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“Blues, being the wellspring of all American music for over a century, is always worth studying. Robert does it right.” –Keith Richards
“An emotional map of musical Memphis. If you don’t know these characters, let Robert Gordon introduce you.” –Elvis Costello
“Robert Gordon’s book is proof that Southern heritage is American heritage, and all sorts of people–black and white, familiar and strange, dead and alive–are what it is.” –Greil Marcus
Profiles and stories of Southern music from the acclaimed author of Respect Yourself: Stax Records and the Soul Explosion.
The fabled city of Memphis has been essential to American music–home of the blues, the birthplace of rock and roll, a soul music capital. We know the greatest hits, but celebrated author Robert Gordon takes us to the people and places history has yet to record. A Memphis native, he whiles away time in a crumbling duplex with blues legend Furry Lewis, stays up late with barrelhouse piano player Mose Vinson, and sips homemade whiskey at Junior Kimbrough’s churning house parties. A passionate listener, he hears modern times deep in the grooves of old records by Lead Belly and Robert Johnson.
The interconnected profiles and stories in Memphis Rent Party convey more than a region. Like mint seeping into bourbon, Gordon gets into the wider world. He beholds the beauty of mistakes with producer Jim Dickinson (Replacements, Rolling Stones), charts the stars with Alex Chilton (Box Tops, Big Star), and mulls the tragedy of Jeff Buckley’s fatal swim. Gordon’s Memphis inspires Cat Power, attracts Townes Van Zandt, and finds James Carr always singing at the dark end of the street.
A rent party is when friends come together to hear music, dance, and help a pal through hard times; it’s a celebration in the face of looming tragedy, an optimism when the wolf is at the door. Robert Gordon finds mystery in the mundane, inspiration in the bleakness, and revels in the individualism that connects these diverse encounters.
“Best Books to Gift in 2018” – Wall Street Journal
“Best Books of the Year” – NPR
“Notable Books of the Year “- No Depression
“10 Best Music Books of the Year” – Vinyl Me Please
“Gordon has spent his life closely chronicling the lives of his hometown’s most famous and obscure sons and daughters . . . [He] weaves these tales together with cogent self-analysis, creating a narrative that’s both a biography of his city and the story of his own sentimental education.” – Ann Powers, NPR, “Best Books of the Year”
“Delivers indelible encounters . . . shedding light on lesser known performers . . . all players in Memphis’ beautifully unruly mythology. [Gordon] gives you plenty to ponder.” – Pitchfork
“Robert’s feel for his subject is very similar to the subjects’ feel for their music. Blues, being the wellspring of all American music for over a century, is always worth studying. Robert does it right.” – Keith Richards
“This is an emotional map of musical Memphis. If you don’t know these characters, let Robert Gordon introduce you. If they are familiar to you, then you will enjoy the wit and modesty of his portraiture and perspective.” – Elvis Costello
“Beginning with Sam Phillips turning David Letterman to jelly on national TV–an event that needs Robert Gordon to fix it in history–his book is proof that Southern heritage is American heritage, and all sorts of people–black and white, familiar and strange, dead and alive–are what it is.” – Greil Marcus
“There’s no better guide to the back streets, studios, picnics, and juke joints of Memphis and north Mississippi than Gordon.” – No Depression, “Notable Books of the Year”
About the Author
Robert Gordon has been writing about Memphis music and history for thirty years and is the author of It Came from Memphis, Can’t Be Satisfied, The King on the Road, The Elvis Treasures, and Respect Yourself. He won a Grammy in 2011 for his liner notes to the Big Star box set Keep an Eye on the Sky. His film work includes producing and directing the documentary Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story and also the Emmy-winning Best of Enemies. Gordon lives in Memphis.