Fifty Things You’ll Discover in The Roots Of Rock

John Lee Hooker playing in a south Wales surf club in 1964


The two versions Howlin’ Wolf and Smokestack Lightening striking Sophia Gardens Pavilion

How the 78 turned into the 45 and the 33⅓ took over the world

The fakery of Big Bill Broonzy, the man who replaced Robert Johnson at Carnegie Hall’s 1938 Spirituals to Swing

How Champion Jack Dupree, boxer and boogie pianist, got one over on the veterans at Cardiff’s Womanby Street British Legion Club

How not to build a 45 rpm record player from a 78 rpm turntable, a biro, a cone of paper and a pin.

The 30-watt musical past of the land that invaded America, great Great Britain

How Bill Haley, the fat-faced middle-aged salesman and major populariser of rock and roll, ended up as he started – singing country

The finding of Alexis Korner at Church jumble sales and where the British blues began

The story of the Down and Out Blueswailers, the Cardiff-famous blues band that never played a note

How harmonica-player Sonny Terry also hit the groove with a Jew’s harp

Midnight Special failing to impress at Bridge Street’s Greyhound, 1960s south Wales centre for the down and out and the consumption of scrumpy

The real story of the blues.  Were they as ancient as we have all been led to believe?  They were not

The tale of Willie Dixon’s centrality to the music of Chess and his German-promoted tours of Europe which changed the world

How the blues up from Llanystumdwy

Where bluegrass came from, how it appeared in the UK and how it really is up there in the Appalachian Hills

How Jesus Came Searching, and the importance of the Christian Gospel in north American sounds

Raymond Fairchild’s Opry, clog dancing most nights among the excesses of  Maggie Valley, NC

How Pontypridd is a Welsh bluegrass heartland

How the Celtic harp, where so much music began,  has become again a vital instrument in the rocking world

Why Leonard Cohen is world touring until he dies

How the Chieftains’ Paddy Maloney and the Appalachian’s Doc Watson can sound exactly the same

The George Jones excesses of Nashville, the amazing country music graveyards and the medieval Welsh castle sitting there to the city’s south

Finch appearing, at long last, on stage at the Ryman

Music Row’s session drummer washing cars on main street

The car park where Elvis recorded Heartbreak Hotel

David Ackles on the 40, rolling right through blues country

Sleepy John Estes’ house out back of tourist information right on the highway, photos of the great man lining the walls

The soul roots of Memphis, Schwab’s selling magic soul dust, studios everywhere, soul food on every corner

Graceland dominated by tourists, its walls graffitied to death, Elvis relegated to glitter instead of glory

Jerry Lee Lewis showing up drunk with a gun wanting to shoot the King

The story of hit maker and Elvis backer Bill Black, rock and roll’s doomed man

The remaking and over glory of Sun Records

The bluemen singing the whites right down in the Delta and how that Delta is not a river meets the sea thing after all

The worst poetry in the world at the Elvis Presley birthplace in Tupelo, site of John Lee Hooker’s flood when the Mississippi overflowed and half the blues world went under


Elvis and friends at Porthcawl

Elvis alive again, this time singing on every street corner of  Porthcawl

How, despite the essential authenticity of the black diaspora,  it’s the white men who dominate the blues

How bluegrass is a recent invention and not the ancient olde tyme music you always thought it was


Highway 61 runs right by my baby’s door


Steve Martin & The Rangers at Brevard

The trail taken by the Knoxville Girl from a Shropshire graveyard to the 75 rolling across Tennessee, the Louvin Brothers, the Everlys, The Cherryholmes  and the Osborne Brothers all celebrating her passage

The finding again of Root Boy Slim and his Sex Change Band in Asheville, NC

Cecil Sharp’s place in the pantheon and, in particular, his visit to Hot Springs.  How English folk song’s rediscovery ended up influencing everything

The glories of the vast Christian Book Outlet in showman’s wonderland, central Pigeon Forge

The Steep Canyon Rangers, with Steve Martin on lead,  putting Brevard on the map

The blue smoke reality of overstuffed hickory-flavoured  Dollywood, glitter-girl Parton’s homeland

How everything in the Appalachains, bar the music, is made of wood

Country Music’s big bang in Bristol, both VA and TN, the small town that started it all

How Johnny Cash sounds better on 78 than he does on 45

Why the Stetson and shirts with smiles on their pockets dominate the south

How all these musics circle, separate and then rejoin.  The truth found on a beach in France.  Roots music as world music. Rock and roll and finger-in-your-ear singing, all the same

The Roots Of Rock From Cardiff To Mississippi And Back
published by  Seren Books tells the story.  It comes complete with comprehensive timelines, histories, discographies, playlists and  essentials that you just have to hear.

£9.99  isbn: 9781781722664
Orders to Seren


Read and then listen.  Rock On, the music never stops.


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