Crawdaddy! was the first U.S. magazine of rock and roll music criticism.
Preceding both Rolling Stone and Creem, Crawdaddy! is regarded as the U.S. pioneer of rock journalism, and was the training ground for many rock writers just finding the language to describe rock and roll music, which was only then beginning to be written about as seriously as folk and jazz. The zine spawned the career of numerous rock music critics. Early contributing writers included Jon Landau, Sandy Pearlman, and Richard Meltzer.
Paul Williams, the founder and original editor of Crawdaddy!, left the magazine in 1968, going on to write over 25 books. From 1993-2003 Williams self-published a reincarnation of the magazine. As of 2007, it has been sold to Wolfgang's Vault and resurrected as a webzine that aims to enliven the genre of rock journalism with articles that address the foundational bands of rock 'n' roll, today's newer up-and-coming bands and important issues in the contemporary music industry.
Named after the legendary Crawdaddy Club
in England at which the Rolling Stones
played their first gig, Crawdaddy!
was started on the campus of Swarthmore College
in 1966 by Paul Williams
. Williams was a science fiction fan
with an interest in rock music who at the age of 17 started mimeographing and distributing a collection of criticisms (at first mostly his own) about rock and roll music and musicians. (He had begun publishing a science fiction fanzine
, at the age of 14, and later recruited some of his fellow fans to help. Apparatchik #69, November 1, 1996
quickly moved from its fanzine
roots to become one of the first rock music "prozines", with newsstand distribution.
- 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 specialty of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music.... -- issue No. 1, February 7, 1966
Mass market magazine
briefly suspended publication in 1969, but returned, with its title unpunctuated, in 1970, with national mass market distribution, first as a quarterfold newsprint tabloid, then as a standard-sized magazine. It continued through the decade, led by editor-in-chief Peter Knobler
(who first wrote for Crawdaddy!
) with senior editor Greg Mitchell
, featuring contributions from Joseph Heller
, John Lennon
, Tim O'Brien
, Michael Herr
, Dan Aykroyd
, P.J. O'Rourke
, Cameron Crowe
, and Martin Mull
, plus a roster of columnists including at times William S. Burroughs
, Paul Krassner
, David G. Hartwell
, the Firesign Theater
, and sometimes even Williams himself. While on the run from the law, Abbie Hoffman
's travel editor. Among Crawdaddy
's scoops: the first major profile of Bruce Springsteen
, written in December, 1972
by Peter Knobler with special assistance from Greg Mitchell. Crawdaddy
"discovered" Springsteen in the rock press and was his earliest champion. As the decade progressed, the Crawdaddy
staff included Tim White (later editor of Billboard
), Mitch Glazer
(now a screenwriter), Denis Boyles
, John Swenson, and Jon Pareles
(currently a chief music writer at The New York Times
). Because of such notable talent, Crawdaddy
has been described as the Buffalo Springfield
of the rock magazine world.
Crawdaddy was known for its well-written, insightful profiles of musicians, athletes and people in 1970s popular culture, including Sly Stone, Bob Marley, the Who, Mel Brooks, John Belushi, Jack Nicholson, Ted Nugent, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, and Roy Orbison. The magazine covered scenes from New Orleans funk to Austin's cosmic cowboys to est to disco. Its renowned sense of humor produced the Crawdoodah Gazette and "The Assassination Please Almanac". In 1976, the magazine published the first in-depth article on the life and bizarre death of country-rock pioneer Gram Parsons, anticipating the wealth of information published about him years later. Mitchell went on to write numerous books and is now the editor of Editor and Publisher magazine. Knobler and Mitchell edited the book Very Seventies: A Cultural History of the 1970s from the pages of Crawdaddy, published in 1995.
Rename and closure
Under Peter Knobler's editorship Crawdaddy
's focus expanded to cover more general aspects of popular culture, particularly politics and movies, and in 1979 the magazine changed its title to Feature
. When the music business retrenched, Feature
lost much of its advertising revenue, and after three issues at the beginning of 1979, it ceased publication. Knobler went on to collaborate on numerous best-selling books, including the political memoir All's Fair
by James Carville
and Mary Matalin
and the autobiographies of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
, Hakeem Olajuwon
, Governor Ann Richards
, police commissioner William Bratton
, and Sumner Redstone
Paul Williams reclaimed the punctuated title in 1993, publishing 28 issues until financial pressures forced him to end its run in 2003.
In 2006, Williams sold the rights to the Crawdaddy! name, as well as all of his published works in back issues and a handful of his authored books, to Wolfgang's Vault, a small San Francisco-based company. The magazine re-launched as an online publication in May 2007 at www.crawdaddy.com with editor-in-chief Jocelyn Hoppa orchestrating the resurrection of the magazine, equipped with the added advantage of video and mp3 capability.
The newest incarnation of the magazine, released weekly on the internet, has taken to writing about rock 'n' roll with the same ethics as Williams originally intended (the original Crawdaddy! credo ): articulate writing about music that focuses on rock's ability to reflect complex cultural and political aspects of society. The magazine features a wide range of content: re-published original Crawdaddy! articles by Williams, reviews of new albums (Spoon, The White Stripes, Dinosaur Jr, M. Ward, Ryan Adams, Art Brut), discussions about the state of the music industry today, and interviews with notable figures of rock 'n' roll.