IN THE COUNTRY OF COUNTRY

PEOPLE AND PLACES IN AMERICAN MUSIC

This pleasing collection of short, intimate biographies of performers conveys the essence of the traditional country genre by focusing on icons such as Bill Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Buck Owens, Chet Atkins, George Jones, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline. Dawidoff (The Catcher Was a Spy: The Mysterious Life of Moe Berg, 1994) explores the masters of old-time country music (contemporary country stars such as Garth Brooks are dismissed as ``hat acts'') from the ``Father of Bluegrass Music,'' Bill Monroe, and his banjo player Earl Scruggs, both of whom cranked up country to breakneck speed, to country contemporaries in the old tradition, such as Emmylou Harris. Though chapters focus on one performer or act, Dawidoff frequently stresses the way in which friendships and collaborations keep country music vital. Many of his subjects provide rich, elucidating vignettes: Cash recalls the time he hit his pet ostrich with a plank and the bird retaliated by breaking three of the singer's ribs; Charlie Louvin, of the famous Louvin Brothers duet, notes that he still habitually moves off to one side of the microphone when he reaches the harmony part, making room for his long-dead brother; and George Jones, once a drinking terror, insists that he now enjoys nothing more than staying home and mowing his lawn. The author's reverence for his subjects is tempered with an astute assessment of their strengths and weaknesses: Johnny Cash, Dawidoff suggests, is a driven performer and self-mythologizer who has sustained a lengthy career by repeatedly repackaging the work produced during an early burst of creativity. Women country stars are well represented here, including Sister Rose Maddox and Sara Carter, among others. Dawidoff's fine book puts country music in its place: an American phenomenon with deep, heartfelt roots. The collection's thoughtfully notated discography will undoubtedly be used to feed the reader's new or rekindled interest in country music. (40 b&w photos, not seen) (Author tour)

Pub Date: March 24, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-41567-X

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1997

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

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

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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