The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame + Museum

Rolling Stone's First Issue: "A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss"

Saturday, November 9: 9:01 a.m.
Posted by Alexandra Fagan
John Lennon as Private Gripeweed on the cover of Rolling Stone's first-ever issue.

You're probably wondering what we are trying to do. It's hard to say: sort of a magazine and sort of a newspaper. The name of it is Rolling Stone, which comes from an old saying: "A Rolling Stone gathers no moss." Muddy Waters used the name for a song he wrote; The Rolling Stones took their name from Muddy's song, and "Like A Rolling Stone" was the title of Bob Dylan's first rock and roll record.

We have begun a new publication reflecting what we see are the changes in rock and roll and the changes related to rock and roll. Because the trade papers have become so inaccurate and irrelevant, and because the fan magazines are an anachronism, fashioned in the mold of myth and nonsense, we hope that we have something here for the artists and the industry, and every person who "believes in the magic that can set you free."

Rolling Stone is not just about music, but also about the things and attitudes that the music embraces. We've been working quite hard on it and we hope you can dig it. To describe it any further would be difficult without sounding like bullshit, and bullshit is like gathering moss.Jann Wenner (Rolling Stone, Vol. 1, No. 1, November 9,1967 /  "A Letter  from the Editor")

In 1967, rock and roll lovers were finally presented with an impartial media outlet to catch the inside scoop on the music industry. A national magazine with music as its main but not exclusive focus, Rolling Stone’s first issue was published on November 9, 1967. 

With pursed lips and squinting eyes behind his iconic round-rim glasses, John Lennon took the cover of the first issue – not as himself, but as Private Gripeweed in Richard Lester’s black comedy, How I Won the War. The photo led readers to an illustrated preview of the new film on page 16. Sharing the cover with Lennon were other familiar Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees. The “In This Issue” content lists stories featuring Donovan ("Donovan: An incredible Rolling Stone Interview with this man-child of magic"), Grateful Dead ("Grateful Dead: A photographic look at a rock and roll group after a dope bust"), and Jim McGuinn and David Crosby ("Byrd Is Flipped: Jim McGuinn kicks out David Crosby"). The ticket price for this inside look at rock and roll history in the making was 25 cents. 

During its nearly 50-year run, the publication has evolved from a mostly music-focused publication to one with a broader pop-culture overview. As Rolling Stone founder and Hall of Fame Inductee Jann Wenner observed: “When Rolling Stone started, music was the only medium available to young people to express themselves and share ideas. Now everything is open to young people and their concerns and values: television, newspapers, books, every medium imaginable.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame showcases the evolution of Rolling Stone from its first issue through the 2000s in its Rolling Stone exhibit. The exhibit features an assortment of Rolling Stone covers and other interesting artifacts from the magazine's storied history, including a letter from Charles Manson about the article written about him and Pamela Anderson’s Santa outfit she wore on the cover with Beavis and Butt-Head. Visit the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum today and discover more from the people who made music history. Dig in to the history of Rolling Stone magazine by visiting the Rock Hall's Library and Archives.

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