Paul Williams Benefit

Paul Williams started publishing fanzines when he was 14. Then, in 1966, at age 17, he capitalized on his fannish experience to start Crawdaddy!, declaring: “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…. “

A part of the incandescent music scene of the Sixties, Crawdaddy! enjoyed a meteoroic rise to fame, but Williams left in 1968 to write books. The magazine’s success and prestige carried it another decade, then it went out of business in 1979. Williams reclaimed the title in 1993 and the magazine has relaunched a couple of times since.

However, Paul Williams now has early onset dementia, brought on by a bicycling accident years ago and requires full-time care. He needs the help being provided by the community of supporters who are hosting a benefit for him on June 28. The San Francisco Examiner reports:

This week, friends and fans are coming together to help his family cover costs and lend emotional support at a benefit show Sunday in San Francisco at the Red Devil Lounge: John Doe, Jello Biafra, Mojo Nixon, Mark Eitzel, former Rolling Stone scribe Ben Fong-Torres and others will take the stage to pay tribute to the writer and publisher.

“The fact that he has such passion for the music and for particular artists, his style would just leap in there, with no attempt at what might be considered objective journalism or criticism,” Fong-Torres says. “Whatever he felt was right out there, naked, and I think that made his writing more special and appealing to people and unique in the field of rock writing, which he helped pioneer.”

Williams founded the independent Crawdaddy! when he was just 17. He became part of the fabric of the ’60s rock counterculture, not only writing about it, but also participating in historic happenings, from driving to Woodstock with the Grateful Dead to staying with John Lennon and Yoko Ono during their “bed-in for peace.” 

More insight and history about Williams can be found in this Pat Thomas interview:

Pat Thomas:   So how did you dream this up?

Paul Williams:   Well, there were two big influences on me. One was that I’d been a science fiction fan and was used to putting out magazines. When I was 14, I put out my first science fiction fanzine, and there was a whole community of people doing that, and I put that out for a couple years. You know, mimeograph stencils and writing your own magazine seemed normal to me coming out of that world. The other influence was, when I started Crawdaddy! I was at Swarthmore College near Philadelphia, I’d grown up in Cambridge and the Boston suburbs, and there was a very active folk scene, and of course there were folk music magazines…

[Thanks to Andrew Porter for the story.]

One thought on “Paul Williams Benefit

  1. For the record, Paul’s fanzine was entitled Within. I used to have copies of a couple of issues. It also published some of the first, if not the very first, book reviews by a young guy (not as young as Paul) named “David Hartwell.”

    And it should be emphasized that Paul wrote a whole bunch of books, of a fair variety, ranging from biographies (a four volume bio of Bob Dylan), book length examinations of the music of a number of rock artists (Neil Young, Brian Williams), collections of general essays, a biography of Phil Dick (Only Apparently Real), personal memoirs (Apple Bay), books of, well, personal philosophy, and a few that are more or less uncategorizable.

    Also should be mentioned are such facts as Paul being for many years the literary executor of Philip K. Dick, the founder and editor for many years of the Philip K. Dick Society Newsletter, and the editor of eleven volumes of the collected work of Theodore Sturgeon.

    And let me personally testify that Paul’s Within, at the age of 14, was a very mature fanzine; hell, there are people who edited in their thirties and forties who never came close to doing as good a job, or sounding as adult, as Paul did at the age of 14. (God knows my fanzines from when I was 15 didn’t.)

    For more, I again point here. And this is a good piece about Crawdaddy!

    Let me also say that back in the Seventies and Eighties, when I met and hung out with Paul a number of times when he visited NYC, and once when I visited Glen Ellen, he was always tremendously kind and thoughtful, funny and wise, to this much younger fan.

Comments are closed.