The Year 1964



The Headline News and Key Facts of 1964


 On the National Scene

Lyndon Johnson cushes Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater with the most overwhelming popular vote in American history, more than 61 percent.

A presidental commission headed by the Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren concludes that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in the assassination of President Kennedy.

Three civil rights workers are murdered in Mississippi.

Congress enacts the civil rights legislation.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

In February the 24th Amendment to the Constitution makes the poll tax unconstitutional.

In July President Johnson signs the Medicare bill and the Great Society is under way.

In August Congress approves the Tonkin Gulf Resolution authorizing President Johnson aggression.""to take all necessary means to repel any armed attack against forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression."

In December President Johnson announces substantial increase in aid to South Vietnam "to restrain the mounting infiltration of men and equipment from the Hanoi regime in support of the Vietcong.

Dr. Luther L. Terry, the Surgeon General, releases a report linking cigarette smoking to lung cancer and other diseases.

Jimmy Hoffa is sentenced to 8 years for jury tampering.

Soviet Union begins using spy satellites.

Jack Ruby sentenced to death for Oswald murder.


New York hosts a money losing World's Fair.

A gallon of gasoline costs 30 cents.

The Ford Mustang is the most popular car of the era.

Hasbro introduces the GI Joe doll.

A bar in San Francisco introduces topless and later that year the bottoms come off.

Rock 'n' roll has its first major shakeup in nearly a decade when in late January "I Want To Hold Your Hand" by The Beatles tops the US Pop charts.

In February The Beatles appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show receives record ratings as Beatlemania explodes worldwide.

Four of the six #1 records between February and June are by the Beatles, a feat surpassed only by Elvis Presley in 1956.

Bands from England flood American shores with the Merseybeat sound overtaking the airwaves through June, resulting in the term "The British Invasion". By summer however American acts regain their footing with the two resident hit-makers The Beach Boys and The Four Seasons topping the charts in July.

The next wave of the British Invasion featuring groups based in blues and R&B such as the Rolling Stones, Kinks and Animals follows by mid-summer and their raunchier style quickly makes the more restrained pop-sounding Merseybeat bands obsolete.

The second musical explosion of the year happens when Motown strikes back with its biggest hits to date by the Temptations, Four Tops and its newest group The Supremes who score three #1's in the final five months of the year.

The Rhythm & Blues Charts are discontinued for 1964 as Billboard magazine feels they've become indistinguishable from the Pop Charts. In just over a year they'll resume publication of The R&B Charts when the style of music becomes more popular than ever.

Feminist stances are taken in Dionne Warwick's "Don't Make Me Over" and Lesley Gore's "You Don't Own Me", marking the first time in mainstream rock that hit records espouse those emerging viewpoints.

Sam Cooke, soul music's biggest star, is shot and killed by a woman at a hotel on December 10th. It is rock music's most publicized casualty since Buddy Holly's death in early 1959.

Ford introduces the sporty Mustang.


The St. Louis Cardinals edge the New York Yankees in the World Series 4 games to 3.

Jim Brown leads the Cleveland Browns over the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Championship.

Cassius Clay (soon to be Muhammad Ali) scores a stunning upset over Sonny Liston to win the world's heavyweight championship.

Arnold Palmer wins fourth Masters.

Jim Ryan at age 17 runs a 3:50 minute mile.

Movies and Television


The Beatles invade the U.S. on February  appearing first on the Ed Sullivan Show.

The Beatles first film, "A Hard Day's Night" opens to rave reviews as the Beatles abandon their pop-band image for more complex songs on the soundtrack.

The Beatles Arriving in the U.S.

"My Fair Lady is the year's big Oscar winner.

Peter Sellers introduces his classic character Inspector Closeau in The Pink Panther. Other popular movies included The Carpetbaggers and From Russia With Love.

Inspector Closeau -Peters Seller

The new season's most popular series are Bonanza, The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, Gomer Pyle, USMC and The Fugitive.

Click Here for Billboard's Top Ten hits of the day in 1964.