Carlin, Richard. Country Music. New York: Black Dog and Leventhal Publishers, 2006. This is a highly illustrated, well-written, and useful reference for fans of country music. It profiles the people, places, and events that contributed to country’s evolution. With lots of graphic elements and photographs, it is a good book to dip into.
Gordon, Robert. It Came From Memphis. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1994. Memphis resident Robert Gordon takes the backroads to tell the remarkable musical story that emerged from Memphis during the 1950s and ’60s. He paints a textured picture of the milieu from which rock ’n’ roll eventually rose.
Guralnick, Peter. Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1999. Volume two of Peter Guralnick’s definitive biography of Elvis Presley. Guralnick writes in the introduction that he “knows of no sadder story” than Presley’s life from 1958 until his death in 1977. The book unflinchingly examines the gradual unraveling of America’s greatest pop star.
Guralnick, Peter. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1994. Quite possibly the definitive biography of the King. In volume one, Guralick re-creates Presley’s first 24 years, including his childhood in Mississippi and Tennessee, his remarkable rise to fame, and the pivotal events of 1958, when he was drafted into the army and buried his beloved mother.
Handy, W. C. Father of the Blues. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1941. This memoir by Memphis’s most famous blues man depicts the city during the first quarter of the 20th century. It is an entertaining and endearing read.
Kingsbury, Paul (ed.). Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America. London: DK Adult, 2006. An illustrated collection of articles by 43 writers, including several performing artists, this book is a useful reference on the genre’s development from 1920 until the present.
Kossner, Michael. How Nashville Became Music City: 50 Years of Music Row. Milwaukee: Hal Leonard, 2006. Forget about the stars and the singers, this profile of country music focuses on the people you’ve never heard of: the executives, songwriters, and behind-the-scenes technicians who really make the music happen. An interesting read for fans who don’t mind seeing how the sausage is made; a good introduction for people aspiring to be a part of it.
Raichelson, Richard M. Beale Street Talks: A Walking Tour Down the Home of the Blues. Memphis: Arcadia Records, 1999. A slim, well-written tome that describes Beale Street as it was, and Beale Street as it is. This is a handy companion for exploring the street.
Sharp, Tim. Memphis Music: Before the Blues. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2007. Part of the Images of America series, this work includes rare and evocative photographs of Memphis people. The result is a painting of the backdrop on which the Memphis blues were born in the early 20th century.
Wolfe, Charles K. Tennessee Strings. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1977. The definitive survey of Tennessee musical history. This slim volume is easy to read.
Zimmerman, Peter Coats. Tennessee Music: Its People and Places. San Francisco: Miller Freeman Books, 1998. Tries, and succeeds, to do the impossible: tell the varied stories of Tennessee music all the way from Bristol to Memphis. Nicely illustrated.
© Susanna Henighan Potter from Moon Tennessee, 5th Edition