Right to the Juke Joint
A Personal History of American Music
Notes from a lifetime loving American music
The cowboy songs and dusty Texas car rides of his youth set Patrick B. Mullen on a lifelong journey into the sprawling Arcadia of American music. That music fused so-called civilized elements with native forms to produce everything from Zydeco to Conjunto to jazz to Woody Guthrie. The civilized/native idea, meanwhile, helped develop Mullen’s critical perspective, guide his love of music, and steer his life’s work.
Part scholar's musings and part fan's memoir, Right to the Juke Joint follows Mullen from his early embrace of country and folk to the full flowering of an idiosyncratic, omnivorous interest in music. Personal memory merges with a lifetime of fieldwork in folklore and anthropology to provide readers with a deeply informed analysis of American roots music. Mullen opens up on the world of ideas and his own tireless fandom to explore how his cultural identity—and ours—relates to concepts like authenticity and "folkness." The result is a charming musical map drawn by a gifted storyteller whose boots have traveled a thousand tuneful roads.
"Patrick Mullen is again our generous host, dispensing delicious BBQ, Southern roots dance music and agile musical insights from 'Be-Bop-A-Lula' and Randy's Record Shop—the radio station of "Rhythm and Blues' onward. The new book lets us ride shotgun with Mullen on his journey from Beaumont, Texas boy to Ohio professor to dancing to 'Don't Be Cruel' and 'The Twist' amidst the diversity of American Music. Read Pat Mullen at his expansive best.”--E. Cecilia Conway, author of African Banjo Echoes in Appalachia: A Study of Folk Traditions
"Right to the Juke Joint is an evocative journey through music that tracks the life of its author—Patrick Mullen—from his childhood to the present. Mullen's enduring love for music inspired his life as a folklorist. Beginning with Ray Charles's 'I Got a Woman,' he moves the reader from blues, rock and roll, and rockabilly in the Fifties to jazz, country, and Tex-Mex voices. As one musician told Mullen, 'There ain't but one race created on earth, and that's the human race.' Right to the Juke Joint eloquently shows how music reveals our shared humanity."--William Ferris, author of The South in Color: A Visual Journal
Publication of this book was supported by a grant from the L. J. and Mary C. Skaggs Folklore Fund.
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