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32 books about Country musicians
Results by Title
32 books about Country musicians
BiblioVault ® 2001 - 2023
The University of Chicago Press
Steve Fishell’s merger of biography and memoir draws extensively on in-depth interviews with Emmons and the artist's autobiographical writings. Emmons went from playing strip clubs to a Grand Ole Opry debut with Little Jimmy Dickens at age 18. His restless experimentation led to work with Ernest Tubb and Ray Price--and established him in a career that saw him play alongside a who’s who of American music. Fishell weaves in stories and anecdotes from Willie Nelson, Brenda Lee, Linda Ronstadt, Pat Martino, and many others to provide a fascinating musical and personal portrait of an innovator whose peerless playing and countless recordings recognized no boundaries.
A one-of-a-kind life story, Buddy Emmons expands our view of a groundbreaking artist and his impact on country music, jazz, and beyond.
A who’s who of American popular music fills this lively memoir, in which Ray Benson recalls how a Philadelphia Jewish hippie and his bandmates in Asleep at the Wheel turned on generations of rock and country fans to Bob Wills–style Western swing.
A six-foot-seven-inch Jewish hippie from Philadelphia starts a Western swing band in 1970, when country fans hate hippies and Western swing. It sounds like a joke but—more than forty years, twenty-five albums, and ten Grammy Awards later—Asleep at the Wheel is still drawing crowds around the world. The roster of musicians who’ve shared a stage with the Wheel is a who’s who of American popular music—Van Morrison, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, George Strait, Vince Gill, Lyle Lovett, and so many more. And the bandleader who’s brought them all together is the hippie that claimed Bob Wills’s boots: Ray Benson.
In this hugely entertaining memoir, Benson looks back over his life and wild ride with Asleep at the Wheel from the band’s beginning in Paw Paw, West Virginia, through its many years as a Texas institution. He vividly recalls spending decades in a touring band, with all the inevitable ups and downs and changes in personnel, and describes the making of classic albums such as Willie and the Wheel and Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. The ultimate music industry insider, Benson explains better than anyone else how the Wheel got rock hipsters and die-hard country fans to love groovy new-old Western swing. Decades later, they still do.
Because Johnny Cash cut his classic singles at Sun Records in Memphis and reigned for years as country royalty from his Nashville-area mansion, people tend to associate the Man in Black with Tennessee. But some of Cash’s best songs—including classics like “Pickin’ Time,” “Big River,” and “Five Feet High and Rising”—sprang from his youth in the sweltering cotton fields of northeastern Arkansas.
In Country Boy, Colin Woodward combines biography, history, and music criticism to illustrate how Cash’s experiences in Arkansas shaped his life and work. The grip of the Great Depression on Arkansas’s small farmers, the comforts and tragedies of family, and a bedrock of faith all lent his music the power and authenticity that so appealed to millions. Though Cash left Arkansas as an eighteen-year-old, he often returned to his home state, where he played some of his most memorable and personal concerts. Drawing upon the country legend’s songs and writings, as well as the accounts of family, fellow musicians, and chroniclers, Woodward reveals how the profound sincerity and empathy so central to Cash’s music depended on his maintaining a deep connection to his native Arkansas—a place that never left his soul.
Q: Is he afraid of work?
A: No, he can lie down beside it and go to sleep.
This volume is an encyclopedia of the many country music performers who made comedy a central part of their careers. Loyal Jones offers an informative biographical sketch of each performer and many entries include a sample of the artist's humor, a recording history, and amusing anecdotal tidbits. Starting with vaudeville and radio barn dance figures like the Skillet Lickers and the Weaver Brothers and Elviry, Jones moves on to the regulars on Hee Haw and the Grand Old Opry and present-day comedians from the Austin Lounge Lizards to Jeff Foxworthy.
Jones's introductory essay discusses such topics as stock comic figures, venues for comedic performance, and benchmark performers. Throughout the volume, he places each performer squarely in the context of the country music community, its performing traditions, and each artist's place in the larger cultural milieu.
From his formative years playing pure, hardcore honky-tonk for mid-’80s Los Angeles punk rockers through his subsequent surge to the top of the country charts, Dwight Yoakam has enjoyed a singular career. An electrifying live performer, superb writer, and virtuosic vocalist, he has successfully bridged two musical worlds that usually have little use for each other—commercial country and its alternative/Americana/roots-rocking counterpart. Defying the label “too country for rock, too rock for country,” Yoakam has triumphed while many of his peers have had to settle for cult acceptance. Four decades into his career, he has sold more than 25 million records and continues to tour regularly, with an extremely loyal fan base.
In Dwight Yoakam, award-winning music journalist Don McLeese offers the first musical biography of this acclaimed artist. Tracing the seemingly disparate influences in Yoakam’s music, McLeese shows how he has combined rock and roll, rockabilly, country, blues, and gospel into a seamless whole. In particular, McLeese explores the essential issue of “authenticity” and how it applies to Yoakam, as well as to country music and popular culture in general. Drawing on wide-ranging interviews with Yoakam and his management, while also benefitting from the perspectives of others closely associated with his musical success (including producer-guitarist Pete Anderson, Yoakam’s partner throughout his most popular and creative decades), Dwight Yoakam pays tribute to the musician who has established himself as a visionary beyond time, an artist who could title an album Tomorrow’s Sounds Today and deliver it.
As one of the best-known honky tonkers to appear in the wake of Hank Williams’s death, Faron Young was a popular presence on Nashville’s music scene for more than four decades. The Singing Sheriff produced a string of Top Ten hits, placed over eighty songs on the country music charts, and founded the long-running country music periodical Music City News in 1963. Flamboyant, impulsive, and generous, he helped and encouraged a new generation of talented songwriter-performers that included Willie Nelson and Bill Anderson. In 2000, four years after his untimely death, Faron was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Presenting the first detailed portrayal of this lively and unpredictable country music star, Diane Diekman masterfully draws on extensive interviews with Young’s family, band members, and colleagues. Impeccably researched, Diekman’s narrative also weaves anecdotes from Louisiana Hayride and other old radio shows with ones from Young’s business associates, including Ralph Emery. Her unique insider’s look into Young’s career adds to an understanding of the burgeoning country music entertainment industry during the key years from 1950 to 1980, when the music expanded beyond its original rural roots and blossomed into a national (ultimately, international) enterprise. Echoing Young’s characteristic ability to entertain and surprise fans, Diekman combines an account of his public career with a revealing, intimate portrait of his personal life.
Richard Currey's Lost Highway has attracted a legion of admirers since its initial publication in 1997. The book depicts the epic struggle of an ordinary person living his dreams and following his passion. Lost Highway is the story of Sapper Reeves, a gifted country musician from the small town of Maxwell, West Virginia. Sapper’s story covers the events of more than half a century, from his birth in a poor coal mining town through his travels on the back roads of Appalachia in search of recognition and respect. Along the way, Sapper’s embattled love for his wife and struggle to come to terms with his combat-wounded son form the basis of his artistic and personal redemption.
There have been many books written about Johnny Cash, but The Man in Song is the first to examine Cash’s incredible life through the lens of the songs he wrote and recorded. Music journalist and historian John Alexander has drawn on decades of studying Cash’s music and life, from his difficult depression-era Arkansas childhood through his death in 2003, to tell a life story through songs familiar and obscure. In discovering why Cash wrote a given song or chose to record it, Alexander introduces readers anew to a man whose primary consideration of any song was the difference music makes in people’s lives, and not whether the song would become a hit.
The hits came, of course. Johnny Cash sold more than fifty million albums in forty years, and he holds the distinction of being the only performer inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. The Man in Song connects treasured songs to an incredible life. It explores the intertwined experience and creativity of childhood trauma. It rifles through the discography of a life: Cash’s work with the Tennessee Two at Sam Phillips’s Sun Studios, the unique concept albums Cash recorded for Columbia Records, the spiritual songs, the albums recorded live at prisons, songs about the love of his life, June Carter Cash, songs about murder and death and addiction, songs about ramblers, and even silly songs.
Appropriate for both serious country and folk music enthusiasts and those just learning about this musical legend, The Man in Song will appeal to a fan base spanning generations. Here is a biography for those who first heard “I Walk the Line” in 1956, a younger generation who discovered Cash through songs like his cover of Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” and everyone in between.
An October 2022 IndieNext pick
”[An] engaging and beautifully narrated quest for personal fulfillment and musical recognition...This is a fast-paced tale in which music and love always take center stage...A truly gifted musician, Price writes about her journey with refreshing candor.”—Kirkus, starred review
”Brutally honest…a vivid and poignant memoir.”—The Guardian
Country music star Margo Price shares the story of her struggle to make it in an industry that preys on its ingenues while trying to move on from devastating personal tragedies.
When Margo Price was nineteen years old, she dropped out of college and moved to Nashville to become a musician. She busked on the street, played open mics, and even threw out her TV so that she would do nothing but write songs. She met Jeremy Ivey, a fellow musician who would become her closest collaborator and her husband. But after working on their craft for more than a decade, Price and Ivey had no label, no band, and plenty of heartache.
Maybe We’ll Make It is a memoir of loss, motherhood, and the search for artistic freedom in the midst of the agony experienced by so many aspiring musicians: bad gigs and long tours, rejection and sexual harassment, too much drinking and barely enough money to live on. Price, though, refused to break, and turned her lowest moments into the classic country songs that eventually comprised the debut album that launched her career. In the authentic voice hailed by Pitchfork for tackling "Steinbeck-sized issues with no-bullshit humility," Price shares the stories that became songs, and the small acts of love and camaraderie it takes to survive in a music industry that is often unkind to women. Now a Grammy-nominated “Best New Artist,” Price tells a love story of music, collaboration, and the struggle to build a career while trying to maintain her singular voice and style.
Merle Haggard has enjoyed artistic and professional triumphs few can match. He’s charted more than a hundred country hits, including thirty-eight number ones. He’s released dozens of studio albums and another half dozen or more live ones, performed upwards of ten thousand concerts, been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and seen his songs performed by artists as diverse as Lynryd Skynyrd, Elvis Costello, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan. In 2011 he was feted as a Kennedy Center Honoree. But until now, no one has taken an in-depth look at his career and body of work.
In Merle Haggard: The Running Kind, David Cantwell takes us on a revelatory journey through Haggard’s music and the life and times out of which it came. Covering the entire breadth of his career, Cantwell focuses especially on the 1960s and 1970s, when Haggard created some of his best-known and most influential music, which helped invent the America we live in today. Listening closely to a masterpiece-crowded catalogue (including songs such as “Okie from Muskogee,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Mama Tried,” “Working Man Blues,” “Kern River,” “White Line Fever,” “Today I Started Loving You Again,” and “If We Make It through December,” among many more), Cantwell explores the fascinating contradictions—most of all, the desire for freedom in the face of limits set by the world or self-imposed—that define not only Haggard’s music and public persona but the very heart of American culture.
Contributors. Mary A. Bufwack, Don Cusic, Curtis W. Ellison, Mark Fenster, Vivien Green Fryd, Teresa Goddu, T. Walter Herbert, Christine Kreyling, Michael Kurek, Amy Schrager Lang, Charmaine Lanham, Bill Malone, Christopher Metress, Jocelyn Neal, Teresa Ortega, Richard A. Peterson, Ronnie Pugh, John W. Rumble, David Sanjek, Cecelia Tichi, Pamela Wilson, Charles K. Wolfe
Merle Haggard enjoyed numerous artistic and professional triumphs, including more than a hundred country hits (thirty-eight at number one), dozens of studio and live album releases, upwards of ten thousand concerts, induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and songs covered by artists as diverse as Lynryd Skynyrd, Elvis Costello, Tammy Wynette, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Willie Nelson, the Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan.
In The Running Kind, a new edition that expands on his earlier analysis and covers Haggard's death and afterlife as an icon of both old-school and modern country music, David Cantwell takes us on a revelatory journey through Haggard’s music and the life and times out of which it came. Covering the breadth of his career, Cantwell focuses especially on the 1960s and 1970s, when Haggard created some of his best-known and most influential music: songs that helped invent the America we live in today. Listening closely to a masterpiece-crowded catalogue (including “Okie from Muskogee,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Mama Tried,” and “Working Man Blues,” among many more), Cantwell explores the fascinating contradictions—most of all, the desire for freedom in the face of limits set by the world or self-imposed—that define not only Haggard’s music and public persona but the very heart of American culture.
Sing a Sad Songs tells the story of Hank Williams's rise from impoverished Alabama roots, his coming of age during and after World War II, his meteoric climb to national acclaim and star status on the Grand Ole Opry, his star-crossed marriages and recurring health problems, the chronic bouts with alcoholism and the alienation it caused in those he loved and sang for, and finally his tragic death at twenty-nine and subsequent emergence as a folk hero.
In addition, the book includes an essential discography compiled by Bob Pinson of the Country Music Foundation.
The Stonemans is an eye-opening slice of Americana---a trip through nearly twenty years of country music history following a single family from their native Blue Ridge Mountains to the slums of Washington, D.C., and the glitter of Nashville. As early as 1924 Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman realized the potential of what is now known as country music, and he tried to carve a career from it. Successful as a recording artist from 1925 through 1929, Stoneman foundered during the Great Depression. He, his wife, and their nine children went to Washington in 1932, struggling through a decade of hardship and working to revive the musical career Pop still believed in. The Stoneman Family won the Country Music Association's Vocal Group of the Year Award in 1967. After Pop's death a year later, some of the children scattered to pursue their own careers.
Ivan Tribe relies on extensive interviews with the Stonemans and their friends in this chronicle of a family whose members have clung to their musical heritage through good times and bad.
Born in 1916 at the northern end of New Zealand’s South Island, the teenaged Robert William Lane became obsessed with the singing and expressive yodeling of country music’s Jimmie Rodgers. By the 1940s, his obsession and subsequent focus on his own guitar playing, singing, and yodeling led him to achieve musical stardom as Tex Morton, master showman and influential progenitor of Australian country music. Tex Morton: From Australian Yodeler to International Showman offers the first full-length biography of this country music phenomenon from down under.
“From the time he first left the security of his home and set out to discover the world, life was a continual journey for Tex Morton,” Smith writes in chapter 1. And it was: Beginning with Morton’s early life and chronicling his burgeoning career and ultimate stardom, Smith’s study showcases Morton’s multi-faceted creative endeavors over the years, from showman and sharpshooter to hypnotist and academic. His talents took him all over the world, from Australia and New Zealand and countries throughout Asia to the United States, Canada, and England. Smith’s carefully constructed narrative captures the nuance of a versatile yet driven, flawed yet talented figure who ultimately became both an influential country artist and an entertainer of international standing over the course of an almost fifty-year career.
An important contribution to music history scholarship, this volume not only establishes Morton’s significance in the history of Australian country music, but it also draws deep connections between Morton’s Australasian influence and country music in the United States, exploring Morton’s legacy in the wider context of the genre worldwide. Complete with a comprehensive discography of Tex Morton’s works, Smith’s in-depth biography claims for Morton his rightful place as a major founding figure in the history of Australian country music.
Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is the first biography of this legendary country music artist and NASCAR driver who scored sixteen number-one hits and two Grammy awards. Yet even with fame and fortune, Marty Robbins always yearned for more.
Drawing from personal interviews and in-depth research, biographer Diane Diekman explains how Robbins saw himself as a drifter, a man always searching for self-fulfillment and inner peace. Born Martin David Robinson to a hardworking mother and an abusive alcoholic father, he never fully escaped the insecurities burned into him by a poverty-stricken nomadic childhood in the Arizona desert. In 1947 he got his first gig as a singer and guitar player. Too nervous to talk, the shy young man walked onstage singing. Soon he changed his name to Marty Robbins, cultivated his magnetic stage presence, and established himself as an entertainer, songwriter, and successful NASCAR driver.
For fans of Robbins, NASCAR, and classic country music, Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is a revealing portrait of this well-loved, restless entertainer, a private man who kept those who loved him at a distance.
When it comes to Texas honky-tonk, nobody knows the music or the scene better than Johnny Bush. Author of Willie Nelson's classic concert anthem "Whiskey River," and singer of hits such as "You Gave Me a Mountain," "Undo the Right," "Jim, Jack and Rose," and "I'll Be There," Johnny Bush is a legend in country music, a singer-songwriter who has lived the cheatin', hurtin', hard-drinkin' life and recorded some of the most heart-wrenching songs about it. He has one of the purest honky-tonk voices ever to come out of Texas. And Bush's career has been just as dramatic as his songs—on the verge of achieving superstardom in the early 1970s, he was sidelined by a rare vocal disorder that he combated for thirty years. But, survivor that he is, Bush is once again filling dance halls across Texas and inspiring a new generation of musicians who crave the authenticity—the "pure D" country—that Johnny Bush has always had and that Nashville country music has lost.
In Whiskey River (Take My Mind), Johnny Bush tells the twin stories of his life and of Texas honky-tonk music. He recalls growing up poor in Houston's Kashmere Gardens neighborhood and learning his chops in honky-tonks around Houston and San Antonio—places where chicken wire protected the bandstand and deadly fights broke out regularly. Bush vividly describes life on the road in the 1960s as a band member for Ray Price and Willie Nelson, including the booze, drugs, and one-night stands that fueled his songs but destroyed his first three marriages. He remembers the time in the early 1970s when he was hotter than Willie and on the fast track to superstardom—until spasmodic dysphonia forced his career into the slow lane. Bush describes his agonizing, but ultimately successful struggle to keep performing and rebuild his fan base, as well as the hard-won happiness he has found in his personal life.
Woven throughout Bush's autobiography is the never-before-told story of Texas honky-tonk music, from Bob Wills and Floyd Tillman to Junior Brown and Pat Green. Johnny Bush has known almost all the great musicians, past and present, and he has wonderful stories to tell. Likewise, he offers shrewd observations on how the music business has changed since he started performing in the 1950s—and pulls no punches in saying how Nashville music has lost its country soul. For everyone who loves genuine country music, Johnny Bush, Willie Nelson, and stories of triumph against all odds, Whiskey River (Take My Mind) is a must-read.
How Tammy Wynette channeled the conflicts of her life into her music and performance.
With hits such as “Stand By Your Man” and “Golden Ring,” Tammy Wynette was an icon of American domesticity and femininity. But there were other sides to the first lady of country. Steacy Easton places the complications of Wynette’s music and her biography in sharp-edged relief, exploring how she made her sometimes-tumultuous life into her work, a transformation that was itself art.
Wynette created a persona of high femininity to match the themes she sang about—fawning devotion, redemption in heterosexual romance, the heartbreak of loneliness. Behind the scenes, her life was marked by persistent class anxieties; despite wealth and fame, she kept her beautician’s license. Easton argues that the struggle to meet expectations of southernness, womanhood, and southern womanhood, finds subtle expression in Wynette’s performance of “Apartment #9”—and it’s because of these vocal subtleties that it came to be called the saddest song ever written. Wynette similarly took on elements of camp and political critique in her artistry, demonstrating an underappreciated genius. Why Tammy Wynette Matters reveals a musician who doubled back on herself, her façade of earnestness cracked by a melodrama that weaponized femininity and upended feminist expectations, while scoring twenty number-one hits.
Full-tilt, hardcore, down-home, and groundbreaking, the women of country music speak volumes with every song. From Maybelle Carter to Dolly Parton, k.d. lang to Taylor Swift—these artists provided pivot points, truths, and doses of courage for women writers at every stage of their lives. Whether it’s Rosanne Cash eulogizing June Carter Cash or a seventeen-year-old Taylor Swift considering the golden glimmer of another precocious superstar, Brenda Lee, it’s the humanity beneath the music that resonates.
Here are deeply personal essays from award-winning writers on femme fatales, feminists, groundbreakers, and truth tellers. Acclaimed historian Holly George Warren captures the spark of the rockabilly sensation Wanda Jackson; Entertainment Weekly’s Madison Vain considers Loretta Lynn’s girl-power anthem “The Pill”; and rocker Grace Potter embraces Linda Ronstadt’s unabashed visual and musical influence. Patty Griffin acts like a balm on a post-9/11 survivor on the run; Emmylou Harris offers a gateway through paralyzing grief; and Lucinda Williams proves that greatness is where you find it.
Part history, part confessional, and part celebration of country, Americana, and bluegrass and the women who make them, Woman Walk the Line is a very personal collection of essays from some of America’s most intriguing women writers. It speaks to the ways in which artists mark our lives at different ages and in various states of grace and imperfection—and ultimately how music transforms not just the person making it, but also the listener.
BiblioVault ® 2001 - 2023
The University of Chicago Press