While Leicester has often been neglected as a centre for popular music, it has had a vibrant musical history.
Leicester's main small venue for pop and rock was the Il Rondo on Silver Street. The roll call of bands who played at the Il Rondo runs like a who's who of early–mid sixties pop and rock. The Yardbirds and The Animals played there before passing into rock history along with less well remembered groups like the Graham Bond Organisation. It also played host to many visiting American blues musicians including Howlin' Wolf, Freddie King, Lowell Fulson, Otis Spann and John Lee Hooker. The Beatles also came to De Montfort Hall.
Colin Hyde (East Midlands Oral History Archive) carried out a range of interviews about growing up in Leicester in the 1950s and 1960s and began to map where all of the venues of the day were. He identified a number of clubs, pubs, and coffee bars like the Chameleon, run by Pete Joseph, the El Casa, or the El Paso – cafes which stayed open after the pubs closed. Among others, people also remembered the Blue Beat club on Conduit Street, run by Alex Barrows who later started the House of Happiness on Campbell Street. Night clubs such as the Burlesque or the Night Owl became more popular as the 1960s progressed, and they opened up the opportunity to dance all night.
A local beat band called The Foresights were signed to EMI. They were notable for all members wearing glasses.
Also emerging during this period was the band Family, fronted by Leicester man Roger Chapman.
The seventies saw the emergence of the well known cabaret band Showaddywaddy from the city with lead singer Dave Bartram and their 1950s-themed songs. The De Montfort Hall held the first of its annual One-World festivals, with the aim of celebrating the cultural diversity of the city and breaking down the barriers of hostility and suspicion that had a potential to foment racial conflict. Adult and children's groups performed traditional dances and music from the many communities settled here - British, Irish, East European, Asian, African and Caribbean. These festivals continued until the 1980s.
The early 1980s saw Leicester punk band Rabid have two minor indie hits, and there were greater successes later in the decade for Yeah Yeah Noh. The mid-1980s saw the emergence of bands such as Gaye Bykers on Acid, Crazyhead, The Bomb Party, and The Hunters Club, who were all associated with the Grebo scene. The Deep Freeze Mice had formed in 1979 and went on to release ten albums in total. Diesel Park West had their first top 75 hits in the late 1980s. Other notable Leicester bands from this decade included Po! and Blab Happy.
The early nineties were marked in the city's music scene by a period of muted reflection. The band Prolapse, was formed by a group of Leicester University and Polytechnic students in 1992. The band rose in popularity, and quickly gained a record deal with Cherry Red Records, recorded a number of John Peel sessions for Radio 1, and toured with Sonic Youth, Stereolab and Pulp. 1992 also saw the formation in Leicester of Cornershop, an Anglo-Asian agit pop band, who became most famous for the 1998 Number 1 single "Brimful of Asha". Perfume and Delicatessen both also rose to critical acclaim. Leicester is home of the influential Rave – Drum & Bass Formation Records label and associated 5HQ Record Shop.
Since 2000 the city has once more seen a notable upsurge in the success of the local music scene. Several Leicester musicians and/or acts have received considerable media attention in their fields since 2003-2004. Kasabian, followed by The Displacements,The Dirty Backbeats, Kyte,Maybeshewill, Minnaars, Pacific Ocean Fire, and Don's Mobile Barbers all rose from the city to national attention. The Go! Team were first signed to local label Pickled Egg Records, other Leicester musicians such as Frank Benbini, Kav Sandhu & Mikey Shine along with others feature in such bands as Fun Lovin' Criminals, The Happy Mondays, The Holloways, Envy & Other Sins, and A Hawk and a Hacksaw.
The development of the award-winning music festival Summer Sundae with connecting Summer Sundae Fringe Festival (run by the local arts collective Pineapster) as well as other music festivals focused on blues and folk music may well provide the city with more of a focus for its local bands to break out nationally. 2006 saw the closure of The Attik, a venue that for over 20 years had played host to hundreds of bands.
Leicester is also popular for underground music genres such as grime and UK hip hop, leading artists are Kaution, Loose Talent and 3D Camp.