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.

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. This way, James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Little Feat, and Randy Newman got big career boosts. They also took a chance on Captain Beefheart, and although neither a hit single nor a hit album resulted, some very interesting music did. Fresh Air rock historian Ed Ward has the story.

50 Years Of The Hollies

Mar 11, 2015

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.

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.

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.

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.