While on a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard, journalist and novelist Paul Hemphill wrote of that pivotal moment in the late sixties when traditional defenders of the hillbilly roots of country music were confronted by the new influences and business realities of pop music. The demimonde of the traditional Nashville venues (Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Robert’s Western World, and the Ryman Auditorium) and first-wave artists (Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, and Lefty Frizzell) are shown coming into first contact, if not conflict, with a new wave of pop-influenced and business savvy country performers (Jeannie C. “Harper Valley PTA” Riley, Johnny Ryles, and Glen Campbell) and rock performers (Bob Dylan, Gram Parsons, the Byrds, and the Grateful Dead) as they took the form well beyond Music City. Originally published in 1970, The Nashville Sound shows the resulting identity crisis as a fascinating, even poignant, moment in country music and entertainment history.
The best book ever written about country music.
A first-rate book . . . that reads as smoothly and sparklingly as a bluegrass breakdown.
—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, New York Times
All these years later, the Prologue [‘Friday Night at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge’] reads as though it happened last night.
—Country Music magazine
A rich, raw slice of American life.
—Los Angeles Times
It’s the first ‘real’ book written about our music. The people, the songs, the places, all come to life in these pages.
—Bill Anderson, singer, songwriter, and Grand Ole Opry star
To say Hemphill is writing about country music is like saying Hemingway wrote about boxers and fisherman. What Hemphill writes about is America, and he has done it here with the incisive feel and the fine sure language and that very special knack of keeping his subject alive in print that so many of us strive for but so few of us achieve. A damned fine reading experience.
—Joe McGinnis, Life magazine
Anyone ever exposed to country music—which means nearly everyone—will go for the book the way Uncle Joe goes for bacon and grits.
A marvelously honest look at music that deals with what people—real, live truck-driving, factory-working, beer-drinking people—feel about life.
From the first words of its preface—spent submerged in the smoky haze of Tootsie’s on a rowdy Friday night thick with booze and the kinds of aspirations that Music City can both foster and crush—The Nashville Sound is nothing short of captivating and essential to understanding the genre, whatever its boundaries may have been, or will be."
—Steve Haruch, Chapter 16