A spry study that should inspire listening with newly informed ears to old tunes, from “Bulldozer Blues” to “Teenager in...



A dean of rock journalism delivers the first volume of a magnum opus on a subject that never ceases to fascinate.

When does the rock ’n’ roll genre properly begin? Clearly well before Elvis Presley took the stage. By Fresh Air correspondent Ward’s account, it began in the 1920s, its outlines traced in the parallel development of blues, ragtime, swing, and country. In that genealogy, players such as Ernest Tubb and Bob Wills become ancestors just as surely as are Wynonie Harris and Big Joe Turner, while the blues and vaudeville join hands to produce phenomena such as Mamie Smith and Blind Lemon Jefferson. All contribute to an authentically American idiom. Ward (Michael Bloomfield: The Rise and Fall of an American Guitar Hero, 2016, etc.) complicates the story by weaving in notes on the sometimes-uneasy meeting of races that the genres forced. In that exchange, Johnny Ray, “a gay white singer who wore hearing aids and broke down crying during his act,” became an unlikely R&B hero, and white kids flocked to “race” record shops to find the originals pilfered by clean-scrubbed collegiate quartets in the mold of Pat Boone. So it was with the canonical “Earth Angel.” Even though the original, by the Penguins, was “primitive and seemingly uncopyable,” a white group inauspiciously named the Crew-Cuts turned in—in one of Ward’s favorite words—an “anodyne” version of the song that sold reasonably well but never won over jukebox-crowding teenagers. Turning the back pages of history to look at the likes of Johnny Horton and Etta James and turning up plenty of surprises and fresh insights as he does, the author ends this installment on more or less familiar ground with the rise of the British Invasion, which would take an increasingly denatured American rock onto new ground—and provides the author a springboard for the next volume.

A spry study that should inspire listening with newly informed ears to old tunes, from “Bulldozer Blues” to “Teenager in Love” and beyond.

Pub Date: Nov. 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07116-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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