ROY ACUFF'S NASHVILLE: The Life and Good Times of Country Music by Roy with William Neely Acuff

ROY ACUFF'S NASHVILLE: The Life and Good Times of Country Music

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Brief reminiscences by one of traditional country music's last surviving pioneers: folksy, humble, occasionally charming and vivid. Acuff, now 80-ish, recalls his childhood in East Tennessee, as the son of a lawyer/preacher--who used to fiddle every morning after breaking up branches to feed the pot-belly stove. Roy himself, however, came to music late--after bumming around, carousing, playing baseball (almost getting a N.Y. Yankees contract), then falling ill with severe sunstroke; confined to bed for nearly a year, he turned to the violin and the radio for company, soon fiddling and singing for the neighbors (the ""porch circuit""). His show-biz beginnings were rough but highly educational: touring with a medicine show, hawking cure-alls when not entertaining. (""What the Mocoton and the corn medicine wouldn't cure,"" the homemade lye soap would wash away.) Then he traveled for years with a band in the old mountain-string style--a style he stuck to as radio and the Grand Old Opry slowly brought success to the Smoky Mountain Boys. (""I always wanted my band to sound like the music of the mountain churches. . . ."") His singing got better and better, once he decided not to yodel or sing in soft harmony like everyone else: ""I just stood out there and belted out the songs, but I belted them out with feeling."" There were early recordings (""The engineer sat in the toilet, with the recording machine standing on a tripod in the bathtub""); Acuff made a fortune by selling a small songbook through the mail; with songwriter Fred Rose, he founded the South's first publishing house. And through the decades he worked with just about every country star--a few of whom are chatted about here (Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams), with basically kind words for everybody who stayed true to the country traditions. (Dolly Parton ""has become a Hollywood glamour girl, and that's a shame for us bemuse she used to write some good songs."") Fragmentary, slender recollections--but likable, informative, and dotted with down-to-earth particulars, especially in those early days of local radio and $2-a-night touring.

Pub Date: Dec. 9th, 1983
Publisher: Perigee/Putnam