Journalist John Morthland, a former associate editor of Rolling Stone and contributor to Texas Monthly and Creem, was found dead at home in Austin on Tuesday. The cause of death is currently unknown, according to Austin-American Statesman, which reported he had been in ill health in recent years and recently recovered from a broken leg. He was 68.
Morthland had entered the world of music journalism as a high school student, when he managed to conduct an interview with the Rolling Stones in 1964 before the first show of their first U.S. tour. He began contributing to Rolling Stone in the summer of 1969, when he penned a review of the Steve Miller Band’s third LP, Brave New World. That year, he also reviewed albums by Blind Faith, King Crimson, Santana and Country Joe and the Fish, among others.
He joined the staff of the magazine in early 1970 after contributing to a cover story on the Rolling Stones’ fatal Altamont concert. He served as assistant editor before being promoted to associate editor within a matter of months, exiting before the year was up. During his tenure as a staffer, Morthland profiled Rod Stewart, Johnny Winter and Steve Miller, and wrote features about Jimi Hendrix’s funeral, the Kent State Massacre, Richard Nixon protesters and record bootlegging. He continued to contribute to Rolling Stone into the Eighties.
Morthland befriended Lester Bangs while writing for Rolling Stone, and, when the critic died in 1982, he assumed the role of Bangs’ estate executor.
In a an interview with RockCritics.com, Morthland described the atmosphere at Rolling Stone at the time as “loose” but “real professional.” “There was a sense that no one had ever done something like this before and we were all really excited about it,” he said. “And we all read each other’s stuff real enthusiastically and whenever we found a new writer we’d get real excited. ‘Cause it was hard to find people who could write and were knowledgeable about music back in those days.”
In the Seventies, Morthland worked for Creem, based in Detroit, and later moved to New York. In 1984, he published his book, The Best of Country Music. He later relocated to Dallas and then Austin, where he worked as a freelance writer, contributing to Texas Monthly and other outlets and writing album notes, and worked as a panels coordinator for South by Southwest. He later penned the book, Texas Music: Legends From the Lone Star State, and he edited Main Lines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader, which came out in 2003.
The Statesman reports he is survived by his mother, who lives in Killeen, Texas.