Perfect Sound Forever

Ed Ward tribute

Ed Ward in back, with Margaret Moser (red shirt). The two other women are Lucinda Williams and Veronica Albright.
Guy in cowboy hat is Lucinda's boyfriend Clyde Woodward; photo by Veronica Albright

Michael Corcoran
interviewed by Jason Gross
(June 2021)

Before I moved to Austin in 1984, I wrote a letter to Ed Ward at the Austin American-Statesman, mentioning that I first became aware of Austin after Lester Bangs moved there for a short time before he died. The letter Ed wrote back was blunt about Lester's lost time in Austin, and also critical of his newspaper bosses. I felt that, by being so candid to a music writer he didn't know, Ed was welcoming me to the inner circle. I'd been reading his stuff since I was a teenager.

My favorite thing he wrote was the first section of Rock of Ages, the Rolling Stone magazine history of rock n' roll. It was a crash course in how R&B influenced Elvis and all the other early rockers, but it was also wonderfully written. Concise, yet expansive. I don't think Ed ever topped that.

By the time I met Ed in person, he was kinda burned out on music and had turned his focus to food writing. I covered the music scene for the Austin Chronicle and Ward wrote a culinary column as "Petaluma Pete." He was a character- blustery and bitchy and silly, with a great laugh- and he found his family amongst all the sweet weirdos of the Austin Chronicle. Ed was in some of the early meetings of South By Southwest because he knew a lot of the major figures in the music business.

Ed had a lot of stories about dealing with famous musicians, but the only one that got me jealous was when he sat six feet away from Bob Marley when he was recording. There's a blurry picture that backs up Ed on that. There seemed to be a lot better access in the early years of music journalism.

Ed had been going through a bad time before he passed. He posted on Facebook about a Christmas dinner of peanut butter and crackers with water, and some friends sent him money so he wouldn't starve before he got his social security check. He was bitter about his History of Rock and Roll, Vols. 1 and 2, not selling very well, and he put a lot of the blame on NPR, where he had done music stories for 30 years, and yet they refused him as a guest to promote his books. Ed quit that gig, which had given him his late-career identity, in spite, and was probably kicking himself. He was really good on the radio, but in real life, he needed an editor. That Cliff Claven thing. But Ed was a know-it-all who really did know it all.

I'm pretty sure Ed would be amazed and surprised by the outpouring of appreciation following his passing. He'd been feeling forgotten, from the last couple conversations I'd had with him. But he also knew that years from now, when kids studied the birth of rock and roll and some of its unsung heroes, they'd be reading his research and writing. He died knowing that.

See Michael Corcoran's website

See the rest of our tribute to Ed Ward

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