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Eric Banister on the Man in Black

Eric Banister, author of Johnny Cash FAQ, had a great discussion with Henry Carrigan of Music Tomes. Read the rest of the interview here!

 

Why did you write this book now?

There’s kind of a two-fold answer for that one. First, the opportunity to write a book in the FAQ 00119344series presented itself. The first artist I thought of was Cash. So the honest answer is that the timing was mostly serendipitous. But that’s not to say I wasn’t passionate about the subject matter. You have to be passionate, in at least some way, about any subject you dive deep enough into to write a book.

How long did it take you to write the book?

I wrote the book in a year. The advantage I had that enabled me to write it so quickly was that I’ve been a Cash fan since grade school. I had already read nearly everything that had been released on Cash. I had collected articles and info on him for years. I had or had heard nearly everything he had released. That gave me an advantage in getting the book turned around quickly.

Your book arrives just about one year after Robert Hilburn’s monumental biography, Johnny Cash: The Life. What distinguishes your book from his?

They are really completely different books. In fact I feel like Johnny Cash FAQ is an excellent companion to Robert’s book. The Life, while it talks a little about the music, focuses on Cash’s personal life (sometimes a little too much, but that’s my opinion) and digs in to the personal relationships that he had throughout his life. There’s a good amount of time spent on his romantic relationships and whom he may or may not have slept with. That’s all well and good, and I don’t mean to take anything away from the book because I did enjoy it, but in the grand scheme of Cash’s legacy, it’s not what will be remembered.

What will be remembered is the music. Johnny Cash will always be remembered as one of the greatest artists of all time, and that’s because of the music. My whole purpose was to look at Cash’s catalog, examine the songs, the song choices, the performances, and put them into a historical context to properly examine them. I spent a lot of time looking at contemporaneous reviews of his albums as they were coming out to see what writers were saying in the moment rather than through the lens of nostalgia.

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Scott Bomar and Music Tomes

Southbound author Scott B. Bomar answered some interview questions over at Music Tomes! Read the entire article HERE.

And for all of you Californians,  Scott will be doing a 2:00 pm book signing August 30th at the Barnes & Noble on the 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Don’t miss out!

 

How did this project come about?

Mike Edison, who is a fantastic writer, was an editor at Backbeat Books. He was the guy who 00102657worked with Will Romano on an illustrated history of prog rock that came out in 2010. Will’s book was really cool, and Mike thought it would be great to do something similar with Southern rock. He contacted a good friend of mine named Randy Poe, who wrote a great biography of Duane Allman for Backbeat called Skydog. Randy recommended me to Mike. I was not a Southern rock expert, but Randy and I had worked together on some projects, and he thought I would bring a fresh perspective to the subject. I didn’t have any preconceived ideas, so it was just sort of “jump in and go.” This is kind of funny, but the first thing I did was listen to “The South’s Gonna Do It” by the Charlie Daniels Band and I wrote down the names of all the acts he references in the lyrics. From there I began reading everything I could get my hands on, and contacting all the great surviving Southern rockers for interviews. I grew up in the South, and I had listened to a ton of this music growing up, so I really connected with it.

Southern Rock has been something that has been often hard to define. How do you define it?

In the Introduction to the book I really grapple with this issue. There are a lot of ways that people have defined Southern rock, and most of the artists who are categorized with that label have been pretty resistant to the term. Gregg Allman pointed out that saying “Southern rock” is like saying “rock rock” because rock music originated in the South. Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and all those guys were Southerners. After the British Invasion, rock music shifted away from the South. By the time the psychedelic era ended, however, the Band, Bob Dylan, and Creedence Clearwater Revival heralded a return to the simplicity of rock’s Southern roots. That set the stage for the Allman Brothers Band, which came together in 1969. To me, Southern rock is about an era as much as it is about a sound. It was music that was created by guys (and sometimes girls, but mostly guys) from the same geographical region who shared a similar cultural background. Though you can point to specific sounds – multiple electric guitars, for instance – the music that I would categorize as Southern rock today is the music that best captures the spirit of the golden age of the genre in the 1970s.

Q&A with Tony Sclafani

To mark the arrival of his Grateful Dead FAQ: All That’s Left to Know About the Greatest Jam Band in History, Tony Scalfani met up with Music Tomes to discuss his love of The Dead and the new discoveries he made about the band during the book’s construction. With Spring (slowly) warming up, it will be Deadhead weather soon! Read the rest of the interview here

 

00333698What initially drew you to the music of the Dead?

At first it was the popular songs, like “Friend of the Devil” and “Uncle John’s Band.” The Grateful Dead’s main writing team of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter came up with more great songs than I think people realize. I kept finding hidden gems of theirs. When I got deeper into the scene, I became impressed at how the Dead’s live shows married the mindset of improv jazz to rock music – something the Allman Brothers also pioneered. Being a guitarist, I always found it interesting to hear what Garcia had to say musically. He’s one of those players whose style is so distinct you can spot him instantly.

With such a history, how did you decide what you wanted to put into the book?

Having read and reread all the classic books about the band, I wanted to stake out territory that hadn’t been charted. So I often looked to unrelated sources for ideas. For example, I was a fan of the old British rock magazine Trouser Press, which ran features about “great lost albums” of unreleased material they felt bands should have put out. I came up with two of those. I also noticed very little had been written on Dead members Donna Jean Godchaux and Tom Constanten, so I devoted chapters to them. I always thought the Dead’s studio albums hadn’t been given the attention they deserved so I set aside three chapters to take a fresh look at them. And whenever possible, I tried to place what the Dead were doing into the larger context of rock music, since I hadn’t seen that done very much.

There is a wealth of bootleg material from the Dead. How did you parse through the best of the best?

When it came to the live recordings, I used my own knowledge and picked the brains of Dead authorities David Gans and Dennis McNally to come up with a list of essential concerts every fan (or would-be fan) should hear. That became a chapter called “Playing in the Band: A List of Significant Dead Concerts.” What made it tricky is that there are live recordings of Jerry Garcia playing in various traditional music groups before he was a member of the Dead. I felt a lot of those tapes were entertaining and historically significant, so I included them in a separate chapter called “For the Faithful: A Dozen Essential Bootlegs,” even though they’re not the Dead per se. For studio material, there was a lot less to sift through and I included what still sounded good after all these years.

What did you find in your research that surprised you?

First, that by 1994 the Dead had a lot of high-quality original material that would have made for a great final album. I knew they introduced new songs in their last years, but when I strung them together it seemed like they were hitting a new creative peak. I also started realizing just how much the Dead became part of the culture, even though they were not an act really supported by mainstream radio. I put together two chapters on that: “Built to Last: Ten Places the Dead Left Their Mark on Popular Culture” and “Strange Deadfellows: Five Surprising Dead Connections.” Finally, I was able to hear the unreleased solo album the late Brent Mydland recorded. I was amazed at how good it sounded. I put it on YouTube and listeners seem to agree.

 

 

 

Buck Owens

Guest Author: In Buck ‘Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens, Randy Poe helped Buck Owens posthumously tell his story. Below is excerpt from an interview with Randy Poe. To keep reading, go to Music Tomes.

Music Tomes: In the intro to the book you talk about meeting with Buck’s family about doing a biography and then being presented with the idea of turning it into an autobiography. First of all, what made you want to do a biography of Buck Owens?

Randy Poe: I wanted to do a book on Buck because I felt he was a phenomenal country artist who was incredibly under-rated, if not forgotten to a certain extent. It was much the same reason I wrote Skydog: The Duane Allman Story. Buck and Duane are both extremely important figures in American music, and up to this point very little has been written about either of them. In fact, Skydog was the first book ever written about Duane Allman, even though he’d passed away over thirty years before my book came out. So, I like to write about musicians who I feel deserve more attention than they’ve gotten, and to me, Buck Owens definitely qualifies as one of those.

MT: What kind of complications are there in creating the autobiography of someone who is no longer around to answer new questions or clarify anything?

RP: You bring up an excellent point. I can’t tell you the number of times I regretted not having the opportunity to ask Buck follow-up questions. On the tapes I was working with, he told so many great stories about his life. But, since he was just sitting alone talking into a cassette recorder, there was nobody there with him to get him back on track if he changed stories in mid-stream, or if he didn’t finish a sentence. Luckily, Buck’s office had kept literally thousands of newspaper and magazine articles that quoted Buck, so many times I was able to find him telling the same stories in greater detail than he’d told them on the tapes. Like I said at the beginning of the book, writing this thing was like trying to put together the most complicated jigsaw puzzle ever created.

To read the rest of the interview, go here!

Buck ‘Em! The Autobiography of Buck Owens is the life story of a country music legend. Born in Texas and raised in Arizona, Buck eventually found his way to Bakersfield, California. Unlike the vast majority of country singers, songwriters, and musicians who made their fortunes working and living in Nashville, the often rebellious and always independent Owens chose to create his own brand of country music some 2,000 miles away from Music City – racking up a remarkable twenty-one number one hits along the way. In the process he helped give birth to a new country sound and did more than any other individual to establish Bakersfield as a country music center.

In the latter half of the 1990s, Buck began working on his autobiography. Over the next few years, he talked into the microphone of a cassette tape machine for nearly one hundred hours, recording the story of his life.

With his near-photographic memory, Buck recalled everything from his early days wearing hand-me-down clothes in Texas to his glory years as the biggest country star of the 1960s; from his legendary Carnegie Hall concert to his multiple failed marriages; from his hilarious exploits on the road to the tragic loss of his musical partner and best friend, Don Rich; from his days as the host of a local TV show in Tacoma, Washington, to his co-hosting the network television show Hee Haw; and from his comeback hit, “Streets of Bakersfield,” to his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

In these pages, Buck also shows his astute business acumen, having been among the first country artists to create his own music publishing company. He also tells of negotiating the return of all of his Capitol master recordings, his acquisition of numerous radio stations, and of his conceiving and building the Crystal Palace, one of the most venerated musical venues in the country.

Buck ‘Em! is the fascinating story of the life of country superstar Buck Owens – from the back roads of Texas to the streets of Bakersfield.

Q & A with John Kruth

credit: Paul Hoelen Mandarine Montgomery

 

John Kruth is the author of Rhapsody in Black: The Life and Music of Roy Orbison (Backbeat Books). The following is part of a Q&A on MusicTomes.com. Please visit their site for the full interview.

 

 

 

You’ve previously written about the life and music of Townes Van Zandt and Roland Kirk, how did you come to choose Roy Orbison as your next subject?

I have pretty eclectic tastes and listen to all sorts of music from Don Cherry to George Jones to Ravi Shankar to Glenn Gould to Captain Beefheart…. but ultimately its passion for my subject when it all comes down to it. You better love your subject! Roy’s classic sides for Monument, to me, are some of the greatest records made in the last century from the way they were written, performed and recorded. Also the story of his life fascinated me, the way he overcame incredible tragedy and managed to continue creating in spite of the devastating cards that fate dealt him. Ultimately he was a sonic alchemist who turned pain into beauty.

Orbison’s widow, Barbara, has a notoriously tight-grip on all things Roy, and as you chronicle in the book, had a lot of control over Roy himself. Did this present any problems in your research or in contacting people who knew and worked with Orbison?

In my earlier 2 biographies I worked closely with both of the widows. I wish I could have spoken with Barbara but I was warned by a number of people that she would want to control the contents of the book. So I avoided any contact and just quietly forged on. There were a few people who declined interviews with me because the book is unauthorized. Sadly Barbara was ill and has since passed away. I was hoping that she might’ve liked my book and I could have interviewed her for the 2nd edition.

What did you run across in your research that surprised you?

Writing a biography is kind of like going out on a date with someone you really like but you don’t know all that well and the relationship is suddenly on the fast track and things are unfolding at an alarming rate. There are plenty of surprises, some set backs but you made the commitment. Perhaps it’s more like a shot-gun marriage – cause you gotta see it through at least until the baby arrives! Surprises? How great (and how lame) some of the MGM tracks were – check out the Hank Williams record that Roy made. I never heard it before, and most of the musicians don’t even recall recording it. Its wild, sounds like a Lee Hazelwood production.

Keep reading this interview on MusicTomes.com!

 

About the Book

Orbison’s singing has inspired everyone who has heard it, from Springsteen to k. d. lang, and laid the very foundation for goth. While fascinating from a pop culture standpoint, it is Orbison’s life’s journey that makes a great story that has yet to be told to its fullest. Rhapsody in Black: The Life and Music of Roy Orbison doesn’t shy away from or trivialize the personal pain, alienation, and tragic events that shaped Orbison’s singular personality and music. Roy Orbison wasn’t merely a singer but a sonic alchemist who, in the end, transformed unfathomable human misery into transcendent melody and platinum records. Rhapsody in Black contains new interviews with over 20 people who worked closely with Orbison throughout his life.

 

 

Q & A with Gary J. Jucha

Gary JuchaGary J. Jucha is the author of Jimi Hendrix FAQ. Here is a snippet of an interview he did with Music Tomes. Visit their site to read the whole interview!

In the introduction to the book you give a great account of how you first began to pursue the music of Hendrix. What inspired you to write the book?

Frankly I was asked by Robert Rodriguez the FAQ Series Editor if I was interested in possibly writing a book for Backbeat. He had seen a piece I wrote about The Clash at my old website and contacted me. At the time, I didn’t know he meant a book for his FAQ series and so – 9 being my favorite number – I sent him a list of 9 music related titles on subjects that I thought would make good books and that I could write better than anybody.

I can’t remember all of them but I do remember suggesting The Clash in America, which would solely focus on The Clash’s concerts and recording sessions in America as well as their cultural impact on the country they had been bored with, and Jimi Hendrix: The Posthumous Years. I believe that as timeless as the three Jimi Hendrix Experience studio albums are, that it his posthumous recordings that have really contributed to his enduring fame. We had some back and forth discussions and that resulted in me writing Jimi Hendrix FAQ: All There’s Left to Know about the Voodoo Child.

Was there anything that surprised you in your research?

I was dismayed by his neglected childhood, by how many of his tales were really tall, and how isolated he was at the time of his death. But wanting to stress the positive let me say that what was really a discovery was how truly talented the Band of Gypsys was. That’s Jimi’s all black trio that included Buddy Miles on drums and vocals and Jimi’s army buddy Billy Cox on bass and vocals. Their legacy rests almost entirely on four concerts played on two consecutive nights after a few weeks rehearsal. Now they had been playing together at recording sessions since May 21, 1969 – a few of which are on the new People, Hell and Angels collection – but their performances at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East still stand out.

For example, “Machine Gun” is one of Jimi’s Top Ten iconic songs and that comes from these concerts. And the contributions of Jimi’s fellow gypsys to that song are profound. Billy’s ominous bass line and Buddy’s rat-a-tat-tat drumming really contribute to the song’s mood. And the notable thing that most people don’t realize is they played “Machine Gun” at all four concerts and all four are worth hearing. The one that’s readily available on Band of Gypsys is even arguably not the best version. Others include snatches of “Star Spangled Banner” during Jimi’s solos and I think Jimi didn’t want to release those versions because then it would make “Machine Gun” an anti-Vietnam War song and not the anti-war song that he wanted it to be. (All four versions are available on 2 Nights at the Fillmore, a 6-CD collection.)

Keep reading this interview on Music Tomes!

A modest man but highly competitive musician, Hendrix set the stage for many of the most significant musical movements to emerge between 1970 and 1999, including heavy metal, fusion, glam rock, and rap. Voodoo bluesman, sonic producer, the lyricist that out-Dylaned Dylan: these are what snatch our attention 40 years after his death, as do his “aw, shucks” smile in photos and the raw sexuality of his concert performances. It’s hard to find the man under all the falsehoods told by friends, business associates, and even Jimi himself. Jimi Hendrix FAQ attempts to present the facts in a fast-moving, fan-friendly read.

Q & A with Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez

Robert Rodriguez is the author of Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll. He is also the series editor of the FAQ series, as well as the author of the two Fab Four FAQ books. The following is an excerpt of an interview with Music Tomes. Please visit their website for the full interview.

You’ve written extensively on the Beatles. What about the group first captivated you?

I had older brothers who were record buyers back when the Beatles were still recording; I was a little young for all of that. But I remember vividly the Capitol swirl and Apple labels – they stood out among the 45s, in my mind at least.

What grabbed me about the Beatles was their sound, and that didn’t click with me until I first heard the Red and the Blue albums – the 1962-1966and 1967-1970 compilations. That was mind blowing – having the scope of their career laid out on four discs; everything from “She Loves You” to “Strawberry Fields Forever” and beyond. To me, it was like every sound imaginable had been done – and by the same four guys! So those packages were the real gateway for me. Thereafter, catching A Hard Day’s Night and Help! on TV sealed the deal – these guys weren’t just great musicians, but compelling, funny personalities, too.

You’ve also written two books in the FAQ series on the Beatles. With so much written about the band, what is the ultimate goal of these books?

I imagined that, like myself, there were a lot of fans that were hungry for a single volume work that was neither a deeply scholarly analysis, nor an colorful series of superficial anecdotes. Or worse yet, trivia. Something that, furthermore, contextualized the Beatles’ achievements by placing them into the times in which they created.

At the same time, I thought it be great if somebody could deconstruct their story, so that you could zero in on exactly what aspect or another that you wanted to learn about. So the first FAQ was created as a way to present a ton of information broken down by facet, that invited readers to pick up the book at any point and begin reading where there interests lie, and let the history take them where they wanted to go.

No one else did it, so I stepped up!

The Beatles are a well-covered subject, but creating a narrative that got to the good stuff with immediacy was the goal. It didn’t feel like anyone had really covered their solo years as an integrated entity, hence 2.0. In a way, covering such a massive amount of ground with the two FAQs was easier to accomplish, with all the quantifiable milestones along the way, than Revolver, which was a narrowly focused topic.

But I wanted to challenge myself as a writer and researcher, and hopefully, bring something new to the table. So while the FAQs were straightforward reporting with some opinion thrown in, Revolverwas intended as a conversation starter, something to get people to re-examine their long-held opinions and see the Beatles’ work with fresh eyes.

Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the upcoming titles in the series?

We have a pretty well-developed “wish list” of titles that we are tracking down just the right writers for. But ones that are signed and sealed include The Twilight ZoneStar Wars, Film Noir and Doctor Who, on the TV/film side of things. With music, we have upcoming titles on The Who, Miles Davis, Jimmy Buffett and Hendrix.

Keep reading this interview on Music Tomes.

Revolver: How the Beatles Reimagined Rock’n’Roll

The making of Revolver – hunkered down in Abbey Road with George Martin – is in itself a great Beatles story, but would be nothing if the results weren’t so impactful. More than evenSgt. Pepper and Pet SoundsRevolver fed directly into the rock ‘n’ roll zeitgeist, and its influence could be heard everywhere: from the psychedelic San Francisco sound (Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead); to the first wave of post-blues hard rock (Sabbath, Zeppelin); through movie soundtracks and pretty much everything that followed it – including every generation of guitar-based pop music and even heavy metal. More than any record before or after, Revolverwas the game-changer, and this is, finally, the detailed telling of its storied recording and enormous impact.