The best books roots of social change through popular music

Franz Douskey Author Of Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years
By Franz Douskey

Who am I?

More has been accomplished by music to wake us up that any marches, speeches, injustice, and/or wealth. In the beginning, music and its many forms I followed were an accident. Now I see that music is vital for social expression, intimacy, solitude. The walls in my writing room are covered with photos, CDs, 78s, and most certainly live recordings and books. I feel sorry for the soul(s) who will have to pick through this history when I’ve gone to that Upper Room.


I wrote...

Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years

By Franz Douskey,

Book cover of Sinatra and Me: The Very Good Years

What is my book about?

Tony Consiglio started the famous Sally’s Apizza Restaurant in 1938, made famous by Frank Sinatra, Tommy Dorsey, Johnny Mathis, Sammy Davis, Lyle Lovett, Andre Agassi.  In 1940, Tony and Frank Sinatra hit the road together, very close friends until Frank passed away. Tony was right there.  The stories come directly from Tony, who was Constantly by Frank’s side, on the road, in night clubs, all night gatherings that included Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, Gene Kelly, Joe DiMaggio, Pierre Salinger, Buddy Rich, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, and these parties usually lasted beyond sunrise.  Tony poured the drinks. He never touched alcohol, but Tony said that he used to get stoned on the fumes.  

The books I picked & why

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Gumbo Ya-Ya

By Lyle Saxon, Edward Dreyer, Robert Tallant

Book cover of Gumbo Ya-Ya

Why this book?

My interest in music takes its roots deep into Louisiana because the first music was vocal.

Not only music but all literature had its beginnings in the words of history and folk songs. This book brought light into my young life. It was the beginning to understand American culture through its clearly defined early music. I carried various printings of Gumbo Ya-Ya with me through my early travels through Memphis, Louisiana, Como, Mississippi, etc. The book opened my mind to the history, and because of the book, the traveling opened my mind to the music.


Sun Records: The Brief History of the Legendary Record Label

By Colin Escott, Martin Hawkins,

Book cover of Sun Records: The Brief History of the Legendary Record Label

Why this book?

I lived in Memphis during the early 1960. I visited the Sun Recording Studios at 706 Union Avenue, and then 639 Madison Avenue. Sam Phillips created Sun Records. He was the first person to record, Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, B. B. King, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, /Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, and dozens of other musicians. Race didn’t matter to Sam, even though he lived and recorded in a deep, tough Jim Crow city.

Escott’s and Hawkins’ book captures the remarkable history of that small record label stuck in the depths of the time of mean southern roots. Vital book to dig into the creative, insightful mind of Sam Phillips, and his journey to bring rural, rough-hewed music to a wider, white audience.


Hear Me Talkin' to Ya

By Nat Shapiro, Nat Hentoff,

Book cover of Hear Me Talkin' to Ya

Why this book?

This is a story of Jazz by the musicians who made it. Hear Me Talkin' to Ya is a wide study of the Jazz at its source (New Orleans) through the era of Big Bands and into Modern Jazz, from Kid Ory to Dave Brubeck. This book doesn’t have a narrative or authors’ opinions. This book features passages quoted by Billie Holiday, Mary Lou Williams, Lil Harden Armstrong, Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, Othello Tinsley, Dizzy Gillespie, and a hundred other musicians.

We’ve entered a second era of inclusion. Women now play an essential role in creating music. Add Lizzie Miles, Anita O’Day, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Mary Ann McCall, Alberta Hunter, and Leora Henderson and we get a different perspective of the evolution of music culture.  


Rythm Oil: A Journey Through The Music Of The American South

By Stanley Booth,

Book cover of Rythm Oil: A Journey Through The Music Of The American South

Why this book?

Yes, the title is spelled correctly. I’ve known Stanley Booth from our days in Memphis. He has written about The Rolling Stones, B. B. King, Al Green, and Keith Richards. Keith wrote that “The interesting thing about music to me is that music has always seemed streaks ahead of any other Art form or any other form of social expression.” It has never been said any better.

Stanley Booth’s Rythm Oil contains studies of numerous, forgotten musicians and singers. It is a study of remote history. Stanley Booth doesn’t write with ink. He writes with grit.


Appalachian Patterns: Stories

By Bo Ball,

Book cover of Appalachian Patterns: Stories

Why this book?

Tight, vivid writing about the poorest people in America in the richest country in the world. There is dignity and warmth of two sons caring for their blind father, and there is God in also every life, for better or worse. I have to read this book at least once a year to remember what hard times and resolutions are. Every word seems to matter.


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in popular music, music, and jazz?

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Popular Music Explore 25 books about popular music
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Jazz Explore 83 books about jazz

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

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