Welcome to the final episode of the first season of Let It Roll. I’m Nate Wilcox and I’ll be finishing up my conversation with Ed Ward about his book The History of Rock and Roll 1920-1963. This week we’ll be concluding 1963 and hearing about the Lebanese Restaurant that birthed surf music and saved Fender guitars, how Murray Wilson’s failed musical career laid the groundwork for his sons’ amazing success, how Columbia buried Bob Dylan’s first attempt to go rock, and the split between kids singing “My Boyfriend’s Back” and those singing “Blowing in the Wind.”
We talk about Stevie Wonder’s first hit and why you can hear someone shouting “what key? What key?” in the background, the mystery of Smokey Robinson’s failure to get a hit with the Supremes and we finally get to England and talk about the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and the revolution they triggered and would bring to America in 1964.
We’re nearing the end of our first series as Ed’s History of Rock & Roll part 1 stops at the end of 1963. He’s working on the sequel now and it’ll be out in 2019. But for now we’ve got so much to talk about on 1963 that we’re splitting it into two episodes.
This week we’ll be talking about how Berry Gordy perfected his Motown assembly line, Phil Spector and the wrecking crew, Roy Orbison’s operatic dramas, Patsy Cline’s final year and how James Brown finally seized control of his career and became the Godfather of Soul.
1961 and 1962 are often written off as “the dark ages” of the first rock and roll era -- the original rock & roll revolution was over and the Beatles hadn’t yet come along -- and yet as Ed points out “any time you’re a teenager is the best time for rock and roll!” And sure enough on closer inspection this period produced a lot of great music to discuss.
This week we’ll dive deep into the birth of the Beach Boys, Dick Dale and surf music, the explosion of the Twist and how it got away from song writer Hank Ballard, Don Kirshner and his amazing stable of songwriters in the Brill Buildings, Barry Gordy’s struggle to capitalize Motown and what Stax was doing in Memphis. As always you can read all about it in Ed Ward's The History of Rock & Roll, part 1 1920-1963.
This week Ed Ward and Nate Wilcox talk about 1960, a year when the American corporate brass thought they had tamed the rock and roll rebels of the 1950s. We’ll talk about how Ray Charles and Sam Cooke took advantage of the opportunities presented to gifted performers who didn’t frighten the establishment and how to do that they had to overcome the market-driven production ideas of the big record companies.
We’ll also be talking about James Brown’s continuing struggles to seize the means of production, the Everly Brother’s move to Warner Brothers, and the Sun Records diaspora of artists like Roy Orbison who left Sam Phillips and went on to bigger & better things and we’ll be talking about what was going on in England around this time.
As always you can read more in Ed Ward's epic History of Rock & Roll part 1.
Let It Roll is a series of in-depth interviews with music writers like Ed Ward, Robert Gordon, Paul Trynka, Peter Doggett, Elijah Wald and more.