Rock & Roll Summer Reading

Rock & Roll Summer Reading

Tell the Truth Until They Bleed

by Josh Alan Friedman
Backbeat Books, 262 pp., $19.95 (paper)

Written by New Yorker-turned-Texan Josh Alan Friedman, who also boasts his own musical career, this well-paced essay collection reveals 15 occasionally sordid but always fascinating stories from the pale underbelly of rock & roll and blues. Many of the essays are old and therefore carry obituary codas, but that's good: These stories are as fresh as when written without attendant post-mortems or rosy revisionism. Next to the ones you want to read about – an eye-popping profile of Jerry Leiber, an unfettered look at Dr. John, the under-the-radar life of Doc Pomus – are less-celebrated figures such as session guitarist supreme Cornell Dupree, late record man Joel Dorn, and an anonymous lover of Ronnie Spector. Friedman's Texas lore is saddle-stitched with tales of Dallas' Sam Myers and David "Fathead" Newman, but in the end, the two chapters that rivet the reader are on Double Trouble's Tommy Shannon, who walked through hellfire and lived to tell, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Keith Ferguson, the Icarus who flew too close to the sun. Tell the Truth Until They Bleed is gritty and unrelenting, the chair in the corner of a juke joint that makes you thankful for bad lighting so you don't see what's on the floor.

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