Fascinating insights into the early lives of major Americana artists.
Earlier this year we reviewed the first books published as part of a new partnership between the Country Music Hall of Fame and the University of Illinois Press.
Now we have news on four reissued books, released at the end of October, drawn from the Country Music Hall of Fame’s archive and distributed by the University of Illinois Press. These previously out of print books explore the lives and careers of four of the most significant acts in the history of country music; Jimmie Rodgers, The Delmore Brothers, Bob Wills and the great Patsy Cline.
The books have been updated and reissued with new cover designs and are part of the partnership’s ongoing commitment to co-publish new works on country and americana, as well as bring significant out of print books on roots music back into the market.
These four books are among the most important biographies of these artists and they’re books that are still relevant today. These artists are, obviously, major names in country and americana and have all had considerable influence on many artists currently working in Nashville and beyond.
Patsy Cline’s climb out of poverty and isolation to be recognised as an outstanding vocalist on her own terms is often cited as an inspiration by current artists. She was the first solo female artist to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame, racked up a long string of hits and played a major part in women being recognised as a creative force in what had been a very male dominated business, and she’d achieved all this before she was tragically killed in an aeroplane crash at just 30 years old. Margaret Jones’ book, ‘The Life and Times of Patsy Cline’, originally published in 1994, is considered one of the definitive biographies of an artist who achieved so much in such a short time.
Alton Delmore’s book on the band he formed with brother Rabon, playing the circuit from the mid 1920s until the early 1950s is a fascinating look at life on the road at this time, bringing to life the early Grand Ole Opry and the struggles of pioneering country musicians. The book, ‘The Delmore Brothers: Truth is Stranger than Publicity’, was originally published in 1977 and edited by historian Charles K. Wolfe.
Carrie Rodgers’ book about her husband, the Singing Brakeman, aka America’s Blue Yodeller, aka Jimmie Rodgers is considered to be the first book-length biography ever published about a country musician and was originally put out in 1935, two years after Rodgers’ sad death from tuberculosis. The pair were married from 1920 until Rodgers’ death and it’s an important biography of an artist who was way ahead of his time and was a big influence on many modern performers. ‘My Husband, Jimmie Rodgers’ by Carrie Rodgers includes an introduction by the late Nolan Porterfield, author of ‘Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler’.
Finally, ‘Bob Wills: Hubbin’ It’ by Ruth Sheldon, was originally published in 1938, when the great showman, Bob Wills, was 33 years old and reaching the height of his fame. Wills’ name is synonymous with Western Swing, the style of country dance music that he did so much to popularise. Sheldon’s biography of this charismatic band leader and fiddle player offers an intimate look at the day-to-day life of working musicians during the Depression and is an important document of the social history of that time.
All four books are fascinating commentaries on the big musical stars of their days and the working lives of musicians active at this time. It’s exciting to think that these books are being made available again and it suggests that the partnership between the University of Illinois Press and The Country Music Hall of Fame is going to be a particularly productive one for the bookhounds and musical historians among us.