Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


A few months ago I re-read "The Nashville Scene: Bright Lights and Country Music" by Paul Hemphill. Hemphill grew up in the south; his father was a truckdriver; Hemphill was a reporter. His 1969 book is a reporter's book, surveying the country music scene from a Kitty Wells recording session at Owen Bradley's barn; to small-town DJs going over hill and dale to host dances; to down-on-their-luck songwriters hanging out in bars, waiting for their break; to hanging out with Chet Atkins (one of Nashville's few liberals, Hemphill notes, with a touch of wistfulness); to hanging out with mountain people who build their own fiddles and play tunes their parents taught them; to covering tapings of TV shows by Johnny & June and by Glen Campbell; to hanging out with fans who've saved their money for months and driven for hours to get to the Grand Ole Opry; to interviewing Tex Ritter who's bemused that his son, a college student at Berkeley, has given him "Soul on Ice" by Eldridge Cleaver (I've tried but failed to determine whether it was future "3's Company"-man John who was the Berkeley student); to getting the Opry's one African American star (a harmonica player whose name I've forgotten) to open up about how poorly the Opry treated him. All throughout the book, Hemphill gets a ton of detail in -- social detail, everyday life detail, telltale details denoting social status. And -- he says it himself, and his writing shows it every page -- these are his people, and he loves them. And -- it saddens him, their political viciousness -- most of them supported George Wallace's segragationist candidacy in 1968. He loves enough to criticize.

I recommend the book to anybody interested in the American South in the late '60s, or anybody interested in country music, or to any music writer.

Wikipedia says John Ritter went to USC, dropping oput after 2 years. Tex Ritter had 2 sons, John and Thomas. So it's probably Thomas who sent him Soul on Ice
Thanks -- you're probably right!
Harmonica player was DeFord Bailey. Great chapter on him in Greil Marcus' "Mystery Train"
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