Sunday, October 17, 2010

Country Music and Books

Nick and Ben both love music.  We are both eclectic in our taste. Yet we have our preferences, and there are those times when the mood calls for certain kinds of music, and nothing else will do.  I, Ben, have learned a lot from Nicholas, who is a walking encyclopedia on certain kinds of music, and he knows he will get a thrashing (even at age 17) for criticizing traditional country music and bluegrass music, but he is on safe ground, since he likes it too.

And we both like books.  And sometimes, I like books on music, particularly country music.  Most of the country music books are biographies, and most are fairly light reading.  That is part of their appeal.  I read serious history, literary classics, and theology for a living. I groan about my work when propped up reading, but I actually love it.  The books on country music are read purely for relaxation.

And yet, even the biographies and autobiographies of country singers reveal a lot about American culture, Southern folkways, writing poetry (songs), economic conditions of the country, and that most complex of all God's creation--man fallen and redeemed.  I hope to post a list of good books on country artists soon, but for now, I want to highlight two books I picked up used and cheap.

Many a time years ago, I listened to Ralph Emery on WSM radio.  He was one of the biggest names in Nashville, and he was a key disk jockey and radio host on the station (again WSM, 650 AM) that hosts the Grand Ole Opry, the Ernest Tubb Midnight Jubilee, and many, many country shows. I really confused this book, The View from Nashville, with his autobiographical book Memories.  Hopefully, I will find it later, and find a copy just as good (like new) and just as cheap ($1).  This book, by the way, includes stories about "country singers" ranging from Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, and Johnny Horton to Roy Orbison and Ray Charles.

Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez is written by Bill C. Malone and Judith McCulloh. It is published by the University of Illinois Press.  Ain't it sumpin' that not only do university presses publish books about country music, but that many of those books are published up there in Illinois?
On the back cover, this book lists the titles of a number of books from the U of I Press series called Music in American Life.  There are at least a half a dozen I would love to have.  This book was found in good shape, with some tears to the dusk jacket, and it sold for a whopping big $2. 

It contains biographical sketches of quite a few singers, many of whom are pictured on the cover, including the founders of country music, like the Carter Family and Jimmy Rogers; the early great stars, like Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, and an Alabama boy named Hank Williams; stars of the 50s and 60s, like Flatt and Scruggs, Loretta Lynn, and an Arkansas boy named Cash. 

I am $3.00 poorer.  Somehow, I don't feel poorer.  I just wish I could find some music equally as cheap.

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