Rock music criticism lost a true original last week. Paul Williams, the man who founded Crawdaddy magazine from his college dorm room at the age of 17, passed away March 27, from complications arising from a bicycle accident that occurred in 1995! He was 64.
Crawdaddy, whose first issue hit the streets in January, 1966, a full 18 months before the first issue of Rolling Stone, was the first national magazine of rock criticism, and Williams was the first journalist to take Rock n Roll seriously as an art form and write about it as such! The writing style Williams pioneered created modern rock criticism as we know it! Crawdaddy influenced every Rock magazine to follow it, and I’m sure that even writers like Hunter S. Thompson had to be aware of it!
Williams championed young writers like Jon Landau (now Springsteen’s manager and producer), Sandy Perlman (producer of The Clash), and Richard Meltzer! We used to breathlessly wait for each issue like it was The Word of God Himself! It’s difficult to understand how important Crawdaddy was at the time, living today in our always connected universe! Magazines like Crawdaddy were the distributors of information and the counter cultural lifeline to suburban hepcats in the making! They built bridges between regional scenes and brought record company attention to artists who otherwise would probably never get any. When a new issue came out, it was the highlight of our week!
More than most rock writers, Williams lived the lifestyle, hanging out and partying with his subjects like The Grateful Dead, Jim Morrison, Brian Wilson, and David Crosby! After Crawdaddy’s initial 2-3 year run (Williams’ stats), Paul moved to Mendocino, where he ran Timothy Leary’s gubernatorial campaign, going with Leary to meet John and Yoko at their Toronto Bed-In for Peace, where he and Leary appeared as part of the background party for “Give Peace a Chance” and the song, “Come Together” was written overnight, based on Leary’s campaign slogan, “Come together, join the party”.
Williams was the author of more than 25 books on music, counterculture lifestyle, and memoirs of his own life. He struck up a friendship with the Science Fiction author, Philip K. Dick, after writing a widely seen and highly regarded article on Dick in Rolling Stone, which many people, including Dick himself, credited with the revival of interest in his work. After Dick’s death in 1982, Williams was named the literary executor of his estate, and oversaw Hollywood deals that led to “Blade Runner”, “Minority Report”, “Total Recall”, The Adjustment Bureau”, A Scanner Darkly”, and others, all based on Dick’s work!
In the 1990’s, Williams returned to the helm of Crawdaddy, which he ran again for 10 years before selling out to Wolfgang’s Vault in 2006! The entire Crawdaddy archive is now available on Wolfgang’s Vault!
In 1995, Paul suffered a spill on his bicycle, which incurred traumatic brain injuries that began a long slow decline, and from which he never recovered. He is survived by his wife, singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, and their son. The financial burden on the family has been crushing, as Williams, like most self employed artists, lived without any structure of institutional support. Donations can be made on Williams’ website. While there, you can read up on Paul’s complete bio and accomplishments, which are too numerous to fully list here. If you can’t make a donation, please, at least, light a candle for this man! He created something out of nothing that helped change the world for the better! A true original! RIP Paul! And thanks for the memories!
We also lost record producer Phil Ramone this week. Ramone worked with Sinatra, Dylan, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Paul McCartney, Tony Bennett, Aretha Franklin, Elton John, and Ray Charles, among others. He garnered the usual GRAMMYS, Emmys, and Lifetime Achievement Awards that one would expect from a producer of his stature. Ramone was 79.
Wow! As I mentioned last week, we are on the cusp of an amazing summer of music, and it continues this week! In the next two weeks, there are over 30 live shows that I’m recommending! That averages out to over 2 a day, so you should be able to find something to your liking!
Alright, that wraps up another week. Don’t forget to tune in every other Monday night to The Little Delaware Jamboree on WIOX, 91.3 FM, and on the web at www.wioxradio.org, where I do an on air version of this column, and more, as John Madeo’s guest. My segment usually airs at 8:30, but the entire show is worth a listen.
Have an amazing week!
Fred Perry is the owner of Reservoir Music Center on Route 28 in Kingston, and founding member of Alt-Country supergroup, The Brooklyn Cowboys, is from a 3rd generation musical family and lives in the Hudson Valley, where he does what he can to promote live music.