Leonard Bernstein composes his only film score for the Oscar-winning On the Waterfront and is allowed to attend the final dubbing session at Columbia Pictures on Gower with director Elia Kazan, a rare honor for a film composer.
On April 6, the tower atop the Capitol Records Building begins blinking H-O-L-L-Y-W-O-O-D in Morse code.
Jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman records his first album, Something Else!!!! , in February and March at his label Contemporary Record's studio, an office in a small building located on Melrose Place.
Ritchie Valens (who's only 17) goes to Gold Star Recording Studios at 6252 Santa Monica Boulevard to record his classic songs "Come On, Let's Go," "Donna" and "La Bamba." He dies in a plane crash in February of the following year.
On April 14 and 19, Ella Fitzgerald records Ella Fitzgerald Sings Songs from "Let No Man Write My Epitaph" at United Western Recorders at 60006050 Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The album bombs but is later hailed as one of her greatest. (United Western Recorders is later renamed Ocean Way Recording.)
Nati (or Natividad) Cano becomes the director of one of the city's most popular mariachi groups, which plays at the Million Dollar Theater at 307 South Broadway. He changes the band's name to Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano and helps to elevate its status, eventually landing performances in concert halls around the country.
The UCLA Folk Festival has its debut. Held annually for three years, the festival brings together Son House, Pete Seeger, John Fahey, Bill Monroe, Lightnin' Hopkins and other blues and folk legends.
Sam Cooke is shot dead on December 11 at the Hacienda Motel at 9137 South Figueroa. He is 33. Bertha Franklin, the hotel's manager, claims she shot Cooke in self-defense, after he became violent with her.
In the winter, Ray Charles opens his RPM Recording Studio at 2107 West Washington Boulevard (RPM stands for "Recording, Production and Management"). Charles classics like "Let's Go Get Stoned," "Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma" and "America the Beautiful" are recorded here.
In December, the Los Angeles Philharmonic moves to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center.