Virtual Memories Show #198: Ed Ward

“There’s a large narrative in this book: the popular music tradition of A&R, where songs were given to artists to record, was on its way out.”

Lifelong rock & roll journalist Ed Ward joins the show to talk about his new book, The History of Rock & Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963 (Flatiron Books). We get into how he discovered his calling, how he memorized Billboard charts the way other kids memorized baseball cards, the joy of being a “rootless cosmopolitan”, the music world’s shift from A&R to audience-driven songwriting (and why they were tired of guys named Bobby from Philadelphia), why Tutti Frutti is the “first” rock & roll record, how he wound up in Texas, the experience of meeting 50-somethings who don’t know Chuck Berry’s Maybelline, how he got hired at and fired from Rolling Stone, and more! Give it a listen! And go buy the first volume of Ed’s History of Rock & Roll!

“Every summer, minority females want ballads. Black labels knew that, consciously or not.”

It’s the last Virtual Memories podcast of the year! Lots of great conversation about music, culture, race and Ed’s burgeoning side-obsession with pre-expulsion Spain and its intersection of Jewish, Muslim and Christian populaitons, so get on it and go listen to the show!

Enjoy the conversation! Then check out the archives for more great episodes!

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About our Guest

Ed Ward is the rock and roll historian on NPR’s Fresh Air and has been involved with the SXSW music festival since its inception. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and countless other music magazines. He is also the coauthor of Rock of Ages: The Rolling Stone History of Rock and Roll. He lives in Austin, TX.

Credits: This episode’s music is Nothing’s Gonna Bring Me Down by David Baerwald, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at the offices of Flatiron Books in New York City on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 Microphones feeding into a Zoom H5 digital recorder. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Cloudlifter CL-1 and a Mackie Onyx Blackjack 2×2 USB Recording Interface. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photo of me and Ed by me. It’s on our instagram.

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