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How Bluegrass Music Destroyed My Life

4.21  ·  Rating Details ·  377 Ratings  ·  39 Reviews
A collection of fictional but semi-autobiographical stories, this work comes from one of the most influential guitarists in music history. The tales are recalled in a conversational, feverish tone, following the musician in his childhood and young adulthood in post-World War II suburbia, pausing along the way for moments of clarity and introspection. The stories resist cat ...more
Paperback, 291 pages
Published April 15th 2000 by Drag City
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Paul Bryant
John Fahey was a cumbersome, difficult, curmudgeonly, arrogant, original, enterprising, witty, intellectual, self-lascerating, impossible, monomaniacal, gracious, kindly, genial, spiteful, burly, unkempt big lumbering grouchy old bear of a man, I met him in 1999, about 18 months before he died, and it's always a nervous thing, meeting your heroes. But it was great. Although his mental health perhaps wasn't all it could be; he was wandering round the world crashing heavily into things, into peopl ...more
Jun 11, 2008 Jacob rated it it was amazing
the paradox of this beauty is that it is actually a mystical journey akin to laying in the grass and staring into the sun. yea, i could riff on the dry humor that resonates off the hollowbody rebuffs by skip james and michaelangelo antonioni that are worth the price of admission by themselves, but that doesn't begin to pluck the bareness of fahey's magic. an hallucinogenic fishing trip with bukka white and a spiritual covenant made with the ghost of hank williams are depictions of a soul that tr ...more
Sep 28, 2011 Tuck rated it really liked it
quite lovely short stories based on THE TRUTH, in the beat style, like sitting on the porch of that weird guy down the road and him regaling you with the most mind blowing tales of growing up a punk, getting into music, playing the guitar, making of your life that of an artist. and you this guys is NUTS, this CAN'T be true, he couldn't have done and seen all this and ingested all that and been with all these people and had all these adventures. But then you realize it IS true.

Nov 21, 2009 Johan rated it really liked it
Shelves: music, biographic
Who would have guessed that John Fahey could write prose like this? I really liked this book of short stories very loosely based on Fahey’s own life. The parts about country bluesmen Skip James and Bukka White are very good and funny. The one about Skip James is especially interesting because of Fahey’s very negative views about the folk scene of the times. Otherwise the writing is quite original and there’s a lot of references to hinduism and German philosophers and various reptiles, one can’t ...more
Jan 15, 2011 Adam rated it really liked it
Short stories and musings loosely based on truth by fabulous guitarist John Fahey. Stories of youth growing up in the D.C. suburbs, young love, quests to find old blues singers in Mississippi, performing at folk festivals and recording music for Antonini's film Zabriske Point. Quite intriguing. I would say it would be an enjoyable read for anyone who has spent time with his records. Read it over the course of several plane flights.
Feb 09, 2009 Aengus rated it it was amazing
Running the Azalea Street Penis Club, worshipping the Great Koonaklaster, catching a world record alligator gar while drinking whiskey with Bukka White, chatting with the ghost of Hank Williams,giving Antonioni an American style ass whupping in Rome, American eccentric and steel guitar maestro tells the story of his life.
Feb 17, 2010 flannery rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The best story in here is the one where Roosevelt Sykes talks about why he loves honey. The second best story in here is the one where John Fahey punches Michelangelo Antonioni in the face.
Doo Rag
Jun 25, 2013 Doo Rag rated it it was amazing
bluegrass music is the naked truth
Austin Samsquamptch-Kwob
Nov 26, 2016 Austin Samsquamptch-Kwob rated it it was amazing
Ridiculous and beautiful.
Diann Blakely
Dean Blackwood deserves a new round of hand claps and raised lighters. The former Music City attorney played a crucial part in pulling together the collected prose of his partner in the Revenant record label, visionary guitarist John Fahey. HOW BLUEGRASS MUSIC DESTROYED MY LIFE is unusual in that it was published by a Chicago independent record label, Drag City. The story of how a box of "sticky and suspiciously stained papers," as Fahey's editor puts the matter, became this hilarious, provocati ...more
Anthony Glass
Dec 31, 2015 Anthony Glass rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jerry Oliver
Mar 12, 2012 Jerry Oliver rated it it was amazing
This book is a mystical touchstone. One has to read this at the right time in your life. Especially if you're a guitar player. You might be ready. You might not be ready. If you've never listened to any of John Fahey's music and read the liner notes to his albums perhaps you should start there. If you listen to his music for ten years or so you might be ready. This book is a cosmic melding of fact, fiction and dreams and it is all very real. Real because it existed in the life and mind of Fahey. ...more
Jan 04, 2015 Andrew rated it really liked it
The book kinda starts out a bit slow and the pacing is REALLY uneven. But there are some moments that really shine and gives you a neat perspective of Fahey's thoughts but also a fascinating look at what it meant to be a musician during many different decades. I really enjoyed the Antonioni story and the fishing story with Bukka.... Hell, even the Hank Williams story was a interesting read. Lots of German words and references to the occult. I was not much of a fan of his music before reading thi ...more
Apr 01, 2015 Luca rated it really liked it
Ben oltre le aspettative. Immaginavo che Fahey fosse stralunato anche come autore, ma lo sguardo dietro queste cronache autobiografiche romanzate è lucidissimo nella sua strampalatezza, e quando spiazza lo fa in maniera consapevole. Un po' beat, quasi salingeriano nelle cronache d'infanzia, mai banale, ineccepibile nel non farti capire se una cosa te la sta raccontando perché è vera o perché l'ha sognata, sfodera aneddoti e memorie per quasi 300 pagine senza stufare.Non sapevo che Fahey avesse a ...more
Apr 17, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
a collection of stories, lies, tall tales, and reasonable bits of history from a man with a unique perspective towards the history of blues, bluegrass, hillbilly, and other deeply american musics. he's a musician, but only a couple of these stories are about making music. many of them are about other musicians, or about record collecting, or about growing up. they're told as memoirs but they're clearly not that. the facts and the fictions are smeared together enough that it doesn't seem necessar ...more
Robert Gable
Aug 15, 2013 Robert Gable rated it really liked it
This book is partially crazy. For example, I doubt that Hank Williams on the night of his death told John Fahey he would be his guardian angel. On the other hand, the pain Fahey felt because of being abused as a child was quite real. Call it a fantastic auto-biography, sort of.

The later chapters on finding Skip James, meeting his first record collector and becoming entranced with proto-bluegrass were compelling. He also hated Berkeley hippies.

This is all further grist as I get deeper into the c
Sep 14, 2014 Howard rated it really liked it
Shelves: goodreads-read
Starts off as a conventional enough memoir about growing up in a slangy style reminiscent of John Fante. Hints of weirdness and darkness start to creep in and build throughout the text until we are left frankly questioning Fahey's sanity. There's a repetitious kind of interrogatory rhythm to the writing that's quite maddening. Intriguing at first, fresh and raw, but ultimately I was kind of relieved to finish it.
Aug 29, 2013 Josh rated it liked it
grumpy old bastard, Prince George County magick, tutrles and early 20th century ethnic slurs. some Canned Heat shit talk AND humblebrag praise. Not what I wanted it to be, some veils need not be lifted, unless you want Robbie Basho to step up on your American primitive guitar hierarchy over Takoma's bloated face curmudgeon.

WOULD prefer an oral history over a greasy motel memoir in this instance.
Sep 19, 2012 Karlyn rated it really liked it
A completely nonsensical book about blues musicians, local radio, incest, cat people, and young love. Deeply emotional. The prose is hardly prose. There isn't a story. Fully amazing. Related bits are contained in a second volume, "Vampire Vultures".
John Fahey is known as a master of American/"American primitivist" guitar.
A favorite hilarious passage references the inability of 60's Berkeley lefties to wholly love other human beings (you) in a meaningful way.
Sep 25, 2007 Edmund rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: interesting Jerks
This book apparently consists of stories by avant-fingerpicker John Fahey that acolyte/rock experimentalist/former sonic youth bass/noise guy Jim O'rourke found in his trash. There are some bizarre pieces about his childhood that are somewhat racey, plus a story about finding Skip James during the folk/blues revival of the early sixties, and a wonderful story about fishing with blues musician Bukka White. This is, ahem, marginal writing at its finest, jerks.
Aug 31, 2013 Joshua rated it it was amazing
Not an ordinary music bio. in fact, music doesn't figure in until deep into the book. These are bizarre, only quasi-autobiographical stories from my guitar legend of choice. Part curmudgeon, part gonzo, part tasteless sleazebag, part hyper vulnerable distillation of American cultural truth and beauty. The best stories are at the end.
May 22, 2008 Rupert rated it liked it
This is a tough one to get the brain around, particulary the first half that deals with Fahey's childhood. Creepy boy logic that is written in fitting creepy boy language. When it works, it really works, transporting you to boggy hidden deep woods not seen by civilized society.
Once Fahey hits the music portion of the book it's golden.
Dave Trenkel
Mar 26, 2012 Dave Trenkel rated it it was amazing
Wow. Though I am a huge fan of Fahey's music, I did not expect this to be such a powerful book. Fahey's passion for the music he loves really shines, and some of the autobiographical elements are heartbreaking. Fahey was an important artist, and this book provides some really wonderful insights. Cannot recommend highly enough.
Nov 12, 2014 Scott rated it liked it
Finally read this one straight through. I've read much of it at various times and completely out of order. This is ok if you are a Fahey fan but probably of little interest to the average music fan. Writing is average and stories are pretty pedestrian. All except the closing story that I think was a nice piece of story telling and good writing.
Jan 31, 2013 Brendan rated it it was amazing
Fahey's writing is strange and whimsical, taking unexpected left turns into nonsense and disappearing into tangents for pages on end only to return to the main theme as if all was easily connected. He writes like he plays guitar, and I'd gladly read this as much as I listen to his music.
Mar 23, 2008 Daisy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: swooningly-good
As far as I know, this is the only book that guitar legend John Fahey ever published. Which is too bad, because it is utterly perfect. Fahay's prose is effortless and so delightfully weird that you fall into it with complete abandon, feeling like you found a treasure in the trash.
Sep 06, 2012 Evan rated it liked it
Shelves: own
An essentially straight autobiography with select details emphatically twisted for comic, or tragicomic, effect and an idiosyncratic, plainspoken style ... sort of like a more misanthropic Kurt Vonnegut. I liked it.
Feb 01, 2009 Current rated it it was amazing
fahey nails it. the experience of life from romance to childhood gangs to choosing a life of non-commitment. i loved it. hell of a guitarist too. check out his records.
Jun 02, 2016 Jocelyn rated it it was amazing
The stories of his youth may be the most accurate description of the internal sense and bizarreness of the world of childhood that I've ever read.
Jun 07, 2007 Quilliam rated it it was amazing
John Fahey is the beginning and the end for me. Even when he writes things other than beautiful sad original acoustic guitar music, like stories.
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