January 1 – RCA Victor announces a marketing plan called “Operation TNT.” The label drops the list price on LPs from $5.95 to $3.98, EPs from $4.95 to $2.98, 45 EPs from $1.58 to $1.49 and 45’s from $1.16 to $.89. Other record labels follow RCA’s lead and begin to drop prices as well.
January 7
Marian Anderson is the first African American singer to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City.
“Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley & His Comets first appears on the British charts.
January 14 – In New York City, Alan Freed produces the first rock and roll concert.
January 27 – Michael Tippett’s opera The Midsummer Marriage is premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London, conducted by John Pritchard, with designs by Barbara Hepworth and choreography by John Cranko; it arouses controversy.
February 19 – Dot Records introduces a new singer, Pat Boone, with an advertisement in Billboard magazine calling him “a great new voice”.
February 24 – Carlisle Floyd’s opera Susannah is premiered in the Ruby Diamond Auditorium of Florida State University, Tallahassee with Phyllis Curtin in the title role.
February 26 – For the first time since their introduction in 1949, 45 rpm discs begin to outsell standard 78s.
February – Kay Starr leaves Capitol to sign with RCA.
March 3 – Italian soprano Mirella Freni makes her operatic debut as Micaëla in Carmen at the Teatro Municipale in her native Modena.
March 7 – The Broadway production of Peter Pan, starring Mary Martin, is presented on American television for the first time by NBC-TV with its original cast, as an installment of Producers’ Showcase. It is also the first time that a stage musical is presented in its entirety on TV almost exactly as it was performed on stage. This program gains the largest viewership of a TV special up to this time and becomes one of the first great TV family musical classics.
March 15 – Colonel Tom Parker becomes Elvis Presley’s de facto manager.
March 19 – The film Blackboard Jungle is premièred in New York City, featuring Bill Haley & His Comets’ “Rock Around the Clock” over the opening credits, the first use of a rock and roll song in a major film.
March 22 – Decca Records signs DJ Alan Freed as an A&R man.
March 26 – Bill Hayes tops the US charts for five weeks with “The Ballad of Davy Crockett” and starts a (fake) coonskin cap craze.
April 14 – Imperial Records in the United States release “Ain’t That a Shame” by Fats Domino (co-written with Dave Bartholomew). It reaches #1 in the R&B chart and becomes over time a million seller, bringing Domino to prominence and giving his work covers by white artists: Pat Boone makes this song a Billboard number-one single of 1955 for jukebox play.
May 13 – First riot at an Elvis Presley concert takes place in Jacksonville, Florida.
May 21 – Chuck Berry records his first single, “Maybellene”, for Chess Records in Chicago.
May 22 – Bridgeport, Connecticut, authorities cancel a rock concert to be headlined by Fats Domino for fear of a riot breaking out.
June
The 29th International Society for Contemporary Music Festival takes place in Baden-Baden.
The newly formed Netherlands Chamber Orchestra gives its first performance at the Holland Festival.
June 2 – Italian singers Natalino Otto and Flo Sandon’s marry.
June 16 – Glenn Gould completes his recording of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.
June 18
Pearl Carr & Teddy Johnson marry in the U.K.
Pierre Boulez’s influential composition Le marteau sans maître (“The hammer without a master”), for contralto and six instrumentalists, is premiered (in its first revised version) at the International Society for Contemporary Music Festival in Baden-Baden at the insistence of Heinrich Strobel.
July 9 – “Rock Around the Clock” becomes the first Rock and roll single to reach Number One on the American charts.
July 13 – The Beaux Arts Trio make their debut at the Berkshire Music Festival.
August 8 – Luigi Nono marries Arnold Schoenberg’s daughter Nuria in Venice.
August 19 – WINS radio station in New York City adopts a policy of not playing white cover versions of black R&B songs.
August 31 – A Londoner is fined for “creating an abominable noise” for playing “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” at top volume.
September 3 – Little Richard records “Tutti Frutti” with significantly cleaned up lyrics (originally “Tutti Frutti, good booty” among other things).
September 26 – “America’s Sweethearts”, singers Eddie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, marry.
October 15 – Elvis Presley plays a concert in Lubbock, Texas. Opening act is local duo Buddy and Bob, Buddy being future rock star Buddy Holly.
October 20 – Disc jockey Bill Randle of WERE (Cleveland) is the key presenter of a concert at Brooklyn High School (Ohio), featuring Pat Boone and Bill Haley & His Comets and opening with Elvis Presley, not only Elvis’s first performance north of the Mason–Dixon line, but also his first filmed performance, for a documentary on Randle titled The Pied Piper of Cleveland.
October 29 – Dmitri Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No. 1, originally completed in 1948, is premiered by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra with its dedicatee, David Oistrakh, as soloist.
November 4 – William Schuman’s orchestral piece Credendum: Article of Faith, commissioned by UNESCO, is premiered in Cincinnati.
November 12 – Billboard magazine DJ poll names Elvis Presley as the most promising new country and western singer.
November 20 – Bo Diddley makes his debut TV appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS television.
November 22 – Colonel Tom Parker signs Elvis Presley to RCA Records.
November 29 – Juan José Castro conducts the UK première of Carlos Chávez’s Symphony No. 3 at the Maida Vale Studios with the London Symphony Orchestra.
December 15 – Sun Records releases “Folsom Prison Blues” recorded by Johnny Cash on July 30.
Christmas – The Temperance Seven is founded as a jazz band, initially comprising three members from the Chelsea School of Art in London.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel write their first song, “The Girl For Me” (copyrighted with the Library of Congress in 1956), and begin singing together as a duo while still in high school in New York City.
Nine-year-old Al Green forms a gospel quartet, the Green Brothers.
Clyde McPhatter launches a solo career.
Renato Carosone and Nicola Salerno meet and start their songwriting partnership.
Astor Piazzolla, returning to Argentina from his studies with Nadia Boulanger, forms his string orchestra (Orquesta de Cuerdas) and octet (Octeto Buenos Aires) and introduces the nuevo tango style.
Indian santoor player Shivkumar Sharma gives his first public performance in Bombay.
Etta James makes her debut with “The Wallflower (Dance With Me Henry)” which tops the R&B Chart but is considered too risqué for pop radio. The song is subsequently covered by Georgia Gibbs in a sanitized version where the line “Roll with me Henry” is changed to “Dance with me Henry”

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