• The History of Rock & Roll

  • Volume 1: 1920-1963
  • By: Ed Ward
  • Narrated by: David Colacci
  • Length: 15 hrs and 32 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (94 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Ed Ward covers the first half of the history of rock & roll in this sweeping and definitive narrative - from the 1920s, when the music of rambling medicine shows mingled with the songs of vaudeville and minstrel acts to create the very early sounds of country and rhythm and blues, to the rise of the first independent record labels post-World War II, and concluding in December 1963, just as an immense change in the airwaves took hold and the Beatles prepared for their first American tour.

In this first volume of a two-part series, Ward shares his endless depth of knowledge and through engrossing storytelling hops seamlessly from Memphis to Chicago, Detroit, England, New York, and everywhere in between. He covers the trajectories of the big name acts like Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and Ray Charles, while also filling in gaps of knowledge and celebrating forgotten heroes such as the Burnette brothers, the "5" Royales, and Marion Keisker, Sam Phillips's assistant, who played an integral part in launching Elvis's career.

©2016 Ed Ward (P)2016 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"A dean of rock journalism delivers the first volume of a magnum opus on a subject that never ceases to fascinate.... A spry study that should inspire listening with newly informed ears to old tunes." ( Kirkus)

What listeners say about The History of Rock & Roll

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Author's blindspots mar this book

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

I enjoy Ed Ward's NPR pieces about little known rock performers very much, but significant omissions and biases keep this from being an authoritative history of rock. This book purports to cover 1920-1963, but the author skips rather quickly from 1920 to about 1950 with only brief mentions of important artists like Louis Jordan and Bob Wills. He then gives short shrift to Bill Haley whose important role in the evolution of early rock, predates Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Elvis. Ed Ward is evenhanded in his approach to other performers here, but he is not only outright derisive of Haley ("his ridiculous spit curl") but worse, he perpetuates the uniquely American myth that Haley was an insignificant anomaly.

9 people found this helpful

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Tedious, monotone tome

This is much more like an encyclopedia (in chronological order) than a story. It is an endless recitation of names of people, songs, record companies, etc. There is no story interest or emotion whatsoever. How can rock & roll be told in a 14 hour monotone??

If you are looking for a reference guide this may be it, but I recommend it in print form where it would be easier to look up references. Otherwise, the reading of this book is great for insomnia as I have used it with great effect.

4 people found this helpful

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Comprehensive

It is wonderful to read such a well researched history of rock. I am eagerly looking forward to the next installment.

3 people found this helpful

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  • 07-15-17

Better than several college texts on the topic

This book does an excellent job at navigating the odd twists and turns that happened in American music leading to the birth of rock and roll. I'm anxiously awaiting the next volume!

3 people found this helpful

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Putting all the pieces in order

Great overview that brings together the strands that cause the creation of rock and roll. Great narration. Highly recommended

2 people found this helpful

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Inspiring!

I learned so much and have been really inspired by this book! I'll have to read it more than once to retain even half of the information. I have discovered (and rediscovered) so many artists without whom I don't know how I was living.

No need for music in the text--just hop over to Spotify and play the song yourself.

Where is Volume Two?

1 person found this helpful

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I enjoyed this!

I'm looking forward to volume 2! I love rock and roll music and history and the two together are that much better. Nuff said.

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just what I wanted

excelent review of our musical history. the narrator was a perfect fit and reminds me of the authors way of speaking on fresh air. I am so excited for future columes.

1 person found this helpful

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Check Your Facts

Not sure how believable this book is , when in the beginning you reference Johnny Cash as serving in the Army. When In fact he served in the Air Force!

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Amazing

This is exactly the sort of book about rock history that you’d want to read. It unearths the best, most memorable stories, and follows the entire narrative with passion but without pageantry, self-aggrandizing and unnecessary narcissism and social opinions (see: Peter Doggett), or histrionics. He tells of the social milieu surrounding the history of rock without any sort of agenda except to tell the story in a straightforward way- so refreshing.

Narrator is great too.