Rock historian Ed Ward died in Austin this week, according to his former colleague at the Austin American-Stateman Michael Corcoran. The author of The History of Rock & Roll Volumes 1 & 2 spanning from 1920 to 1977 was a writer for various publications, including Paste magazine.
Born in 1948, Ward began his music-writing career while attending Antioch College in 1965. He was a staff writer at all three of the early rock magazines—Crawdaddy!, Rolling Stone and Creem—and a freelancer for just about every publication from The New York Times to The Wall Street Journal. He was also a key figure in the Austin music scene as a writer for The Austin Chronicle and the Austin American-Statesman, where he inspired the “Dump Ed!” campaign from those readers who didn’t quite share his views.
Ed Ward helped make Austin a modern music city. I remember when he was hired by the Statesman in 1979, everyone was like, “What? The guy from Rolling Stone is moving to Austin?” We parsed every word of his weekly columns for gossip, criticism, music news.
— Michael Hall (@mikehalltexas) May 4, 2021
His History of Rock & Roll books told the story of how the music of backwoods juke joints transformed as it grew into arenas, touching on everyone from Big Joe Turner to Curtis Mayfield to Chuck Berry to Buddy Holly along the way. The books were notable for highlighting the contributions of many lesser-known black musicians.
Ward was also a staple of NPR’s Fresh Air and helped start the SXSW Music Festival. He moved to Berlin in the 1990s but returned to Austin in 2013. He’ll be remembered for his wry humor, strong opinions and gift for storytelling.