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Country: The Twisted Roots Of Rock 'n' Roll

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  584 Ratings  ·  28 Reviews
Celebrating the dark origins of our most American music, Country reveals a wild shadowland of history that encompasses blackface minstrels and yodeling cowboys; honky-tonk hell and rockabilly heaven; medieval myth and musical miscegenation; sex, drugs, murder; and rays of fierce illumination on Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and others, famous and forgotten, whose demonology is A ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published August 22nd 1996 by Da Capo Press (first published 1977)
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Five foot stomping, hand clapping stars. Mr. Tosches is a man after my own heart, tracing the lineage of country songs back to their origins. This exhaustive book is a work of love about country and roots music. It is an account of certain mystiques, and the folklore surrounding some of the artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Hank Williams, and many others. Some who were a revelation to me, and led me on a music hunting voyage of discovery on You Tube and iTunes. It is written in a wonderful, non ...more
Peycho Kanev
Nov 30, 2015 Peycho Kanev rated it really liked it
Helluva book. Twisted.
May 10, 2009 Susan rated it did not like it

First of all, let me say that I worked in indie/collector record stores off and on for over 10 years. I've seen record collectors up close and personal, and honestly I really admire their passion for their interest. I've verged on it myself. Until I did it for a living for more than, say, 6 months.
My issues with this book:
This is not about country music. It is about blues, minstrelry, and Jerry Lee Lewis. And it's a lot of "...and this can be seen when [artist:] recorded [song:] in [ye
Paul Bryant
Jan 25, 2012 Paul Bryant rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: folk-music
It took me a long time to get a handle on the way that British and American music developed in the last century. Well, it's a big subject. In America you had a mindbending wealth of popular music recorded from the early 1920s onward, thanks to such entrepreneurs as Ralph Peer. You had blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, cajun and old timey in their multifarious genius recorded on thousands of 78s which were subsequently rescued from total oblivion in the 1950s and 60s by such collectors as Joe Bussard ...more
Jul 26, 2012 Constantine rated it liked it
Second Tosches book in two days....he (Tosches) intrigues me. His prose is scintillating and often takes brilliant flights that absolutely transmogrify my world weary,skeptical soul. Excuse the hyberbolic purple prose here...but i'm really bananas with Tosches right now. I finished Tosches bio on Jerry Lee Lewis,entitled Hellfire,yesterday and gave it 4 stars. I am simultaneously reading Where Dead Voices Gather and that is gonna get five stars for sure. The subject of this review,Country is a ...more
Feb 23, 2016 Albert rated it liked it
I was given a used paperback copy of this book for my birthday, after many years of absent-mindedly passing it by in bookstores over the years, do I finally decided to read it. I found it instantly intriguing, as I had let my interest in the various American roots music forms become less fanatical over the years. After a while, I felt as if this book was just a compilation of lists of various old-timey songs and small anecdotal snippets from the lives of some of the author's favorite performers ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Tim rated it liked it
Nick Tosches' first book, in which his trademarked style of "hard-boiled nonfiction" (which I recently described to a colleague as "40% facts, 60% attitude) was still in development. An interesting read to see the directions it would lead the author in his later works--'Unsung Heroes of Rock & Roll' looks at the history of early (black) R&B/rock & roll pioneers that he skims over here; chapters on Jerry Lee Lewis and Emmett Miller were turned into full-length studies of their own ...more
Ray Dunsmore
Oct 02, 2014 Ray Dunsmore rated it liked it
God damn, does this man have some fucked up stories about Jerry Lee Lewis. These drunken hellion tales are by far the highlight of this whiskey-drenched unfiltered history of the origins of country's finest facets. The story of the recording session Tosches sat in on in which Jerry's father comes by after outsmarting the police into not only not arresting him for DUI & speeding, but getting them to drive him to the session themselves; a one-armed man gets drunk and beats his wife who leaves ...more
Oct 14, 2015 Jackie rated it liked it
Tosches is a writer who I was destined to find. A rock and roll addict, a bit on the cynical side, and yet at the same time very wrapped up with the ancient myths & other such things...I stumbled upon this book thinking it would be more of a story sort of book but it wound up being chock full of research. Nevertheless there were still some parts of it nicely fleshed out with all sorts of stories (Jerry Lee Lewis seems to be an obsession for this writer...) Overall it wasn't what I was ...more
Jun 06, 2015 Callum rated it really liked it
Nick Tosches crafts an unusual history of Rock N Roll and country, arranging the book as a stream of consciousness exploration of the subject, providing a wide picture and scanning the surface of a hundred or more well known (Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis) and unknown (Emmett Miller) and providing a decent inroduction to all of them. Much of this material would be expanded on in Tosches' later Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story and so its interesting to see the seeds of the book in these pages.

Dec 20, 2008 Justin rated it liked it
First off, this is an invaluable reference to anyone with an interest in old country, especially one beyond the typical artists. I learned about a lot of early country artists for the first time and this book has led me to try and track down some recordings of them. The behind-the-scenes stories of these musicians' lives and the history of the music's long development were pretty interesting as well. But unfortunately as a read, this gets pretty tedious all too often. Tosches is pretty obsessed ...more
Jul 05, 2007 Chadwick rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who really care about country music
Shelves: music
Tosches' obsession with the dark places that human being can go can feel a bit tawdry at times, but when he hits it, it really works. Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock and Roll is my favorite of his works of music criticism. He brings to bear the fierce flame of his awe-inspiring (and autodidactic) erudition to great effect in this text, tracing the roots of Country and Western song back to English medieval ballads and beyond, along the way chronicling some of the forgotten progenitors of the ...more
Jun 16, 2014 Loraine rated it liked it
Maybe tomorrow I'd rate Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock 'n' Roll a four-star production, because of the intensity with which Nick Tosches tells the story as he understands of the stew from which rock and roll roiled up out of. Today, though, it's three stars just because I'm worn out by the lists . . . list after list of early musicians who collectively brought us rock and roll. Still, Tosches brings such a fierce style to the telling of this history, a style that is like baptism by fire into ...more
Corey J
Dec 28, 2015 Corey J rated it liked it
While I learned a few snippets of information from reading this book, it felt too much like an extended Discogs entry. There was no structure at all to it and it seemed to gloss entirely over the whole premise of the book (I.e. that Country music is a twisted root of Rock n Roll). Instead it seemed unusually obsessed with one performer; appears to pine for the era of blackface; and contains more than a few turns of phrase that seem wildly inappropriate (see the crack about teenage panties in the ...more
Moira Dennison
Jan 13, 2013 Moira Dennison rated it liked it
Still amazed as to how a writer of Tosches calibre has managed to pass me buy until fairly recently. This man knows his stuff ~ does not tolerate fools ~ and weaves a torrid tale of sex and drugs and murder and country music and doesn't pull his punches. Some of the artists I knew but some Im now scurrying to seek out. Because he made me want to hear them. If you think you know your music - think again - read this book and learn
Jun 14, 2014 J.T. rated it really liked it
Despite being cluttered with information, this is a spectacular fount of fine writing and fascinating detail about the subject. I do recommend getting the paperback version over kindle, as it'll be easier to flip back and forth, making notes and underlining bits while trying to keep the names, places and tunes straight. If the subject interests, this is essential reading.
Claudia Vaughn
Jan 21, 2008 Claudia Vaughn rated it it was ok
This guy clearly has a passion for country music and amazing knowledge of the subject; unfortunately, he doesn't convey either very well. The book reads like a long set of lists of names and dates. Too bad. The intricacy of the lists and the characters who comprise them suggest that there is ample material for a good book here.
Aug 24, 2014 Mike rated it it was amazing
Shelves: americana
Nick Tosches is a genius when it comes to writing about American popular (and forgotten) music, and this book previsions his transformational biography of Jerry Lee Lewis, "Hellfire" (the best music book I have ever read, and yes, I have read many of them), and stands capably on the shelf next to the best examinations of American song.
Sep 16, 2008 Wolfgang rated it really liked it
Tosches', fanboy of the ugly and scandalous in music, earliest novel. It's easy to see how he's improved since this one. It reads manically with lists, and isn't really a complete book. It's quite chaotic, but damned if you aren't given some great anecdotes.
Jan 31, 2008 Daniel rated it it was amazing
a passionate, superbly written book about country & western's dark side that i've read twice and will read again someday, for sure. this is truly twisted stuff that you soon won't forget. Tosches fucking rocks!
Dec 27, 2007 Vivablur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I learned that Jerry Lee Lewis is the wild, ugly and transcendent id of American music. I also learned that the folk song "Black Jack Davey" was an English song about gypsies.
John Schwabacher
Feb 25, 2009 John Schwabacher rated it really liked it
Definitely strange, and apparently true, but maybe not so much "wonderful", this book is full of incredible stories about musicians you've heard about and many you haven't.
Mar 14, 2015 Kevin rated it really liked it
the writing is kind of deranged, in a great way; there are a handful of anecdotes that are well worth slogging through the lists
Peter Zielinski
Peter Zielinski rated it really liked it
Feb 13, 2016
Cosmas rated it it was amazing
Feb 19, 2013
Patrick Brown
Patrick Brown rated it liked it
Jul 12, 2007
Kristiina Mitskus
Kristiina Mitskus rated it it was amazing
May 10, 2015
Fred Gambles
Fred Gambles rated it really liked it
Feb 28, 2016
Rachel B
Rachel B rated it really liked it
Feb 01, 2016
Stephen Hughes
Stephen Hughes rated it it was amazing
Feb 28, 2013
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Nick Tosches was born in Newark, New Jersey, and raised by wolves from the other side. Through nepotism he became a barroom porter at the age of fourteen. Casting this career to the wind in his quest for creative fulfillment, he became a paste-up artist for the Lovable Underwear Company in New York City. On January 12, 1972, he went to lunch and never came back, drifting south to Florida, where, ...more
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“I believe in the power of origins, a belief that, as Ecclesiastes put it, 'that wich is done is that wich shall be done: and there is no new thing under de sun'; that we claim as originality and discovery are nothing but the airs and delusios of our innocence, ignorance, and arrogance: that whatever is said was said better - more powerfully, beautifully, and purely, long ago” 7 likes
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