Willie Nelson Finds Happiness Among New Books

Country Subjects Are Few, but Other New Titles Focus on Nashville Pioneers

There are only a few country books scheduled for publication this spring and summer, but the ones that are should provide some quite provocative reading. Take, for instance, The Tao of Willie: A Guide to the Happiness in Your Heart by Willie Nelson and Turk Pipkin, released Tuesday (May 9) by Gotham Books. Who better than the serene and always centered redhead to lead us to the flickering light within?

One tome we’ve had a chance to browse is songwriter and journalist Michael Kosser’s How Nashville Became Music City USA: 50 Years of Music Row (June 15, Hal Leonard). Instead of recycling old clippings, Kosser lets us listen into his conversations with dozens of people who were instrumental in making the country music business what it is today — folks like guitarist and early studio owner Harold Bradley, publishers Buddy Killen and Bob Beckham, producers Billy Sherrill and Jerry Kennedy and songwriters Bobby Braddock and Jack Clement. In all, Kosser presents recollections from 63 significos who were there when it happened.

And that brings us to Marshall Grant’s I Was There When It Happened: My Life With Johnny Cash (May 31, Cumberland House). Grant was Cash’s longtime bass player and manager who subsequently masterminded the career of the phenomenal Statler Brothers.

Joe Wilson’s A Guide to the Crooked Road: Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail (May 15, John F. Blair) comes with two CDs and is meant to shepherd musical pilgrims to seven historical sites in southwestern Virginia, including the Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Museum in Bristol, the Ralph Stanley Museum in Clintwood and the site of the Old Time Fiddlers’ Convention in Galax. Wilson is chairman of the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

For those whose interests run beyond country, here are some other recently-published musical titles listed by Publishers Weekly: Bob Marley, Jeremy Collingwood (Cassell Illustrated); Here, There and Everywhere: My Life Recording the Music of the Beatles, Geoff Emerick and Howard Massey (Gotham Books); America’s Songs: The Story Behind the Songs of Broadway, Hollywood and Tin Pan Alley, Philip Furia and Michael Lesser (Routledge); Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On: My Life in Music, Jeannie Cheatham (University of Texas Press); Green Day: American Idiots & the New Punk Explosion, Ben Myers (Disinformation Company); Mickey Dolenz’ Rock ’n’ Rollin’ Trivia Game: Put Your Knowledge of Pop Music Legend, Fact & Myth to the Test, Mickey Dolenz (March, Square One); Work Songs and Healing Songs, both by Ted Gioia (Duke University Press); and Queen and Jimi Henrdix, both by Matt Harvey (Reynolds Hearn).

Other titles set for release in May include: Marley Legend: An Illustrated Life of Bob Marley, James Henke (Chronicle); I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead: The Dirty Life and Times of Warren Zevon, Crystal Zevon, his ex-wife (Ecco); The Woman I Am, Helen Reddy of “I Am Woman” fame (May); The Bob Dylan Encyclopedia, Michael Gray (Continuum); Blue Monday: Fats Domino and the Lost Dawn of Rock ’n’ Roll, Rick Coleman (Da Capo Press); Laurel Canyon: The Inside Story of Life in L. A.’s Legendary Rock and Roll Neighborhood, Michael Walker (Faber & Faber); and The Who and The Sex Pistols, both by Matt Harvey (Reynolds Hearn).

Coming to bookstores in June: Blowin’ Hot and Cool: Jazz and Its Critics, John Gennari (University of Chicago Press); Comrade Rockstar: The Life and Mystery of Dean Reed, The All-American Boy Who Brought Rock ’n’ Roll to the Soviet Union, Reggie Nadelson (Walker Company); and Rock en Espanol: The Latin Alternative Rock Explosion, Ernesto Lechner (Chicago Review Press).

These should keep you busy.

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