This week Ed Ward and Nate Wilcox discuss 1959, a year that started with tragedy for rock n’ roll and went on to see the first flowerings of soul music and the Brill Building pop that would dominate the early 60s. Ed and I debate alternate histories and what ifs regarding the early death of Buddy Holly and Richie Valens, the Ray Charles song that set the young Beatles on fire, and 18 year old Phil Spector’s first big hit and the beginnings of Motown.
This week Ed Ward and Nate Wilcox talk about 1958, the backlash year. This was the year that Elvis got drafted and Jerry Lee Lewis ruined his career with a bigamous marriage to his 13 year old cousin. It was also the year that the music business figured out how to package pretty faces with rocking beats and foisted Fabian and Frankie Avalon on the world.
But never fear we’ll also be hearing a lot about “the wild anarchic spirit” that Sam Phillips and Elvis had unleashed, the reinvention of Johnny Cash, the Million Dollar Quartet, the mini-dramas Lieber & Stoller made with the Coasters, the dance craze called the stroll and much more.
It’s time to talk about 1957 -- what Ed Ward calls the “Miracle Year” of rock and roll. The year when Elvis, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and others were at the peak of their powers and dominating the charts. But it was also a year when many legendary records were released to little acclaim.
We’ll start with a bunch of crazed hillbilly cats who were playing around Memphis at the same time as Elvis, including a pair of squabbling brothers who may have invented rockabilly before the King or was it punk rock 20 years ahead of its time?
This week Ed Ward and Nate Wilcox discuss rock and roll in 1956 with a focus on the rocky and yet productive relationships between African-American recording artists and the Jewish entrepreneurs who brought their work to market.We’ll talk about the relationship between James Brown and Syd Nathan of King Records, the tragic relationship between the gifted 13 year old Frankie Lymon and his gambling addicted record mogul George Goldner, Lieber & Stoller and the songs they wrote and produced and much much more.
The preliminaries are over and now we’re well into the first flower of rock and roll as we talk with Ed Ward about 1955 and 1956. These are the years when the “American Prometheus” brought forth Elvis Presley, when Chuck Berry culturally appropriated Western Swing for his first hit and Hollywood shocked the masses with the first rock and roll movies.
As always we’ll touch on the non-musical factors that made all this possible -- changing demographics and new musical formats -- as well as a few outside factors that slowed down, but couldn’t stop, this musical revolution.
Hosted by longtime rock and roll fan and sportswriter Nate Wilcox, "Let It Roll" is a series of in-depth interviews with Ed Ward about his book, The History of Rock and Roll, Volume 1: 1920-1963. Ward was the official rock and roll historian for NPR’s Fresh Air for 30 years, and is a former editor of Rolling Stone, writer for Crawdaddy, and Cream.