Do you know the story of Crawdaddy!? Forty-five years ago, the first US magazine of rock criticism was born. Conceived by a visionary young journalist named Paul Williams from his freshmen dorm room at Swarthmore College, Crawdaddy! Magazine (so named for the club where the Rolling Stones played their first show) set in motion a movement of music writing that has continued to resonate and gain momentum over the past four and a half decades since Williams first put his pen to the page and cranked out a magazine. In those early issues, Williams made a name for himself for frank, intelligent, and earnest commentary on the subject of music—reviewing Simon and Garfunkels’ Sounds of Silence (for which he received a phone call from Paul Simon at his dorm room congratulating him for his insights), waxing on the musical identity of San Francisco, taking on folk-rock as it emerged in a dichotomous climate, and going on to become one of the preeminent Dylan experts of the age. Read what Williams himself had to say about that first issue…
At a time when the field of music criticism was still unheralded and far from taking the shape as it exists today in our saturated new media environment, Williams helped build the foundation of the medium, driving an ideology that self-discovery can and does exist through the practice of reflecting on art. Paul Williams is considered the godfather of rock journalism for setting a standard that we in that wake strive to uphold, for being among the first to acknowledge the worth of his subject in a cultural context and setting it free for the masses to embrace.
He didn’t do it alone. Crawdaddy! was home to rock writing luminaries such as Richard Meltzer, Sandy Pearlman, and Jon Landau, who helped music journalism become a global enterprise, as Rolling Stone, Creem, Mojo, Pitchfork, and the like eventually came to existence in the shadow that our forebears cast. Williams stepped away from Crawdaddy! in 1968 and the magazine stopped publishing for a few years until it was relaunched (without an exclamation mark) in 1970 under the direction of other highly respected editors and contributors, among them Peter Knoebler, Greg Mitchell, Jon Pareles, Ed Ward, William Burroughs, and Abbie Hoffman. Williams eventually took the magazine back in 1993 and published 28 more issues until the financial burden became too debilitating. In 2007, Crawdaddy! was relaunched to live once more online, where we aim daily to honor those ideals as defined by Williams 45 years ago.
In celebration of the institution that Paul Williams set in motion from his dorm room typewriter, we invite you to remember your own experiences within the pages of Crawdaddy! from its origins through today, to peruse those first 19 issues that we have available for you in their entirety here on the site, to read through some of the collected remembrances of past and present Crawdaddy! contributors, and honor the life and work of Paul Williams. Without him and what he started, we would certainly be missing something wonderful."