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Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul in Music's Hometown

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Profiles and stories of Southern music from the acclaimed author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. The fabled city of Memphis has been essential to American music—home of the blues, birthplace of rock and roll, and a soul music capital. When Robert Gordon started covering Memphis music, the golden ages of his hometown had passed. But the links were t Profiles and stories of Southern music from the acclaimed author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. The fabled city of Memphis has been essential to American music—home of the blues, birthplace of rock and roll, and a soul music capital. When Robert Gordon started covering Memphis music, the golden ages of his hometown had passed. But the links were there if you looked for them. Starting as a teenager, Gordon sought out old legends Furry Lewis and Mose Vinson, spent time at Jr. Kimbrough’s house parties, went into the grooves of records by Leadbelly and Robert Johnson, and picked up the threads in the new sounds that were developing around him, becoming the official chronicler of the Memphis scene. Memphis Rent Party compiles the best of these short pieces from the first three decades of Gordon’s career, many previously unpublished. The focus is on Memphis, but, like mint seeping into bourbon, Gordon gets into the wider world. In addition to homegrown renegades Alex Chilton (Box Tops, Big Star) and producer Jim Dickinson (Replacements, Rolling Stones), he spends time with those whom Memphis has inspired, like Cat Power, Jeff Buckley and Townes Van Zandt. A rent party is when friends come together to hear music, dance, and help a pal through hard times. With this stellar collection, Gordon—a deep listener, passionate cultural commentator, and unparelleled scribe of Southern sound—throws a rent party that will keep readers reading, music lovers listening, and culture hounds howling for more.


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Profiles and stories of Southern music from the acclaimed author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. The fabled city of Memphis has been essential to American music—home of the blues, birthplace of rock and roll, and a soul music capital. When Robert Gordon started covering Memphis music, the golden ages of his hometown had passed. But the links were t Profiles and stories of Southern music from the acclaimed author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion. The fabled city of Memphis has been essential to American music—home of the blues, birthplace of rock and roll, and a soul music capital. When Robert Gordon started covering Memphis music, the golden ages of his hometown had passed. But the links were there if you looked for them. Starting as a teenager, Gordon sought out old legends Furry Lewis and Mose Vinson, spent time at Jr. Kimbrough’s house parties, went into the grooves of records by Leadbelly and Robert Johnson, and picked up the threads in the new sounds that were developing around him, becoming the official chronicler of the Memphis scene. Memphis Rent Party compiles the best of these short pieces from the first three decades of Gordon’s career, many previously unpublished. The focus is on Memphis, but, like mint seeping into bourbon, Gordon gets into the wider world. In addition to homegrown renegades Alex Chilton (Box Tops, Big Star) and producer Jim Dickinson (Replacements, Rolling Stones), he spends time with those whom Memphis has inspired, like Cat Power, Jeff Buckley and Townes Van Zandt. A rent party is when friends come together to hear music, dance, and help a pal through hard times. With this stellar collection, Gordon—a deep listener, passionate cultural commentator, and unparelleled scribe of Southern sound—throws a rent party that will keep readers reading, music lovers listening, and culture hounds howling for more.

30 review for Memphis Rent Party: The Blues, Rock & Soul in Music's Hometown

  1. 5 out of 5

    Laura Larson

    Full of interesting anecdotes, secrets, and previously unpublished interviews. This is an interesting read for people already interested in and knowledgeable about the Memphis music scene of decades past. Most of the stories center around the 80s. Even when interviews are more current, the subject matter is predominantly older. That said, this is not a good primer for learning about three subject. If you don't know who these people are already, there is little included to clear that up. Full of interesting anecdotes, secrets, and previously unpublished interviews. This is an interesting read for people already interested in and knowledgeable about the Memphis music scene of decades past. Most of the stories center around the 80s. Even when interviews are more current, the subject matter is predominantly older. That said, this is not a good primer for learning about three subject. If you don't know who these people are already, there is little included to clear that up.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    The thing about reading Robert Gordon, is the music. Music by people one may never heard. An enticement that sends you to used record stores or the internet to buy all what he writes about. If you’ve not read his, It Came From Memphis, I highly recommend that too.

  3. 5 out of 5

    John Lester

    Easily one of the best books on Memphis music I've read. This is about Memphis music people who in the 70's and 80's that I listened to, was told stories about and saw in the venues or walking down the street. Memphis music is still here and isn't near dead. We're all just trying to catch up. Easily one of the best books on Memphis music I've read. This is about Memphis music people who in the 70's and 80's that I listened to, was told stories about and saw in the venues or walking down the street. Memphis music is still here and isn't near dead. We're all just trying to catch up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mike DeCapite

    Transcendent. Not just great music writing but great writing, period.

  5. 4 out of 5

    John Spiller

    I approached "Memphis Rent Party" with the same wariness as listening to a career-spanning compilation of outtakes by an esteemed, but not necessarily favorite, musician. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. It turns out "Memphis Rent Party" is pretty damn great. Even though the pieces are widely varied -- CD liner notes, unpublished articles, expanded interviews -- they actually hold together fairly well due to the unifying theme of Gordon's ass-backwards pride in Memphis (and to a certain I approached "Memphis Rent Party" with the same wariness as listening to a career-spanning compilation of outtakes by an esteemed, but not necessarily favorite, musician. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. It turns out "Memphis Rent Party" is pretty damn great. Even though the pieces are widely varied -- CD liner notes, unpublished articles, expanded interviews -- they actually hold together fairly well due to the unifying theme of Gordon's ass-backwards pride in Memphis (and to a certain extent, Northern Mississippi). Gordon strikes the right balance between the reverence of a fan and the insight of a connoisseur. Even with a figure as widely covered such as Jerry Lee Lewis, you still come away with some great insights. (As a special bonus, Gordon shares some of the original lyrics to "It'll be Be" -- hilarious.) In the Afterword, as if he was telepathic, Gordon addressed some thoughts that ran through my head, such as "Man, I wish I had followed my passion for music and weirdos and created something great like Robert Gordon." As he puts it, there still plenty of fire ants and shards of glass in the greener grass. Meeting heroes and experiencing history are great, but so are a steady paycheck and health insurance that come with a job chained to a desk. Man, I really need to go back and re-read "It Came From Memphis".

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Memphis, a city of pharaohs, barbecue, and musical mixology. It's a city of Kings and where King's go to die. Robert Gordon has been writing about music for in the late 1970's while still at uni. This book is a collection of published, unpublished and author's edits of articles he has written over the years (adding back in important details cut by magazine editors). While he covers a wide range of musical styles in the articles, there is one unifying thread: all artists are either from, or have Memphis, a city of pharaohs, barbecue, and musical mixology. It's a city of Kings and where King's go to die. Robert Gordon has been writing about music for in the late 1970's while still at uni. This book is a collection of published, unpublished and author's edits of articles he has written over the years (adding back in important details cut by magazine editors). While he covers a wide range of musical styles in the articles, there is one unifying thread: all artists are either from, or have called Memphis home. There are fantastic insights into: LeadBelly, Jim Dickinson, James Carr, Charlie Feathers, Bobby Blue Bland, Alex Chilton Cat Power, Jerry Lee Lewis and more. While not exhaustive, this is a good primer for learning more about the Memphis Music scene along with his book from last year: Respect Yourself, the Stax Music story. Good fun and a quick read

  7. 4 out of 5

    Nick Spacek

    profiles of blues musicians, rock 'n' rollers, and associated persons of interest in memphis. they're all fascinating in one way or another, and the way gordon sets the scene for each of these pieces is nothing short of wonderful. he's a master storyteller, and it's given further proof by the before-and-afterwords he's added to these vintage pieces, wherein he sometimes admits he didn't get it quite right. even when he's wrong, he's pretty solid, though. there's even a selection of recommended fu profiles of blues musicians, rock 'n' rollers, and associated persons of interest in memphis. they're all fascinating in one way or another, and the way gordon sets the scene for each of these pieces is nothing short of wonderful. he's a master storyteller, and it's given further proof by the before-and-afterwords he's added to these vintage pieces, wherein he sometimes admits he didn't get it quite right. even when he's wrong, he's pretty solid, though. there's even a selection of recommended further reads and listens in the back, with reasons behind each, and this book has the potential to create enough blowback to occupy a solid month or two with ancillary material. there's definitely worse ways to spend four weeks, though.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Richard Sanford

    This collection of shorts, some unpublished or here in their originally-intended form, is an essential document from one of our finest writers about Memphis (which is to say American) music. As Gordon writes in the afterword, "We toil in our lonesome worlds, the darkness all around, but the past illuminates our future, warms our present. These joyous candles elevate us." This collection of shorts, some unpublished or here in their originally-intended form, is an essential document from one of our finest writers about Memphis (which is to say American) music. As Gordon writes in the afterword, "We toil in our lonesome worlds, the darkness all around, but the past illuminates our future, warms our present. These joyous candles elevate us."

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nate

    Excellent excellent book. I've rarely read such a cohesive and emotionally powerful collection of an author's short pieces. Gordon makes the case for (greater) Memphis' musical eccentrics, noted visitors and all those ignored or used and tossed aside by the music biz. It's an apologia for music writing, for music loving, for saving and sharing the tunes one loves. Excellent excellent book. I've rarely read such a cohesive and emotionally powerful collection of an author's short pieces. Gordon makes the case for (greater) Memphis' musical eccentrics, noted visitors and all those ignored or used and tossed aside by the music biz. It's an apologia for music writing, for music loving, for saving and sharing the tunes one loves.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dave Purcell

    I picked this up for the chapter on Memphis' legendary Fabulous Fieldstones, who I had the pleasure of sitting in with in the early 90s, and ended up loving the entire book. Great work as always by a master of soulful music. I picked this up for the chapter on Memphis' legendary Fabulous Fieldstones, who I had the pleasure of sitting in with in the early 90s, and ended up loving the entire book. Great work as always by a master of soulful music.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Ted

    A bit spotty but interesting

  12. 4 out of 5

    Robert A. Kalanja

    Great book- Memphis music- yes!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Smith

    It's a cracker, gold nuggets scattered throughout, the musical heart and soul of mighty Memphis.. love Gordon's style and subject matter It's a cracker, gold nuggets scattered throughout, the musical heart and soul of mighty Memphis.. love Gordon's style and subject matter

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian Pannell

    Love my hometown Ain all its' weirdness! Love my hometown Ain all its' weirdness!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Geoff Nudelman

  16. 5 out of 5

    Owen Hewitt

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kori

  18. 5 out of 5

    Clif

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sean Russell

  20. 4 out of 5

    Grandstaff

  21. 5 out of 5

    John Sweeney

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michael Randleman

  24. 4 out of 5

    Evan

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul Keux

  26. 4 out of 5

    Jesse Lundy

  27. 4 out of 5

    Tracy

  28. 4 out of 5

    Michael

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dan

  30. 5 out of 5

    Andrew Taylor

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