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In Tune

Charley Patton, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Roots of American Music

312 pages / 6.00 x 9.00 inches / 17 halftones, 1 map

ebook available

Southern History | Music

  Hardcover / 9780807157800 / October 2014
Born into poverty in Mississippi at the close of the nineteenth century, Charley Patton and Jimmie Rodgers established themselves among the most influential musicians of their era. In Tune tells the story of the parallel careers of these two pioneering recording artists—one white, one black—who moved beyond their humble origins to change the face of American music.
 
At a time when segregation formed impassable lines of demarcation in most areas of southern life, music transcended racial boundaries. Jimmie Rodgers and Charley Patton drew inspiration from musical traditions on both sides of the racial divide, and their songs about hard lives, raising hell, and the hope of better days ahead spoke to white and black audiences alike. Their music reflected the era in which they lived but evoked a range of timeless human emotions. As the invention of the phonograph disseminated traditional forms of music to a wider audience, Jimmie Rodgers gained fame as the “Father of Country Music,” while Patton’s work eventually earned him the title “King of the Delta Blues.”
 
Patton and Rodgers both died young, leaving behind a relatively small number of recordings. Though neither remains well known to mainstream audiences, the impact of their contributions echoes in the songs of today. The first book to compare the careers of these two musicians, In Tune is a vital addition to the history of American music.

 

A native of Florence, Mississippi, Ben Wynne earned his doctorate degree in history from the University of Mississippi. He currently teaches at the University of North Georgia and has written several works related to southern history.

Praise for In Tune

“With this admirable and instructive book, Wynne (history, Univ. of North Georgia) adds to and enriches the literature dedicated to these musicians by juxtaposing their lives as contemporary Mississippians growing up within 100 miles of one another. . . . Highly recommended. All readers.”—CHOICE

“Wynne is to be commended for his passionate, detailed research in an important area of American music history. His well-conceived narrative and vivid portrayal of these two musicians brings dignity and value to their music and a better understanding of the complexity of race and class in the early-twentieth-century American South. Anyone interested in the roots of American popular music will find this book a valuable addition to their personal library.”—Journal of Southern History

“A gripping examination of how the work of Patton, Rodgers and others of the era would come to define so much of popular music in the decades to come.”—Bob Mehr, Memphis Commercial Appeal

“Ben Wynne’s broad and engaging In Tune is a study of two giants of American popular music. . . . In Tune lays out the complex terrain of American music, exposing the many contradictions present in our understanding of its history. Wynne’s bold comparison of the lives and music of Charley Patton and Jimmie Rodgers reminds us of the need to view music as resolutely embedded within broader social and institutional currents.”—Notes

“Wynne’s In Tune: Charley Patton, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Roots of American Music demonstrates that the right-place-right-time scenario preserved their innovative and exemplary skill for the ages.”—Jackson Clarion-Ledger

“It’s to author Ben Wynne’s credit that I now think differently upon the relationship between these two musical pioneers—after all, nothing is as simple as it first appears.”—Rhythms

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