The American Psychedelic Rock Bands of the 60s

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A list of the American psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s, including The Grateful Dead, The Doors, and Jefferson Airplane.

The American Psychedelic Rock Bands of the 60s

The American Psychedelic Rock Bands of the 60s were a subgenre of rock music that developed in the United States during the mid-1960s. The style is generally characterized by distorted guitars, feedback, and extreme levels of volume and reverb. American Psychedelic Rock Bands of the 60s were popularized by bands such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Doors, and Jefferson Airplane.

The Beatles

The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. With members John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr, they became widely regarded as the foremost and most influential music band in history. Rooted in skiffle, beat and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later experimented with several genres, ranging from pop ballads and Indian music to psychedelia and hard rock, often incorporating classical elements and unconventional recording techniques in innovative ways. In 1963, their enormous popularity first emerged as “Beatlemania”; as the group’s music grew in sophistication, led by primary songwriters Lennon and McCartney, they came to be perceived as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the counterculture of the 1960s.

The Beach Boys

The Beach Boys are an American rock band, formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The group’s original lineup consisted of brothers Brian, Dennis, and Carl Wilson, their cousin Mike Love, and friend Alan Jardine. Distinguished by their vocal harmonies and early surf songs, they are one of the most influential acts of the early rock era. The band drew on the music of older pop vocal groups, 1950s rock and roll, and black R&B to create their unique sound, and with it they had a string of hits in the mid-1960s. inclination to experimental compositions and narcotics use.

The Byrds

The Byrds were an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles, California in 1964. The band underwent multiple lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn (known as Jim McGuinn until mid-1967) remaining as the sole consistent member. The Byrds are credited with originating the musical genre of folk rock through their incorporation of banjo and electric guitar into their sound, blending elements of folk music and rock music.

The band released a total of twelve studio albums between 1965 and 1973, six of which charted in the Billboard 200 top 40; among these were the platinum-selling releases Mr. Tambourine Man (1965) and The Byrds Greatest Hits (1967). Four of the band’s albums were included on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, and two were inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for “historical, artistic and significant” value. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Buffalo Springfield

Buffalo Springfield was an American-Canadian rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1966. Their original lineup included Stephen Stills, Dewey Martin, Bruce Palmer, Richie Furay, and Neil Young. Buffalo Springfield is best known for the hits “For What It’s Worth” and “Again”, which respectively reached No.7 and No.28 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1967. The group released three albums before dissolving in 1968.

The Doors

The Doors were an American rock band formed in 1965 in Los Angeles, with vocalist Jim Morrison, keyboardist Ray Manzarek, guitarist Robby Krieger, and drummer John Densmore. They were among the most controversial and influential rock acts of the 1960s because of Morrison’s poetic lyrics and charismatic but unpredictable stage persona. After Morrison’s death in 1971 at the age of 27, the remaining members continued as a trio until disbanding in 1973.

Although they never achieved widespread commercial success beyond their hit singles “Light My Fire” and “Hello, I Love You”, The Doors exerted a considerable influence on popular music. Elements of their sound persist in subsequent generations of rock music.

The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead was an American rock band formed in 1965 in San Francisco. The band is known for its eclectic style, which fused elements of rock, folk, country, blues, and jazz, and for its live performances of long musical improvisation. A founding member of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia (guitar, vocals), died in 1995; and Bob Weir (guitar, vocals) and Phil Lesh (bass, vocals) are the only remaining original members of the band. The Grateful Dead has sold more than 35 million albums worldwide.

Jimi Hendrix

During the 1960s, Psychedelic Rock Bands were extremely popular in the United States. These bands were known for their unique sound and ability to create an atmosphere that was often associated with drug use. One of the most famous Psychedelic Rock Bands was Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix was a highly talented musician who is considered one of the most influential guitarists of all time. He was known for his wild style of playing and his use of feedback and distortion. Hendrix’s concerts were often wild affairs where he would set his guitar on fire or play with his teeth. He was also known for his use of drugs, which eventually led to his untimely death at the age of 27.

Jefferson Airplane

Formed in 1965 in San Francisco, California, Jefferson Airplane was one of the pioneering bands of the psychedelic rock movement. The group’s original lineup included singer-songwriter Marty Balin, Guitarist Paul Kantner, drummer Spencer Dryden, and bassist Jack Casady.

The band’s debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, was released in 1966 to critical acclaim. The follow-up album Surrealistic Pillow (1967) is often regarded as one of the cornerstone albums of the psychedelic rock genre, and featured the band’s first big hit single,”Somebody to Love”.

Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.


Love was an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1965. The group’s repertoire included several songs written by frontman Arthur Lee, who was the band’s primary songwriter, singer, and guitarist. Love’s best-known hits include “She Comes in Colors” and “7 and 7 Is”, both of which were released in 1966. The band’s self-titled debut album was also released in 1966 and included the track “My Little Red Book”, which was later covered by Manfred Mann.

Moby Grape

Moby Grape was an American psychedelic rock band from San Francisco, California, formed in 1966. The group was founded bySkip Spence (guitar, vocals), Bob Mosley (bass, vocals), Jerry Miller (guitar, vocals), and Don Stevenson (drums, vocals). They were joined by Peter Lewis (guitar, vocals) and Alexander “Skip” Taylor (keyboards).

The band’s debut LP Moby Grape was released to great critical acclaim in 1967 and is considered one of the greatest debut albums of all time. The band’s second album, Wow/Grape Jam, was a double album that included longer jams, including the 18-minute-long “Omaha”. The band continued to tour and released several more albums over the next few years.

However, contractual disputes with their record label led to the band’s disintegration in 1969. The members of Moby Grape went on to have successful solo careers.

The Mothers of Invention

The Mothers of Invention were an American rock band from Los Angeles that was active from 1966 to 1969. The band’s original lineup consisted of Frank Zappa (lead vocals, guitar), Ray Collins (lead vocals, trombone), Jeffrey Tennant (keyboards), Jimmy Carl Black (drums, backing vocals), and Roy Estrada (bass, backing vocals). The band’s 1968 debut album, Freak Out!, is considered to be one of the first and most important works of the psychedelic rock genre.

Quicksilver Messenger Service

The American Psychedelic Rock Bands of the 60s
Quicksilver Messenger Service was one of the most popular and influential psychedelic rock bands of the 1960s. The San Francisco-based band was known for their extended improvisational jams and for their innovative blend of rock, blues, folk, and country music. Quicksilver was founded in 1965 by guitarist John Cipollina, bassist David Freiberg, and drummer Greg Elmore. The band’s original lineup also included singer/keyboardist Dino Valenti and rhythm guitarist Gary Duncan.

The Rolling Stones

The Rolling Stones are an English rock band formed in London in 1962. The first stable line-up consisted of Brian Jones (guitar, harmonica), Mick Jagger (lead vocals, harmonica), Keith Richards (guitar, vocals), Bill Wyman (bass), Charlie Watts (drums), and Ian Stewart (piano). Stewart was removed from the official line-up in 1963 but continued to work with the band as a contracted musician until his death in 1985. The band’s primary songwriters, Jagger and Richards, assumed leadership after Andrew Loog Oldham became the group’s manager. Jones lessened his input as they experimented with amplifying traditional blues compositions and moved towards longer and more complex songs in subsequent releases. Significant changes occurred in tandem with Jones’ behaviour; the engineer Glyn Johns was brought on board during recording sessions for Aftermath (1966) to take some of the burden off their producer Oldham.

During this period, the Stones were first introduced to LSD, which greatly influenced their writing and performance on their next two albums, Between the Buttons (1967) and Their Satanic Majesties Request (1967). Recording for Beggars Banquet (1968) began shortly after satanic Majesties. The album represented a return to rootsrock following their psychedelic phase and was highly lauded upon release; several of its singles reached number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Let It Bleed(1969) featured guest appearances from Ruby Turnerand keyboardist Billy Preston; “Gimme Shelter”, a duet between Jagger and Turner about an apocalyptic rape and murder, became one of the band’s most popular songs. Following years of creative tension with Oldham, Jagger assumed leadership of the band; Richards awoke from a coma in 1969 just before Sticky Fingers(1971) was released to critical acclaim including being voted Album of the Year by NME magazine; its title track featured one of rock music’s first promotional videos.

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground was an American rock band formed in 1964 in New York City by Lou Reed, John Cale, Sterling Morrison, and Moe Tucker. The band was initially active between 1965 and 1973 and was briefly led by singer-songwriter Nico between 1967 and 1968. Their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967), became known as one of the most influential and groundbreaking works in rock music history.

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