Archive for October, 2014

Book Review: Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone

October 3, 2014 Leave a comment

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? by Mark Zwonitzer is not just the story of the Original Carter Family or the Carter Sisters and Mother Maybelle. It’s the story of bluegrass and hillbilly music, of the Great Depression and before, of how country music was shaped and influenced by three seemingly inconsequential people from Maces Spring, VA. They could have just been country musicians who never left Poor Valley, but instead they chose to spread their music far and wide and ended up influencing so many people from Chet Atkins to Hank Williams to obviously Johnny Cash.

Before reading this book, I didn’t know much about the history of country music. For me, it was just something that had always been around for me and my dad to listen to as we drove along. On one of our many road trips, we drove down to Bristol, VA and actually went to The Carter Family Fold to listen to the music that still gets played there. My dad had read about the Carter family, but I had pretty much zero frame of reference for the performance; the only thing that really stuck with me is that Johnny Cash had married into the family and who doesn’t like Johnny Cash?

For Christmas that year, he gave me a copy of Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? with the express instructions that I give it to him so he could read it when I was finished. I want to say that this happened within the past five years, but now that I think about it…um…I’m not 100% sure of that. It’s not that I didn’t want to read it, but that I have so many unread books that…

No, let’s not make excuses. I didn’t read it because it takes a very special nonfiction book to get me interested. Even after I started this one, it still took me over six months to get through 397 pages. It’s not that it wasn’t interesting, but I found myself reading a chapter and then, once that chapter was done, not reading another chapter for days at a time (it probably also didn’t help that I read the first book of The Stormlight Archive somewhere in there).

I’m glad I did read it, though. I feel better for it, even though I spent the whole book waiting to see where Johnny Cash shows up and he ends up appearing somewhere in the last three chapters. There’s so much history out there in the things we take for granted. It’s amazing how far country and bluegrass have gone. It went from this to this to this in just under 100 years.

And now I’ve got to get this book into the mail to my dad.