Though the Gallos' wines might repulse you and their reputation give you the willies, their autobiography is worth a look, if only to get another side of the picture. Without too much pain, the brothers Gallo (with Henderson, And The Sea Will Tell, not reviewed) get past their aw-shucks-work- hard-and-get-anywhere drapery to their nuts-and-bolts shtick: control and marketing (with a nod to hard work, like 120-hour weeks and an annual six months on the road). Marketing: Gallo wine is where it is today—the number-one seller in America—because the brothers got their goods into the hands of savvy distributors, folks who got the wine at eye-level in supermarkets across the land and fused Bartles & James wine coolers into the national retina via television. Control: Need a decent glass supplier? Build a glassworks. Having competition trouble? Slash your prices and crush the buggers. Certain problems are tactfully ignored, like those surrounding Thunderbird, a Gallo-produced down-and-outer's wine rumored to have been marketed by strewing the bottles along skid rows to give the fortified concoction a high profile. Other problems are glossed over: The Gallos' controversial (some might say fascistic) treatment of labor is couched in terms of conflicts between unions (the Teamsters vs. the United Farm Workers). But there is a wealth of background material: family travails, like the murder/suicide of the brothers' parents; Depression days when they sold bulk lots of grapes at railroad sidings; the formation of trade organizations; Julio's obituary for his son Phillip, another suicide, which is enough to break your heart; children spurning the family business; and a vision of Gallo in the 21st century. Whether or not you buy into this version of the Gallo story, it's a family saga with all the makings of a television miniseries: adversity, intrigue, tragedy, manipulation, greed, and a slick presentation. (60 b&w photos, not seen)
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").
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)