Thursday, December 27, 2007

Book Review: The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music

The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music by Bret Bertholf, 2007, Little, Brown, and Company.

First, the Longmont connections:

The book is available in the Longmont Public Library.

Listen to Longmont's Doc Martin on KGNU's Honky Tonky Heroes radio show, Saturday mornings, 6-9 AM to hear most (exceptions: Doc won't play Garth or Faith Hill) of the singers and musicians featured in this book. Doc is usually on the last Saturday of the month but be sure to give all of the other DJ "heroes" a listen, too!

See the author's Front-Range based Hi-Beams when they occasionally play nearby in Lyons, at the now smoke-free Oskar Blues. They've also made a few appearances at the fabulous Niwot Grange. To my knowledge (I've been watching the Hi-Beams for five years now), they've never yet played in Longmont.

The review:

Multi-talented Halden Wofford (aka Bret Bertholf) of the band The Hi-Beams has put together a great history lesson about Country Music under the disguise of a children's book! Not only does he have one of the best honky-tonk voices around these days in the country (and a great band as well), but he can also draw and tell stories! Get yourself past the tired and present stereotypes of Country Music ("pickup truck ran over my dog", Garth, Shania, and most of the pop schlock that passes for Country music today) and explore the rich, colorful, and diverse history of this great American music. With country music having roots in blues, gospel, folk, mountain tunes, work songs, and many other sources, you'll enjoy this illustrated and entertaining tour even if you are not a child, or you never normally listen to Country music.

Extra credit to the book for including many influential but seemingly unknown folks like Milton Brown, Cindy Walker , Emmet Miller, Don Walser, Zeke Manners, and Jean Shepard. Even Skeets McDonald gets to ride the train! Also, this book does not just feature the past: contemporaries still carrying out the tradition like Gillian Welch, Jim Lauderdale, and Wayne "The Train" Hancock are all mentioned, as well.

A few comments, keeping in mind that this was book is a gentle introduction to kids (and grownups), and not an exhaustive history book!
  • I would have liked to see an entire page dedicated to Western Swing which could have included Bill Boyd, the Hi-Flyers, Cliff Bruner, The Tune Wranglers, Roy Newman, Adolph Hofner, Jimmy Revard, and others.
  • Buck Owens may have deserved a place on the Honky Tonk page instead of the Television ("Hee Haw") section. I suppose, however, that more people know him as the guy popping up from the corn field with Roy Clark on that show.

  • One of my favorite quotes from the book: "Don't let anybody fool you: in the 1950s, people were SAD." Hmm, I thought it was all Happy Days!

  • Nashville got a page; maybe Bakersfield could have been mentioned if they book was a page or two longer, mentioning one of my favorites, Wynn Stewart.

  • Gotta go investigate some names in this book that are new to me! Jake Tullock, Roba Stanley, and Henry Whitter!

  • Some other Missing In Actions: Floyd Tillman, Eddie Dean, and maybe one of the signature truck-drivin' singers like Red Sovine, Dave Dudley, or Red Simpson. Like I said, you can't name them all in a short book.
The bass player for the Hi-Beams, Ben O'Connor of Ft. Collins, is also a country music history enthusiast and has an excellent web site covering the various types of country music, and their representative artists.

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