Ralph J. Gleason

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Ralph Joseph Gleason (born March 1, 1917 in New York City , New York , † June 3, 1975 in Berkeley , California ) was an American jazz and rock journalist and critic.

Live and act

Gleason studied at Columbia University in his hometown of New York . In 1938, after graduating from university, he brought out one of the first jazz magazines, Jazz Information (back then as a Dixieland and New Orleans jazz fan). In the late 1940s he went to San Francisco , where he reported regularly on jazz and pop music from 1950. In the USA he is considered to be the first critic of a major newspaper who reported in this area with the same attention as his colleagues on classical music. He was one of the first journalists to recognize the importance of Bob Dylan, Miles Davis and that of comedian Lenny Bruceand popularized it, as he was also generally an important observer of the blossoming of the city's cultural life from the mid-1950s ("San Francisco Renaissance" with its peak in the 1960s with catchphrases like "Flower Power" or " Hippie " culture) was. In the 1960s he was a well-respected journalist in the scene who also supported "domestic" rock groups such as Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead (and, according to some critics, too little the scene in Los Angeles).

In 1967 he founded the fortnightly Rolling Stone magazine with Jann Wenner (in whose imprint he is still mentioned, as well as Hunter S. Thompson ), for which he wrote until his death. He also wrote regular weekly columns on jazz and pop music for the New York Post and other magazines. For twelve years (1948–1961) he was co-editor and critic for Down Beat . His articles have also appeared in the New York Times , The Guardian , the Times , the New Statesman , Evergreen Review , American Scholar , Saturday Review , the New York Herald Tribune , the Los Angeles Times , the Chicago Sun Times , the Sydney Herald , Playboy , Esquire , Variety and Stereo Review (1958–1973). From 1958 to 1960 he published a quarterly magazine called Jazz .

From 1961 to 1968 he produced and wrote Jazz Casual , a series of 31 programs on jazz and blues, including portraits (with interviews) of BB King , Dizzy Gillespie , John Coltrane , for the TV broadcaster "National Educational Television" (now PBS) . Dave Brubeck , the Modern Jazz Quartet , Jimmy Witherspoon and Sonny Rollins . His two-hour Duke Ellington portrait received two Emmy nominations. He has also made a four-part series about the Monterey Jazz Festival , Anatomy of a Hit (probably the first TV documentary about pop music), and two documentaries about rock music in San Francisco, Go Ride the Music and A Night At The Family Dog .

With Jimmy Lyons he founded the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1958 . From 1970 to 1975 he was Vice President at Fantasy Records . He also wrote numerous liner notes for jazz albums.

A title by the Red Garland Quartet (on Red's Blues 1998, first on Prestige in 1958) is in his honor Ralph J. Gleason Blues .


  • Jam session . New York, GPPutnam's Sons, 1958 (collection of articles)
  • The San Francisco Scene . 1968 (via rock music)
  • with Ira Gitler , Studs Terkel : Celebrating The Duke, & Louis, Bessie, Billie, Bird, Carmen, Miles, Dizzy & Other Heroes . 1975
  • Celebrating the Duke… And other Heroes . Little Brown and Co., Boston 1975 (Duke Ellington)

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