Monday, November 10, 2003

True Adventures with the King of Bluegrass, by Tom Piazza, with a foreword by Marty Stuart

Jimmy Martin has been recording bluegrass for more than fifty years, but if you're not a bluegrass afficionado, you might never have heard of him. He started out playing with "The Father of Bluegrass" Bill Monroe, is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and the International Bluegrass Music Association's Hall of Honor, and has written some of the greatest bluegrass songs in history. But Martin's holy grail, an invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry, eludes him still. A mystifying fact, until you read this book (or see the recent documentary about Martin, King of Bluegrass, the Life and Times of Jimmy Martin). Martin's music is often wistful and romantic--aside from a peculiar fixation on huntin' dogs--but the flip side of that appears to be alcoholism and low-grade paranoia. What emerges in Piazza's account of a day and night spent with Martin, at his house and on a visit to the sacred Opry, is a man whose resentment at having been snubbed for so long has fed into his disruptive and confrontational tendencies, thus causing him to alienate the very folks who could make it happen for him. Martin's story, even in this brief book, is rollicking, hilarious, and sad all at the same time. Buy one of his records first, and then buy the book.


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