A truly definitive look at a bluegrass legend and the scene that produced him.

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JOHN DUFFEY'S BLUEGRASS LIFE

FEATURING THE COUNTRY GENTLEMEN, SELDOM SCENE, AND WASHINGTON, D.C.

An exhaustively researched profile of bluegrass legend John Duffey (1934-1996) that covers not only his life in music, but also those of his colleagues and contemporaries.

Duffey was a musician and singer who founded the important bluegrass groups The Country Gentlemen and The Seldom Scene. But even in the late 1950s, when The Country Gentlemen were forming, Duffey felt that the popular bluegrass sound was starting to get stale. When the band started recording in the early ’60s, he pushed them to incorporate more modern sounds to accommodate the folk boom. Purists scoffed, but it allowed the band to play a wider variety of clubs. That’s also when Duffey realized that entertaining a crowd took showmanship as well as musicianship, and he encouraged the band members to do things like play an agonizingly slow version of the usually fast-paced song “Cripple Creek.” Duffey also had some quirks of his own, and the authors collected extensive quotes from his friends and band mates that describe them. The Country Gentlemen were limited by Duffey’s fear of flying and his love of bowling, for example—both of which may have factored into his quitting the band in 1969. That didn’t last long, though, and Duffey pushed the boundaries of bluegrass again with The Seldom Scene in the early ’70s. Moore (co-author: Cerphe’s Up, 2016, etc.) and Keplinger (Film/Stevenson Univ.) also devote considerable time to their subject’s band mates, such as Charlie Waller, Eddie Adcock, and Tom Gray, as well as fringe figures in Duffey’s story, including musician Buzz Busby, photographer Carl Fleischhauer, and bluegrass luminary Ralph Stanley, who respected Duffey’s ability but not his off-the-cuff personal style. It’s obvious from the first chapter of this book that Moore and Keplinger aim to spare no details. They even start with a short history of Washington, D.C.’s Columbia Hospital for Women, where the musician was born, and include a photocopy of the hospital birth certificate. The book is roughly chronological from there, occasionally circling back to offer a different perspective on a particular story or some additional background. As a result, the authors leave very little untouched, right down to what Duffey preferred to eat for breakfast when he was hungry (six eggs, fatback, and buttered toast) and when he wasn’t (four eggs, fatback, and buttered toast). Despite the copious detail, however, the book offers a rich and entertaining musical history of the bluegrass scene as well as more academic materials, including an essay by Robert Kyle on Duffey’s Irish roots and a lengthy discography. Throughout, the authors’ prose is straightforward, but it can be a bit dry, as when they devote a single paragraph to breakthrough surgery that was used to restore Adcock’s playing ability but offer no quotes from the man himself about the experience. Also, when they use Duffey’s own words, they frequently and distractingly italicize them throughout the book rather than more smoothly working them into the text.

A truly definitive look at a bluegrass legend and the scene that produced him.

Pub Date: April 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63263-840-3

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Booklocker.com, Inc.

Review Posted Online: June 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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DEAR MR. HENSHAW

Possibly inspired by the letters Cleary has received as a children's author, this begins with second-grader Leigh Botts' misspelled fan letter to Mr. Henshaw, whose fictitious book itself derives from the old take-off title Forty Ways W. Amuse a Dog. Soon Leigh is in sixth grade and bombarding his still-favorite author with a list of questions to be answered and returned by "next Friday," the day his author report is due. Leigh is disgruntled when Mr. Henshaw's answer comes late, and accompanied by a set of questions for Leigh to answer. He threatens not to, but as "Mom keeps nagging me about your dumb old questions" he finally gets the job done—and through his answers Mr. Henshaw and readers learn that Leigh considers himself "the mediumest boy in school," that his parents have split up, and that he dreams of his truck-driver dad driving him to school "hauling a forty-foot reefer, which would make his outfit add up to eighteen wheels altogether. . . . I guess I wouldn't seem so medium then." Soon Mr. Henshaw recommends keeping a diary (at least partly to get Leigh off his own back) and so the real letters to Mr. Henshaw taper off, with "pretend," unmailed letters (the diary) taking over. . . until Leigh can write "I don't have to pretend to write to Mr. Henshaw anymore. I have learned to say what I think on a piece of paper." Meanwhile Mr. Henshaw offers writing tips, and Leigh, struggling with a story for a school contest, concludes "I think you're right. Maybe I am not ready to write a story." Instead he writes a "true story" about a truck haul with his father in Leigh's real past, and this wins praise from "a real live author" Leigh meets through the school program. Mr. Henshaw has also advised that "a character in a story should solve a problem or change in some way," a standard juvenile-fiction dictum which Cleary herself applies modestly by having Leigh solve his disappearing lunch problem with a burglar-alarmed lunch box—and, more seriously, come to recognize and accept that his father can't be counted on. All of this, in Leigh's simple words, is capably and unobtrusively structured as well as valid and realistic. From the writing tips to the divorced-kid blues, however, it tends to substitute prevailing wisdom for the little jolts of recognition that made the Ramona books so rewarding.

Pub Date: Aug. 22, 1983

ISBN: 143511096X

Page Count: 133

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1983

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