Paul Williams: Founder of the hugely influential Crawdaddy! magazine

 

In the mid-1960s, as pop music evolved into rock, few publications catered for aficionados looking for more than basic information about the latest endeavours of Bob Dylan or the Beach Boys.

The US writer Paul Williams would go on to write authoritatively about both acts, but he was rightly hailed as the “Godfather of rock journalism” for launching Crawdaddy! in January 1966.

“You are looking at the first issue of a magazine of rock and roll criticism. Crawdaddy! will feature neither pin-ups nor news-briefs; the specialty of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music,” Williams stated in issue No 1 of the fanzine he produced from his dormitory at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania.

He was still only 17, yet within 18 months his publication would grow from 500 copies of ten mimeographed pages stapled together to a proper print-run and a circulation of 25,000. It also inspired Jann Wenner to launch Rolling Stone magazine in San Francisco in October 1967, 18 months before another celebrated US rock monthly, CREEM, appeared in Detroit. However, while Rolling Stone became a juggernaut, the pioneering Williams left Crawdaddy! at the end of 1968. “The battle had been won. The New York Times was reviewing rock music,” he later reflected.

He was the precocious child of a physicist and an administrator who had both worked on the Manhattan Project, the research programme that produced the first atomic bombs during the Second World War. A folk snob originally keener on the Greenwich Village and Boston folk scenes than the Beatles, he became a converted Anglophile on hearing the Rolling Stones and the Kinks and named Crawdaddy! after the club in Richmond, Surrey, where the Stones and Yardbirds made their early breakthrough.

The first issue featured a review of Simon & Garfunkel’s Sounds of Silence, prompting a thank-you call from Paul Simon to the phone in the dorm corridor. Greatly affected by the death of folk singer Richard Fariña in a motorbike crash in April 1966, Williams dropped out of Swarthmore and went back to his native Boston. That July, he put Dylan on the cover of the fourth issue, a year after he’d “gone electric” at the Newport Folk Festival – and sold hundreds of copies at the very same event.

Williams was first to commission Jon Landau, Sandy Pearlman and Richard Meltzer, writers who went on to transcend rock criticism and participate in the recordings made by artists they were closely associated with – Bruce Springsteen, Blue Öyster Cult or The Clash – as producers or lyricists. Hanging out with Brian Wilson, the Doors or Buffalo Springfield in Los Angeles, or composing thoughtful essays without worrying about the word count, made the venture all the more enjoyable, but Williams soon lost his “sense of wonder” and left the publication in the hands of others. “They paid me a little money for the trademark. I needed to get on with my life,” he said of his decision.

The freelance Williams still had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, hanging out with Crosby, Stills & Nash in Laurel Canyon, joining the chanting on the Plastic Ono Band’s “Give Peace a Chance” in June 1969, or travelling to Woodstock with the Grateful Dead two months later.

But he was more interested in his personal journey, as documented in Time Between, a book he described as “almost a journal of intense communal living, travelling, LSD-taking.” While living on a commune in Canada in 1970, he wrote the meaning-of-life Das Energi – a spin on Marx’s Das Kapital – the first and only book published by Jac Holzman’s Elektra Records. It became an underground hit, selling 350,000 copies. A science-fiction buff from his early teens, when he published a sci-fi fanzine called Within, Williams befriended Philip K Dick and penned an exhaustive Rolling Stone article, as well as an authoritative biography of the influential author, who made him literary executor of his estate before his death in 1982.

California-based from the mid-Seventies, he edited the first book edition of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, published in 1981, and embarked on an ambitious three-part series of Bob Dylan, Performing Artist books, drawing on the 100-plus concerts he had seen by the singer-songwriter, as well as audio recordings. 

In 1993, he published Rock and Roll: The 100 Best Singles. That same year, he also revived Crawdaddy!, which had been dormant since 1979, as a quarterly newsletter, publishing 28 instalments over the next decade, despite suffering a traumatic brain injury in a bicycle accident in 1995. This led to early onset of dementia and necessitated a move to a nursing home four years ago.

His 1988 memoir was fittingly called The Map or Rediscovering Rock and Roll: A Journey. In its introduction, he described his interest in the music: “To me, rock and roll is a living force, resilient and stubborn. The only thing to do with rock and roll is to participate in it.”

Paul S Williams, writer and publisher: born Boston, Massachusetts 19 May 1948; married 1972 Sachiko Kanenobu (marriage dissolved, two sons); 1988 Donna Nassar (marriage dissolved); 1997 Cindy Lee Berryhill (one son); died Encinitas, California 27 March 2013.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
News
Winchester College Football (universally known as Winkies) is designed to make athletic skill all but irrelevant
Life...arcane public school games explained
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone