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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1:27pm

Wed March 11, 2015
Music

50 Years Of The Hollies

Groups celebrating 50 years of existence aren't too common, which is why the media generally makes a big deal out of it. But one such group had their 50th anniversary in 2014 without many people in the U.S. hearing about it. The Hollies, though, are often overlooked in this country because they weren't virtuosos or showmen, and because the American disdain for pop meant that they didn't have the kind of big hits they had in England. Fresh Air music historian Ed Ward has their story today.

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3:04pm

Mon February 16, 2015
Music

The Furniture Company That Sang The Blues

Paramount Records, founded in 1917 by a furniture company in Wisconsin, found itself in a curious position by the mid-1920s: it was the leading blues label in America, and selling lots of records. J. Mayo "Ink" Williams, the first black record executive in America, had used his street smarts to attract a number of artists, and his best-seller was Blind Lemon Jefferson. Then, suddenly, Williams quit in 1927. But Paramount's greatest moments were yet to come.

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1:25pm

Fri January 23, 2015
Music

Producer Cosimo Matassa Always Believed In New Orleans

New Orleans music didn't do as well in the 1960s, a few hits notwithstanding, as it had done. Musicians left town, major labels lost interest, and Motown and Memphis took over the black music charts. Nonetheless, the late Cosimo Matassa, who owned the only recording studio in town, kept busy. Fresh Air rock historian Ed Ward has the story today.

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2:31pm

Wed November 12, 2014
Music

Bob Dylan's 'Basement Tapes' Formed A Legend

Bob Dylan's career was interrupted in 1966 when he crashed his motorcycle while riding near his home in upstate New York. He wasn't badly injured, but used the occasion to disengage from the grind of touring he'd been doing, relax, and hang out with his band. During this hiatus, some tapes surfaced of new songs he'd been writing: the infamous Basement Tapes. On the occasion of the entire archive being released, Fresh Air critic Ed Ward takes a look at them.

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2:38pm

Tue October 28, 2014
Music

The Mysterious Case of Arthur Conley, Otis Redding's Protege

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Arthur Conley was Otis Redding's protege, his special project, and had a number of hits before mysteriously disappearing. Our rock historian Ed Ward has uncovered what he can about Redding's story.

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1:41pm

Mon September 1, 2014
Music Reviews

The Story Of Little Feat's Fame, Destruction And Revival

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

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3:40pm

Mon August 18, 2014
Music

Box Set Looks Back On Pioneering '5' Royales

Soul music is often defined as the moment when gospel and blues met and formed a new sound. Ray Charles is often given credit for this, but there were others, most notably the "5" Royales, who had immense success as a live act, but never sold as many records as such a pioneering group should have. With the release of the 131-track collection Soul and Swagger: The Complete "5" Royales, the group has finally gotten the recognition they deserve. Fresh Air critic Ed Ward has the story.

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2:56pm

Wed August 6, 2014
Music

A Label Paramount To Early Blues And Jazz

There's nothing a certain type of record collector likes better than finding a stack of 78s on the Paramount label. Between 1917 and 1932, the label, which was one of several run by a furniture company in Grafton, Wisc., released thousands of records, but its real accomplishment was recording some of the greatest early blues and jazz performers.

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12:54pm

Thu May 1, 2014
Music Reviews

The Animals: The British Invasion That Wasn't

Originally published on Thu May 1, 2014 2:35 pm

The Animals.
Courtesy of ABKCO Records

11:54am

Wed January 15, 2014
Music Reviews

The Soul Singer Who Never Quite Made It

Originally published on Wed January 15, 2014 3:46 pm

James Govan (left) with producer and engineer Mickey Buckins in the studio.
Courtesy of Ace Records

2:51pm

Thu January 2, 2014
Music Reviews

When Memphis Made A Move On Nashville's Country Monopoly

Originally published on Thu January 2, 2014 5:31 pm

Label for Warren Smith's "Ubangi Stomp" on Sun Records.
Courtesy of the artist

1:56pm

Tue December 10, 2013
Music Reviews

A Nostalgic — But Bumpy — Journey With The Beach Boys

Originally published on Tue December 10, 2013 5:44 pm

The Beach Boys in 1964. Top row: Carl Wilson, Dennis Wilson. Bottom row: Mike Love, Al Jardine, Brian Wilson.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

All it takes is two seconds of hearing "Round round get around / I get around" and you're there — in the sun, on the beach, in the '60s. The Beach Boys vaulted up the charts while branching out from surf music to psychedelia. This year the remaining band members released Made in California, a six-CD box set loaded with outtakes and other rarities. Critic Ed Ward examines the rise and long decline of a beloved group with a unique sound.

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3:34pm

Thu September 26, 2013
Music Reviews

Bumpy, Bikers And The Story Behind 'Leader Of The Pack'

Originally published on Thu September 26, 2013 4:48 pm

The Shangri-Las on the cover of the "Leader of the Pack" single.
Courtesy of the artist

1:52pm

Fri September 6, 2013
Music Reviews

The Dawn Of Sun Records: 15 Hours Of Blues

The Prisonaires, a band formed in a Memphis-area prison, created one of Sun Records' early hits.
Courtesy of Bear Family Records

Sam Phillips is famous for saying that if he could find a white boy with the authentic Negro sound and feel, he'd make a billion dollars. Seeing Phillips in his striped sport coat and tie in 1950, you might well wonder if he'd know that sound and feel if it came up and bit him. But he'd been a fan of blues and country music since childhood, and he bet that his technical knowledge and feeling for this music could make him money.

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1:35pm

Wed June 12, 2013
Music Reviews

Fame Studios And The Road To Nashville Songwriting Glory

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 9:57 am

Fame Studio

Wallace Daniel Pennington grew up singing. His father played guitar and his mother played piano, and by the age of 9, the young man had a guitar of his own. The family attended church on Sunday and Wednesday each week, and to this day, Dan Penn says he remembers the entire Methodist congregation belting out hymns.

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