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.

Pages

Music Reviews
3:52 pm
Mon October 1, 2012

Out Of Industrial Wasteland, The English Beat Was Born

The English Beat.
Adrian Boot Urbanimage.tv

Originally published on Mon October 1, 2012 5:40 pm

In 1978, it seemed that every kid in Britain wanted to be in a punk band. But in Birmingham, that blighted industrial scar in the middle of the island, there wasn't much punk to be seen. The oasis was a club called Barbarella's, and that's where Dave Wakeling and Andy Cox hung out.

Read more
Music Reviews
12:42 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

The Forgotten Story Of Memphis' American Studios

"Son of a Preacher Man" was Dusty Springfield's debut on Atlantic. The entire album that spawned it, Dusty in Memphis, was recorded at American Studios.
Stan Meagher Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 1:41 pm

Memphis has been a music town since anyone can remember, and it's had places to record that music since there have been records. Some of its studios — Sun, Stax and Hi — are well-known, but American Studios produced its share of hits, and yet it remains obscure. But that's all likely to change with Memphis Boys: The Story of American Studios, both a book and a CD out now.

Read more
Music Reviews
12:14 pm
Thu September 6, 2012

Harmony, Teenagers And 'The Complete Story Of Doo-Wop'

Vocal groups like The Ink Spots went on for decades, often without a single member of the original group appearing with them.
Fred Ramage Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 7, 2012 12:31 pm

Read more
Music Reviews
12:19 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Autosalvage: The Psychedelic Band That Vanished

Autosalvage, a New York quartet, made one album and then stopped playing.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 3:14 pm

A little over 10 years ago, a friend with a small record company in England called me and asked if I wanted to do liner notes for an album he was re-releasing. When he told me it was the Autosalvage album, I flipped. Of course I did!

Read more
Music Reviews
12:16 pm
Wed June 13, 2012

The Untold Story Of Singer Bobby Charles

Singer, songwriter and swamp-pop pioneer Bobby Charles poses for a portrait in 1972.
Michael Ochs Archives Getty Images

Originally published on Wed June 13, 2012 2:31 pm

When he was around 13, Robert Charles Guidry began singing with a band around his hometown of Abbeville, La., deep in the Cajun swamps. The group played Cajun and country music and, after he passed through town and played a show, Fats Domino's music. It was a life-changing experience for the young man, and he found himself with a new ambition: to write a song for Fats.

Read more
Music Reviews
12:00 pm
Fri May 25, 2012

James Burton: The Teen Who Invented American Guitar

Originally published on Fri May 25, 2012 3:11 pm

What were you doing when you were 16?

When he was 16, James Burton was inventing the American guitar. He'd been born in Dubberly, La., in 1939, and was apparently self-taught on his instrument. At 15, he cut a single backing local singer Carol Williams, and then one day he came up with a guitar riff that he liked. He took it to a singer from Shreveport he was touring with, and they worked out a song to use in his act. One thing led to another, and it wound up on a record called "Suzie Q," credited to Dale Hawkins, the singer.

Read more
Music Reviews
11:40 am
Thu April 26, 2012

Howlin' Wolf: A Blues Legend With An Earthy Sound

Howlin' Wolf's masters from the Chess label have just been released on a four-disc set titled Smokestack Lightning: The Complete Chess Masters 1931-1960.

Read more
Music Reviews
11:35 am
Fri April 6, 2012

Finding And Curating The Roots Of Soul Music

The Burden Lifters.
Tompkins Square Records

Originally published on Fri April 6, 2012 11:50 am

Some years back, I was driving across the South with a German friend, leaving early Sunday morning from Athens, Ga., and heading to Louisiana. I turned on the radio and found a black church service in progress, and a woman with a remarkable voice singing. "Who's that?" my friend asked. I told him I had no idea. "But with a voice like that, she must be famous," he said. Some miles down the road, when the station had faded out, he still didn't believe me.

Read more
Music Interviews
11:17 am
Fri February 3, 2012

A Studio On The Road To 'Fame' For Soul Musicians

Ace Records

Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill were a couple of Alabama boys in their teens when they started writing songs. At first, the only place they had to record was in a room in the back of the Trailways bus station in Florence, Ala. But one of the songs they recorded there, "Sweet and Innocent," became a small local hit, and a guy named Tom Stafford read about it in the local paper. He built a recording studio above City Drugs in Florence and went into business with the two young men. It didn't last long: Sherrill was hugely ambitious and was soon off to Nashville.

Read more
Music Reviews
11:17 am
Wed January 25, 2012

Long Live The Smiths' 'Complete Works'

The Smiths.
Wright Photo/Rhino Records

When Steven Patrick Morrissey was 13, he was watching The Old Grey Whistle Test, a BBC rock television show, when the New York Dolls came on. Later, he called it "my first real emotional experience." It was hardly his last: Growing up awkward, tall and shy in suburban Manchester, he was the archetypal kid who didn't fit in, writing poetry and letters to members of the British rock press, disagreeing articulately with their critics.

Read more

Pages