Daltrey formed the Detours, the Who's predecessor band, in 1959. It was as if by divine intervention, one day Entwistle with bass in hand encountered Daltrey on the street and was invited to join the Detours along with Townshend. The starting line up was Townshend as a guitarist, Daltrey on lead guitar, Entwistle on bass, Harry Wilson on drums, and Colin Dawson on vocals. The next few years involved a few changes in the line up until they finally landed on the idea of Daltrey as lead vocals and having only one guitarist. Early in 1964 it came to their attention that another group was named Johnny Devlin and the Detours. This prompted a late night brain storm between Townshend and his roommate, with The Who being one of their ideas. When brought to Daltrey the next day, he picked The Who.
They had already succeeded in getting a regular schedule of gigs, which included playing at a number of local hotels. Their new manager, Helmut Gorden, thought that the drumming could be improved. When Townshend told current drummer, Doug Sandom, to shape up or ship out he did not take it well. In fact after he left Sandom did not speak to Townshend for fourteen years afterwards. Keith Moon worked as a fill in for The Who during this transition time and they asked him to stay as their permanent drummer. The Who also went through another manager, who in an attempt to maximize on the growing Mod movement changed their name to the High Numbers and put out a single "Zoot Suit"/"I'm the Face"
Needless to say this didn't go over very well and they reverted back to The Who and replaced their manager again! While all this crazy was happening the band was really honing in on their signature stage moves. Daltrey started using his microphone cable as a whip on stage, Moon would perform drumstick acrobatics and Townshend was starting to using his now iconic windmill arm move. During another performance after an accident involving Townshend's guitar and the audience's excited response The Who's destructive performance stage act was born.
By the end of 1964 they had built a following and were brought to the attention of The Kinks producer, Shel Talmy. Their early hit "I Can't Explain" was quickly recorded and became big on the pirate radio stations in the UK. Their next single "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" after a bumpy start because of it's unconventional sound found it's way to the UK top ten. While on tour early in 1965 they encountered issues with Daltrey, who was sacked for a little while until he was brought back with the condition that the band was now a democracy. Their next hit "My Generation" (one of my favorite songs) was released after being changed from a slower blues tune to the upbeat dynamic song we know now. Releasing the album by the same name later in 1965, which was followed by a fallout with Talmy which ended their recording contract.
1966 was plagued by more band conflict, another top ten hit with "Happy Jack" and the decline of the mod movement, which meant more competition from bands like The Jimi Hendrix Experience. It was also the year that The Who jumped the pond and had their first U.S. appearances, the biggest of them being the Monterey Pop Festival. Next up was opening for Herman's Hermits during their U.S. tour. Let's just say during this tour the band didn't keep their destructive show only to the stage. Many a hotel room found itself the trashed after their stay. The Who Sell Out , their next album featuring "I Can See For Miles" and mini rock opera "Rael" released in 1967.
The next year after gaining more attention The Who started on their next album. With Townshend being very influenced by his new found interest in Meher Baba's, an Indian spiritual master, teachings Tommy was born. The album's release was then pushed back until the spring of 1969 because Townshend wanted to make sure the story was told with enough complexity. Tommy has some of my favorite Who songs, which includes the video below.
A massive hit, Tommy sold over 200,000 in it's first several weeks. Late in the summer of 1969 The Who played two of the biggest festivals of the 60's, Woodstock and the Isle of Wight Festival. At this point in their career they were on top of the rock band heap. During their Tommy tour they decided to record their first live album which ended up being Live at Leeds.