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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 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Sam Phillips once referred to Howlin' Wolf's voice as "where the soul of man never dies." Phillips, who worked with dozens of great Memphis musicians, never changed his mind. Rock historian Ed Ward examines the evolution of Wolf's singular talent.
  • Before the Civil Rights movement, segregated American cities helped give birth to the Chitlin' Circuit, a touring revue that provided employment for hundreds of black musicians. Rock historian Ed Ward profiles two recent books which illuminate the conditions these musicians endured.
  • SMiLE may be the most famous unreleased album of all time, but it's not really unreleased: Bits and pieces of it wound up on other Beach Boys albums. Now that EMI has assembled a definitive collection of the session tracks, Ed Ward has listened to them — and wonders what the shouting was about.
  • Al Green wrote "Take Me to the River," but it was his labelmate Syl Johnson who first made it famous. Rock historian Ed Ward traces Johnson's early career, which started in Chicago blues clubs in the 1950s.
  • Stone is known to millions from the records he made with Sly and the Family Stone. But his early days, and the recordings he produced for his own Stone Flower label, add another dimension to the career of this enigmatic character, rock historian Ed Ward said.
  • Diamond has sold 128 million records and written and recorded 37 Top 40 songs. But in the early 1960s, rock historian Ed Ward says, Diamond was writing songs for other musicians while struggling to get his own career off the ground.