Paul Williams, Crawdaddy Founder, 'Godfather of Rock Criticism' Dead at 64
By Andrew Flanagan
Williams began publishing Crawdaddy! at the age of 17, following his earlier work publishing science fiction fanzines -- as Johan Kugelberg stresses on Williams' website, "science-fiction fandom roots… all rock fanzines and of rock fandom." Williams continued to publish and grow Crawdaddy! for two years, printing the early work of influential writers such as Sandy Pearlman and Jon Landau; the former would go on to produce The Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope, while the latter of whom would go on to manage and produce Bruce Springsteen.
REM's Peter Buck on Paul Williams' site described his writing thusly: "His writing was very conversational and fan oriented, in the sense that he was a fan. He wasn't reviewing records he didn't like because he got the assignment from some guy in an office. The passion was always there. You could tell that Paul was someone who wrote about things that he actually cared about."
In its two-to-three-year run (as Williams described it), the magazine's distribution went from 500 copies to 25,000 and could count among its fans Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Luc Sante.
Following the initial success of Crawdaddy!, Williams closed up shop in New York and moved to Mendocino, Calif. where he traveled with Timothy Leary and "ended up at John and Yoko's Bed-In for Peace in Montreal." It was also around this time that Williams struck up a friendship with the influential science fiction author Philip K. Dick, a relationship that continued after Dick's death, when Williams was named his literary executor. Williams is credited with helping to secure Dick's literary legacy.
Williams' wife, singer/songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, made a short post to Facebook on Williams' death: "Rock-writer Paul S Williams, author and creator of CRAWDADDY magazine, (and my husband), passed away last night 10:30pm PST while his oldest son was holding his hand and by his side. It was a gentle and peaceful passing."
What follows is the introduction that Williams wrote to the first issue of Crawdaddy, dated February 7th, 1966 (which preceded Rolling Stone, by a full 18 months). The initial two-year run of Crawdaddy! can be read and enjoyed here.
"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 speciality of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music. Billboard, Cash Box, etc., serve very well as trade news magazines; but their idea of a review is a hard-driving rhythm number that should spiral rapidly up the charts just as (previous hit by the same group) slides.
"Crawdaddy believes that someone in the United States might be interested in what others have to say about the music they like."
Williams went on to pen more than 25 books, including the three-part "Bob Dylan: Performing Artist," "Outlaw Blues," and "Das Energi."
He revived and ran Crawdaddy between 1993 and 2003 before selling it to Wolfgang's Vault in 2006.
Pioneering rock journalist Paul Williams dies at 64
28 March 2013
Paul Williams, a pioneering music journalist who started the first magazine devoted to rock 'n' roll criticism, died on Wednesday in Southern California. He was 64.
Williams was the founder of Crawdaddy! magazine and the author of more than two dozen books about music, popular culture and new-age philosophy. He died of complications related to Alzheimer's, which came on after he suffered a brain injury in a 1995 bicycle accident.
Williams was a 17-year-old student at Swarthmore College when he launched Crawdaddy in 1966. At a time when the mainstream media looked askance at rock music and the only magazines devoted to the sound were teeny-bopper publications like Tiger Beat, Williams wrote in the first issue that his goal was "neither pinups nor news briefs" but "intelligent writing about pop music."
"Paul was the first to write about rock music seriously," singer-songwriter Mojo Nixon told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2009, when he participated in a benefit to raise money for Williams' medical expenses. "Most pop music was meaningless fluff, but Paul realized that something else was going on there."
Crawdaddy!, whose early writers included Jon Landau and Richard Meltzer, predated Rolling Stone, which Jann Wenner launched in 1967 after meeting with Williams. Williams left Crawdaddy! in 1968, but relaunched it in 1993 as a subscription-only newsletter.
In addition to his work with the magazine, Williams wrote for a number of other publications, including Rolling Stone, for which he interviewed the seminal science-fiction writer Philip K. Dick in 1974. Williams became friends with the author and served as the executor of Dick's literary estate after the writer's death in 1982.
He also took on tasks as disparate as volunteer firefighter and campaign manager for Timothy Leary's run for California governor.
Williams' books include "Outlaw Blues," "Das Energi," and a number of works on Bob Dylan -- including "Dylan -- What Happened?" about the singer's 1979 conversion to Christianity. After the book's publication, Dylan's office reportedly ordered 114 copies so the singer could give them to friends.
Williams suffered an accident riding his bicycle in 1995, and was hospitalized for a month with a brain injury. He recovered, but later began to show signs of dementia. His wife, singer-songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, put him in a managed-care facility in Encinitas, California., in 2008.
On Sunday, three days before his death, a one-day celebration of Williams' life was held at the Boo-Hooray Gallery in New York City, with music provided by Berryhill and Lenny Kaye.
According to a Facebook post by Berryhill, Williams died on Wednesday night in the company of his oldest son.