In January of 2017, Rolling Stone Magazine celebrated their 50th anniversary. The magazine began in 1967 when a handful of hopefuls wanted to start a rock n’ roll magazine. Jann Wenner constructed the initial idea, then worked with established newspaper journalist Ralph Gleason and founding editor Michael Lydon to get the ball rolling.
In the late ‘60s, a lot of people saw rock n’ roll as a passing phase. Wenner’s foresight to see that it would be a long-standing counterculture is what propelled his idea forward. Despite having a great idea and intense enthusiasm, there was virtually no funding for the magazine at first. Wenner formed a small group of investors, including his parents and future wife. The story is similar to that of any startup.
The First Issue
The first cover photo for the magazine wasn’t decided until two days before print, but it was an iconic choice. Wenner found a photo of John Lennon that perfectly encompassed the spirit of how they envisioned Rolling Stone Magazine. It was Lennon’s photo from the film, How I Won the War, with him in a serviceman outfit.
One of the first things readers saw in Rolling Stone Magazine’s first issue was Wenner’s letter to the readers: “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 trade papers have become so inaccurate and irrelevant, and the fan magazines are an anachronism. 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.”
The Uniqueness of Rolling Stone Magazine
What set their magazine apart from other fleeting publications of the time was the brand they established. They took themselves seriously and made serious reporting a priority. Rolling Stone Magazine has never been one to shy away from controversial issues that affect society and real people. Whether or not a person agrees with everything they publish (and yes, they have published some things that fans were unhappy about), people have to respect that they’ve tried to stay true to their brand and mission.
The first edition covered artists like Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, but also discussed drug busts and other political issues. This mix of journalism and music coverage helped the magazine to cultivate a loyal audience who anticipated each monthly release.
Publishing their first Spanish section in 2012, they are still continuing to expand and engage their audience. More than five decades since its first issue, Rolling Stone Magazine is still going strong.