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Unsung Heroes Of Rock 'n' Roll: The Birth Of Rock In The Wild Years Before Elvis [Paperback]

Nick Tosches
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
RRP: 9.99
Price: 9.75 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

7 May 1999
Long before Elvis Presley entered Sam Phillips's Sun Records studio in 1954, rock 'n' roll was being performed and recorded by the likes of Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan, Wynonie Harris, the Clovers, the Dominoes, the Midnighters, Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Wanda Jackson, and Johnny Ace. More than just a series of shrewd and evocative portraits of these and sixteen other performers, this book is also a paean to a forsaken time of relentless excess, sudden ruin, and fierce music. For this edition, the author has contributed a new listing of recent CD reissues. From 1945 to 1955, from Chinese hillbillies to Elvis's long-lost twin brother, here are the Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll.

Frequently Bought Together

Unsung Heroes Of Rock 'n' Roll: The Birth Of Rock In The Wild Years Before Elvis + Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story (Penguin Magnum Collection) + Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll
Price For All Three: 32.69

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Product details

  • Paperback: 294 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st Da Capo Press Ed edition (7 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306808919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306808913
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 13.7 x 1.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,395 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Nick Tosches was born (1949) in Newark, New Jersey, and raised by wolves from the other side. Through nepotism he became a barroom porter at the age of fourteen. Casting this career to the wind in his quest for creative fulfillment, he became a paste-up artist for the Lovable Underwear Company in New York City. On January 12, 1972, he went to lunch and never came back, drifting south to Florida, where, among other things, he worked as a snake-hunter for the Miami Serpentarium. After being bit on the shin one morning, he decided to forsake all further employment, and thus became a writer of poetry and prose.

Critical Acclaim for Nick Tosches:

"...'In the Hand of Dante can be classified as a work of mystery or crime, but the paths to and from its core mystery are far from predictable...'..." - Ian Penman, Guardian Unlimited

"...[Tosches] combines the starkness of Jim Thompson and the grittiness of Charles Bukowski with a highly literate sensibility...Mr. Tosches's powerful writing is often beautiful...." - Wall Street Journal

"...Few writers would even think of this kind of book, much less attempt to write it. And somehow, the sheer audaciousness of Tosches' writing not only blasts through our resistance to suspend disbelief but it also makes most other fiction seem phony by comparison...Tosches is ready to take his place at the front of the class in contemporary American literature...an inspired piece of fiction...." - San Francisco Chronicle

"...A splendid, passionate mess, with a moral fervor far exceeding most novels of better grooming...." - Will Blythe, New York Times

Product Description

About the Author

Nick Tosches is the author of Hellfire, Unsung Heroes of Rock 'n' Roll, Power on Earth, Cut Numbers, Dino, and Trinities.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The nitty-gritty 18 Feb 2009
Format:Paperback
In fact, I don't know anything about the author of this book, and so far it's the only book of his I've read. I guess he should be well-known, even famous in the wider world, because this book certainly would contribute to such a standing. Oh what an enjoyable read, and packed with lots of truly interesting bits and pieces about the second-file of (mostly black) musicians in the 50s and 60s! It was time that someone, again, spoke out for the pre- and siderunners of rock & roll whose memory today has faded (but whose music, though unknown to most, has not). Every chapter a little gem ... I very much loved the author's way of putting things since he never misses a point and in his language masterly uses all registers, from slutty to stylish. And he always tries to do justice to everyone without losing wider perspectives. In the end, therefore, it is also a book that movingly portrays facets of the human existence, nothing less. But don't go on reading this, rather get yourself a copy of Tosches's wonderful verbal r&b-soul-circuit and get down to the nitty-gritty! You won't regret it.

POSTSCRIPT Sept 2010: In the meantime I read some other books by Tosches, viz. his biography of Jerry Lee Lewis and his book on country music and the roots of rock 'n' roll. Both are superb, too, and make for a very good read. And I have to admit, to my greatest shame, that Tosches is indeed rather well-known in the US, particularly among the aficionados of 50s and 60s music. Well, justly so. Unfortunately, literary fame in the US does not always reach Old Europe, or not me in any case, but I am learning.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  12 reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative, hysterically funny, a great read 9 Feb 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This may be, quite simply, the best non-fiction book on music. I agree with his main point -- in rock and roll, there is nothing new under the sun; everything truly innovative was done by someone over half a century ago (and there's a good chance they were drunk at the time). What Tosches does is tell these stories is a way that will have you laughing out loud and running to the CD store to pick up as much of this music as you can find.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Rosetta Stone of Early Rock and Roll 26 April 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The best book about the history of Rock and Roll I have ever come across. My goal is to find and hear musis by each of the artists featured in the book, including Ming & Ling, the Chinese Hillbillies, bless their inscrutable souls. The opening paragraphs in the chapter on Big Joe Turner are worth the price of admission itself.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rock 'n' Roll is dead 16 Aug 2010
By James D. Morrow - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
When I hear people talking about rock 'n' roll, and mentioning names like Pink Floyd, Nirvana, Talking Heads, or some other group that have little to do with the form, I want to put this book in their hands and let them get a little education on the subject. Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of the groups and artists they're talking about, I just don't think of it as rock 'n' roll, any more than I think Blood, Sweat & Tears or Chicago are jazz, or ELO is classical. Real rock 'n' roll didn't last very long before it was co-opted as a mainly white, teenage culture phenomenon. Again, there's been great music made since then, lots of it very close in spirit to the music that gave birth to the term. But the sense of danger, of making music that actually frightened the powers that be, and that did so not as some sort of poorly formed political statement, but simply because it was a true and unfiltered emanation of the spirit, had already dried up by the supposed heyday of rock 'n' roll.
By the sixties, it was marketed like cars or clothes, with little attention to anything approaching artistry. No matter, when artistry became the new marketing scheme, the music simply followed along and became deadly serious, unable, for the most part, to do little more than parrot previously agreed upon social and cultural bromides dressed up as serious art, revolution, deep thought, or whatever. Sure, lots of the music was stunningly good, the bands looked cool, the booze and drugs and sex flowed, but rock 'n' roll was fifteen years in the grave.
The dawn of a new movement, especially in music, is where the real fireworks are. Anything that has been attributed to rock 'n' roll (you know-Elvis, Jerry Lee, Chuck, the Beatles) had its beginnings ten years before that. As badly as we treat the legends of that time, it's nothing compared to the complete ignorance afforded those who actually invented the forms, and did the leg work. They came from all corners of the country, they were young and not so young, black, white, and tan, male and female, but they created rock 'n' roll, and because they were so diverse a group, the music was able to shoot off in just about any direction you can think of.
Nick Tosches has done a great service by writing about 25 or 30 of these trailblazers in such a way that you just have to go out and get yourself some. My collection increased by about 10 or 12 albums after I read this. Some of it was familiar to me, but if I'd only discovered Merrill Moore or the Treniers, it would have been worth the time and the money. Honestly, most people aren't going to care, and that's expected, but if you really want to know, and really want to hear, then you might just want to pick up this book. It's enlightening, funny, and a quick read to boot. Git it.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspired tales of early rockers 26 Feb 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Tosches captures the energy of a nascent musical form with wit and no small amount of fury. The Merman chapter alone is worth the price of admission, opening new avenues of appreciation. Seek this one out.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best! 13 Oct 2006
By Edward Rothstein - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Nicky kicks *ss with this one. Simply the best book about early rock and roll and who influenced the music we love. Lots of great stories about people you've never heard of. This book will make you go out and buy cds from Europe where much of the artist's music is available in public domain. Or maybe you'll be searching on Amazon. Either way, you'll love it! A great read from a great writer.
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