Two guitar-playing Texas brothers come of age in the 1970s and travel parallel paths through the southern music scene.
Sick of his father Big Billy Jay’s abuse and itching to make his fortune, 17-year-old blues boy Sonny Blaine leaves behind the small town of Mingus and heads for Austin with his new Fender guitar. It’s 1967, and Sonny and his group, the White Tornadoes, already have some experience and a broad repertoire, including selections from the recent British Invasion. Supercool band member Johnny Lee Hogan, high yellow bassist who always wears sunglasses, widens the Tornadoes’ appeal to colored clubs as well. Sonny’s only regret is leaving behind beloved brother Walker, likely to bear the brunt of dad’s bad temper in his absence; Sonny gives Walker his prized Broadcaster guitar by way of goodbye. Before long, Walker follows Sonny, and trouble follows Walker in the person of girlfriend Nancy, who claims to be pregnant, and her brother Floyd, who’s angry enough to whale on the young man. Sonny defuses this situation and, after Nancy’s condition turns out to be a false alarm, snags the young woman on the rebound, a situation that does little to further brotherly harmony. (A few years later, Walker returns the favor by sleeping with—though he’s married—the unrequited love of Sonny’s life, Cilla, a musician and the daughter of legendary British guitarist Reg Mountbatten.) Walker marries a blazingly talented singer named Vada, who is equally devoted to him and to cocaine, while Sonny becomes known as Firewalker Blaine, and the story comes all the way to the late 1980s and MTV, with career highs and lows, sibling rivalry, and changing music trends.
Shaping and cutting would have been helpful, but first-novelist Brady writes with energy and authenticity.