DAD's BOOKSHELF: Norm N. Nite's ROCK ON [1974-1992]

Growing up, I remember Dad having books about rock music, trivia, and aliens/UFOs. The paperback covers featured below are just a few of the books he had on those subjects and others as well; some of his books were passed on to me while he was alive, some I have had to find on my own and others I've yet to come across. As he grew older, Dad was not at all sentimental about his books and many of the ones I remember have simply vanished.  
The book I would like to have the most is Dad's copy of Norm N. Nite's Rock On™ - The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock N' Roll: The Solid Gold Years. Though it is not explicitly stated, the way I read it and because The Beatles are excluded, Rock On™ contains artists and their singles that made Billboard's Hot 100 chart between 1958 and 1962, though there is absolutely no chart info provided. Short biographies are followed by even shorter discographies, listing month, year, the title of single and label. In the Author's Introduction, Nite states:
"The book primarily contains rock artists, but it also contains any artist who was on the charts during the fifties and early sixties with a hit record."
He doesn't reveal which charts were used ("Paul Ackerman and the staff of Billboard magazine" are listed in his Acknowledgements) or define what constitutes "a hit record". The book was published in November 1974 and some artists, including The Beach Boys, The Isley Brothers, and Marvin Gaye, have singles listed up through 1973. I was fascinated by the backstories behind the artists that Dad constantly played and he spent a solid three or four months using the book's simple singles discography for each artist as a checklist for songs in his collection, whether he had the song on a 45, an album or an eight-track tape. 
Another thing that was cool about Dad's copy of Rock On™ were the twenty-one autographs that appear on the flyleaf. That simple childhood memory was tainted when I acquired my own copy of the book and realized that was how all the copies of the first edition were printed. The copy of Rock On™ now on my shelf, which is in better shape than I remember Dad's book being in, was purchased about a year ago from an Amazon vendor.
Nite's book "inspired" a same-titled 1975 compilation from Columbia Records, featuring twenty songs and artists featured in Rock On™ spread across the four sides of a double album. Nite also provided track-by-track liner notes on the album's inner gatefold. I have Dad's copy of the album.
On the advice of his publisher, Norm N. Nite revised Rock On™ so that long-running acts from the original edition like The Beach Boys, The Isley Brothers, and Marvin Gaye have their discographies and biographical blurbs updated and expanded through 1981 to account for the eight years since the first edition. Prior to the Updated Edition which featured the addition of a Song Titles Index, Nite also published another book in the Rock On™ series in 1978:
The new cover logo was a big favorite of mine and my crude freehand reproduction of it adorned a couple of notebooks I was using in the seventh grade; I also did a more elaborate one that incorporated the WLS logo. In addition to the new logo, you can see Nite dubbed this chapter in rock history - 1964-1978 - as The Modern Years. While The Solid Gold Years featured a Special Introduction by Dick Clark, Wolfman Jack penned the Special Introduction for The Modern Years. You may also note that Nite had now trademarked Rock On™. The book's layout was updated to be more modern and an Appendix was added, titled These Too Made It, that featured artists and their singles discographies without pictures or biographies. Dad's copy of Volume 2 was actually autographed by Norm N. Nite himself. Shortly after the Updated Edition of The Solid Gold Years in 1982, Nite published an Updated Edition of Volume 2, also adding a Song Titles Index and changing the name of The Modern Years to The Years Of Change. 
A year later, in 1985, Nite teamed up with Charles Crespo for Volume 3 of Rock On™. Together, they covered The Video Revolution from 1978-1985, in a noticeably slimmer 444-page book; the two previous Updated Editions had nearly 700 pages each. This volume contains a thirteen page Song Titles Index and a fourteen page These Too Made It Appendix, while the main section of the book runs from ABC through Warren Zevon. The authors turned to the original five MTV VJ's for Special Introductions this time around and each gets a picture along with their birthdate and hometown. While the majority of the VJs contribute two and three paragraph pieces for their Introductions to the book, Nina Blackburn offers up just one paragraph and J.J. Jackson offers these two sentences:
"One of the most accurately detailed rock encyclopedias ever. A must for the rock enthusiast."
While continuing to be an in-demand oldies radio DJ, Norm N. Nite became a very vocal and avid supporter of establishing the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, even putting his money where his mouth was in 1989, when he published a new book in the Rock On™ series with a portion of the royalties from sales donated to build the Hall. Dick Clark was back on board for the new project, with an updated version of his Special Introduction from the first book. In Nite's own Introduction, he explains that the basis of the book is RockCom, a database Nite developed with programmer Ken Zychowski in 1983. 
The physical format of the Almanac was 50% larger than previous Rock On™ books and allowed for more information and pictures on nearly every one of the book's more than 500 pages. The info is presented in chronological order beginning with the Forties and running up through May 1989. There are Music Highlights listed for each year as well as the most popular singles, all chosen by Norm. Other annual lists include Debut Artists, Births & Deaths, Top Albums, Popular Movies, Award Winners, Sports Winners and Top Television Shows. Indices for Performers and Song Titles are included as well. Nite published a revised Second Edition of the Rock OnAlmanac in 1992, which was current through July 1992. Though Dad stopped buying Norm N. Nite's books after the first two volumes and the first Updated Edition of Volume 1, I continued to buy the other books listed, eventually owning copies of all seven books. Regrettably, I sold them off in 2000 and bought them all again in 2016. The books' use and relevance have been usurped mainly by Whitburn's Record Research books so they sit on my shelf as a tribute to the memory of my Father.


  1. Even though they've been replaced by the Internet, I still love reference books such as these. I've never heard of this particular series, but it looks like the Rock On books would be right up my alley. I may order the MTV volume for grins. Just a second.......done!

    Did Nite have a syndicated radio show titled Rock On in the early '80s? It's not mentioned in the bio on his website. But I remember getting a Rock On pinback in the mail from a syndicated show around that time. (I still have it and if google would allow us to embed photos in comments, I'd show you).

    I have 4 or 5 friends that use "Rock On" as their closing to emails.

    Rock On,

  2. Our attic, right now, is stuffed with boxes of books from our move a few years back. Very few have made their way downstairs. Quite a few are all music-related - one of which is the 1978 book. And quite a few additional reference books.

    Those types of tomes were so important in the pre-Internet age because information was so dispersed. Nowadays everything is (usually) easily found with a simple Google search - kids today don't have a clue about how easy they have it!