culturally significant and enduring journal of the times.

Editor Jann Wenner and music critic Ralph J. Gleason launch Rolling Stone in late 1967. Just months after the Summer of Love, San Francisco is the epicenter of pop counterculture. From the start, Rolling Stone distinguishes itself from underground papers by setting high journalistic standards, and eschewing radical or revolutionary politics.

Rolling Stone #1, November 9 1967 35¢ Cover Stories

  • John Lennon, How I Won the War
  • The High Cost of Love and Music: Where’s the Money from Monterey? [Pop Festival]

Music Review

  • Arlo Guthrie, Alice's Restaurant
  • Traffic, Hole In My Shoe

The first year, Rolling Stone produces only three issues, but quickly becomes well known. By the end of '68, the basic format of the journal emerges. It's a regularly published biweekly, printed on more substantial paper than the original newsprint, with a full color masthead. By spring the cover design has a format that readers would later recognize as Rolling Stone. The original Rick Griffin logo appears by issue 15.

The magazine quickly emerges as the media vehicle of choice for the younger generation, offering content about new music, politics, and information of value to the under-30 crowd. Within five years, the magazine is a major force in American journalism. Rolling Stone helps to define a new style of political commentary, hiring original and irreverent writers such as Hunter S. Thompson, progenitor of "gonzo journalism." By '73, Rolling Stone is such a power in the music industry that Dr. Hook writes a song, The Cover of Rolling Stone, which becomes a Top Ten hit and leads to a cover appearance.

The '80s are dark times for Rolling Stone. The magazine continues to hire outstanding writers, but takes an institutional tone and moves to New York. Rolling Stone is losing touch with its roots. In the '90s, it launches a major campaign to affirm it still has the Baby-Boomer reader base-now an affluent, mature audience. Failing in that effort, Rolling Stone reinvents itself again. At the start of the 21st century, Rolling Stone still exists, targeting a younger reader, offering coverage of film and TV as well as music, and providing a new degree of sexually explicit (i.e., competitive) content.

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