Books on Bill Monroe and the Dixie Chicks Set for Late Summer

Coming to bookstores late this summer: a major study of Bill Monroe and a quick peek at the Dixie Chicks.

Richard D. Smith’s Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe (Little, Brown, $25) is a scrupulously researched examination of the social forces and innate talent that combined to transform the once shy, lonely and self-conscious William Smith Monroe into the towering “Father of Bluegrass.” While he clearly admires Monroe for the enormous influence he exerted in shaping American popular music, Smith is candid and explicit about his subject’s arrogance, pettiness, obsessive jealousy toward other musicians and serial infidelities.

Giving substance and color to Smith’s account are the dozens of detailed interviews he conducted with Monroe’s friends, business associates, former sidemen and lovers. In chronicling Monroe’s ups and downs, Smith also provides useful insights into the rise of rock ’n’ roll, the folk music boom of the 1960s and the growing significance of bluegrass festivals. The book is due out August 1.

Scheduled for release in September, James L. Dickerson’s Dixie Chicks: Down-Home And Backstage (Taylor, $16.95) offers behind-the-scenes stories of how a loosely knit Dallas street band grew into one of the bestselling country acts of all time. Dickerson does not interview the current three Chicks for his book, but he does draw heavily on conversations with former member, Laura Lynch, who was suddenly and unceremoniously ousted in 1995 and replaced by Natalie Maines. He also talks with ex-band members, a former manager and various fans he contacted through the Internet. Dickerson says the ’Net has been a crucial element in the rise and commercial success of the trio.

Both books will be illustrated extensively with photos.

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