LOS ANGELES — Paul Williams was returning to his dorm room when a fellow student relayed a message that was radical even for the 1960s: “Hey, Williams! You got a phone call from Bob Dylan.”

Not long before, it was Paul Simon who had rung Williams up on the hallway pay phone. He too wanted to let the Swarthmore College freshman know how much he enjoyed his writing.

At 17, Williams was the founder and editor of Crawdaddy, a tiny journal of rock criticism whose first edition he mimeographed in a friend’s Brooklyn basement and distributed to record stores, clubs and concert halls.

Williams, who beat Rolling Stone to press by more than 18 months and is now widely credited as a pioneer of serious rock writing, died Wednesday in an Encinitas, Calif., care facility. He was 64.

His wife, singer Cindy Lee Berryhill, said his death was caused by complications stemming from dementia. The condition, she said, was triggered by severe head injuries from a 1995 bicycle accident.

Williams was a prolific author, with more than 25 books to his credit, including a three-volume work about Dylan. An avid science-fiction fan, Williams also wrote a biography of his friend, writer Philip K. Dick.