New Country Music Books Are Coming Soon

Studies on Chet Atkins , Steve Earle , Patsy Cline and singing cowboys are among the torrent of music-oriented books being released this fall and winter, according to the trade publication Publishers Weekly. There are also several new titles on rock and pop artists who have country music ties.

In November, Backbeat Books will debut Rusty Russell’s Chet Atkins: The Life, Legend and Legacy of a Musical Giant. Lauren St. John’s Steve Earle: The Life of a Legend will be published by HarperCollins/Fourth Estate in February. Remembering Patsy, Brian Mansfield’s book of photos and recollections about Patsy Cline (accompanied by a CD) is due out in October from Rutledge Hill Press. And Douglas B. Green’s long-awaited tome, Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy, was just released by Vanderbilt University/Country Music Foundation Press. (Although a recognized scholar in country music circles, Green is perhaps better known as “Ranger Doug” of the group Riders in the Sky .)

Also coming from Vanderbilt/CMF is Heartaches by the Number: Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles, by David Cantwell and Bill Friskics-Warren. It will be out in February. The University of North Texas Press will publish in September The Light Crust Doughboys Are on the Air: Celebrating Seventy Years of Texas Music. Written by John Mark Dempsey, this study focuses on the group’s 1930-1952 radio shows and comes with a CD of their music.

Each fall demands at least one more Elvis book, and fulfilling that requirement this year is Chutley Chops’ Elvis: The King on Film, coming in September from Glitter Books. Would-be country songwriters may want to check out Kelley Lovelace’s how-to, If You’ve Got a Dream, I’ve Got a Plan, also in bookstores in September from Rutledge Hill Press. Lovelace co-wrote the Brad Paisley hits “He Didn’t Have To Be,” “Two People Fell in Love” and “Wrapped Around,” as well as Joe Nichols’ current chart-burner, “The Impossible.”

Following the success of its gift book/CD package spinoff of Lee Ann Womack ’s “I Hope You Dance,” Rutledge Hill has released a similar package: Something Worth Leaving Behind, by songwriters Tom Douglas and Brett Beavers, which is based on the title cut of Womack’s new album.

On the a-little-bit-country side are books about Sheryl Crow, Nancy Sinatra, Chuck Berry, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Lowell George. Crow recently paired with Willie Nelson for CMT Crossroads. Sinatra recorded and made the charts with Mel Tillis (“Texas Cowboy Night,” 1981). Berry’s songs have been recorded by dozens of country stars, including Waylon Jennings , Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Jim & Jesse (a whole album, Berry Pickin’ in the Country, 1965) , the Statler Brothers , John Denver, Buck Owens , Roy Clark and Emmylou Harris . McCartney and Dylan both recorded in Nashville, and McCartney actually made the country charts in 1974 with “Sally G.” Dylan has recorded with Ralph Stanley . Lynyrd Skynyd has been a bastion of country-tinged southern rock. George’s “Dixie Chicken” was recorded by Garth Brooks and supplied the Dixie Chicks their name.

The books in question are Sheryl Crow: No Fool in This Game, by Richard Buskin, Billboard Books, out in October; Nancy Sinatra: Body of Work, Hal Lifson, Bonus Books, October; Brown Eyed Handsome Man: The Life and Hard Times of Chuck Berry, Bruce Peg, Routledge, October; Chronicles: Volume 1, Bob Dylan, St. Martin’s/Thomas Dunne Books, October; Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen and American Song, Larry David Smith, Greenwood Publishing, October; Wingspan: Paul McCartney’s Band on the Run, Paul McCartney, Bulfinch, September; Lynyrd Skynyrd: Remembering the Free Birds of Southern Rock, Gene Odom with Frank Dorman, Broadway Books, October; and Rock & Roll Doctor: Lowell George: Guitarist, Songwriter and Founder of Little Feat, Backbeat Books, November.

Other titles of interest: Halfway to Paradise, by Tony Orlando with Patsi Bale Cox (co-writer of biographies by Tanya Tucker, Ralph Emery, Loretta Lynn and others), St. Martin’s Press, October, and two reprints — Dolly: The Biography, Alanna Nash, Cooper Square Press, November, and Fire And Rain: The James Taylor Story, Ian Halperin, Citadel, January.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to