Country music An illustrated history

Dayton Duncan

Book - 2019

The rich and colorful story of America's most popular music and the singers and songwriters who captivated, entertained, and consoled listeners throughout the 20th century--based on the upcoming eight-part film series to air on PBS in September 2019.

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Subjects
Published
New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2019.
Edition
First edition
Language
English
Item Description
"This is a Borzoi book"--Title page verso.
Subtitle from cover.
Physical Description
xv, 533 pages : illustrations (some color), portraits (some color) ; 29 cm
Bibliography
Includes bibliographical references (pages [507]-510) and index.
ISBN
9780525520542
0525520546
Main Author
Dayton Duncan (author)
Other Authors
Ken Burns, 1953- (writer of preface), Maggie Hinders (designer)
  • Old ghosts and ancient tones
  • The rub
  • Hard times
  • The hillbilly Shakespeare
  • I can't stop loving you
  • The sons and daughters of America
  • Will the circle be unbroken
  • Are you sure Hank done it this way?
  • Don't get above your raisin'
  • Afterword: Waylon, Emmylou, and Joe.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Master documentarian Burns and his stellar, longtime writer collaborator Duncan have produced another large, handsome, avidly researched volume bursting with vivid anecdotes and rare archival photographs to accompany their latest far-reaching video series, Country Music, which will air on PBS in September.Though capacious, this fresh and redefining history is not an encyclopedia, but rather, as Burns and Duncan point out, a narrative "describing a uniquely American art form and how it grew." The story spans the earliest person-to-person days of front-porch music-making on through each wave of technological innovation from records to radio (which created the first country stars and launched the Grand Ole Opry in 1925), movies, and TV (including Hee Haw's 25-year reign), concluding with the superstars of the 1990s. Burns and Duncan focus on the many cross-pollinations involved in the evolution of country music, from centuries-old songs from the British Isles brought to the New World along with the fiddle and the guitar and African musical traditions and instruments, especially the banjo, to work songs, the blues, hymns, and ballads. Country shtick is a tradition, beginning with Fiddlin' John Carson, an Atlanta factory worker who posed as a hayseed fresh off the mountain in the 1920s, and blossoming in the singing cowboy mania jump-started by Gene Autrey. More profoundly, the authors consider how country music grew out of the "depth of human tragedy in the South," as observed by Wynton Marsalis, one of many illuminating commentators. Decade by decade, Burns and Duncan profile such trailblazers as harmonica great DeFord Bailey, country-swing king Bob Wills, bluegrass leader Bill Monroe, the "Hillbilly Shakespeare" Hank Williams, the powerful countervailing voices of Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, and Dolly Parton, on to Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, the Judds, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks, and so very many more, all profiled with irresistible personal photographs, letters, and interviews. This dynamic and monumental history captures the spirit, resonance, variety, and power of country music as a balm for hard times, catalyst for good times, and vibrant expression of life's obdurate complexities. While the Country Music documentary series offers sound and motion, the book offers a still, at-your-own-pace immersion that enriches the video experience and stands steady on its own. Copyright 2019 Booklist Reviews.

Review by Library Journal Reviews

This companion volume to the similarly titled Burns documentary is worth a look, chiefly for interweaving the origins and development of country music with profiles of its biggest and most influential personalities. Cowritten by Burns and filmmaker and author Duncan (Out West), the book is lavishly illustrated and studded with detail, emphasizing the influence of such massive historical events as the Great Depression and World War II on the rise of one of America's major musical genres. The authors stress that country has been inextricably intertwined with blues, folk, rock and roll, and even jazz, making the brouhaha over Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" seem even sillier than it already was. It turns out that the denigration and isolation of country from other forms of American music—it's the "I like everything except" for a lot of people—are arbitrary distinctions that Burns's documentary, and this work, should help correct. A discography would have been useful, but on the other hand you could drop the name of any artist profiled here into Spotify and end up with a solid accompanying playlist for your reading. VERDICT A pleasing, thorough, but not unwieldy survey. For country music fans and neophytes alike.—Genevieve Williams, Pacific Lutheran Univ. Lib., Tacoma Copyright 2019 Library Journal.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

This voluminous and hugely entertaining introduction to country music coincides with the release of the eponymous PBS series, by producer and writer Duncan (Out West) and producer and filmmaker Burns (The Civil War). The authors take readers through the history of country music, including Jimmie Rodgers's performance on Asheville's first radio station in 1927, the gospel-infused strains of the Carter Family in the 1930s and '40s, the country and western stylings of Ernest Tubb in the 1950s, the strings-drenched Nashville Sound of the 1960s, later, the outlaw country of Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson and the California country of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard; and the 1980s and '90s pop country sound of Garth Brooks, the Judd sisters, and Reba McEntire. The narrative—supported by concert photos and images of album jackets and various memorabilia—moves at a quick clip as the authors highlight the lives and music of such influential musicians as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Hank Williams. They also celebrate the venues that have become like holy temples, especially Nashville's Ryman Auditorium—home of the Grand Ole Opry—and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, across the alley from the Ryman. Interspersed throughout are interviews with such country music stars as Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, Marty Stuart, and Emmylou Harris ("The simplicity of country music is one of the most important things about it," Harris says). Duncan's and Burns's lavishly illustrated and cinematic narrative will stand as the definitive history of the genre. (Sept.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

This voluminous and hugely entertaining introduction to country music coincides with the release of the eponymous PBS series, by producer and writer Duncan (Out West) and producer and filmmaker Burns (The Civil War). The authors take readers through the history of country music, including Jimmie Rodgers's performance on Asheville's first radio station in 1927, the gospel-infused strains of the Carter Family in the 1930s and '40s, the country and western stylings of Ernest Tubb in the 1950s, the strings-drenched Nashville Sound of the 1960s, later, the outlaw country of Waylon Jennings, Kris Kristofferson, and Willie Nelson and the California country of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard; and the 1980s and '90s pop country sound of Garth Brooks, the Judd sisters, and Reba McEntire. The narrative—supported by concert photos and images of album jackets and various memorabilia—moves at a quick clip as the authors highlight the lives and music of such influential musicians as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Hank Williams. They also celebrate the venues that have become like holy temples, especially Nashville's Ryman Auditorium—home of the Grand Ole Opry—and Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, across the alley from the Ryman. Interspersed throughout are interviews with such country music stars as Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, Marty Stuart, and Emmylou Harris ("The simplicity of country music is one of the most important things about it," Harris says). Duncan's and Burns's lavishly illustrated and cinematic narrative will stand as the definitive history of the genre. (Sept.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Country music emerged from the American South, where people sang to themselves and to their families at home and in church, and where they danced to fiddle tunes on Saturday nights. With the birth of radio in the 1920s the songs moved from small towns, mountain hollers, and the wide-open West to become the music of an entire nation--a diverse range of sounds and styles from honky tonk to gospel to bluegrass to rockabilly, leading up through the decades to the music's massive commercial success today. Butabove all, it is the story of the musicians: Hank Williams's tragic honky tonk life; Dolly Parton rising to fame from a dirt-poor childhood; Loretta Lynn turning her experiences into songs that spoke to women everywhere, and many more -- adapted from jacket

Review by Publisher Summary 2

The rich and colorful story of America's most popular music and the singers and songwriters who captivated, entertained, and consoled listeners throughout the 20th century--based on the upcoming eight-part film series to air on PBS in September 2019.

Review by Publisher Summary 3

The creators of The National Parks present a richly illustrated, anecdotal companion to the 2019 PBS series honoring America’s most popular music and the artists who shaped 20th-century history and culture. TV tie-in.

Review by Publisher Summary 4

The rich and colorful story of America's most popular music and the singers and songwriters who captivated, entertained, and consoled listeners throughout the twentieth century--based on the upcoming eight-part film series to air on PBS in September 2019This gorgeously illustrated and hugely entertaining history begins where country music itself emerged: the American South, where people sang to themselves and to their families at home and in church, and where they danced to fiddle tunes on Saturday nights. With the birth of radio in the 1920s, the songs moved from small towns, mountain hollers, and the wide-open West to become the music of an entire nation--a diverse range of sounds and styles from honky tonk to gospel to bluegrass to rockabilly, leading up through the decades to the music's massive commercial success today.But above all, Country Music is the story of the musicians. Here is Hank Williams's tragic honky tonk life, Dolly Parton rising to fame from a dirt-poor childhood, and Loretta Lynn turning her experiences into songs that spoke to women everywhere. Here too are interviews with the genre's biggest stars, including the likes of Merle Haggard to Garth Brooks to Rosanne Cash. Rife with rare photographs and endlessly fascinating anecdotes, the stories in this sweeping yet intimate history will captivate longtime country fans and introduce new listeners to an extraordinary body of music that lies at the very center of the American experience.