Ed Ward

Ed Ward is the rock-and-roll historian on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

A co-author of Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock & Roll, Ward has also contributed to The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and countless music magazines. The first part of his two-volume history of rock and roll, covering the years 1920-1963, will be published by Flatiron Books in the fall of 2016.

Ward lives in Austin, Texas. He blogs at City on a Hill.

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Music Reviews
11:06 am
Mon June 10, 2013

Arctic Records: Drafting A Blueprint For The Philly Sound

Barbara Mason had had one minor hit on Arctic by the time "Yes I'm Ready" came out in March 1965, and hit the Top 10 on both the R&B and pop charts.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 12:24 pm

Arctic Records opened for business late in 1964. The label was the brainchild of Jimmy Bishop, the program director of WDAS — at the time Philadelphia's No. 1 black radio station. If that sounds like a conflict of interest, you don't know much about the music business in Philadelphia back then. Besides, it didn't help Arctic's first single, "Happiest Girl in the World" by the Tiffanys, three local teenagers who sang backup in various studios.

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Music Reviews
11:29 am
Fri May 17, 2013

Jerry Lee Lewis: Live, Singing As If Life Depended On It

Jerry Lee Lewis shot to fame in the 1950s with hits such as "A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire."
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon July 1, 2013 3:49 pm

It was April 4, 1964, and Jerry Lee Lewis had officially bottomed out. He hadn't charted a record in years, and now, on tour in England and Germany, he was getting paid so little that he couldn't afford to bring his own musicians. Instead, he was forced to use pickup bands in England, and then, when he arrived in Hamburg, a British band called the Nashville Teens was waiting for him. The venue was the Star Club, where The Beatles, who had just leaped into stardom in America, had played not long before.

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Music Reviews
9:07 am
Wed April 10, 2013

Johnny Cash's Columbia Catalog Out Now — As A 64-Disc Box Set

A new 63-disc box offers a complete retrospective of the Man in Black's storied career.
Sony Music

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 3:00 pm

In 1955, John R. Cash was a sometime auto mechanic, sometime appliance salesman who liked to play the guitar and sing, mostly gospel songs. The "R" in his name didn't stand for anything — and, in fact, he'd been named J.R. at birth and had to come up with "John" when he joined the Air Force. He'd spend the rest of his life reinventing himself.

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Music Reviews
10:26 am
Wed March 13, 2013

The Moving Sidewalks: Where The British Invasion Met Texas Blues

Before ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons (second from right) was in the more psychedelic Moving Sidewalks.
Rancho Deluxe Productions

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 12:22 pm

There must be something in the water — or the beer — in Texas that caused the huge eruption of garage bands and psychedelic bands in the mid-1960s, because there sure were a lot of them, and their records on obscure labels have kept collectors busy for decades. Most of them were amateurs, but the Coachmen, who came together around 1964, were different.

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Music Reviews
11:28 am
Wed February 27, 2013

Aretha Franklin Before Atlantic: The Columbia Years

Aretha Franklin became a star on the Atlantic record label after leaving Columbia.
Express Newspapers Getty Images

Originally published on Wed February 27, 2013 4:01 pm

Aretha Franklin made her first record when she was 14, singing some gospel standards in the church of her father, Rev. C.L. Franklin, an easygoing Detroit pastor who was friends with Martin Luther King and just about every gospel singer you could name. One of the stars who visited a lot was Sam Cooke, who convinced Aretha that she could be a hit singing popular music.

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Music Reviews
10:46 am
Tue January 8, 2013

The Unsung Pioneer Of Louisiana Swamp-Pop

Joe Barry was a pioneer of "swamp-pop" in the early 1960s.
Johnny Vallis

Originally published on Tue January 8, 2013 11:50 am

Southern Louisiana in the early 1960s was a hotbed of musical creativity among youngsters who'd been raised listening to French-language country music and Fats Domino. They combined those — and other — influences to make what's now called "swamp pop." Joe Barry was a pioneer in this area who should have been much bigger.

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Music Reviews
1:21 pm
Thu November 29, 2012

Turning Up The Volume On The Electric Blues

Joe Hill Louis, B.B. King and Rufus Thomas appear on a new multi-disc compilation of electric blues, Plug It In! Turn It Up!
Bear Family Records

Originally published on Fri November 30, 2012 5:12 am

Blues is so much a part of the fabric of American music and American culture — not only as a defined musical form, but also as a springboard for all kinds of creativity — that it seems crazy to try to encapsulate it in any way. Bear Family Records, though, has just released a 12-disc survey of electric blues called Plug It In! Turn It Up! that does a great job of illuminating one particular aspect of the blues.

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Music Reviews
10:52 am
Tue November 20, 2012

The Insect Trust: An American Band Deconstructed

The Insect Trust.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 9:40 am

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Music Reviews
10:35 am
Mon October 22, 2012

The Big Man Behind 'Shake, Rattle And Roll'

No figure in the history of rock 'n' roll is more incongruous than Big Joe Turner.
Heinrich Klaffs Wikimedia Commons

Originally published on Mon October 22, 2012 1:59 pm

Big Joe Turner's hardest-hitting singles have been collected on a new compilation, titled Big Joe Turner Rocks.

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Music Reviews
11:11 am
Mon October 15, 2012

More Than This: The 'Complete' Roxy Music

Roxy Music's eight studio albums are now collected in one box set, titled The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982.
Keystone Hulton Archive

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 12:40 pm

Roxy Music's eight studio albums have just been collected in one box set, titled The Complete Studio Recordings 1972-1982.

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