Saturday, June 6, 2009

Books About Record Producers and Label Owners & DJs

In the last few years, many of the best books I have read about music are not about musicians but other people in the music business. Biographies about record producers and record label owners are very readily available these days. Here are my favorites:

"Spinning Blues into Gold: The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records"
by Nadine Cohodas
Both a biography of Leonard and a history of the Chess label. Add to this book recent biographies of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and the book about Chuck Berry's legal problems and you get quite a story about Chess Records. There are two other biographies about Leonard Chess. One I am not wild about and I haven't read the other.

"Dewey and Elvis: The Life and Times of a Rock 'n' Roll Deejay"
by Louis Cantor
Very little about Elvis, actually, and that's OK. This book is about the legendary radio DJ Dewey Phillips, in a town full of legendary DJs. When I finished this book, I felt as if I had prowled through every street and haunt in downtown Memphis. The quality of writing in this book is a massive improvement over the author's previous book which was about WDIA radio.

"My First 90 Years Plus 3"
by Kenneth F. Nelson (Ken Nelson)
Ken Nelson produced thousands of recordings for Capitol Records and I have long thought of him as one of the best producers. So little had ever been publicly known about Ken Nelson. Now, at the end of his life he tells about everything, more detail then I would ever expect to known about Nelson, even stuff like family problems.

"Record Makers and Breakers: Voices of the Independent Rock 'n' Roll Pioneers" by John Broven
I can't tell you how much I enjoyed reading this wonderful book about independent record labels from the mid 1940s through the late 1960s. I really think John Broven deserves to be nominated for literary awards for this book. Are you aware of book awards for music history, oral history, or business & enterprise history that could possibly be awarded for this book? It's that good.

Next up is the autobiography of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller. I'm really looking forward to this one!

I think the biography of Sam Phillips was published in England only? Am I right about that? This may explain why I've heard little about it.

I regret not reading Jerry Wexler's bio while it was still in print. Used copies are pricey. Have any of you read Ahmet Ertegun's book?