Best Music Books from the 2016 Reading List

  • December 19, 2016
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Best Rock and Roll Books of 2016


This was the year I read most of my books on an IPhone 6S Plus. Quite handy once you get the hang of it. Plus you can fire up Itunes and listen to the albums one by one as each story progresses. The catalogue of the Band, all of John Prine's records as they were released, Guy Clark and all his pals, Elvis Costello, Sam Phillips many sessions. Not all were released this year but taking the liberty makes for a pretty good reading list.

Reading List for 2016

  1. Robbie Robertson Testimony autobiography November 2016
  2. Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, by Elvis Costello released october 13, 2015
  3. Sam Phillips the Man Who Invented Rock and Roll-Peter Guralnick
  4. Without Getting Killed or Caught the Life and Music of Guy Clark-Tamara Saviiano
  5. John Prine In Spite of Himself Eddie Huffman March 2015
  6. Memphis Man Living High Laying Low biography of Don Nix
  7. Chinaberry Sidewalks Rodney Crowell
  8. Allen Klein the Man who Bailed out the Beatles
  9. Live at the Fillmore East and West John Glatt
  10. Psychedelic Bubblegum Bobby Hart
  11. Deal: My Three Decades in Drumming Bill Kreutzman
  12. Small Town Talk: Bob Dylan the Band Others from Woodstock Barney Hoskyns
  13. Sweet Soul Music Peter Guralnick
  14. Reckless: My Life as a Pretender Chrissie Hynde
  15. Follow the Music Life and High Times of Jac Holzman
  16. White Bicycles The Making of Music in the 1960s Joe Boyd
  17. FM: The Rise and Fall of Rock Radio Richard Neer
  18. Dead Air the Rise and Demise of Music Radio Bill Young
  19. The Last Sultan the Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun Robert Greenfield

Robbie Robertson Testimony autobiography

Far and away without a doubt the finest music book of 2016 is Testimony. All questions are answered all secrets revealed.  What was it like to be a teenager in a rock and roll band in the early sixties. Wild tales of sex and drugs. Did he really get more girls than Frank Sinatra? How did it feel to pal around with Bob Dylan or hang out with Andy Warhol, Salvador Dali, and Jimi Hendrix?  Did Eric Clapton really call him after hearing Big Pink and want to join the band?
At the age of sixteen Robbie Robertson rode the train to Arkansas and auditioned for spot in the Hawks, Ronnie Hawkins band. With the Hawks he traveled  the blue highways and back roads of america following the path of carnies and medicine shows that came before. They pulled into Nazareth where Martin guitars are made got run out of Arkansas for associating with coloreds. Created a songwriting laboratory called Big Pink and changed the course of music. Testimony is Robbie Robertson’s love letter to the band. Richard Manuel, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson--his brothers in arms.

Unfaithful Music & Disappearing Ink, by Elvis Costello released october 13, 2015. My main takeaway from this book  is what a great fan he is of rock and roll. The Band and Little Feat were two of his favorites. He got to work with Allen Toussaint and Burt Bachrach, two of his idols. He even tells the story of his "fifteen minutes in the ring with the songwriting heavy weight champion of the world, Bob Dylan." Elvis Costello spins stories through 700 pages of rock and roll bliss.

Sam Phillips-The Man Who Invented Rock and Roll by Peter Guralnick


The Sam Phillips book by Peter Guralnick is a mighty book.  Mighty like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, the Howlin Wolf. Mighty like the Mississippi.

As significant as that day was in July of 1954 when Elvis Presley walked into the Memphis Recording Service at 706 Union Avenue and asked Mr. Phillips if he could make a record to give his mama, as important as that day was to the birth of rock and roll, it was two years earlier when the Howlin Wolf came to call that was the moment Sam Phillips considered the monumental event in his life. The moment he found the sound he was looking for. If he had his way, he would have recorded Howlin Wolf for the rest of his days. Chester Burnett however moved on to Chicago like so many others and made most of his music for Chess Records.

Peter Guralnick was a very good friend of Sam Phillips and he goes to great lengths to reveal and explain the workings of this very complex man. Even though Sam is mostly known for discovering Elvis and founding Sun Records, Sams great gift was his talent in the studio, gently drawing the raw originality out of each artist.


I first read Peter Guralnick when I read his book Lost Highways in 1999. It was about Hank Williams Elvis Presley and the early rock and rollers. I first heard of Sleepy LaBeef reading this book. Sleepy had been a rockabilly artist in the fifties along side Carl Perkins Gene Vincent Johnny Cash and Elvis. Sleepy had not stopped playing the honky tonks and taverns along the blue highways and soon after reading Losty Highways Sleepy came to our town as bhe did for years to come. The real deal right out of a time capsule called the fifties.

He wrote many good sturdy books on rock and roll, a two volume biography on Elvis Presley, one on Sam Cooke, one on Soul Music and now Sam Phillips. Mighty Fine.