Crawdaddy! was the first U.S. magazine of rock and roll music criticism. Created in 1966 by college student Paul Williams in response to the increasing sophistication and cultural influence of popular music, Crawdaddy! was self-described as "the first magazine to take rock and roll seriously."
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, which was only then beginning to be written about as studiously as folk music and jazz. The magazine spawned the career of numerous rock music critics. Early contributing writers included Jon Landau, Sandy Pearlman, Richard Meltzer and Peter Knobler.
Williams left the magazine in 1968, going on to write over 25 books. From 1993 to 2003 he self-published a Crawdaddy! reincarnation. In 2006 it was sold to Wolfgang's Vault and later resurrected as a daily webzine.
Zine roots Edit
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. Williams was a science fiction fan 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, Within, at the age of 14, and later recruited some of his fellow fans to help.) Crawdaddy! quickly moved from its fanzine roots to become one of the first rock music "prozines", with newsstand distribution.
Mass market magazine Edit
Crawdaddy! briefly suspended publication in 1969, then returned, with its title unpunctuated, in 1970, as a monthly with national mass market distribution, first as a quarterfold newsprint tabloid, then as a standard-sized magazine. Crawdaddy continued through the decade, led by editor-in-chief Peter Knobler (who first wrote for the original Crawdaddy! under Williams in October 1968), with senior editor Greg Mitchell, featuring contributions from Joseph Heller, John Lennon, Tim O'Brien, Michael Herr, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, P.J. O'Rourke and Cameron Crowe, plus a roster of columnists including at times William S. Burroughs, Paul Krassner, David G. Hartwell, the Firesign Theater, and sometimes Paul Williams himself. While on the run from the law, Abbie Hoffman was Crawdaddy '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. Springsteen and the E Street Band acknowledged by giving a private performance at the Crawdaddy 10th Anniversary Party in New York City in June 1976.
As the decade progressed, the Crawdaddy staff included Timothy White (later, an editor of Billboard), Mitch Glazer, Denis Boyles, Noe Goldwasser, John Swenson and Jon Pareles (currently a 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 a generational magazine known for its well-written, insightful profiles particularly of musicians, but also actors, athletes and other celebrities prominent in 1970s pop culture, including Sly Stone, Bob Marley, the Who, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Mel Brooks, John Belushi, Jack Nicholson, Gregg Allman, Muhammad Ali, Joni Mitchell, Bonnie Raitt, Linda Ronstadt, Roxy Music, Little Feat, George Carlin, Randy Newman, Paul Butterfield, Brian Eno and Roy Orbison. Under Knobler, Crawdaddy's editors often assigned artists to write about other artists; Al Kooper profiled Steve Martin, Martin Mull interviewed Woody Allen, William S. Burroughs talked magic and mysticism with Jimmy Page.
The record reviews section, driven by editors Swenson and Goldwasser, had an iconoclastic reputation - well-known and respected by the music industry for its fierce independence. Crawdaddy's features section regularly covered scenes from New Orleans funk to Austin, Texas' cosmic cowboys to Scientology, est and disco. Its renowned sense of humor produced the Crawdoodah Gazette, The Whole Earth Conspiracy Catalogue 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 in later years. Greg Mitchell went onto write various books concerning U.S. political events and is now the editor of Editor and Publisher.
Rename and closure Edit
Under Peter Knobler's editorship from 1972 to 1979, Crawdaddy's focus expanded to cover more general aspects of popular culture, particularly politics, sports 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.
Later relaunches Edit
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. In May 2007 the magazine was re-launched as a daily online publication, edited by Jocelyn Hoppa, equipped with video and mp3 capability.
Very Seventies Edit
Peter Knobler and Greg Mitchell edited the book Very Seventies: A Cultural History of the 1970s from the pages of Crawdaddy, published in 1995.