Thursday, July 07, 2016

A Road Tour of Amercican Song Titles

A Road Tour of American Song Titles by Karl du Fresne
Bateman, RRP $39.99
Publication 15 July

Explore the rich musical history behind the classic American songs of the 50s, 60s and 70s on this road tour of song titles.

Like most New Zealand kids in the 1960s, Karl du Fresne grew up listening to songs about American towns and cities such as Kansas City, El Paso, New Orleans, Detroit and Tulsa. He found himself wondering what sort of places they were and what had motivated pop composers such as Jimmy Webb, Hal David, Neil Sedaka and Chuck Berry to write about them. A career journalist, former musician and keen amateur musicologist, he eventually decided to find out for himself. Thus was launched a serial pilgrimage that took him on three American road trips that covered thousands of miles and took him to 24 towns and cities, from Abilene to Wichita and Memphis to Mendocino.

Each chapter in his book is devoted to a specific hit song and the town that inspired it. Karl combines information about the songs – who wrote them (and why), who recorded them, how well they did on the pop charts – with astute observations on US history and culture. He explores the rich musical connections of cities such as New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville and Detroit and describes detours to out-of-the-way places such as the gospel church in the Louisiana Delta where a young Jerry Lee Lewis performed for the first time, the Tallahatchie bridge made famous in Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode to Billie Joe’ and the lonely Mississippi graveyard where the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson lies buried under a pecan tree.

This book is a celebration of the pop music that provided a background soundtrack for so many New Zealanders of the author’s generation. A wonderful idea Karl, I so enjoyed your book.
About the Author:
KARL DU FRESNE grew up in Hawke’s Bay listening to the Lever Brothers Hit Parade and the Sunday request session on Station 2ZC. He bought his first long-playing record (‘Crying’, by Roy Orbison) with his earnings from a paper round and was taught guitar by New Zealand country music legend Rex Franklin.
Music aside, he has spent his working life in newspaper and magazine journalism as a feature writer, columnist and editorial executive. He is a former editor of Wellington’s Dominion and wrote that paper’s official centennial history in 2007. His other publications include The New Zealand Wine-Lover’s Companion and The Right to Know: News Media Freedom in New Zealand, for the Newspaper Publishers’ Association. Karl lives in Masterton with his wife Jolanta, who is also his travelling companion.

No comments: