#BookReview: Willie, Waylon, And The Boys by Brian Fairbanks

Well Researched Book Does Exactly What The Description Says It Does. You know how at times you read a book’s description and then you read the book and you want to know what the writer of the description was smoking when they wrote it and if you can have some of it, because the two were *nothing* alike? Yeah… this isn’t that book.

Here, you get *exactly* what the description (at least as of the writing of this review in the pre-dawn hours of May 12, 2024 along Florida’s Atlantic Coast) tells you you’re going to get: A well documented historical look at the lives of the Highwaymen – Waylon Jennings – where the narrative starts on the fateful night that he missed the plane on “The Day The Music Died” -, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. We see each of their origins, we see how their careers progressed individually, and we see the fateful moment they all came together for a few legendary years. And in the end, we see how their lives and their music have impacted Country Music through the years, with a particular focus on 2010-current alt-country / Americana acts like Chris Stapleton, Jason Isbell, Shooter Jennings, Brandie Carlisle, and others. Again, exactly what the description says we’re going to get.

Overall the writing is well done – there’s a lot of facts and a lot of quotes, but it never really feels like dense academic oriented text or a philosophical treatise, while still not being quite “conversational”. Yes, the focus on certain acts and the clear derision of others in the end is perhaps quite divisive – even much of the “Bro Country” the author clearly despises cite many of the Highwaymen as direct influences, and yes, it can be heard in their sounds as well – but again, we knew from the description which modern acts this text was going to highlight. So take that as you will and make your choice to read or avoid this text knowing exactly that – you know up front exactly where this is going.

Very much recommended.

This review of Willie, Waylon, And The Boys by Brian Fairbanks was originally written on May 12, 2024.

#BookReview: Ira Hayes by Tom Holm

Johnny Cash Was (At Least Partly) Wrong! Admittedly, the title of this review is mostly click-bait. But it *is* an accurate summary of this text – and yes, the text does at least briefly examine the song itself as well. Holm does a remarkable job of showing the history that created Ira Hayes, one of the six men immortalized forever in “The Photograph” of the American flag raising at Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima during the WWII battle which became the basis of so many memorials… including a not-small one in Washington, DC. As with the better history books, Holm shows the relevant histories that lead into the famous events at hand- and the biography and histories of the fallout of the events, including the various impacts to both the man Ira Hayes and the cultural icon/ touchstone Ira Hayes. Yes, including the various movies, the various incarnations of The Ballad of Ira Hayes (including the Man in Black’s), and even discussing the book The Flags of Our Fathers and its movie incarnation as well. At 22% documentation, it is reasonably well documented, and there are no overly startling revelations here – though there is perhaps much new knowledge, depending on one’s own knowledge set when coming into this book. For example, the histories of the Akimel and Apache wars and interactions, and even how they waged war (both the weapons involved and the tactics and ceremonies) was new knowledge to me – and utterly fascinating.

Overall a well told and well examined history with no obvious flaws or even any overt political diatribes, this is a book that anyone interested in a more complete tale of Ira Hayes will enjoy. Very much recommended.

This review of Ira Hayes by Tom Holm was originally written on July 28, 2023.

#BookReview: Citizen Cash by Michael Stewart Foley

Detailed Examination Of Forgotten Elements Of A Legend. I grew up listening to Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, and others of that generation via Country Gold Saturday Night on the radio in the late 80s and early 90s. My family would pile in the pickup truck, parents in the cab, myself and my two younger brothers in the back, and we would ride the backroads in the boonies of northwest Georgia between Atlanta and Chatanooga, listening to the radio and feeling the wind buffet our bodies. Honestly some of my most fond memories of the carefree era of my childhood, and Johnny Cash played a role there – a role he never knew about. And while I’ve known of him since then as a country music legend, I had never considered his politics or messages.

This book changes that.

This book, with its chapters focusing on specific elements of Cash’s political beliefs and how they developed, is less biography and more analysis of how the given message came to be espoused by this particular man and why. It shows that at his heart, Johnny Cash was a man who empathized with the low and down trodden. How his own childhood on a Depression era sharecropper farm came to shape much of how he saw the world, and how even his service in the US Air Force in Germany during the Korean War era would come to shape his views of the Vietnam War a decade later. The text does not shy away from Cash’s well known (and well documented) struggles with drugs and alcohol, even showing where Cash himself was hypocritical on the issues at times – ordering his wife never to touch alcohol, even in some letters where it is quite clear he himself is drunk while writing them. At the same time, it doesn’t spend much time on these particular facets or even his wives, the controversy surrounding how he eventually got together with June Carter, his various kids, or any other aspect an actual biography would. Instead, this text uses biography more as background and scaffolding to show how Cash came to the political positions he did and how he came to espouse them.

Truly an interesting take on a genuine legend, and very much recommended.

This review of Citizen Cash by Michael Stewart Foley was originally written on October 28, 2021.