By the Time I Get to ILX: Good Books About Country Music

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Because some of us finished watching the Ken Burns' COUNTRY MUSIC Documentary and want to continue the discussion.

A few people wanted the first post to be about Satan Is Real: The Ballad of the Louvin Brothers, by Charlie Louvin and Benjamin Whitmer, which has been discussed a while back here
Ihttps://www.ilxor.com/ILX/ThreadSelectedControllerServlet?boardid=41&threadid=85514

I actually had to refer to this book yesterday because I was reading in Southwest Shuffle: Pioneers of Honky Tonk, Western Swing, and Country Jazz, by Richard Kienzle about how Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys had a lot of freedom in the studio because they were produced by Don Law, which made me think of Johnny Cash and the artistic limbs he was allowed to stretch or go out on, abetted by also being produced by Don Law (who recorded Robert Johnson back in the day!) and not, say, Owen Bradley or Chet Atkins. Which also led me to reading about another producer, Ken Nelson, again in Southwest Shuffle, who prided himself on being mostly hands off, with at least one notable exception. In that book Nelson says he often heard about Ira Louvin's notorious temper but never experienced it first hand. Then I checked on something I remembered reading in Satan Is Real. Charlie does indeed describe Ken Nelson as the only person Ira trusted with his music, but also that at one point he made a comment about the mandolin hurting the sales of Louvin Brothers records, at which point Ira put his mandolin into the case for good, never again playing it on one of their records.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 14:04 (three weeks ago) link

Sorry messed up this link:
RIP Charlie Louvin

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 14:05 (three weeks ago) link

As far as I can tell Charlie did not tell this story to Charles K. Wolfe, as I couldn't find it in In Close Harmony: The Story of the Louvin Brothers.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 14:29 (three weeks ago) link

Tyler Mahan Coe goes on at length here about why Ken Nelson was wrong to say such a thing and pinpoints when it must have been said: https://cocaineandrhinestones.com/louvin-brothers-running-wild

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 14:42 (three weeks ago) link

richard a. peterson, creating country music: fabricating authenticity

dyl, Saturday, 26 October 2019 15:41 (three weeks ago) link

I've praised David Cantwell's Haggard biography enough.

TikTok to the (Alfred, Lord Sotosyn), Saturday, 26 October 2019 15:44 (three weeks ago) link

richard a. peterson, /creating country music: fabricating authenticity/

Love this book

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 15:45 (three weeks ago) link

I just finished the Cantwell bio of Haggard - enjoyed it immensely & it immediately sent me back to re-listen to so many of his songs.

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 26 October 2019 19:00 (three weeks ago) link

Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough (the "Shakey" guy).

Not only covers Tammy's story (which is all kinds of sad), but also gets fairly in-depth on folks like Billy Sherrill, Glenn Sutton, George Jones and George Richey.

a bevy of supermodels, musicians and Lena Dunham (C. Grisso/McCain), Saturday, 26 October 2019 19:06 (three weeks ago) link

Been meaning to read both of those books/pvmic

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 19:10 (three weeks ago) link

as mention on the Ken Burns thread, Haggard autobiography My House of Memories is pretty rough going - edition I read was badly edited & full of typos, but also a weird mix of “I have found jesus praise the lord” + chasing tail + old fashioned opinions on things + some very touching interesting stories.

I cant say I dont recommend it bc it is Hag after all, but yeah, go cautiously.

Squeaky Fromage (VegemiteGrrl), Saturday, 26 October 2019 19:22 (three weeks ago) link

Liked Satan Is Real andCreating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity so much, the former as a devastating first person account of all kinds of eye-opening behavior, the second as a deftly told complex synthesis of the way art and commerce commingled to Crazy Water crystallize into various forms of what we know as country music, that I am afraid to say too much about them without reading them both again.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 20:24 (three weeks ago) link

Have yet to read everything in it, but In the Country of Country: A Journey To The Roots Of American Music, by Nicholas Dawidoff, but everything I have read has been excellent, including the pieces on thread favorites Merle Haggard and The Louvin Brothers.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 22:10 (three weeks ago) link

Forgot about his book about his grandfather, in which my friend's dad and his best friend were briefly interviewed.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 22:12 (three weeks ago) link

Mandolin Cafe user Moose also heard the story from Charlie about Ken Nelson nixing Ira's mandolin: https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/threads/965-Songs-about-Rain

And here is another story about the Louvins and their dad via the co-author of Satan Is Real that apparently wasn't in the book which is reminiscent of a scene with Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Saturday, 26 October 2019 23:11 (three weeks ago) link

The chapter on Charlie Rich in Feel Like Going Home is worth tracking down.

that's not my post, Saturday, 26 October 2019 23:14 (three weeks ago) link

Yeah--some of Guralnick's best writing and listening ever, going around with Charlie (at Max's Kansas City, among the Lou Reed characters: "These people got the right idea man") and true helpmeet/writing colleague/early career spark Margaret Ann, explaining that she's from the country, but Charlie lived way out in the country, with that religiosity-bred guilt and depression. His music could, in occasion be very country, like the stark "LIfe Has Its Little Ups and Downs," which plays itself in my head on seemingly random occasions, thanks track---written by her, totally for him. But also, come to think of it, you could say the rolling-to-rollicking sides are thank GOD I'm gettin' outta the frickin' country" country.
Fully Realized was an excellent mid-70s twofer, post "Behind Closed Doors" cash-in, title because that's what Guralnick said those tracks were, his most or only(?) though they've since been sugmented in the even better Complete Smash Sessions, and I don't think they're nec. head and shoulders above anything else--wouldn't want to be without last year's Too Many Teardrops: The Complete Groove/RCA Sessions, for inst. Anyway, I think this chapter is what got so many of the collectors going back in the day, I know it did for me.

dow, Sunday, 27 October 2019 16:55 (three weeks ago) link

since been *augmented*

dow, Sunday, 27 October 2019 16:56 (three weeks ago) link

That's a good book, don't think I have a copy anymore.
xp

Came to post that in the Holding Things Together podcast they mention Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Boogie song craze. I recently came across something in the"Hillbilly Boogie' chapter of the super detailed, obviously not strictly country book Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the the Independent Rock'n'Roll Pioneers, by John Broven about Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie" on Super Disc out of Washington DC, kicking off this craze of transferring from piano boogie to guitar, but in Paul KIngsbury's excellent Encyclopedia of Country Music he says that the first guitar boogie recording was Porky Freeman's "Porky's Boogie Woogie on the Strings" on the ARA label.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:04 (three weeks ago) link

Also glad we got to Charlie Rich early since he was backhandedly referred to in the KBdoc as a "journeyman rhythm and blues singer."

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:06 (three weeks ago) link

From Record Makers and Breakers:

Ironically, Nashville’s potential as a recording hub was unlocked by a pop record on an independent label. The impact of Francis Craig’s “Near You,” a freak No. 1 hit on Jim Bulleit’s Bullet label in 1947, was as seismic in Tennessee music circles as Cecil Gant’s “I Wonder” was on the West Coast.

Back in January 1944, the activity that had helped country music to achieve critical mass led to the introduction of “Juke Box Folk Records,” the first-ever country chart, in Billboard. Then in 1945, a supposed “million-seller” was notched up by Arthur Smith with “Guitar Boogie” on Super Disc out of Washington, D.C. This toe-tapping instrumental record, mirroring the boogie-woogie piano craze, was the catalyst for the hillbilly-boogie style that evolved effortlessly into rockabilly.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:10 (three weeks ago) link

Am kind of fascinated by the story of "Near You," Bullet Records and Jim Bulleit, which is told in some detail in a few pages of I Don't Sound Like Nobody: Remaking Music in 1950s America, by Albin J. Zak III, again not strictly about country but well worth your while, in which Bullet Records is defined as Nashville's first record label. The song was basically a vanity recording, and a B-side at that which became a breakout hit, setting a record by being number 1 for 17 weeks on the pop chart, a record that was only broken this year. Craig was a relative of the family that owned the insurance company that owned WSM, a bandleader at the Hermitage Hotel and author of the Vanderbilt University fight song, "When Vandy Start to Fight (The Dynamite Song)".

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:26 (three weeks ago) link

Not 100% sure where it was actually recorded, at WSM's Air Castle Studio or elsewhere but the engineer was a young Owen Bradley. Lots of artists had their first recordings released on Bullet, I think, among them Chet Atkins, Minnie Pearl, Ray Price, and B.B. King and/or Pee Wee King. Believe the label was not able to reproduce the success of "Near You" and Jim Bulleit (pronounced something like "Bewlay") got pushed out. Later he mentored Sam Phillips found Sun Records, as can be read about in the Guralnick bio, and among other things, was instrumental in getting The Prisonaires recorded.

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:36 (three weeks ago) link

Another artist to first record for Bullet, Sheb Wooley. Leon Payne had some hits on Bullet, including his original version of "Lost Highway."

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:39 (three weeks ago) link

Bobby Troup was on there too!

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:42 (three weeks ago) link

In Last Train to Memphis, Guralnick seems to be quoting the Memphis-Press-Scimitar saying "Bulleit drove the five singing prisoners to Memphis, the composer having to stay in prison. An armed guard and a trusty came along, the record company paying the expenses."

Ferlinghetti Hvorostovsky (James Redd and the Blecchs), Sunday, 27 October 2019 17:55 (three weeks ago) link

Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen by Jimmy McDonough (the "Shakey" guy).

Not only covers Tammy's story (which is all kinds of sad), but also gets fairly in-depth on folks like Billy Sherrill, Glenn Sutton, George Jones and George Richey.

Ooh, this is the story I want shit straight into my veins. Thanks for the rec, VG.

Naive Teen Idol, Monday, 28 October 2019 04:33 (three weeks ago) link

Sorry , C. Grisso!

Naive Teen Idol, Monday, 28 October 2019 04:33 (three weeks ago) link

Michael Streissguth's Outlaw: Waylon, Willie, Kris, and the Renegades of Nashville incl. lesser-known mavericky-to-rogue invidiuals who nevertheless made certain creative contributions to Nashvlle as Babylon and Business As Usual--presented crisply, though my fave ravers are transegenre twangers like Just Friends and The Babushka Brothers---favorites to read about; I still haven't found any of their music. Products/landmarks of an intriguingly fecund yall-sprall overlapping the penumbrae of Vanderbilt and Music Row, which deserves a book of its own.
Meanwhile, most of this tome is built from interviews with then-survivors of scenes involving the titular principals, incl. Guy Clark and Cowboy Jack Clement, as well as other recording artists, songwriters band members, sessioneers, producers, biz pros of all stripes,
Fave re the big boys is a kinetic, pungent portrait of Waylon--did not know that the suits got him to cover "MacArthur Park" early on---who eventually, despite his misgivings about Outlaw hype, finds a good groove, fueled by coke and pinball, cantankerous at times, but patient enough to glean good songs from randos' home demo tapes so shitty-sounding that no one else can stand to listen.
Good perspectives, though a bit Kristofferson-centric for awhile, I take it because KK was so forthcoming, though the author seems overly tactful about bad habits of this particular, artiste, who has been cogently candid in Rolling Stone etc. interviews.
Speaking of interv0ews with then-surviving musos, like Donnie Fritts, also see recent links over on the Sweet Soul Music thread.

dow, Monday, 28 October 2019 22:24 (three weeks ago) link

Re the fecund sprawl: only passing mentions of and a few quotes from members of Area Code 615 and Barefoot Jerry, but at least those bands did make albums which can still be found.

dow, Monday, 28 October 2019 22:34 (three weeks ago) link

Robert Hilburn bio of Johnny Cash is pretty solid.

Irae Louvin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 4 November 2019 17:14 (two weeks ago) link

this was the first (and it seems p definitive) Carter Family bio I ever read: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15824.Will_You_Miss_Me_When_I_m_Gone_The_Carter_Family_and_Their_Legacy_in_American_Music

Οὖτις, Monday, 4 November 2019 17:16 (two weeks ago) link

Yes. I have only read bits of it, but those bits have been grebt. Wonder if anyone here has read Among My Klediments?

Irae Louvin (James Redd and the Blecchs), Monday, 4 November 2019 17:28 (two weeks ago) link


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