Willie Nelson, Texas Music and Dance Halls Highlight New Books

Country Music Hall of Fame Member Tennessee Ernie Ford Profiled by His Son

Now that you’ve read, discarded or re-gifted all those music books you got for Christmas, maybe you’re up to mulling over some upcoming volumes, including an anxiously-awaited biography of Willie Nelson.

Veteran Texas writer Joe Nick Patoski has been writing about Nelson for 35 years and conducted more than 100 interviews with the American icon and his family, band musicians and friends to compile Willie Nelson: An Epic Life (Little, Brown and Company), scheduled to hit the shelves on April 21. Among the topics covered is Nelson’s long-running and well-publicized love of marijuana.

Nelson is also prominent in the just-released Pat Green’s Dance Halls & Dreamers (University of Texas Press), which highlights 10 legendary music venues in Texas. Working with Green, who shares his memories of each nightspot, author Luke Gilliam and photographer Guy Rogers III also focus on several Texas musicians, including Nelson, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Jack Ingram, Cross Canadian Ragweed, Cory Morrow, Kevin Fowler, Randy Rogers and Wade Bowen.

In a related book, Gary Hartman covers country music and considerably more in his The History of Texas Music (Texas A&M University Press), scheduled for release in April. The founding director of the Center for Texas music history at Texas State University in San Marcos, Hartman includes musicians’ profiles from a wide variety of styles, including rock, blues, jazz, gospel and native American.

But those are just three titles. We’ve gleaned plenty of others from Publishers Weekly‘s annual spring roundup of music books.

Fans and students of pop/country music will no doubt savor River of No Return: Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Woman He Loved, written by the singer’s son, Jeffrey Buckner Ford (coming in May from Cumberland House). It focuses on Ford’s relationship with his wife, Betty. But the title refers to the Robert Mitchum-Marilyn Monroe movie of 1954, for which Ford sang the theme song. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990.

Parrotheads — and you know who you are — are the target audience for Elizabeth and John Encarnacion’s The Jimmy Buffett Concert Handbook: An Unofficial Guide (June, Cider Mill Press). The manual provides instructions for staging tailgate parties, including a recipe for a perfect margarita.

Taking his theme from Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Graeme Thomson offers up I Shot a Man in Reno: A History of Death by Murder, Suicide, Fire, Flood, Drugs, Disease and General Misadventure as Related in Popular Song (May, Continuum Publishing). You can bet there’s a preponderance of country songs here. And with a nod to Merle Haggard’s 1967 Death Row ditty, Dana Jennings examines country music from 1950 to 1970 in Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death and Country Music (May, Faber & Faber).

Books on other musical acts and formats arriving in March include: Fear of Music: The Greatest 261 Albums Since Punk and Disco (by Gary Mulholland, Orion); The Book of Salsa: A Chronicle of Urban Music From the Caribbean to New York City (Cesar Miguel Rondon, Universal of North Carolina Press) and Follow Your Heart: Moving With the Giants of Jazz, Swing and Rhythm and Blues (Joe Evans with Christopher Brooks, University of Illinois Press).

Also 1001 Classical Recordings You Must Hear Before You Die (edited by Matthew Rye, Universe) and Berlioz: Scenes From the Life and Work (edited by Peter Bloom, University of Rochester Press).

Among the April releases are The Peel Sessions: A Story of Teenage Dreams and One Man’s Love of New Music (Ken Garner, BBC Books, about British disc jockey John Peel); Pretty Vacant: A History of UK Punk (Phil Strongman, Chicago Review Press); The Future of Modern Music (James L. McHard, Continuum); Bob Dylan (Keith Negus, Indiana University Press) and Alias Bob Dylan (Jeff Bench, Reynolds & Hearn).

Also Elvis Costello (Dai Griffiths, Indiana University Press); Guns, Cash and Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Managers (Steve Overbury, Mainstream Publishing); My Son Marshall, My Son Eminem (Debby Nelson, John Blake); Victoria Beckham: Queen of America (Julie Aspinall, John Blake) and The Lost Supreme: The Life of Dreamgirl Florence Ballard (Peter Benjaminson, Lawrence Hill Press).

And Baseball’s Greatest Hit: The Story of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” (Andy Strasberg and others, Hal Leonard Books); Opera and the Morbidity of Music (Joseph Kerman, New York Review Books) and Rock ‘n’ Roll 39-59 (Peter Guralnick, Greil Marcus and others, Steidl).

May entries include The Encyclopedia of Dead Rock Stars, Heroin, Handguns and Ham Sandwiches (Jeremy Simmonds, Amber Books); Sound Unbound: Sampling Digital Music and Culture (edited by Paul D. Miller, MIT Press); Play: The Nylon Book of Music (the editors of Nylon magazine, Universe); Guitars (David Schiller, Workman) and Pink Floyd (Marcus Hearn, Reynolds & Hearn).