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The Carter Family: Cannonball Blues

The Carter family — into which Johnny Cash married — is central to the history of country music and, therefore, American music.

These two excerpts sum it up. The first, from Southern Music Network, introduces the characters:

The original Family consisted of Mother Maybelle Addington Carter (1909-1979), who played guitar and sang harmony; Sara Dougherty (1898-1979), who played autoharp and sang alto lead; and Sara’s husband, Alvin Pleasant (A.P.) Carter (d.1960), who played fiddle and sang bass.

In the second, CMT describes why they are remembered:

The most influential group in country music history, the Carter Family switched the emphasis from hillbilly instrumentals to vocals, made scores of their songs part of the standard country music canon, and made a style of guitar playing, “Carter picking,” the dominant technique for decades. Along with Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family were among the first country music stars. Comprised of a gaunt, shy gospel quartet member named Alvin P. Carter and two reserved country girls — his wife, Sara, and their sister-in-law, Maybelle — the Carter Family sang a pure, simple harmony that influenced not only the numerous other family groups of the ’30s and the ’40s, but folk, bluegrass, and rock musicians like Woody Guthrie, Bill Monroe, the Kingston Trio, Doc Watson, Bob Dylan, and Emmylou Harris, to mention just a few.

In this clip, Mother Maybelle plays an amazing autoharp solo on Black Mountain Rag. Here is Wildwood Flower.

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Reading Music

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Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.

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