Bluegrass Bluesman: A Memoir
Josh Graves; Edited by Fred Bartenstein; Foreword by Neil Rosenberg University of Illinois Press, 2012 Library of Congress ML418.G73A3 2012 | Dewey Decimal 787.871642092
A pivotal member of the hugely successful bluegrass band Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Dobro pioneer Josh Graves (1927-2006) was a living link between bluegrass music and the blues. In Bluegrass Bluesman, this influential performer shares the story of his lifelong career in music.
In lively anecdotes, Graves describes his upbringing in East Tennessee and the climate in which bluegrass music emerged during the 1940s. Deeply influenced by the blues, he adapted Earl Scruggs's revolutionary banjo style to the Dobro resonator slide guitar and gave the Foggy Mountain Boys their distinctive sound. Graves' accounts of daily life on the road through the 1950s and 1960s reveal the band's dedication to musical excellence, Scruggs' leadership, and an often grueling life on the road. He also comments on his later career when he played in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass and the Earl Scruggs Revue and collaborated with the likes of Boz Scaggs, Charlie McCoy, Kenny Baker, Eddie Adcock, Jesse McReynolds, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and his three musical sons. A colorful storyteller, Graves brings to life the world of an American troubadour and the mountain culture that he never left behind.
Born in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, Josh Graves (1927-2006) is universally acknowledged as the father of the bluegrass Dobro. In 1997 he was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
A member of Muddy Waters' legendary late 1940s-1950s band, Jimmy Rogers pioneered a blues guitar style that made him one of the most revered sidemen of all time. Rogers also had a significant if star-crossed career as a singer and solo artist for Chess Records, releasing the classic singles "That's All Right" and "Walking By Myself."
In Blues All Day Long, Wayne Everett Goins mines seventy-five hours of interviews with Rogers' family, collaborators, and peers to follow a life spent in the blues. Goins' account takes Rogers from recording Chess classics and barnstorming across the South to a late-in-life renaissance that included new music, entry into the Blues Hall of Fame, and high profile tours with Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. Informed and definitive, Blues All Day Long fills a gap in twentieth century music history with the story of one of the blues' eminent figures and one of the genre's seminal bands.
"Guitarist Dennis Coffey was in that elite band of musicians who helped to create the Motown Sound."
"There can never be enough stories told from the vantage point of Motown's fabled Snake Pit, from one of the journeyman musicians working behind the scenes. Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars also shows just how frenetic and creative the Detroit music scene was in the '60s and '70s. But it's Dennis Coffey's personal story that's most gripping: the journey from Motown, to Billboard's Top Ten, to working the line at Chevrolet."
---Susan Whitall, Detroit News; author of Women of Motown
Under Berry Gordy, Motown was a place where studio musicians usually stood in the shadows, unlike the solo stars whose names appeared on the albums. Gordy held a tight rein on his musicians, forbidding them from playing for other record companies and denying them credit on his records.
In Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars, author and guitarist Dennis Coffey tells how he slipped Gordy's draconian rules and went on to success as both a Motown musician and a million-selling solo artist. He offers a fascinating backstage look at the Detroit, L.A., and New York music scenes in the '60s and '70s, with side trips to the smoky clubs and funky studios where the Motown sound was born.
Coffey is credited with creating a lot of that sound, including the famous guitar intro to the Temptations' classic "Cloud Nine." He played on hundreds of Motown albums, and introduced such innovations as the Wah Wah pedal into the Motown recording studio.
Guitars, Bars, and Motown Superstars is an entertaining and amusing memoir of one of the most dynamic and influential periods in contemporary pop culture, and a unique insight into the ups and downs of the studio guitar-for-hire. It's also a look at the dizzying rags-to-riches-and-back-again career of a rock musician who went from million-seller with a house in the Hollywood Hills, and ultimately back to his roots in the Detroit area. A must for fans of Motown, rock, and you-are-there pop-culture history.
From "rock & roll kid" to honorary member of Motown's elite rhythm section the Funk Brothers, Dennis Coffey was one of Detroit's most in-demand session guitarists. After leaving Motown, Coffey became a regular at Hitsville USA, playing on records for Marvin Gaye, the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, and Junior Walker. Most recently he appeared in the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown.
Les Paul: Guitar Wizard
Bob Jacobson Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2012 Library of Congress ML3930.P29J33 2012 | Dewey Decimal 787.87092
This addition to the Badger Biographies series for young readers tells the story of Les Paul, the legendary “Wizard of Waukesha,” who pioneered the solid body electric guitar, multi-track recording, and many other musical inventions. Fascinated since boyhood with musical technology, the young Les moved from experimenting with his mother’s player piano and phonograph to developing his own amplifier and tinkering with crystal radios.
After leaving his hometown of Waukesha at age 17 to pursue a musical career—a decision his mother supported—the budding jazz guitarist lived in Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles, in each city finding a new audience and new musical partnerships. A regular on the radio, Les became a fixture in early television, appearing on the Ed Sullivan Show, and later, a show of his own with partner Mary Ford. Along the way, he overcame numerous physical challenges, including recovery from electric shock and rehabilitation after a horrific car accident—both of which threatened his musical career. And yet, Les Paul pushed musical technology forward more than any other musician of the twentieth century. This Grammy Hall of Fame inductee died in 2009, making Les Paul: Guitar Wizard a timely addition to the series. This lively story is rounded out with sidebars on radio call letters and how an electric guitar works, a full discography, and over 60 historic photographs.
Spanish émigré guitarist Celedonio Romero gave his American debut performance on a June evening in 1958. In the sixty years since, the Romero Family—Celedonio, his wife Angelita, sons Celín, Pepe, and Angel, as well as grandsons Celino and Lito—have become preeminent in the world of Spanish flamenco and classical guitar in the United States. Walter Aaron Clark's in-depth research and unprecedented access to his subjects have produced the consummate biography of the Romero family. Clark examines the full story of their genius for making music, from their outsider's struggle to gain respect for the Spanish guitar to the ins and outs of making a living as musicians. As he shows, their concerts and recordings, behind-the-scenes musical careers, and teaching have reshaped their instrument's very history. At the same time, the Romeros have organized festivals and encouraged leading composers to write works for guitar as part of a tireless, lifelong effort to promote the guitar and expand its repertoire. Entertaining and intimate, Los Romeros opens up the personal world and unfettered artistry of one family and its tremendous influence on American musical culture.
Who was the greatest of all American guitarists? You probably didn’t name Gary Davis, but many of his musical contemporaries considered him without peer. Bob Dylan called Davis “one of the wizards of modern music.” Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead—who took lessons with Davis—claimed his musical ability “transcended any common notion of a bluesman.” And the folklorist Alan Lomax called him “one of the really great geniuses of American instrumental music.” But you won’t find Davis alongside blues legends Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Despite almost universal renown among his contemporaries, Davis lives today not so much in his own work but through covers of his songs by Dylan, Jackson Browne, and many others, as well as in the untold number of students whose lives he influenced.
The first biography of Davis, Say No to the Devil restores “the Rev’s” remarkable story. Drawing on extensive research and interviews with many of Davis’s former students, Ian Zack takes readers through Davis’s difficult beginning as the blind son of sharecroppers in the Jim Crow South to his decision to become an ordained Baptist minister and his move to New York in the early 1940s, where he scraped out a living singing and preaching on street corners and in storefront churches in Harlem. There, he gained entry into a circle of musicians that included, among many others, Lead Belly, Woody Guthrie, and Dave Van Ronk. But in spite of his tremendous musical achievements, Davis never gained broad recognition from an American public that wasn’t sure what to make of his trademark blend of gospel, ragtime, street preaching, and the blues. His personal life was also fraught, troubled by struggles with alcohol, women, and deteriorating health.
Zack chronicles this remarkable figure in American music, helping us to understand how he taught and influenced a generation of musicians.