Our esteemed host, Don Barrett, invited me to tell the story about one more media person’s memoir – mine. It’s been in the works for a while and now it’s in the “Coming Soon” category. Here’s the cover.
Turning the tables on Don, I should let you know that he’s been part of this project from way back. We met when he was writing his first book, “Los Angeles Radio People” in the 90s. Thousands of people from around the world visit his site, laradio.com, every day. Click his artwork above to join them.
Don was conducting one of his thorough interviews about my time on the air and we bonded over the fact that both of our mothers had ALS and we were caring for them.
I showed him a short story, material planned for a someday book about my gospel-singing family and our life in the Deep South during the 1950s. He sent the story to a friend in the movie industry whose wife was an agent. She liked the material and asked if I’d adapt it for the stage. I did and we had play readings in Los Angeles, so though I haven’t been steadily working on this book since the 90’s when I met Don, pieces of it did exist back then.
I knew I needed to finish telling the stories I’d begun, so I set myself the task of finishing a book manuscript by a certain date in 2017, pulling out reams of stories and rough chapter outlines and notes on scraps of paper and putting in long days and nights until it was ready.
I submitted to a university press in the Deep South. The Glory Road:A Gospel Gypsy Life, is a first-person memoir, but it’s more like a novel about some colorful characters I’m related to, singers and songwriters and musicians, with American music history woven through. It takes place during times of enormous change in music and religion, when Saturday night came to Sunday mornings, when my family’s gospel music merged with rockabilly and church became entertainment.
My brother and I sang harmony with the family and lived much of our lives on Route 66 moving from tent revivals to radio stations to All Day Singings to churches and just about any place a microphone and amplifier and speakers were set up. I wanted this material and the music the family made to become part of Southern history. I learned that many university presses keep their books in circulation and keep printing for years into the future. That matters to me.
What does this have to do with radio? Just about everything. Without radio, my parents’ music wouldn’t have been heard by people who eventually recorded it, and who later offered Mother her own recording contract. We appeared on radio stations where the studio was in the antenna shack outside of town and other stations located in fancy hotels. My first radio appearance was on WDAK, Columbus, Georgia, at age three. No adjustable booms. Stand the little girl on a chair stacked with stuff until she can reach the mic and she’ll sing her part.
After my parents passed, a record label re-issued their music and it appears everywhere these days – movies, TV shows, downloads, wherever there’s music. I’ll post a couple of links that’ll take you to a current Netflix show soundtrack where my mother, Sister Fern Jones is singing and a wayback link to Johnny Cash singing a song she wrote.
My book releases April 21, 2021. Here’s the publisher.
“University presses have long been key in the literary ecosystem when it comes to issuing original, risky work, and ’Bama’s is one of the most innovative.”
Just this week, the contract arrived from my audio book publisher. Media people, especially voiceovers, tend to record their own manuscripts. I’m not doing that. I want to sit back and listen to someone else tell these stories.
I write a new blog about once a week here at this site Dave Williams (KLIF/Dallas) and I share. I write often about The Glory Road and sometimes I include excerpts from those days.
Here’s a song from Sister Fern. You can find others on You Tube.
Thanks, Don, for the invitation. It’s good to visit laradio.com. I do it every day.