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A Brief History of Rolling Stone Magazine

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A Brief History of Rolling Stone Magazine

In the late 1960s Jann Wenner was an aspiring rock journalist and student at the University of California at Berkley. He loved music and dreamt of meeting his heroes Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Mick Jagger. In 1967 along with jazz critic Ralph Gleason, Wenner scraped together $7500 from friends and family and founded Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco.

After just two years in publication Rolling Stone magazine was widely accepted as the most authoritative publication on rock and roll music. According to “The Uncensored History” by Robert Draper, published by Doubleday in 1990,“By 1989, Rolling Stone’s parent company, Straight Arrow Publishers, Inc was worth perhaps $250 million—over thirty thousand times its value twenty-two years before.”

Rolling Stone magazine’s editorial history includes a long line of now famous and successful photographers, writers and artists. Before Rolling Stone magazine there was no such thing as rock music photography. Barron Woman served as the first Rolling Stone staff photographer; Linda Eastman (later Linda McCartney) was the first woman photographer to shoot a Rolling Stone magazine cover; Annie Leibovitz served as the second staff photographer and Robert Kingsbury was the magazine’s first full-time art director.

Rolling Stone magazine was the starting place for many famous writers including Hunter S. Thompson, Cameron Crowe, Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus and many more.

Throughout its history Rolling Stone has featured top Hollywood actors, musicians and other famous personalities on its covers. According to the book “1,000 Rolling Stone Covers,” compiled by the magazine’s editors, Mick Jagger is the leader in most Rolling Stone magazine covers with 27 total.

Rolling Stone magazine lead the way on many now standard magazine industry practices including writing, photography and politics.

One of the most controversial trails the music magazine blazed was the advent of featuring nude celebrities on the magazine’s covers. The first celebrities to appear nude on Rolling Stone’s cover were John Lennon and Yoko Ono. The nude Lennon/Ono cover was the first issue of Rolling Stone magazine to sell-out. Since then Rolling Stone has featured many nude celebrities on its covers including Jennifer Aniston, Janet Jackson and Christina Aguilera.

The magazine’s size and format has long been a part of the legacy of the magazine. In the early 1970s Rolling Stone changed printers and went to a tabloid format increasing the sizes of the covers from 8.5 inches by 11 inches to 10. 5 inches by 15 inches. For the next 30 years the magazine remained oversized. However, in 2008 Wenner surveyed readers and later announced plans to go to a standard magazine size with its Oct 30 issue.

While Rolling Stone magazine is profitable single copy sales have fallen from 189,000 to 132,000 in the last nine years. Wenner hopes the new magazine-rack friendly size will appeal more to advertisers and readers.

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