|Editor||Paul Williams, Peter Knobler|
|Headquarters||Swarthmore College; New York City|
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 and other writers. 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. Effective August 5, 2011, visits began redirecting to the music website Paste, which announced that Crawdaddy "relaunches as a blog on Paste, where we’ll share stories from the Crawdaddy archives and publish new content on legacy artists."
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.
- 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
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.
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, plus notable freelance photographers including David Gahr, Francesco Scavullo, and Ed Gallucci. 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 a diverse mix of filmmakers, athletes, politicians, comedians 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, mysticism and Aleister Crowley with Jimmy Page.
The magazine's record reviews, capsule reviews and film reviews sections, driven by editors Goldwasser and Swenson, shared an iconoclastic reputation that was well known by the music and film industries 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.
Discovers Bruce Springsteen
Among Crawdaddy's scoops: the first major profile of Bruce Springsteen, written in December 1972 by Peter Knobler with special assistance from Greg Mitchell. "He sings with a freshness and urgency I haven't heard since I was rocked by 'Like a Rolling Stone,'" Knobler wrote. Knobler's 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. Knobler profiled Springsteen in 1973, 1975 and 1978.
Rename and closure
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, NYPD 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. In May 2007, the magazine was re-launched as an online publication at Crawdaddy.com, equipped with video and mp3 capability. Credited for its reputation for "thinking man's music writing" by Magnet, Crawdaddy! operated as a daily music news blog and source for longform music journalism, with a team of freelancers spanning the globe and a small San Francisco-based editorial staff headed by Editor-in-Chief Angela Zimmerman, who succeeded Jocelyn Hoppa. At the film, music and culture website PasteMagazine.com, where Crawdaddy appeared as a blog on August 5, 2011, the host site undertakes to import and maintain the Crawdaddy archive, and promises to continue to post not only archival but new material from "many of the columnists and writers you might have enjoyed at the Crawdaddy! website."
The magazine's content spanned the entire age of rock 'n' roll from its inception (and all of the genre's derivatives) to extensive coverage on new and breaking bands. Regular columns and features included interviews, reviews, song histories, lyrical dissections, interviews on songwriting, roadie tales courtesy of Dinky Dawson, new classics, music and politics, crate diggers, the weakest cut, memoir and fiction pieces, in-house video sessions and interviews, and more.
In Popular Culture
The Simpsons episode, A Midsummer's Nice Dream features a scene with Homer in the attic reminiscing to Bart about the 1970s, while sitting amongst stacks of old Crawdaddy! Magazines. Season 22, episode 16. Airdate March 13, 2011
The magazine was also referenced by Mystery Science Theatre 3000, in a gag about "a reporter" from Crawdaddy!.
- Fricke, David (April 30, 2009). "Rockers Reach Out to Pioneering Music Critic". Rolling Stone (1077). p. 26. Cited in "Crawdaddy Founder Paul Williams Asks for Help". rollingstone.com. April 21, 2009.
- NY Times, June 9, 1976
- Peter Knobler on Crawdaddy
- Paul Williams interview
- Williams interview
- "Crawdaddy back issues. Archived version of issue #8" (8). March 1967. p. 3. Retrieved 2009-05-20. Issue #8 from March 1967. See page 3 for Table of Contents, showing authors. Also issue #19, page 3.
- Post at pastemagazine.com/blogs/crawdaddy
- Williams interview
- Crawdaddy archives
- Publishers Weekly review
- "Rock Magic", Crawdaddy, June 1975
- "History of Crawdaddy". crawdaddy.com. Retrieved 2010-03-21.
- Crawdaddy Party Mirrors Magazine, NY Times, June 9, 1976
- Very Seventies: A Cultural History of the 1970s from the pages of Crawdaddy
- "Very Seventies" Table of Contents
- Knobler, Peter; Mitchell, Greg, Very Seventies: A Cultural History of the 1970s from the pages of Crawdaddy
- Williams, Paul, The Crawdaddy! book : writings (and images) from the magazine of rock, Milwaukee, WI : Hal Leonard Corp., 2002.