Ed Ward

Ed Ward is the rock-and-roll historian on NPR's Fresh Air with Terry Gross.

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.

Ward lives in Montpellier, France. He blogs at Ward in France.

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12:51pm

Fri September 6, 2013
Music Reviews

The Dawn Of Sun Records: 15 Hours Of Blues

Originally published on Fri September 6, 2013 12:52 pm

The Prisonaires, a band formed in a Memphis-area prison, created one of Sun Records' early hits.
Courtesy of Bear Family Records

Sam Phillips is famous for saying that if he could find a white boy with the authentic Negro sound and feel, he'd make a billion dollars. Seeing Phillips in his striped sport coat and tie in 1950, you might well wonder if he'd know that sound and feel if it came up and bit him. But he'd been a fan of blues and country music since childhood, and he bet that his technical knowledge and feeling for this music could make him money.

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12:35pm

Wed June 12, 2013
Music Reviews

Fame Studios And The Road To Nashville Songwriting Glory

Originally published on Thu June 13, 2013 8:57 am

Fame Studio

Wallace Daniel Pennington grew up singing. His father played guitar and his mother played piano, and by the age of 9, the young man had a guitar of his own. The family attended church on Sunday and Wednesday each week, and to this day, Dan Penn says he remembers the entire Methodist congregation belting out hymns.

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12:06pm

Mon June 10, 2013
Music Reviews

Arctic Records: Drafting A Blueprint For The Philly Sound

Originally published on Mon June 10, 2013 1:24 pm

Barbara Mason had had one minor hit on Arctic by the time "Yes I'm Ready" came out in March 1965, and hit the Top 10 on both the R&B and pop charts.
Courtesy of the artist

Arctic Records opened for business late in 1964. The label was the brainchild of Jimmy Bishop, the program director of WDAS — at the time Philadelphia's No. 1 black radio station. If that sounds like a conflict of interest, you don't know much about the music business in Philadelphia back then. Besides, it didn't help Arctic's first single, "Happiest Girl in the World" by the Tiffanys, three local teenagers who sang backup in various studios.

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12:29pm

Fri May 17, 2013
Music Reviews

Jerry Lee Lewis: Live, Singing As If Life Depended On It

Originally published on Mon July 1, 2013 4:49 pm

Jerry Lee Lewis shot to fame in the 1950s with hits such as "A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On" and "Great Balls of Fire."
Courtesy of the artist

It was April 4, 1964, and Jerry Lee Lewis had officially bottomed out. He hadn't charted a record in years, and now, on tour in England and Germany, he was getting paid so little that he couldn't afford to bring his own musicians. Instead, he was forced to use pickup bands in England, and then, when he arrived in Hamburg, a British band called the Nashville Teens was waiting for him. The venue was the Star Club, where The Beatles, who had just leaped into stardom in America, had played not long before.

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10:07am

Wed April 10, 2013
Music Reviews

Johnny Cash's Columbia Catalog Out Now — As A 64-Disc Box Set

Originally published on Thu April 11, 2013 4:00 pm

A new 63-disc box offers a complete retrospective of the Man in Black's storied career.
Sony Music

In 1955, John R. Cash was a sometime auto mechanic, sometime appliance salesman who liked to play the guitar and sing, mostly gospel songs. The "R" in his name didn't stand for anything — and, in fact, he'd been named J.R. at birth and had to come up with "John" when he joined the Air Force. He'd spend the rest of his life reinventing himself.

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