Paul Williams, Crawdaddy Founder, 'Godfather of Rock Criticism' Dead at 64

Paul Williams in Times Square (via Boo-Hooray)

Paul Williams, the writer and editor who helped create what we now know as rock journalism with Crawdaddy!, a magazine he founded in 1966, died last night at the age of 64 from complications related to a 1995 bike accident.

Williams began publishing Crawdaddy! at the age of 17, following his earlier work publishing science fiction fanzines -- as Johan Kugelberg stresses on Williams' website, "science-fiction fandom roots… all rock fanzines and of rock fandom." Williams continued to publish and grow Crawdaddy! for two years, printing the early work of influential writers such as Sandy Pearlman and Jon Landau; the former would go on to produce The Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope, while the latter of whom would go on to manage and produce Bruce Springsteen.

REM's Peter Buck on Paul Williams' site described his writing thusly: "His writing was very conversational and fan oriented, in the sense that he was a fan. He wasn't reviewing records he didn't like because he got the assignment from some guy in an office. The passion was always there. You could tell that Paul was someone who wrote about things that he actually cared about."

In its two-to-three-year run (as Williams described it), the magazine's distribution went from 500 copies to 25,000 and could count among its fans Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Luc Sante.

Following the initial success of Crawdaddy!, Williams closed up shop in New York and moved to Mendocino, Calif. where he traveled with Timothy Leary and "ended up at John and Yoko's Bed-In for Peace in Montreal." It was also around this time that Williams struck up a friendship with the influential science fiction author Philip K. Dick, a relationship that continued after Dick's death, when Williams was named his literary executor. Williams is credited with helping to secure Dick's literary legacy.

Williams' wife, singer/songwriter Cindy Lee Berryhill, made a short post to Facebook on Williams' death: "Rock-writer Paul S Williams, author and creator of CRAWDADDY magazine, (and my husband), passed away last night 10:30pm PST while his oldest son was holding his hand and by his side. It was a gentle and peaceful passing."

What follows is the introduction that Williams wrote to the first issue of Crawdaddy, dated February 7th, 1966 (which preceded Rolling Stone, by a full 18 months). The initial two-year run of Crawdaddy! can be read and enjoyed here.

"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 speciality of this magazine is intelligent writing about pop music. Billboard, Cash Box, etc., serve very well as trade news magazines; but their idea of a review is a hard-driving rhythm number that should spiral rapidly up the charts just as (previous hit by the same group) slides.

"Crawdaddy believes that someone in the United States might be interested in what others have to say about the music they like."

Williams went on to pen more than 25 books, including the three-part "Bob Dylan: Performing Artist," "Outlaw Blues," and "Das Energi."   

He revived and ran Crawdaddy between 1993 and 2003 before selling it to Wolfgang's Vault in 2006.