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Ed Ward

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

Ward is the author of The History of Rock and Roll, Volume 1, 1920-1963, and 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.

  • Ward, who died May 3, 2021, spoke in 1992 about a series of Christmas singles the Beatles made in the '60s. If you were a member of their fan club, you got one each year.
  • In 1970, Warner Bros. Records had an unusual philosophy: they'd sign artists and, instead of wanting a hit single immediately, they'd develop them over several albums. Hence, Captain Beefheart.
  • In 1950, a red-haired Alabama boy who'd learned about radio and electronics in the U.S. Army opened a recording studio to document the blues and country music he loved. A new box set compiles the beginnings of Sam Phillips' Memphis Recording Service, and the record label he would soon create.
  • Cash spent half a century in the limelight as a country singer turned American icon. Between 1958, when he first recorded for Columbia, until 1986, when it didn't renew his contract, he recorded more than 50 singles and 60 albums for the label.
  • Before he became the guitarist for ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons was in a band called the Moving Sidewalks that just missed its shot at stardom. The album the Moving Sidewalks never released in the late 1960s was released in late 2012 and is very much a period piece, albeit a very well-made one.
  • Before Franklin's Atlantic Records hits, she recorded for Columbia. In those early recordings you can hear the legend just beginning to emerge.
  • In the early 1960s, Joe Barry combined Cajun and country music into a whole new sound. In honor of a new anthology of Barry's music titled A Fool to Care, critic Ed Ward tells the forgotten musician's story.
  • A new 12-disc compilation traces the history of electric blues from its inauspicious start through its heyday in the 1950s and '60s. Critic Ed Ward says Plug It In! Turn It Up! does "a great job of illuminating one particular aspect of the blues."
  • One of the great fantasies of the hippie era was that new combinations of music would emerge from the experimentation that was going on. Still, very few lived it. Ed Ward says The Insect Trust was one of the exceptions.
  • Six feet tall, weighing in at 400 pounds and in his 40s when stardom hit him, Big Joe Turner is behind a load of rock 'n' roll hits. His hardest-hitting singles have been collected on a new compilation, titled Big Joe Turner Rocks.