Before Elvis hit town, back before country music was synonymous with Nashville, a small group of intrepid entrepreneurs - local businessmen looking to make a buck and have some fun - were recording and selling all the local music they could find. From dance bands to gospel, from rhythm & blues to, yes, country music, these men inadvertently documented a wealth of local music as they struggled to run successful recording studios. Hawkins goes beyond the music to tell the stories of the behind-the-scenes folks responsible for turning Nashville into Music City USA. From Jim Bulleit, who was there at the very beginnings of the music industry, to Bill Beasley, who took on the emerging Music Row 'establishment' and lost, Hawkins guides us through the careers of the folks who defined Nashville's music scene for an exciting, unpredictable decade and traces the rise and fall of local music labels like Bullet, World, Tennessee, Republic, and Speed.
Though the focus of the book is on the recording companies, studios, DJs, and other music promoters, it also underlines the importance of some of the giants of Nashville music - like Francis Craig, who recorded an international hit by accident, Owen Bradley, who had a hand in many early labels, Del Wood, the surprise star of honky tonk piano, the fabulous blues singer Christine Kittrell, the underrated R&B bandleader Louis Brooks, the ubiquitous gospel promoter Wally Fowler, the long-established Fairfield Four, and Randy Hughes, the king of the rude country song. This book builds off and develops more fully the research Hawkins did for the critically acclaimed Bear Family Records box collections of Nashville recordings during this same time. Full of lush photographs, many being published here for the first time, and accompanied by a twenty-song CD highlighting the wide range of music being made in Nashville at the time, the book immerses readers in the sights, sounds, and stories of this vibrant and influential decade in Nashville music making.