Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg

     Nobody had quite the impact on early recorded American country music as did the Carter Family.  They and Jimmie Rodgers were perhaps the most influential of the artists that made it to the historical 1927 Bristol recording sessions; they also went on to record hundreds of other songs in the years to come.  Their vast catalog of work included songs they either wrote themselves or reworked from earlier versions.  This synthesis of old parlor tunes, mountain ballads, spirituals, and originals laid the groundwork for later country music.  Just as importantly, tons of aspiring players took close heed of their vocal arrangements and Maybelle Carter’s unique guitar playing, which paved the way for both finger and flatpicking styles.Will_you_miss

    Alvin Pleasant Carter, or A. P., known for a fine bass voice, song collecting stamina, and an eccentric manner, married sixteen year old Sara Dougherty, who had a pretty mountain girl’s charm and a moving way of singing a mountain ballad.  Accompanied by Sara’s cousin Maybelle, the three had an amazing chemistry with a song, and a seemingly inexhaustible collection of material to draw on, thanks to A. P.  They wound up recording in Bristol for Ralph Peer in 1927, and the rest was history.

    The authors bring the Carters alive with fire and wit – I first read this book about two years ago with scant knowledge of the Carter Family and only a passing aquaintance with some of their standards, and yet would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in traditional country and roots music.  It’s an entertaining read, and you find out well what characters the members of this group were.  Other biggies in the country music field show up – Johnny Cash perhaps the most noteworthy, in that he married Maybelle’s daughter June – as well as Hank Williams Sr., Chet Atkins, and others that peopled the Grand Ole Opry scene during the 1940s and 1950s.  The book also includes an interesting section about the border radio station phenomenon that was largely successful in promoting the Carters and other acts at the time.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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