An entertaining decade-by-decade look at the evolution of country music, as revealed in the anecdotes, memories, and insights of the renowned radio DJ and television host Emery.
Many of the most famous artists and movers and shakers, past and present, are covered here, including Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Fred Rose, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, Trisha Yearwood, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill. The author’s skill as a storyteller is evident even when he has to rely on other people’s accounts (in order, for example, to create a compelling look at the last days of Hank Williams). He is well qualified to place the artists’ significance to the music: readers are reminded, for example, of how Eddy Arnold was so popular that he was able to break from the tight hold of the Grand Ole Opry and proved to be as groundbreaking as the more mythically heralded Hank Williams. Emery’s personal relationships within Nashville give him a trove of appealing stories: Dolly Parton is shown to have “a brain beneath the wigs, a heart beneath the boobs,” the wedding day of Johnny Cash and June Carter becomes an amusing tale as related by their Best Man, and the experiences of Marty Robbins, Mel Tillis, Charley Pride, Ronnie Milsap, and Barbara Mandrell, become personal and inspirational. Emery’s many stories become one collective experience, in a sense, since the artists’ lives often intertwine as they become friends with, and influences to, each other.
Showing the personalities behind the music, Emery reveals the commitment, talent, and history that have helped sustain country music in his appealing account. (16 pp. b&w photos, not seen)