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Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?: The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music
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Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?: The Carter Family and Their Legacy in American Music

4.25 of 5 stars 4.25  ·  rating details  ·  607 ratings  ·  82 reviews
Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? is the first major biography of the Carter Family, the musical pioneers who almost single-handedly created the sounds and traditions that grew into modern folk, country, and bluegrass music. Meticulously researched and lovingly written, it is a look at a world and a culture that, rather than passing, has continued to exist in the music that ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published February 23rd 2004 by Simon & Schuster (first published July 2nd 2002)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,233)
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Paul Bryant
Apr 11, 2011 Paul Bryant rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: every old timey or country fan
There’s too much to say about the Carter Family. I could start with their oddball personalities : the chirpy, pocketsized indomitable Maybelle, the spaced-out Alvin Pleasant (note great middle name - how nice to have been called Paul Pleasant Bryant or Paul Niceenoughwhenyougettoknowhim Bryant), and the dour, flinty Sara. Of all the photographs of the Carter Family, there’s only one where Sara is smiling and even on that one, it’s not a grin, just a mild softening of the features, a fleeting ho ...more
Paul
This is one of my very favorite books. You know that book that each of us has in our collection that we want everyone to read? That book that we loan to friends, family, colleagues, and (I suppose in some cases) strangers, just wanting them to read it because we KNOW they'll love it? This is that book.

I'm sort of OCD about my music; I tend to overanalyze and obsess about who (stylistically) begat whom. That being said, The Carters are near the top of the family tree of much of what has become
...more
Simon
Any country fan who hasn't read it should put it on their Christmas present list. It would fill any empty hours between turkey and the chimes at midnight perfectly. I enjoyed the writing. the relaxed style reflects the way that country has influenced the syntax of American English. I enjoyed adding to my knowledge of the history of what we Brits call Americana. And I added to the pleasure by using the internet to prepare me a party tape of all the songs mentioned in the section that I'd just rea ...more
Shelly
After reading CASH, The Autobiography(See December 2003 Journal Entry)and learning about the Carters through him, I had to have more. Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone is the first major biography of the Carter Family and their legacy as musical pioneers. Their musical style became the basis for what is country, folk, and bluegrass music today. A.P. Carter was a poor, eccentric mountain farmer from Poor Valley, Maces Springs, Virginia in the foothills of Clinch Mountain. He married Sara Dougherty, ...more
Kimberly
One of the best books about the music that became bluegrass I've ever read. It illustrates the weird amalgamations, "hawaian style" really did come from Hawaii over the radio, the influence of itenerant black musicians, the exposure to cowboy music, and the good scots irish folk tunes that are the bones of bluegrass. Most of all the human drama and failings in AP and Sara's failed marriage and what it meant for everyone. A beautifully researched and written book.
molly Matthews
Sep 20, 2008 molly Matthews rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: musicians and music lovers
An absolute must-read for anyone interested in the Carter Family and the history of American music. This book was both historically informative and incredibly interesting to read. This book made my husband cry.
Brandt
This is a good in-depth look at the Carter Family, who were the first family of country music and with Jimmie Rodgers essentially created the foundation for some of the great acts that would come after them (the obvious one being Johnny Cash.) As a biography, the book is really great, but I found it lacking when it came to the "legacy in American music" part. A lot is made of Maybelle Carter's way of playing guitar, but the book doesn't link to more contemporary adoptions of this style (Lindsey ...more
Rachel
An absolutely informative and fascinating read, but the authors need to edit! I don't need three paragraphs of teeny tiny print of a backstory of one person who came across a member of the Carter family one time in 1932 and never saw them again. Stick to the subject matter! If you can get through the rambling and anecdotes of people you have never heard of before or will never hear of again it is a great read. And if you love the Carter family this book will give you a bigger, more detailed pict ...more
David Glenn Dixon
Washington City Paper
Arts & Entertainment : Book Review

Clinch Mountain Breakdown
By Glenn Dixon • November 1, 2002

Alvin Pleasant Carter fell for the voice before he even knew which girl it belonged to. Trudging over Clinch Mountain toward his cousin's house to try to sell fruit trees out of a catalog to his relatives, A.P. was struck by an alto singing the train-wreck ballad "Engine 143." It took some time for his affection to be returned, but he eventually won Sara Dougherty over. When asked
...more
Kurt
I did enjoy this book quite a bit, even though I had some problems with the way it was written. The author throws in colloquialisms and writes in a self-consciously informal way that I found distracting. As though he is trying to write "country". I know a few times I had to pause in my reading to roll my eyes and if had just been written in a more straight forward way, I wouldn't have noticed it, nor would have detracted from the story in the least.

Also, many times things are written where I wou
...more
Leah
I really enjoyed this biography of the Carter family. I expected to enjoy it, as I've heard good things about it, and I love the music of the Carters. But I really zipped through the book because it was very easy to read, and well-written.

The story of the Carter family is really the story of the recording industry and the story of country music in the US, all rolled up into one biography. This book focused mostly on the inner family story of the three Carters and their relations, rather than int
...more
Loraine
A. P. Carter left no journals, no papers, no correspondence behind upon his death. Nor did his ex-wife Sara. Maybelle gave us Helen, Anita, and June but she didn't leave behind many documents either. But what these three people did leave behind is a stunning body of music that became the taproot for much of what we know today as bluegrass, country and western, and folk music. They influenced people like Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, members of The Band. Their voices traveled out over the ...more
Carrie
I bought this book right after I saw Walk the Line (which is an awesome, awesome movie – go see it). I was in Barnes & Noble, and this caught my eye – a New York Times Notable Book and a National Book Critics Circle Finalist that just happened to be about the Carter family at the exact moment when I had the songs of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash running through my head. Serendipity, no?

I am glad for it, because this was a great book. I have been drifting along, reading four or five books
...more
Jim
Jan 25, 2009 Jim rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: lovers of American folk and country music
I'm a bit biased because I've had the privilege to work for the author, Mark Zwonitzer (who also writes, directs, and produces for PBS's American Experience); all the same, this is a wonderfully rich take on the Carter Family legacy. The writing is lovely and lovingly executed, but it's no mere exercise in hero-worship. We really get to know Sara, Maybelle and A.P. (and their children) for all their talents and failings, and in Will You Miss Me we get to ride with them out of the mountains, on s ...more
Lisa
I was supposed to read this book in college for a History of Pop Music course. The course favored heavily on popular music no one really cared about like folk and country from the Depression through the 1950's and not music I actually consider to be popular which was a disappointment. I think we covered the 1970's-2000's in the last two weeks because the prof would not shut up about Hank Williams and the Carters. Needless to say this collected dust until about a week ago.

Now the fact that they
...more
William Brenner
This book is incredibly well written and researched. Not only does it portray the lives of the original Carter family (A.P., Sara, and Maybelle), but it also delves into the lives of all of their extended family as well as prominent stars such as Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, and more. Coming from someone who isn't usually interested in historical nonfiction, this book is riddled with interesting information that will keep you reading, and provide ample context for the rise of Ameri ...more
Rebecca
Feb 06, 2008 Rebecca rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone with even a passing interest in biographies, americana, music
Wow, the Carter Family deserves the best treatment, and this is it. This book has something for everyone. It's as authoritative and as relaxed as a country yarn, full of larger than life characters from the kin in Maces Springs to Nashville's country stars. On top of which the musical analysis enriches the story, rather than boring the casual reader. (How A.P. collected and copyrighted traditional songs, the way Maybelle developed her influential guitar playing.) I was fascinated by the chapters ...more
Sean
This was the best Spring Break, reading about the brood from the Clinch Mountains of Tennessee. I admire that through their fame and fortune, the family stayed together and became a stronger unit. I honestly don't think there will be any musical legends like the Carter Family. They were able to bring together so many musical styles and genres.
Garrett Cash
There is not a single dull page in "Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone?", its story is incredible and must be heard by anyone that is interested in music. I was happy to find that this book goes so in depth during the years where Mother Maybelle toured with the Carter Sisters, an era in which I knew nothing about. The authors capture the rural mountain living life vividly, a lifestyle and time that seems like a different world. No good story is left untold, from Hank Williams attempting to murder Ju ...more
Madilyn
Amazing book! If you like stories in general, then you will love this book. It is not only about country music and how the Carters contributed to it, but about their livelihood in general, their struggle, poverty, attitudes, and that life isn't a basket of roses all the time. It's a wonderful book.
Ira
The Carter Family are one of those groups I have much respect for but hardly listen to. I love many of the songs they brought to our attention but must admit that the warbly recordings and dented voices in those recordings never did it for me.

Nonetheless there innovation, craft, and blood permiates much of the music I enjoy listening to so me pulling Will You Miss Me off the shelf and reading it right away was never in doubt.

While the book is not at the top of literary biographies it gets the j
...more
Sherrie
This book is highly recommended if you are interested in the history of American music. The Carter Family touched many kinds of music, particularly country and folk, and this book tells the story of their career in music and how their influence spread. I found it particularly interesting to read about their work with other giants of the music scene, such as Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Chet Atkins. The final days of each member of the original Carter Family are detailed with disarming tenderne ...more
Bayneeta
My daughter passed this on to me when I told her I needed to "read a book about the arts, music or dance" for a Book Bingo: Fall Into Books game we have going for staff at Addison PL. If you're a fan of traditional music or the roots of country music, this might be for you. Otherwise, it might just be 400 pages of boredom. I liked it. A.P., his wife Sara, and his sister-in-law Maybelle were the original Carter Family. This is their story as well as the story of Maybelle and her daughters, and Ch ...more
Autumn
Fascinating, well-researched book about the Carter Family (personally) and their impact on American culture. Great for narrative nonfiction lovers or people who like to read about bootleggers and poor mountain people in the early 20th century.
Rossie
I read this several years ago and just loved it. My parents grew up in the 1940s listening to the Grand Ole Opry, and it was fun to read about the business and personalities behind the music -- although I think the height of the Carter Family trio's popularity predated this time.

I also like stories about rural families -- not least because I grew up in and remain part of one -- and most writers don't know how to take us seriously and do us justice.

I give it 4 stars because I reserve 5 for books
...more
jenn
Sep 09, 2008 jenn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: music lovers
Shelves: 2008
More like 3.5, but edging toward 4. This book had some boring moments, especially at the beginning, when discussion of Carter relatives that had nothing to do with recording music seemed to dominate. But, then, I read this book primarily to get the dirt on A.P. and Sarah's divorce, Hank Williams, Elvis, and, of course, Johnny Cash, all of who showed up in the second half of the book, and provided lots of gossipy fun.

On a less salacious note, my admiration for Maybelle Carter is now officially b
...more
Lee Anne
Not only is this a first-rate biography of the family who essentially invented country music, but it's also an entertaining look at Depression-era Appalachian living, and a heart-breaking love story. Author Mark Zwonitzer's writing style uses colloquialisms and phraseology common to the area, but is so skilled at it that it never condescends to the reader or the people about whom he is writing, but rather gives a real sense of place to the story. So many people in this book come across as ones y ...more
Gilda Bailey
As a fan of the Carter Family, I found an in-depth story of their early life, the music that A.P. discovered throughout Appalachia and brought to the rest of the world, the music the Carters created and the path their careers took over the years. It enhanced my appreciation of Americana, folk, country and bluegrass music because the roots of those genres can be traced back to the Carter Family's early forays into recording and radio performances. This is a must read for fans! I think even those ...more
Shirley
Amazing story of an American family and legacy - a story of the history of music in America as well. Beautifully written.
Tony Gualtieri
I've always been curious about the Carter Family and their music, but I wasn't expecting such an interesting story with such good writing.
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