A debut biography (with a discography) examines a country music performer and his famous song.
During the 1950s, the little town of Clovis, New Mexico, suddenly assumed center stage when Buddy Holly and the Crickets conducted sessions at the Norman Petty sound studio that produced distinctive and unforgettable recordings that helped to create early rock ’n’ roll. Many rockabilly, country, and rock artists who gained considerable fame in those days passed through Petty’s studio. One of them, country singer Charlie Phillips, backed by Holly and some of the Crickets, recorded a little song called “Sugartime” that would become so famous that many today immediately recognize its words: “Sugar in the morning / Sugar in the evening / Sugar at suppertime.” This book chronicles in intimate detail the origins and story of this well-known ditty and its composer. Coming of age in the little West Texas town of Farwell, Phillips soon found himself hanging around with rock stars like Holly and promoters like Odis “Pop” Echols. Echols introduced Phillips to local radio, where he became a fixture as an announcer and DJ for many years. The story of early rock is intertwined with the crucial importance of radio in promoting this music by spinning platters of stars like Elvis Presley, the Big Bopper, Holly, and Phillips. “Sugartime,” covered by the McGuire Sisters, became a smash success in the late ’50s, and with this fame, Phillips’ career took off. While extremely well-researched, this book unfortunately has a few flaws, including odd word usage: “Large crowds could quickly gather in the viscera,” Cushenberry writes of the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium. Dangling modifiers (“After meeting Horace Logan, Charlie’s next introduction would be to a lesser celebrity of sorts”) and punctuation errors (“With Route 66 passing through Amarillo, came an influx of travelers with automobiles”) undermine the author’s obvious enthusiasm and deep knowledge of his subject. The book also keeps looping back in time to repeat the same material from slightly different perspectives. While the work reveals parts of Phillips’ intriguing inner life, it mostly stays on the surface, name-dropping the legends, the venues, and the gigs.
A thorough account of a country star’s life occasionally marred by repetitions and unpolished prose.