The Rotten Etymology of Punk

“Punk” has been used to describe music since at least 1899.

(L-R) Eugene Levy, in 1890; B’nai B’rith Hall, San Francisco; Otto Wise, in 1911 (Sources: San Francisco Call, Jewish News of Northern California, San Francisco Chronicle)
“The most punk song ever heard in a hall,” 1899 (Source: San Francisco Call)
Lester Bangs and Lillian Roxon (Source: Robert Milliken, Lillian Roxon: The Mother of Rock)
“Burning punk,” mentioned in a 1747 article about an attack on Fort Saratoga (Source: Pennsylvania Gazette)
Advertisement for Pedro The Punk Poet, 1916 (Source: Hot Springs New Era)
“This punk song…”, ‘Wonder What a Girl in the Chorus Thinks About’, 1919 (Source: The New York Tribune)
The Oregon Loggers, 1932. Ernest Nelson is bottom left, with his harmonica (Source: The News-Review, Roseburg)
Bing Crosby remembers the Ballyhoo ‘punk’ feature from the early thirties, 1949 (Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune)
Presley as a punk, 1957 (Source: San Rafael Daily Independent Journal)
The Steve Allen Show, featuring ‘The Four Punks’, 1956 (Source: Youtube)
“The professional punk”, 1968 (Source: Chicago Tribune)
“Punks’ Haircuts”, 1964 (Source: The Salina Journal)
“Young punk” in Dick Tracy, 1965 (Source: Great Bend Tribune)
“…it sounded awful punk…”, 1961 (Source: Danville Bee)
“Dead punk,” 1969 (Source: Arizona Republic)
William Buckley’s Los Angeles Times column, as it appeared in The Billings Gazette, Montana, 31st March 1969
The Mothers of Invention, ‘Flower Punk’ (Source: Youtube)
“The Punk Muse”, 1970 (Source: Fusion/The Independent)
Advertisement for Suicide in the Village Voice, October 1970 (Source: From The Archives)
Ed Sanders article which included the first use of ‘punk rock’ (Source: Chicago Tribune)
“What Punk Rock Is All About”, 1973 (Source: Hartford Courant)
The Sweet and Chinn-Chapman as punk, 1975 (Source: Los Angeles Times)
Trixie A. Balm, aka Lauren Agnelli, in Rock Scene magazine (Source: laurenagnelli.blogspot.com)
The Roots of Punk, Part III, New Wave Rock magazine, 1979 (Source: Keep It Dirty)
Maddy Prior & The Carnival Band’s version of ‘Old Simon The King,’ from Hang Up Sorrow & Care (Source: Youtube)

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J.P. Robinson

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