The best books at the crossroads of music, culture, history, and place

Why am I passionate about this?

An academically trained historian, I'm a Music Obsessive/History Geek/Southerner/Guitarist/Public Historian/Teacher/Interpreter/Writer/Fan who studies the intersection of music, culture, history, and place. I grew up devouring Mom’s Beatles and Dad’s country records. My life changed in 6th grade when I got my first guitar and discovered the blues. In 7th grade I wrote a research paper on the hippies. That’s when I fell in love with the counterculture. Throughout my life I’ve interwoven my love of the blues, punk rock, the Allman Brothers Band, and the Jam Depression collective as a historian, fan, and musician. My enduring passion culminated in a Ph.D. and the publication of Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East. 


I wrote...

Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East

By Bob Beatty,

Book cover of Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East

What is my book about?

The origin story of a groundbreaking album. The 1971 album At Fillmore East was a musical manifesto years in the making. In Play All Night! Duane Allman and the Journey to Fillmore East I dive into the motivations and musical background of the founder of the Allman Brothers Band to tell the story of what made this album not just a smash hit, but one of the most important albums in history.

Play All Night explores how At Fillmore East cemented Duane’s legacy as a strong-willed, self-taught visionary, giving fans of Southern rock and all readers interested in the role of rock music in American popular culture a new appreciation for this pathbreaking album and a band that endured 43-years after his death. 

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Please Be with Me: A Song for My Father, Duane Allman

Bob Beatty Why did I love this book?

I dearly love this book by the daughter of Duane and Donna Allman, my favorite on the Allman Brothers Band. Part biography and part memoir, it’s heartfelt story of Galadrielle Allman’s quest to get to know her famous father as a human being and artist.

Through the lives of Donna and Linda Oakley, the two young widows at the center of the story, it is also one of the very few music history books that addresses rock & roll’s impact on families. Throughout the book, Allman connects with a father she never knew through her relationships with those who did—an extended family network that carried and shared Duane’s memory.

Her conclusion that Duane’s story was a love affair with the guitar helped me frame my own understanding of Duane’s artistry as I began writing my book.

Crossroads: Postwar American South, American youth culture, counterculture

By Galadrielle Allman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Please Be with Me as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A deeply personal, revealing, and lyrical portrait of Duane Allman, founder of the legendary Allman Brothers Band, written by his daughter
 
“Duane Allman was my big brother, my partner, my best friend. I thought I knew everything there was to know about him, but Galadrielle’s deep and insightful book came as a revelation to me, as it will to everyone who reads it.”—Gregg Allman

In 1969, Duane Allman had a vision for a band with two drummers, two guitarists, and a bass player, anchored by his brother’s soulful lead vocals—and the Allman Brothers Band was born. Their fiery, mesmerizing performances…


Book cover of Just My Soul Responding: Rhythm and Blues, Black Consciousness, and Race Relations

Bob Beatty Why did I love this book?

I’ve spent a lot of time with this remarkable book over the years.

I suppose my greatest takeaway is the way Ward explores music’s meaning from a variety of angles and intersections: musical, economic, legal, racial, gender, class, and generational.

The airwaves could not be segregated; music gave insight into the Black freedom struggle and a shared sense of humanity that helped topple Jim Crow barriers nationwide. I particularly appreciate how Ward unpacks the ways Black audiences shaped the sounds of the era. Black music reflected an optimism and an assertion of racial pride, and you’ll find the modern Civil Rights Movement at the heart of his book.

Crossroads: African American freedom struggle, Postwar America, the South

By Brian Ward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Just My Soul Responding as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brian Ward is Lecturer in American History at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne .; This book is intended for american studies, American history postwar social and cultural history, political history, Black history, Race and Ethnic studies and Cultural studies together with the general trade music.


Book cover of Deep Blues: A Musical and Cultural History of the Mississippi Delta

Bob Beatty Why did I love this book?

The blues grabbed me somewhere between getting my first guitar and Dad’s scratchy copy of B.B. King’s Live at Cook County Jail.

I simply had to learn more about this wonderful, mysterious music! Deep Blues delivered and it’s remained important to me since first encountering it at the local library. Palmer placed the blues of Muddy Waters in context for me. I learned blues was “a continuation of deep and tenacious African traditions and a creative response to a brutal, desperate situation.”

Tracing the music’s roots in African griot culture, Palmer documents its wider, international cultural connotations in the 20th century. Ultimately, he finds blues at the root of the truest American musical forms: jazz. A bonus: Palmer’s time as a musician on the southern chitlin’ circuit gives him instant credibility with his interviewees and his audience.

Crossroads: African American history, Southern history, the Great Migration 

By Robert Palmer,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Deep Blues as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Blues is the cornerstone of American popular music, the bedrock of rock and roll. In this extraordinary musical and social history, Robert Palmer traces the odyssey of the blues from its rural beginnings, to the steamy bars of Chicago's South Side, to international popularity, recognition, and imitation. Palmer tells the story of the blues through the lives of its greatest practitioners: Robert Johnson, who sang of being pursued by the hounds of hell; Muddy Waters, who electrified Delta blues and gave the music its rock beat; Robert Lockwood and Sonny Boy Williamson, who launched the King Biscuit Time radio show…


Book cover of Flowers in the Dustbin: The Rise of Rock and Roll, 1947-1977

Bob Beatty Why did I love this book?

Flowers in the Dustbin uses an approach I dearly love: the vignette. Miller deftly selects stories that tie together a larger narrative of “where rock & roll came from—and what it came to do.” 

The book begins with the birth of rhythm & blues through one of its earliest stars, Wynonie Harris. Subsequent stories in chapter one weave together the impacts of technology, the Great Migration, racial dynamics, a booming economy, and an emerging youth culture. It culminates in Elvis’s earliest recordings, the so-called birth of rock & roll. All in the first chapter!

In the story that follows, Miller demonstrates why rock & roll emerged and how it reflected and shaped the social, cultural, and political landscape.

Crossroads: Race, Postwar America, Youth culture

By James Miller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Flowers in the Dustbin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A prizewinning historian and journalist who has covered the pop music scene for more than three decades, James Miller brings a powerful and challenging intellectual perspective to his recounting of some key turning points in the history of rock. Arguing that the music underwent its full creative evolution in little more than twenty-five years, he traces its roots from the jump blues of the forties to the disc jockeys who broadcast the music in the early fifties. He shows how impresarios such as Alan Freed and movie directors such as Richard Brooks (of Blackboard Jungle) joined black music to white…


Book cover of No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead

Bob Beatty Why did I love this book?

Since their 1965 founding, the Grateful Dead have been one of the counterculture’s most enduring institutions.

No Simple Highway answers why, placing the band in the context of its times through three utopian ideals central to the band and its fans: Ecstasy (not just drugs, but an “urge to transcend”), Mobility, and Community. The band, Richardson argues, is “the American experiment in action.”

You’ll learn how the band wove multiple strands of American music with literature, folklore, the counterculture, and the visual arts into a truly unique musical tapestry whose express purpose was as part of a live music experience.

This music-as-participation dynamic meant the audience was as important to the Dead as the music they played. This book had a major impact on how I approached the band/audience story for my own Allman Brothers research. 

Crossroads: Postwar America, youth counterculture, audience, San Francisco

By Peter Richardson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Simple Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

For almost three decades, the Grateful Dead was America's most popular touring band. No Simple Highway is the first book to ask the simple question of why―and attempt to answer it. Drawing on new research, interviews, and a fresh supply of material from the Grateful Dead archives, author Peter Richardson vividly recounts the Dead's colorful history, adding new insight into everything from the Acid Tests to the band's formation of their own record label to their massive late career success, while probing the riddle of the Dead's vast and durable appeal.

Arguing that the band successfully tapped three powerful utopian…


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By Jan Sikes,

Book cover of A Beggar's Bargain

Jan Sikes Author Of The Edge of Too Late

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Avid reader Lover of Music Astral Traveler Tarot Reader Grandmother

Jan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Historical Fiction Post WW2.

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What is this book about?

A shocking proposal that changes everything.

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Once the Army discharges him following World War II, Layken returns to Missouri to find his legacy in shambles and in jeopardy. A foreclosure notice from the bank doubles the threat. He appeals to the local banker for more time-a chance to rebuild, plant, and harvest crops and time to heal far away from the noise of bombs and gunfire.

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Interested in rock music, popular music, and the blues?

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