Column

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

The Reading Room

Writing about writing about music.

Henry writes about music and music books for ND, The Bluegrass Situation, Country Standard Time, Publishers Weekly, and more.

Books that Ought to Be

I want all these and I want a second volume of Dave Alvin poetry that he's been been promising for about 20 years. :-D

Nice list, and thoughts to match. Me? Well, my wish is coming true as WVU Press will be publishing on June 1, 2017: Fifty Cents and a Box Top: The Creative Life of Nashville Session Musician Charlie McCoy 

My wish has already been granted. After reading Levon Helms wonderful autobiography I longed to hear Robbie Robertson's side of the story. Now that he's published it I just need to get it.

Given Van Morrison's obssessive desire for privacy an autobiography is probably the least likely book to ever be written but I'd love to see it and read it.

So that leaves me with a favorite artist whose written songs with probably the most eclectic group of collaboraters imaginable and that would be Tonio K. I'd love to read his take on the music business and his curious experiences.

Another one would be Chuck Prophet who I consider the best singer-songwriter-guitarist-producer of his generation.

early Merry Christmas, Henry!  You got me convinced. Let's find the money, put on our walking shoes, roll up our sleeves and go to work starting our own publishing house. Carrigan&Roland has a nice ring to it, doesn't it?   Seriously, these are great ideas for books. Garth may be hard to pin down. Interivewing him a few years ago, I had to wait until 2:00 am to get a conversation with him...and even then, he would get a musical idea, put down the phone mid conversation and start playing piano.  Another book idea has your name on it!!

Bob Dylan Chronicles Vl 2, 3, 5 and 17.

Steve Earle is working on a memoir, with a focus on mentors (both musical and in sobriety), so I imagine there will be plenty on Townes and Guy.  The date keeps getting pushed back because of other projects and (I suspect) the divorce.  He has talked about an historical novel after that about a slave at the Alamo.  He is also working on a play using the music from Washington Square Serenade, and is acting in and wrote music for an off broadway play this spring (Samara http://sohorep.org/samara).

I wish for a Jackson Browne and certainly EmmyLou H. bio, both very, very popular in Holland...Am sure they've got great stories to tell. And please, don't let them wait too long, am 71 now!

Jackson Browne would be a great one...like Dennis, I'd love to read a Tonio K book, but I don't know if that's a viable book for the masses...Radney Foster is a fine songwriter and quite a humorous guy with a lot of stories to tell...Hillman or McGuinn from the Byrds...

And, almost forgot: Can't wait for a John Prine Autobiography. 

I've always been fascinated by the history of Dave and Phil Alvin and The Blasters.  Would love to hear the brothers tell the story of how they developed their wide-ranging musical tastes as teens in Downey, California sneaking into roots music shows, driving Big Joe Turner around, and going to the back side of town to find records by a wide variety of artists not in the pop music Top 40.  Also, it would be interesting to know about the battles the brothers have had with each other over the years and their "reconciliation" after Phil's near-death experience.  Getting back together led to two wonderful blues albums. Dave could talk about his solo career in Americana music, his song-writing techniques, and his guitar heroes. Phil could add a lot about his interest in advanced mathematics and artificial intelligence.

How about James Burton autobiography? Some years ago, in Italy, he told me he was working on it.

He started at sixteen with Dale Hawkins Suzie Q riff, then has played with everybody, from Gram Parsons through Emmylou to Elvis, not forgetting Jerry Lee Lewis, John Denver, Elvis Cosello, you name it.

Come on James, tell us your inside story!

I would read every one of these.

I would also like to respectfully suggest that you take a look at my memoir, "My Four-Minute Life; The Journey of a Very Human Songwriter."  "My Four-Minute Life" is Jesse McRae's brilliantly conceived memoir of seven-plus decades as a human being, told in stories, lyrics, philosophies, and opinions predicated on a fifty-plus year love affair with songwriting." In essence, it's the story of a lifelong, dedicated songwriter who didn't "make it," but who found peace in the process of trying! I would be more than happy to send you a copy. If you'd like to check it out in advance, you'll find excerpts and reviews at www.myfourminutelife.com .

"Jesse has written with some of the finest songwriters in Nashville; played more wrong side of the tracks dives and bars than just about anyone I know; suffered more serious health issues than anyone I know; dealt with more personal demons than anyone I know, and in the middle of it all, at age 48, rescued his 4 year old son from a very dangerous situation and raised him as a single father. Or, if you read the book, you will find that his son raised him. He is an excellent songwriter. That he never had any major cuts has as much to do with the fickleness of the music business as anything else."

Kris Kristofferson, Pilgrim's Progress

I am absolutely enchanted by The World's Famous Supreme Team, the 80s hip hop/radio  outfit that teamed with Malcolm McLaren for the Duck Rock album. It features my favorite version of "Buffalo Gals" and incredible snippets from  people calling into their radio show. Outside of McLaren, known more for managing the Sex Pistols, the DJs were the bridge between the Last Poets and Grandmaster Flash. Where did they come from and where did they go? This is my first research project of the year, but I really wish someone from inside the scene would write the damn book already. 

I would add Michael Nesmith to this list.  One of the earliest innovators of country rock, to the Monkees, to him basically being responosible for MTV and music videos.  He has written one book and has another coming out, but would love to hear his own story.