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

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9780743243827: Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music

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 is the legacy of the Carters—songs that have shaped and influenced generations of artists who have followed them.

Brilliant in insight and execution, Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone? is also an in-depth study of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, and their bittersweet story of love and fulfillment, sadness and loss. The result is more than just a biography of a family; it is also a journey into another time, almost another world, and theirs is a story that resonates today and lives on in the timeless music they created.

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About the Author:

Mark Zwonitzer is a writer and director whose work appears nationally on public television. He is currently finishing up work on a documentary about the creation of the transcontinental railroad and hopes to begin working on a documentary about the Carter Family soon. He lives in Connecticut.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: Pleasant

Five separate mountain ridges cut on a southwest diagonal through Scott County, Virginia: Powell's and Stone westernmost, out by the Kentucky border; Clinch Mountain farthest south and east, not far from the Tennessee border; and in between, the Copper Creek and Moccasin ridges. Every big valley rolls and folds into itself, forming valleys within valleys, haunts and hollows that can't be seen from even the highest perch in the county, on top of Clinch Mountain, 3,200 feet up. So you'd have to have a pretty fair knowledge of the richly filigreed landscape, of the right roadless gap to take, to make your way into the deepest hollows. That inaccessibility, with its promise of well-hid treasures, has always been the heart of the romance of the Appalachian Mountains. "A mysterious realm," the writer Horace Kephart called the southern Appalachians, "terra incognita." Kephart was a St. Louis librarian who had traveled widely in Europe and spent years cataloging a gargantuan collection of works by and about a fourteenth-century Italian poet. In 1904, with his penchant for the obscure surprisingly undiminished, Kephart moved to the America's southern mountains and began cataloging the culture of its natives.

Ten years later he brought out his book Our Southern Highlanders and introduced a people as exotic to his fellow academics as South Sea islanders or Eskimos. For a decade Kephart had plumbed the region's language, superstitions, work patterns, diet, and dentistry: "It was here I first heard of 'tooth-jumping,'" wrote Kephart. "Let one of my old neighbors tell it in his own words: 'You take a cut nail (not one o' those round wire nails) and place its squar p'int agin the ridge of the tooth, jest under the edge of the gum. Then jump the tooth out with a hammer. A man who knows how can jump a tooth without it hurtin' half as bad as pullin'. But old Uncle Neddy Cyarter went to jump one of his own teeth out, one time, and missed the nail and mashed his nose with the hammer....Some men git to be as experienced at it as tooth-dentists are at pullin'. They cut around the gum, and then put the nail at jest sich an angle, slantin' downward for an upper tooth or upwards for a lower one, and hit one lick.'

"'Will the tooth come at the first lick?'

"'Ginerally. If it didn't you might as well stick your head in a swarm o' bees and ferget who you are.'"

It's no wonder Horace got caught up in the flat-out oddness of the remotest hollows (the "back of beyond," he called it), but his seminal work in the mountains had the effect of obscuring the regal and practical breadth of Appalachian culture. By 1913, it was way too late for rural to still be thought of as synonymous with backward or isolated. At the time Kephart was doing his fieldwork, a young native of Scott County, Leonidas Reuben Dingus, educated at the free schools near Wood, Virginia, was presenting his own postdoctoral papers, to wit: "Study of Literary Tendencies in the Novellen of Theodore Storm," "A Brief on Schiller's Esthetic Philosophy," and "Beowulf Translated into Alliterative Verse -- Selections." It was with evident pride that Dingus was celebrated as "one of the ripest scholars the county has produced."

A full generation before Kephart arrived, Scott County had ninety-six public schools and two local newspapers, not counting the Toledo Blade, which arrived over the mountains by horseback in Copper Creek every two weeks. There was nobody who wasn't but a few hours' ride from a railroad station, and from there you could get to Kingsport, Nashville, Indianapolis, Washington, D.C., or New York. And the railroads could deliver any of the largest or most exotic items to be found in the Montgomery Ward or Sears, Roebuck catalogs. Usually that wasn't necessary, however, for most of what was needed could be got right in Scott County. There were forty corn and flour mills, fourteen sawmills, and two woolen mills, all powered by the creeks and rivers that ran through the valleys. Every wide place in the road, such as Fido, Osborn's Ford, and Nickelsville, had a general merchandise store that stocked everything from fine china to Cracker Jacks. Even the outlying areas were dotted with home manufacturers who could take a body from cradle to grave. You could buy a pram, a wagon, or a coffin, handmade locally.

In Hiltons, James P. Curtis was doing a fine trade in both guns and butter. He'd invented a churn that ran by the motion of a rocking chair, and a more efficient turn plow for the hundreds of dirt farmers scratching a living off of the land. But he is remembered best for his rifles. During the Civil War, Curtis had supplied nearly a thousand Kentucky rifles to the Confederate army. At the turn of the century, his long-shot rifles were still in wide use in the land disputes that had entered the American consciousness as "feuds."

More than anything else in Scott County, land counted. In the last decades of the nineteenth century, nearly four-fifths of Scott County's seventeen thousand residents farmed. Even at $2.26 an acre, no commodity was more precious than land. And it wasn't just the present value of the land that mattered, but the future value. In fact, the fastest growing trades in the county -- as in most of Appalachia -- were land agentry and lawyering. And most of the men practicing these professions were under the employ of the railroads and their subsidiaries, out on the prowl, quietly leasing mineral or timber rights from local farmers. "Inexhaustible beds of iron ore (red and brown hematite) are found in this county," boasted a local business directory in 1889, "and manganese, lead, coal, marble of various kinds, and limestone in abundance....The extension of the Narrow-Gauge road through this county from Bristol in Tennessee, will open up its mineral treasures, which now lie buried awaiting convenient and cheap transportation facilities."

Already, in 1891, the railroads and their affiliates were clear-cutting tens of thousands of acres of forest for crossties and square-set mining timbers. Five separate mines were in full cry, blasting coal and iron out of the ground, filling up freight cars behind the gleaming new Norfolk & Western or Virginia & Southwestern engines, all headed for the more populated and higher-paying parts of America. The railroads were not a paternal force in the valleys, not by a long shot. Neither were the timber companies or the mine owners or the quarry operators. They meant to dig out of the land whatever value it held, and Scott Countians take the hindmost. By 1891, for better or worse, the future had rumbled into the valleys.

From her little one-room log cabin on the other side of Pine Ridge, Mollie Bays Carter couldn't hear the Virginia & Southwestern engines roll through Poor Valley. Not that she didn't have her ears open to them. It was the middle of the night and she was by the fire, still in her day clothes, sitting bolt upright on a cane-backed chair. On her lap she held a shotgun.

Mollie was just nineteen and she still held her beauty, which owed in no small part to the Cherokee in her. Her great-grandfather was a half-blood, and you could see it in Mollie's high cheekbones, her dark eyes, and her straight coal-black hair. She kept her hair long ("A woman's hair is her glory," they taught her at the Friendly Grove Methodist Church). When she let it down, it would fall well below her narrow waist. But Mollie rarely let her hair down. She plaited it every day and kept it tied in a fat bun on top of her tiny head. Above all, Mollie was a Christian woman and modest in her appearance.

In the cabin that night, she was alone except for her infant son, Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter, who was born just weeks before, on December 15, 1891. That's why she was up in the middle of the night. Earlier that day, Mollie had spied a panther skulking around the farm. There was no glass in the windows of her cabin; she'd just hung sackcloth over them. That might keep out the wind, but it wasn't going to keep out a hungry panther. So Mollie sat alert and awake all night long, in frightened defense of her newborn son.

Where her husband, Bob, was she couldn't have said for sure. Robert Carter was part of a long line of roaming mountain men, from Daniel Boone (who had been so constitutionally unsettled that he had, at age eighty, still searched out new trails) to the novelist Thomas Wolfe (who would occasionally, and without purpose, walk the entire circumference of Manhattan Island). Bob Carter was a far-wanderer, a gangly, long-legged man, and, truth be told, a bit flaky. He never was much for work, and there were times when Mollie would look up and Bob was just plain gone. No telling where...or for how long.

One thing he liked to do was visit the sick. Bob could sit bedside for hours, praying over the afflicted. If somebody in the Valley was dying of cancer, neighbors might help plant the corn or bring in the harvest, but most made a point to stay well outside the plagued house, reckoning any sickness could be catching. Not Robert Carter. Later, during the big influenza epidemic of 1917, he was so sta...

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Descripción SIMON SCHUSTER, United States, 2004. Paperback. Estado de conservación: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. 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 is the legacy of the Carters--songs that have shaped and influenced generations of artists who have followed them. Brilliant in insight and execution, Will You Miss Me When I m Gone? is also an in-depth study of A.P., Sara, and Maybelle Carter, and their bittersweet story of love and fulfillment, sadness and loss. The result is more than just a biography of a family; it is also a journey into another time, almost another world, and theirs is a story that resonates today and lives on in the timeless music they created. Nº de ref. de la librería BZV9780743243827

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