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Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music

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The first major biography of the Carter Family, the musical pioneers who almost single-handedly created the sounds and traditions that grew into modern folk, country, and bluegrass music. Meticulously researched and lovingly written, it is a look at a world and a culture that, rather than passing, has continued to exist in the music that is the legacy of the Carters—songs t The first major biography of the Carter Family, the musical pioneers who almost single-handedly created the sounds and traditions that grew into modern folk, country, and bluegrass music. Meticulously researched and lovingly written, it is a look at a world and a culture that, rather than passing, has continued to exist in the music that is the legacy of the Carters—songs that have shaped and influenced generations of artists who have followed them. Brilliant in insight and execution, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? is also an in-depth study of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, and their bittersweet story of love and fulfillment, sadness and loss. The result is more than just a biography of a family; it is also a journey into another time, almost another world, and theirs is a story that resonates today and lives on in the timeless music they created.


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The first major biography of the Carter Family, the musical pioneers who almost single-handedly created the sounds and traditions that grew into modern folk, country, and bluegrass music. Meticulously researched and lovingly written, it is a look at a world and a culture that, rather than passing, has continued to exist in the music that is the legacy of the Carters—songs t The first major biography of the Carter Family, the musical pioneers who almost single-handedly created the sounds and traditions that grew into modern folk, country, and bluegrass music. Meticulously researched and lovingly written, it is a look at a world and a culture that, rather than passing, has continued to exist in the music that is the legacy of the Carters—songs that have shaped and influenced generations of artists who have followed them. Brilliant in insight and execution, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? is also an in-depth study of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, and their bittersweet story of love and fulfillment, sadness and loss. The result is more than just a biography of a family; it is also a journey into another time, almost another world, and theirs is a story that resonates today and lives on in the timeless music they created.

30 review for Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music

  1. 4 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    There’s too much to say about the Carter Family. I could start with their oddball personalities : the chirpy, pocketsized indomitable Maybelle, the spaced-out Alvin Pleasant (note great middle name - how nice to have been called Paul Pleasant Bryant or Paul Niceenoughwhenyougettoknowhim Bryant), and the dour, flinty Sara. Of all the photographs of the Carter Family, there’s only one where Sara is smiling and even on that one, it’s not a grin, just a mild softening of the features, a fleeting ho There’s too much to say about the Carter Family. I could start with their oddball personalities : the chirpy, pocketsized indomitable Maybelle, the spaced-out Alvin Pleasant (note great middle name - how nice to have been called Paul Pleasant Bryant or Paul Niceenoughwhenyougettoknowhim Bryant), and the dour, flinty Sara. Of all the photographs of the Carter Family, there’s only one where Sara is smiling and even on that one, it’s not a grin, just a mild softening of the features, a fleeting holiday from the thousand yard stare she gave to every camera. She looked like fun was something she was occasionally told about by people she didn't trust. But like Ralph Peer said, “As soon as she started to sing, I knew it was gonna be all right.” The Carter Family were the Beatles of the first wave of country music and Jimmy Rodgers was the Elvis. They were both discovered in the same remarkable recording trip to Bristol, Tennessee in March 1927 by Ralph Peer, that most accidental of benefactors to the world of folk music. Which must have been like turning up to a folk club in Skelmersdale on a Thursday evening and signing up two floor singers who then go on to make you a million quid. Each. In 1927 money! But whilst Jimmie Rodgers was all over the musical map, recording with string bands, jazz bands, Hawaiian bands, musical bloody saws, anybody who wandered into the studio, the Carters ploughed just the one single straight deep furrow, from 1927 to 1943, when the original trio disbanded. To Jimmie Rodgers' evident hedonistic get-while-the-getting's-good weltenshauung they firmly opposed their strict Calvinism. They had an extreme division of labour within the group. Sara played rhythm guitar and autoharp and sang lead, Maybelle played lead on a guitar nearly as big as she was, occasionally using slide, and she sang backup; and A.P. took a rare very trembly lead but mostly “bassed in” on the choruses. A P (that's what they called him) 's actual job was to give the women the songs to sing, so he went out a-rambling and collected them all from the actual folk. And then copyrighted them all under his name (this was Mr Peer’s idea). Wherever the songs came from, even if it was right out of a published songbook, A.P. claimed to have written them. (The Ralph Peer effect requires a whole article in itself, but this “bring me material I can copyright” demand of his was the origin of the alternative to Tin Pan Alley and was also one of the largest sized nails in the coffin of the oral transmission of folk music.) So all those “Carter Family” songs, like My Dixie Darling, Keep on the Sunny Side, No Depression in Heaven, I’m Thinking tonight of my Blue Eyes, and so on, hundreds of them, are theirs because they recorded them first. Not because A P wrote them. Okay, he may have written maybe two. Their music is therefore a patchwork of hymns, sentimental Victorian parlour songs, folk ballads, humorous sketches, broadsides and gospel songs, folk flotsam and politely antique jetsam, all melted down and recast into the magic of the strong clear voices and dexterous filigree playing of Maybelle and Sara, and of course, when all three harmonise together on something like River of Jordan or Lonesome Valley it’s like a tree you never notice at the end of your street until the day you do notice it, amazed at the sunlight in the leaves. So anyway, this book tells the whole complicated story of the Carters, and since no one ever did that before, it's essential for anyone who loves them and old American music in general.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jonfaith

    I really wanted to read this book. What I found was more of an oral history than a scholarly approach to the first family of American Music. Even from it's anecdotal orientation the book is a hagiography. That said, much of the Ken Burns documentary Country Music (2019) pertaining to the Carter Family and their legacy is lifted verbatim from this text. It would be impossible for me to describe how important the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers have been in my life these last six months since I fi I really wanted to read this book. What I found was more of an oral history than a scholarly approach to the first family of American Music. Even from it's anecdotal orientation the book is a hagiography. That said, much of the Ken Burns documentary Country Music (2019) pertaining to the Carter Family and their legacy is lifted verbatim from this text. It would be impossible for me to describe how important the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers have been in my life these last six months since I first saw the series. I loved the anecdotal portraits in this book but desperately wanted more. The story is pretty simple: Ralph Peer made millions recording both rural white and black artists during the period from the mid-1920s through WWII. he is famed for "catching lightening in a bottle" and twice at that with the 'discovery of the Carter Family and Jimmie Rogers at the epochal Bristol Sessions of 1927. The Carter Family consisted of AP carter his wife Sara and her cousin Maybelle (who was also a Carter by marrying AP's brother Eck). The result was simply astonishing. I am ready to place Maybelle alongside Charlie Parker and Ornette Coleman for their trailblazing in instrumental technique and the sum of their respective impact. She's that important. The narrative traces their recording career and the corresponding family dram which curtailed the band in its original conception. It then follows the myriad trajectories of the members while devoting time to many of those in their milieu i.e Elvis, Hank and Johnny Cash. GR Friends Kris and Paul Bryant brought this to my attention and for that I'm grateful. I may explore to see if a more nuanced approach exists.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    This is one of my very favorite books. You know that book that each of us has in our collection that we want everyone to read? That book that we loan to friends, family, colleagues, and (I suppose in some cases) strangers, just wanting them to read it because we KNOW they'll love it? This is that book. I'm sort of OCD about my music; I tend to overanalyze and obsess about who (stylistically) begat whom. That being said, The Carters are near the top of the family tree of much of what has beco This is one of my very favorite books. You know that book that each of us has in our collection that we want everyone to read? That book that we loan to friends, family, colleagues, and (I suppose in some cases) strangers, just wanting them to read it because we KNOW they'll love it? This is that book. I'm sort of OCD about my music; I tend to overanalyze and obsess about who (stylistically) begat whom. That being said, The Carters are near the top of the family tree of much of what has become today's (Country and non-Country) music. In my little world, they are the forbearers of many of the artists that have come to dominate my iPod playlists: the Birds, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Big Star, the Replacements, Uncle Tupelo, and anything Bob Mould-related (Hüsker Dü, Sugar, etc.). In essence, the Carter Family is my Musical Rosetta Stone. As a general rule, I love biographies. My main gripe with them is that they are often flawed by being either too thin in terms of a story, too weighed-down with undocumented speculation, or an obvious product of an author with an agenda to heap praise or scorn upon the subject. This book is tainted by none of these problems. The story of the Carter Family is told in such way that everything is just very natural...it's actually told in an almost folksy manner where you could be hearing it from an old man in the rocking chair on the porch of a simple mountain home. The setting (be it the hills of Southwestern Virginia, the Grand Ole Opry, or just over the border in Mexico) is painted in such a way that you really get a sense of almost being there. The principles (AP, Sara, and Maybelle Carter) are complex three-dimensional characters that you can watch develop through the courses of their lives. Even the supporting characters (spouses, children, other artists, etc.) are more than just props; they themselves have some depth. Everything just meshes. One thing that really got my attention was Johnny Cash's interactions with the family (especially June and - perhaps even more so - Maybelle). Until picking-up this book, everything I'd ever read about Johnny Cash's demons from when he first met the Carter Family had been told in the context of Johnny Cash and June as the main foci with Maybelle being in a supporting role. In this book, the Johnny Cash story is told as a relatively small subset of the Carter Family story. Johnny's demons and eventual redemption are told from a perspective of Maybelle being the one holding everything together. It's just neat to see a familiar story with a different spin. I strongly encourage you to give this book a chance. Even if you don't like old-time Country or Bluegrass music, the story is compelling and masterfully told. I'd give it six stars if I could.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Simon

    Any country fan who hasn't read it should put it on their Christmas present list. It would fill any empty hours between turkey and the chimes at midnight perfectly. I enjoyed the writing. the relaxed style reflects the way that country has influenced the syntax of American English. I enjoyed adding to my knowledge of the history of what we Brits call Americana. And I added to the pleasure by using the internet to prepare me a party tape of all the songs mentioned in the section that I'd just rea Any country fan who hasn't read it should put it on their Christmas present list. It would fill any empty hours between turkey and the chimes at midnight perfectly. I enjoyed the writing. the relaxed style reflects the way that country has influenced the syntax of American English. I enjoyed adding to my knowledge of the history of what we Brits call Americana. And I added to the pleasure by using the internet to prepare me a party tape of all the songs mentioned in the section that I'd just read which has seranaded me through the chores that led to the next chapter. I even found a documentary to which Zwonitzer contributed on Youtube. I was a Carter Family fan before this. I'm an even bigger and decidedly more knowledgable fan now.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Marguerite

    A fascinating look at the founding members of the Carter family, who blended church music, traditional tunes from the British Isles and Appalachian traditions to create a musical form that spoke to Americans in difficult times and grew into or shaped bluegrass, country and folk music. The focus is on cousins Sara and Maybelle, who would marry brothers from the other side of the mountain in southwest Virginia. Sara’s husband, A.P. Carter, would be the third member of the group. They set American A fascinating look at the founding members of the Carter family, who blended church music, traditional tunes from the British Isles and Appalachian traditions to create a musical form that spoke to Americans in difficult times and grew into or shaped bluegrass, country and folk music. The focus is on cousins Sara and Maybelle, who would marry brothers from the other side of the mountain in southwest Virginia. Sara’s husband, A.P. Carter, would be the third member of the group. They set American music on its ear after being “discovered” in a talent search. The prize was $50 per song they recorded, and the music publisher put a premium on new and original music. That led the Carters on a lifelong quest to recover music that was fading into obscurity. Their role as musical preservationists can’t be overstated. They wrote music, too, some of it inspired by A.P. and Sara’s difficult marriage. The two eventually divorced, but kept the Carter Family act going, helped by the next generation of musicians. The family made regular radio appearances that made them well known across North America. They toured relentlessly, too, in the days before tour buses and roadies. Along the way, the family worked with the giants of country, folk and bluegrass music and pop culture. The name-dropping and backstage glimpses here are a delight. The book is meticulously researched, with a lot of firsthand information. The only thing missing is a soundtrack.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Helen Robare

    I am an avid fan of "old time" country music. I have loved the Carter Family since my father introduced me to their music back in the 1960's. I could and can still sit and listen Maybelle Carter play the autoharp and the guitar for hours. What I loved about this book is that it wasn't just about AP, Sara, and Maybelle but continued the story with Maybelle and her girls (Helen, June, and Anita). This book told the good and the bad but told it with heart and soul. By the time you finish this book, I am an avid fan of "old time" country music. I have loved the Carter Family since my father introduced me to their music back in the 1960's. I could and can still sit and listen Maybelle Carter play the autoharp and the guitar for hours. What I loved about this book is that it wasn't just about AP, Sara, and Maybelle but continued the story with Maybelle and her girls (Helen, June, and Anita). This book told the good and the bad but told it with heart and soul. By the time you finish this book, these people you have never met will seem like old friends. The stories of these country pioneers is amazing. When one reads this book and realizes that the Bristol sessions might never have happened and then stop to reflect on what a loss that would have been for music in general, it will amaze you. I read this book and then went right back to the beginning and read it again to make sure I didn't miss anything. I recommend this book for anyone who is a fan of real old time Appalachian mountain music. You will NOT be disappointed.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    One of the best books about the music that became bluegrass I've ever read. It illustrates the weird amalgamations, "hawaian style" really did come from Hawaii over the radio, the influence of itenerant black musicians, the exposure to cowboy music, and the good scots irish folk tunes that are the bones of bluegrass. Most of all the human drama and failings in AP and Sara's failed marriage and what it meant for everyone. A beautifully researched and written book.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    Moved to tears reading this, I think the Carter Family is America’s first family. Divorce, distance, and myriad flat tires could not put an end to them. This book will take you on an adventure and introduce you to so many colorful and innovative musicianers, as A.P. called them, but always come back to the original thread of the unstoppable trio, A.P., Sara, and Maybelle. We are so lucky to have the Carters in our canon of music.

  9. 4 out of 5

    David Glenn Dixon

    Washington City Paper Arts & Entertainment : Book Review Clinch Mountain Breakdown By Glenn Dixon • November 1, 2002 Alvin Pleasant Carter fell for the voice before he even knew which girl it belonged to. Trudging over Clinch Mountain toward his cousin's house to try to sell fruit trees out of a catalog to his relatives, A.P. was struck by an alto singing the train-wreck ballad "Engine 143." It took some time for his affection to be returned, but he eventually won Sara Dougherty over. When asked in Washington City Paper Arts & Entertainment : Book Review Clinch Mountain Breakdown By Glenn Dixon • November 1, 2002 Alvin Pleasant Carter fell for the voice before he even knew which girl it belonged to. Trudging over Clinch Mountain toward his cousin's house to try to sell fruit trees out of a catalog to his relatives, A.P. was struck by an alto singing the train-wreck ballad "Engine 143." It took some time for his affection to be returned, but he eventually won Sara Dougherty over. When asked in later years what had been responsible for her attraction to A.P., Sara would profess an admiration of his voice. "A.P.'s main savior was his bass," she said. When the two were married, on June 18, 1915, A.P. was 23 years old and Sara was nearly 17. In the mid-'20s, with the addition of Sara's younger cousin Maybelle Addington on guitar, the Carters became a popular amateur attraction around their neck of southwestern Virginia. When Maybelle married A.P.'s brother Eck, she became a Carter, too. And when the Carter Family recorded for Victor A&R man Ralph Peer in Bristol, Tenn., on Aug. 1, 1927, the group became the stuff of legend. The performing partnership lasted about a decade longer than Sara and A.P.'s marriage, as might be expected given that musical affinity seems to have been the only unforced aspect of their rather strained relationship. By the time, in 1943, Sara retired and went to join her second husband, A.P.'s cousin Coy Bayes (ne Bays), in California, the Carter Family had waxed hundreds of sides for Victor, ARC, Decca, APS, Columbia, and Bluebird and cut hundreds more songs for radio transcriptions to be played on the high-powered stations that lit up the country from across the Mexican border before World War II. As Sara and A.P. faded from sight, Maybelle turned her daughters, Helen, June, and Anita, into a polished band of troupers that toured tirelessly throughout the '40s and '50s. In the '60s, Maybelle herself was rediscovered and feted by the young turks of the folk revival, and June hitched the family bandwagon to Johnny Cash's roadshow, later marrying the man in charge. By the time Maybelle died, in 1978, 18 years after A.P. and only a couple of months before Sara, she had become the most famous of the three, the matriarch of country music: Mother Maybelle. Seventy-five years after the Carter Family's first session, public-television documentarian Mark Zwonitzer and music writer and Popular Science editor Charles Hirshberg have published the first full-length, cradle-to-grave biography of the First Family of Country Music. (Michael Orgill's "Anchored in Love: The Carter Family Story" can't be considered serious competition; it's difficult to tell whether this sanitized 1975 attempt was intended for young-adult readers.) "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music" is a book many fans of early country have been waiting years for, the lack of a proper monograph having been made all the more apparent by Rounder Records' nine-volume CD reissue of the Carters' Victor recordings in the mid- to late '90s and Bear Family's definitive, multi-label 12-disc box set in 2000. What Zwonitzer and Hirshberg have delivered is a diverting popular treatment, written in a folksy, colloquial style that only rarely clatters. It's a storybook, almost a paraphrased oral history, packed with colorful episodes in the lives of the Carters and their kin. Both Sara and A.P. were born in the last decade of the 19th century, Maybelle in the first decade of the 20th, and their lives are set against the backdrop of those 20th-century industrial forces--recording, radio, internal combustion--that made cultural isolation a thing of the past, forever altering the meaning of "country." The authors' greatest success is in creating a palpable sense of place and time, particularly when laying out the remote hills and hollows of Appalachia before the '20s. This was back when local transportation meant walking for hours, the only artificial light came from kerosene lamps, and the Big City was Kingsport, Tenn., a town described to me as recently as the mid-'80s--by one of its own sons, no less--as "a place where the family trees go like this [at which my guide cut his hands down sharply into the point of an inverted triangle], instead of like that [drawing them apart in the expected fashion]." A few evenings after Maybelle's March 1926 wedding, friends and neighbors turned out to treat Eck to a "shivaree...a vaguely barbaric and unsettling old pagan ritual wherein a new husband (and sometimes a new fiance) is stripped down, tied to a greasy pole, slathered with assorted and odoriferous substances, and carried around his house and outbuildings." When the revelers were met by the enraged figure of Eck's father, they simply chose him instead. But by the spring of 1933, such shenanigans seemed a world away. The Carters were stars, their fame cemented with a stream of black shellac, but Sara and A.P. were on the outs and Peer's wife, Anita, was called in to make things right--the important things, at least. "I have been divorced once myself..." she wrote to Sara, "so I can sympathize with you perfectly, and I will be glad of a chance to talk to you and perhaps give you the benefit of my experience....Isn't there some way you can get together and fix up some songs for recording?...I'll do anything you suggest to get things organized again. Even if you never live together again you could get together for professional purposes like movie stars do." This was perhaps cold comfort to a woman from a culture in which divorce, though scarcely unheard of, even today remains so taboo that the subject was verboten when a New York Times reporter recently visited A.P. and Sara's daughter Janette. But the Great Depression was colder still, and work was welcome. However strong the Carters' ties to home remained, their value to the ever-developing instruments of the mass media drew them away. Staying together for the act meant moving to Del Rio, Texas, in 1938. There they lived for six months at a time, cranking out the down-home entertainment that lured far-flung rubes into the clutches of one of America's most unscrupulous and successful hucksters. Already a good read, "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?" shifts into high gear for its mini-biography of "Doctor" John Romulus Brinkley, a brazen quack who broadcast promises to restore male potency through his own south-of-the-border bullhorn, the million-watt XERA. By the time the good doctor's empire collapsed, in the early '40s, he had made a fortune by grafting goat testes to their human counterparts--and lost it when a number of patients who hadn't died started levying complaints in the courts. Inappropriately, the ballad of Dr. Brinkley sings like no other section of the book. It's so vivid a story that part of it is bumped up to the prologue. Never mind that the Brinkley episode falls at the denouement of the Original Carter Family arc and that he is much less important to their career than Peer, the steely-eyed businessman who also first recorded Jimmie Rodgers--and erected a publishing empire around his two premier signings. Peer, like the Carters themselves, pales in comparison to Brinkley, whom, one gathers, Zwonitzer and Hirshberg would have preferred to write about had he not already attracted a biographer decades ago. If "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone" at times feels like an authorized biography, that's because the authors seem to have expended little effort in going after the stories survivors didn't want to tell. And it doesn't help that the three Carters gave so little of themselves away while they were living. By the end of the book, we carry distinct images of them--Maybelle: saintly, sphinxlike, and capable of bringing any wild dog of a man to heel with a flash of her pale blue eyes; Sara: distant and "regal," with no love of fame and little nostalgia for the career she abandoned; A.P.: driven, undemonstrative, restless, and "wifty," which, in the neighborhood of Clinch Mountain, means roughly what "pixilated" did around the stomping grounds of Gary Cooper's Mr. Deeds. But A.P. and Sara remain essentially unknowable, and Maybelle develops chiefly in relation to her years with the second-generation Carter act, an account of which constitutes the brisk but fairly conventional showbiz narrative that occupies the last 150 pages of the book and whose high points are Cash's drug terrors and Maybelle's benign quest for the loosest slots in town. The story speeds up as it nears the finish, and it becomes peppered with questionable gaps. Youngsters may not recall, but Carl Smith is not a country music footnote. He's a bona fide country music star, the fourth biggest artist of the '50s, according to Joel Whitburn's "Top Country Singles." And he was married to June Carter for four years at the peak of his stardom. So how come he rates about as much ink as Edwin "Rip" Nix, who was June's husband for a few years long after he'd peaked, on the college gridiron? Any book that purports to essay the Carters' "legacy in American music" needs to devote considerable space to matters both musical, such as the development of acoustic guitar styles, and mercantile, such as the precedent set by A.P. in making copyright claims on material he did not write. Zwonitzer and Hirshberg don't entirely ignore either subject, but, having stirred their readers' curiosity, they consistently pull up short. The ideal Carter Family biographer would be not just a storyteller but also a scholar of the music business, an expert in the evolution of popular song, and an acute critic, able to discern whether it indeed takes a wifty man to sing a wifty song. As for sourcing the Carters' material, a subject that could fill a volume all its own, the authors examine in moderate detail only the best-known case--"Wildwood Flower"--and elsewhere tend to let the matter slide, implying that this is the province of folklorists, scholars, and other obsessed, sandal-wearing geeks. Perhaps, as someone who has spent days tracking down publishers for Kingston Trio arrangements of material that is in the public domain, I fall into this category, but I don't find it satisfactory to let stand without explanation the assertion that no A.P. Carter copyright was ever subject to a legal challenge, especially when you consider that more than a few of them staked claims to already published material. A few visual aids would also have been in order, perhaps a map of the Virginia-Tennessee border similar to the one used for the endpapers of the book that accompanies the Bear Family box set, so we could follow A.P. on his song-gathering treks. And how about a foldout family tree? Any clan that has a Carter of indeterminate paternity, whose mother was once married to William A. Bays, marrying a Bays known to have descended from William H. Bays--not to mention two appearances of the name Ettaleen--is no less worthy of graphical explication than the Plantagenets. (We could use a periodic table of Addingtons, too. How else to keep straight which of Maybelle's brothers was nicknamed Deejer, Sawcat, Doc, Toobe, or Bug?) Such lapses aside, it's impossible not to recommend "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?" to anyone interested in the development of American popular music or in the foremost group from the early days of recorded country. But a thorough critical biography of the Carter Family is still desperately needed. And, for the tenacious reporter who acts fast, I'd be willing to bet there are a few more tales to be teased out of those hills. CP

  10. 4 out of 5

    Priscilla King

    One of the very few books outsiders have written about my part of the world that didn't make me queasy. In fact, I like it. Zwonitzer never confuses Gate City, Weber City, Hiltons, Maces Springs, or Bristol with one another (or with Appalachia); instead of generalizing about what people would or would not have had at a given year, he's researched what they actually bought, sold, or remembered having. That ought to be normal but it is in fact rare. He talked to the surviving members of the Carter One of the very few books outsiders have written about my part of the world that didn't make me queasy. In fact, I like it. Zwonitzer never confuses Gate City, Weber City, Hiltons, Maces Springs, or Bristol with one another (or with Appalachia); instead of generalizing about what people would or would not have had at a given year, he's researched what they actually bought, sold, or remembered having. That ought to be normal but it is in fact rare. He talked to the surviving members of the Carter extended family and their friends, some of whom are still living, and described those people's businesses the way they were (and many still are). Visitors can still use this book as a tour guide. If you remember the Carter Family's records (and others of that vintage), this book about twentieth-century country music will be a perpetual feast. You could reread it every year or two, slowly, just to listen to all those songs and singers in your memory--and I do, sometimes pausing to sing along. Yes, people in my part of the world still remember the ways the Carters sang these songs (different arrangements, sometimes, as different friends and relatives sang), and we still sing them as best we can. Dale Jett still hosts concerts at the Fold. Also this book does more, in a more tactful way, to describe the enigma that was Alvin Pleasant Carter than I would have believed possible. People wanted to cast him as the leader of the family, a real patriarch. He was a serious song collector, but not a patriarch, and not much of a musician either. His family loved him, but from the words of their actual memories it's hard to understand just why even the ones who did try to live near him made that effort; if his parenting behavior didn't qualify as abuse or neglect, it came close. Zwonitzer has gathered evidence to show that A.P. was a rather heroically competent survivor of brain trauma. This is definitely not a book about political or social issues, but it may shed some light on some of those. The whole point of being one of Virginia's "country gentry" or "landed poor" class is that there's no real stereotype, lots of room for individuality. That said, this history of A.P., Ezra, Sara, Maybelle, Janette, Joe, Gladys, Helen, June, Anita, friends including Hank Williams and Elvis Presley, and the Cashes and Jetts as well, does a good job of showing what my kind of people actually do: travel, read, learn other languages, buy and sell farms, actually till the soil, sing and play instruments, tend the sick (Maybelle Carter was a practical nurse), take jobs in town but never take those too seriously, live frugally when young and poor, spend and save money in quirky ways when less young and less poor...Most of us have at least tried adding Modern Conveniences to our rural farms, and/or living in cities. Many of us are enthusiastic about some Mod. Con. but underwhelmed by others. Those who don't end up back on our less than lucrative family farms usually wish we were there. Despite a hundred years of blather about the poor, pitiful hill farmers who need help to give up an obsolete way of life and move into urban apartment projects, the fact is that quite a lot of us prefer to remain hill farmers. The Carters made a lot of money but weren't obsessed with making more, dressed plainly, went to small middle-class or poor churches, sent some of their children to public school, saw the lights of cities but mostly chose rural homes. This seems to confuse a lot of would-be "social planners" but it makes perfect sense to most of the people I know. Perhaps this book can help reduce the confusion. I don't know. I love it for its soundtrack.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Crompton

    To get the negative out of the way: like some other readers, I found the writing style slightly annoying at first. But the story was so compelling that pretty soon the sometimes affected "countryisms" no longer bothered me. The story of the Carter Family is inspiring and often quite sad. Much of the sadness centers around A.P. Carter, who alone had the conviction that the family trio was as good as any country ensemble out there, and insisted that they audition for Victor Records at the famous 19 To get the negative out of the way: like some other readers, I found the writing style slightly annoying at first. But the story was so compelling that pretty soon the sometimes affected "countryisms" no longer bothered me. The story of the Carter Family is inspiring and often quite sad. Much of the sadness centers around A.P. Carter, who alone had the conviction that the family trio was as good as any country ensemble out there, and insisted that they audition for Victor Records at the famous 1927 "Bristol sessions," sometimes called the "big bang of country music." He was right, of course - their Victor records changed the course of American music. But A.P. was an odd duck, who apparently lived inside his head much of the time. His wife Sara, the trio's lead singer, eventually became exasperated with the marriage and had an affair which led to the couple's separation and divorce. A.P. never got over the breakup, although the group continued to perform and record together for a decade. In contrast, I found "Mother" Maybelle Carter to be an incredibly inspiring figure. Born Maybelle Addington, she became a Carter when she married A.P.'s brother Ezra, or Eck - a marriage which lasted until Eck died in 1975, three years before Maybelle. In her quiet way, Maybelle Carter was a brilliant, innovative musician on guitar and autoharp. The latter instrument was designed as a tool for amateur musicians to play simple chordal accompaniments, but Maybelle figured out a way to play melodies above the chords. And on guitar, she developed what inauspiciously became known as "the Carter scratch" - a style of playing which included the melody, bass, and chords, and which became the basis for much of American guitar style ever since. But the most impressive aspect of Mother Maybelle was that she seemed to have developed, at an early age, a Zen-like understanding of how to live. She had a sense of presence and professionalism, but no ego. Over and over in this book, the reader gets the impression that she exuded calm and reassurance. During the period when she and her family gave stability to the drug-addled and self-destructive Johnny Cash, Cash remembered that the harshest thing she ever said to him - no matter what transgressions he had committed - was, "Oh, John." I love the stories from the wild and woolly 1970s that show what a revered figure Maybelle became among the hippies and other younger music fans. At a festival, Maybelle's (very talented) daughter Anita and Anita's daughter Lorrie were walking through the crowd, and were starting to attract some lecherous comments, until someone set everybody straight: "Shut up, you fool - those are Maybelle's girls." This is a moving book about an important American musical group - I recommend it.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Ally Thomas

    Great biography, I loved how little stories of Elvis Presley, Chet Akins, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash were woven with Mother Maybelle and the Carter Family. I knew relatively little about the OG Carter Fam so this book was helpful in understanding their beginnings and I was fascinated with AP’s work collecting songs throughout the VA mountains as he traveled as a tree salesman. The authors did a wonderful job giving the reader a sense of the impact of the radio in the 1930s and so forth. I lov Great biography, I loved how little stories of Elvis Presley, Chet Akins, Hank Williams and Johnny Cash were woven with Mother Maybelle and the Carter Family. I knew relatively little about the OG Carter Fam so this book was helpful in understanding their beginnings and I was fascinated with AP’s work collecting songs throughout the VA mountains as he traveled as a tree salesman. The authors did a wonderful job giving the reader a sense of the impact of the radio in the 1930s and so forth. I loved reading about the larger than life character of Doc Brinkley and his medical practice and radio station on the border. The anecdotes from contemporary country stars is welcomed because towards the end of the book their story spreads out and slows down (AP and Sara settle in their homes and mother Maybelle humbly plays the Opry and works a second job throughout the 1960s). This collection of accounts and interviews from superstars to grandchildren help to make AP, Eck,and Maybelle seem like down home country folk that would open their door to offer you milk and biscuits and talk about their music.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    Great book. Anyone interested in the history of American music ought to read it. A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter began making music together in the 1920s but their roots stretch back to the 1800s and their legacy is still felt in the 21st century. A year or so ago I visited the Carter Family Fold in the Clinch Mountains of Virginia. It was a fun trip but after reading this book I now want to go back.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shelly Mundy

    After reading CASH, The Autobiography(See December 2003 Journal Entry)and learning about the Carters through him, I had to have more. Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone is the first major biography of the Carter Family and their legacy as musical pioneers. Their musical style became the basis for what is country, folk, and bluegrass music today. A.P. Carter was a poor, eccentric mountain farmer from Poor Valley, Maces Springs, Virginia in the foothills of Clinch Mountain. He married Sara Dougherty, After reading CASH, The Autobiography(See December 2003 Journal Entry)and learning about the Carters through him, I had to have more. Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone is the first major biography of the Carter Family and their legacy as musical pioneers. Their musical style became the basis for what is country, folk, and bluegrass music today. A.P. Carter was a poor, eccentric mountain farmer from Poor Valley, Maces Springs, Virginia in the foothills of Clinch Mountain. He married Sara Dougherty, who was the cousin to the late famous Mother Maybelle Carter. Maybelle was the wife of A.P.'s cousin Eck Carter. A.P., Sara, and Maybelle started out playing for friends and neighbors in the early 1920's. Soon A.P. would travel about the mountain area collecting songs and writing songs of his own. In 1927, the three went to Tennessee to audition for a New York recording executive who was paying fifty dollars for any song recorded. Two of country music's first stars were produced from those sessions: Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family. By the 30s, the Carter Family was selling more than a million records and was appearing regularly on XERA, a high-powered radio station broadcasting from coast to coast. People all over the country would gather around their radios listening to this music that told their life stories. Here is the story of the Carter family as they were. Their trials and tribulations. Their down home lives, their sadnesses, the great scandal and divorce of Sara and A.P. The story of how A.P. died a lonely man on a mountain with a lot of land but very little recognition of what he had accomplished. The story of Sara's true love Coy Bays and how she ran off to live with him in California and left her children behind with A.P. in Virginia. The story of Maybelle, the sweet, talented, mother who eventually made her daughters, June, Helen, and Anita famous and traveled with the Johnny Cash show. Maybelle was idolized by many, many musicians and her guitar picking style is still copied today. Now, I have been listening to the old Carter Music. My husband can't stand it, he comes in a asks if we can listen to something else. I, on the other hand, get the chills from listening to Maybelle on guitar or autoharp, Sara's country voice, the songs from our past, or A.P.'s deep bass voice chiming in from time to time. Even if you don't like country music, you should read this book. It has a lot of history, American history and I learned a lot. Thanks Mark and Charles. You have researched, recorded and written an awesome story of a family that will live on in America's heart forever. To hear samples of the music please visit: http://www.un-broken.net/music/

  15. 5 out of 5

    Kurt

    I did enjoy this book quite a bit, even though I had some problems with the way it was written. The author throws in colloquialisms and writes in a self-consciously informal way that I found distracting. As though he is trying to write "country". I know a few times I had to pause in my reading to roll my eyes and if had just been written in a more straight forward way, I wouldn't have noticed it, nor would have detracted from the story in the least. Also, many times things are written where I wou I did enjoy this book quite a bit, even though I had some problems with the way it was written. The author throws in colloquialisms and writes in a self-consciously informal way that I found distracting. As though he is trying to write "country". I know a few times I had to pause in my reading to roll my eyes and if had just been written in a more straight forward way, I wouldn't have noticed it, nor would have detracted from the story in the least. Also, many times things are written where I would find myself questioning "how would you know this?" For example: "Charlie watched with a pang of recognition as the flatlands began to roll and climb and the scrubby chaparral and manzanita bushes gave way to a fragrant mix of pine. fir, and spruce. it reminded him of home." I am aware that when writing a biography it can be a useful device to write about things that might have been going through your subjects minds, but sometimes I also find it off-putting. These are really minor qualms though, as, overall, I found the book engaging, entertaining and interesting. The Carter family's very private lives are written about with depth and insight. Apparently, even though they were extremely successful and popular, they kept their personal lives to themselves, and didn't reveal much about themselves to the public. I recommend this book to people that want to know more about the heritage of our American music or to anyone that enjoys bringing the Carter family's historic music into greater focus.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    I was supposed to read this book in college for a History of Pop Music course. The course favored heavily on popular music no one really cared about like folk and country from the Depression through the 1950's and not music I actually consider to be popular which was a disappointment. I think we covered the 1970's-2000's in the last two weeks because the prof would not shut up about Hank Williams and the Carters. Needless to say this collected dust until about a week ago. Now the fact that they I was supposed to read this book in college for a History of Pop Music course. The course favored heavily on popular music no one really cared about like folk and country from the Depression through the 1950's and not music I actually consider to be popular which was a disappointment. I think we covered the 1970's-2000's in the last two weeks because the prof would not shut up about Hank Williams and the Carters. Needless to say this collected dust until about a week ago. Now the fact that they refer to it as hillbilly music and that there were competing hillbilly acts is hilarious to me and I just picture yokels having autoharp playoffs. BUT, the Carters are actually interesting, a very family first act that spans 4 generations. In the beginning it feels like they ripped off a bunch of songs and made them their own so they weren't entirely original, but they laid an important groundwork not just for country and fold, but for women performing. Plus, there's scandal and a couple of chapters on Johnny Cash. And there's a great deal of detail even though they weren't specifically candid about their lives.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mimi

    This book about the Carter family gives great insight into one of First Families of American music. A.P. figured out how to make this recording business into a vehicle to feed his family, seeing as farming, mining and most other ways of making living in Appalachia did not. But of course, it is not a simple tale. A.P. is a wanderer and finds many a tune as he visits different rural communities, but he loves the wandering more than the home life he had with Sara. Sara wants more than anything to s This book about the Carter family gives great insight into one of First Families of American music. A.P. figured out how to make this recording business into a vehicle to feed his family, seeing as farming, mining and most other ways of making living in Appalachia did not. But of course, it is not a simple tale. A.P. is a wanderer and finds many a tune as he visits different rural communities, but he loves the wandering more than the home life he had with Sara. Sara wants more than anything to stay home and not be a musician at the beck and call of the early recording execs. A.P.'s sister in law,Maybelle Carter, becomes part of this group and it's her talent that really gives the oomph to the music. From these folks come a great many talented musicians, including June Carter (Cash) and Rosanne Cash. It is just a fascinating read, to see A.P's struggles for success, then to see the family work so hard to keep what they have. If you have any interest in country music or as we call it now, American roots music, you'll find this book riveting.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joanie Chevalier

    The Carter family (originally A.P., Sara & Maybelle) lived a hard life in Poor Valley, Virginia, in the foothills of Clinch Mountain. Music in the 1920s & 30s came from ancestorial lines and by sheet music handed out or sold after a music gathering. In the mid-1930s, the Carters were approached to do a record and it was amazing to me to learn that they performed twenty 20 songs in one day. People from all over loved their music, because they lived like all of rural America and they made "hillbil The Carter family (originally A.P., Sara & Maybelle) lived a hard life in Poor Valley, Virginia, in the foothills of Clinch Mountain. Music in the 1920s & 30s came from ancestorial lines and by sheet music handed out or sold after a music gathering. In the mid-1930s, the Carters were approached to do a record and it was amazing to me to learn that they performed twenty 20 songs in one day. People from all over loved their music, because they lived like all of rural America and they made "hillbilly music." I was introduced to the Carter family music when I was turned on to bluegrass. Their lyrics tell stories of the hard life. The melodies are engaging. Their music influenced many up and coming stars of that time like Chet Adkins, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and of course, Johnny Cash, who later married Maybelle's daughter, June Carter. If you love country/bluegrass/gospel music, you'll love this biography of the Carter family. I recommend it for all music lovers.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ira friedman

    The Carter Family are one of those groups I have much respect for but hardly listen to. I love many of the songs they brought to our attention but must admit that the warbly recordings and dented voices in those recordings never did it for me. Nonetheless there innovation, craft, and blood permiates much of the music I enjoy listening to so me pulling Will You Miss Me off the shelf and reading it right away was never in doubt. While the book is not at the top of literary biographies it gets the j The Carter Family are one of those groups I have much respect for but hardly listen to. I love many of the songs they brought to our attention but must admit that the warbly recordings and dented voices in those recordings never did it for me. Nonetheless there innovation, craft, and blood permiates much of the music I enjoy listening to so me pulling Will You Miss Me off the shelf and reading it right away was never in doubt. While the book is not at the top of literary biographies it gets the job done and thanks in part to its compelling subject matter and the characters this story about the first family of country music is a must for students of american history and fans of music. There's a heck of a lot of Carters and sometimes it can get pretty confusing but story is worth knowing.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Wow, the Carter Family deserves the best treatment, and this is it. This book has something for everyone. It's as authoritative and as relaxed as a country yarn, full of larger than life characters from the kin in Maces Springs to Nashville's country stars. On top of which the musical analysis enriches the story, rather than boring the casual reader. (How A.P. collected and copyrighted traditional songs, the way Maybelle developed her influential guitar playing.) I was fascinated by the chapters Wow, the Carter Family deserves the best treatment, and this is it. This book has something for everyone. It's as authoritative and as relaxed as a country yarn, full of larger than life characters from the kin in Maces Springs to Nashville's country stars. On top of which the musical analysis enriches the story, rather than boring the casual reader. (How A.P. collected and copyrighted traditional songs, the way Maybelle developed her influential guitar playing.) I was fascinated by the chapters in musical history that have been overlooked by even fans of the Carter family - their years on border radio, touring with Chet Atkins, how the original family continued their legacy in later years. Plus no shortage of juicy details - Anita was pursued by both Elvis and Hank Williams (shots were fired!) Johnny Cash's mother baked Scripture cakes (every ingrediant from the bible)!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sharon

    What a touching, beautifully written tribute to the legacy of the Carter family, and to a bygone era. I had the privilege to meet June Carter Cash, in the few years before her death, at the church pastored by Johnny's brother-in-law and sister. She seemed to be such a sweet, down to earth lady, made you feel as though she could be your neighbor. From what I heard from others in the music business there, all the Carters were the same way. All that aside, this was a touching book which seemed to be What a touching, beautifully written tribute to the legacy of the Carter family, and to a bygone era. I had the privilege to meet June Carter Cash, in the few years before her death, at the church pastored by Johnny's brother-in-law and sister. She seemed to be such a sweet, down to earth lady, made you feel as though she could be your neighbor. From what I heard from others in the music business there, all the Carters were the same way. All that aside, this was a touching book which seemed to be well researched and was well written. He didn't sugarcoat any of the people, just portrayed them for what they were. That and the non-stereotypical description of mountain communities, and of the United States, growing and changing through the 20th century, with the monumental service A.P. and the others did for the preservation of music birthed before recordings, make this a wonderfully read.

  22. 5 out of 5

    jenn

    More like 3.5, but edging toward 4. This book had some boring moments, especially at the beginning, when discussion of Carter relatives that had nothing to do with recording music seemed to dominate. But, then, I read this book primarily to get the dirt on A.P. and Sarah's divorce, Hank Williams, Elvis, and, of course, Johnny Cash, all of who showed up in the second half of the book, and provided lots of gossipy fun. On a less salacious note, my admiration for Maybelle Carter is now officially b More like 3.5, but edging toward 4. This book had some boring moments, especially at the beginning, when discussion of Carter relatives that had nothing to do with recording music seemed to dominate. But, then, I read this book primarily to get the dirt on A.P. and Sarah's divorce, Hank Williams, Elvis, and, of course, Johnny Cash, all of who showed up in the second half of the book, and provided lots of gossipy fun. On a less salacious note, my admiration for Maybelle Carter is now officially bottomless. After reading about her funeral, I can probably never listen to "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" without a box of tissues again. And Sarah begs to be novelized.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eddie Mcgehee

    I just finished “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone: the Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music” by Mark Zwonitzer. It’s my favorite book in a long time. To my mind it is the best book I’ve read on, not just music, but on the people and culture of Appalachia. My birth family is from that region and he handles it with deep respect and reverence without becoming an apologist. Now I’m reading two more music books: “Jimmie Rodgers” by Nolan Porterfield “Long Steel Rail: the Railroad in AmericanFol I just finished “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone: the Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music” by Mark Zwonitzer. It’s my favorite book in a long time. To my mind it is the best book I’ve read on, not just music, but on the people and culture of Appalachia. My birth family is from that region and he handles it with deep respect and reverence without becoming an apologist. Now I’m reading two more music books: “Jimmie Rodgers” by Nolan Porterfield “Long Steel Rail: the Railroad in AmericanFolksong” by Norm Cohen Haven’t finished either but am enjoying both.

  24. 4 out of 5

    molly Matthews

    An absolute must-read for anyone interested in the Carter Family and the history of American music. This book was both historically informative and incredibly interesting to read. This book made my husband cry.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Greear

    This book spoke to me on so many different levels. My grandmother just passed away, and I luckily received many of the books that she and my grandfather owned. They were both born in the early 30s, and grew up listening to the original Carter Family on the radio. I am from the same area as the Carter Family and as a kid, I can remember going to the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, VA and flat-footing, probably badly, to bluegrass music. This book was also masterfully written and very enjoyable, gi This book spoke to me on so many different levels. My grandmother just passed away, and I luckily received many of the books that she and my grandfather owned. They were both born in the early 30s, and grew up listening to the original Carter Family on the radio. I am from the same area as the Carter Family and as a kid, I can remember going to the Carter Family Fold in Hiltons, VA and flat-footing, probably badly, to bluegrass music. This book was also masterfully written and very enjoyable, giving cradle-to-grave biographies on each of the original members, Sara, A.P., and Maybelle. If you are a fan of country music, you should look to the Carter Family, as they, along with Jimmie Rodgers, were the first country artists to be recorded and obtain national fame in 1927. The recordings took place in Bristol, Va/Tn (the town's main street is the state line with the north being Virginia and the south being Tennessee) and they became celebrities almost over night. If you have ever heard the songs "Keep on the Sunny Side", "You are my sunshine", or "Wildwood Flower", then you have heard a Carter Family song. I don't like to get into the details of the book, as I don't want to give everything away. But here some interesting notes I took: -The Carter Family first performed for money near Charlottesville, Virginia after their car broke down and they needed to fix it. -Maybelle was eight months pregnant when the Bristol Sessions took place and Sara was breastfeeding. -Maybelle invented a particular style of guitar play, called "the Carter strut". -A.P. travelled through the hollers and hills of the Appalachian region, collecting many songs from many groups of people. He would collect an untold number of songs and the family would record hundreds. The songs were diverse, many were hymns, music from African-Americans, or songs that had been passed down from generation to generation orally, dating back to the British Isles. -One particular song, "Wayfaring Stranger", has been redone many times, including most recently in "1917". -The Carters had many connections to other celebrities. Most famously, Maybelle's daughter June married Johnny Cash. The family also knew and/or performed with Hank Williams, Elvis, The Nitty Gritty Band, Robert Duvall, James Dean, and many more. -Maybelle and June helped cure Johnny Cash of his drug addiction. -Johnny Cash's last performance before he died (and after June had passed away), was at the Carter Family Fold. -Johnny and June's son John Carter Cash, along with his cousin (the grandson of A.P. and Sara), Dale Jett, have restarted the Carter Family, called the Carter III. Today, the Carter Family's effects are still felt. They helped jump start country music, and many future country artists listened to them and loved their music. In Bristol, there is not only a historical marker but now a Smithsonian affiliated museum called The Birthplace of Country Music Museum. In nearby Maces Spring, one can visit the houses of the Carters and the Carter Family Fold, which performs live folk/bluegrass music every Saturday night. Nearby on the slopes of Clinch Mountain, sits Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, where one can find the graves of A.P. and Sara Carter and on each of their headstones "Keep On The Sunny Side".

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lee

    I have had this book for several years, started it but never finished it until now. I was motivated to finish it by the Ken Burn's PBS documentary on Country Music. The book is a treasure. Gives good insight into the lives of Sarah, Maybell and AP Carter and their lasting impact on American music. I was especially interested in the latter career of Maybell because I have always considered the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" to be one of the classic albums of the last half I have had this book for several years, started it but never finished it until now. I was motivated to finish it by the Ken Burn's PBS documentary on Country Music. The book is a treasure. Gives good insight into the lives of Sarah, Maybell and AP Carter and their lasting impact on American music. I was especially interested in the latter career of Maybell because I have always considered the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" to be one of the classic albums of the last half of the 20th century. The high esteem that John McMuen and others in the band had for her echos throughout the last quarter of the book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lillian

    A rather interesting insight into the first family of country music royalty. Besides a biography of A.P., Sara, and Mother Maybelle Carter and their kin, their is also a history of the early days of radio and music recording and of a very successful con man named "Doctor" John Romulus Brinkley who used radio airwaves to advertise his phony treatments. This is definitely worth reading if you are a fan of country music, or are just curious about the Carter family prior to the movie "Walk the Line."

  28. 4 out of 5

    Randy Crouse

    A well researched, and well written, history of a pioneer family in american Roots music. Being from the neighboring county, I know this music, play it myself and grew up with it. The Carters are an American treasure who gave us timeless standards such as "You Are My Sunshine" and "Wildwood Flower" and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken", which I learned before I even knew they were Carter Family standards.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Gini

    I loved this book, even going so far as to say it the best I've read so far this year. It took me a little to get into, as the author drew together the separate family threads, but it was worth it. Through the miracle of the internet, I would would hop on YouTube when a song was mentioned and be able to listen to the original recording while reading. This book gives a picture of a profoundly good, but also ordinary family.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Aaron W. Roberts

    This was almost too much of a good thing. Written with an amazing attention to detail, the book covers everything about the Carter family and anyone who ever crossed their paths (and I mean everyone!). All told, it is an astounding piece of non-fiction, but a tad too long.

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