The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

Southwestern Hzstorical Quarterly

Overall, the Willie Nelson who emerges from this book is much like
the affecting music that he writes and performs: Like his lyrics he is
disarmingly honest and deceptively simple, but, like the off-beat phras-
ing of his singing style, Nelson moves to his own rhythms and cadences.
Without ever substantially changing his honky-tonk style of perfor-
mance, he won a new audience among the nation's rock-oriented youth
while skillfully preserving his links to Middle America. He says "I am as
simple as I look" (p. 23), but he has excelled as a musician, actor, busi-
nessman, festival organizer, and humanitarian. And he is about as close
to being a liberal as can be found in the country music business. This
autobiography conveys a solid understanding of the man and his songs,
and of the hard, competitive music business that has consumed his life.
Equally important, one gets a stronger sense of how it felt to grow up in
rural Texas during the 193os and 1940s. While most rural Texans did
not have the experience of singing in honky-tonks and on early morn-
ing radio shows during their teenage years, they did share the funda-
mentalist values and economic struggle for survival that defined the
lives of Willie Nelson and his family. This shared struggle goes far to
explain the intimate relationship and loyalties that have long existed
among country musicians and their fans. An early life spent in the
hard-scrabble environment of Abbott, Texas, of course, cannot fully
explain the artistry and appeal of Willie Nelson. Though deeply rooted
in Central Texas soil, he has created a musical style and a mystique that
extends far beyond the horizons of that experience. This book will not
answer all of our questions about Nelson, but it is a good and entertain-
ing place to begin our search.
Tulane Universzty BILL C. MALONE
"The Whorehouse Bells Were Ringing": And Other Songs Cowboys Sing. Col-
lected and edited by Guy Logsdon. (Urbana: University of Illinois
Press, 1989. Pp. xxii+388. Preface, acknowledgments, illustra-
tions, notes, glossary, bibliography, index. $24.95.)
Bawdy songs are a familiar product of male domains, such as labor
or the military, characterized by work, action, danger, and camarade-
rie. Yet, these "dirty" songs have been largely ignored in the published
lore of the American cowboy. The present work, part of the Music in
American Life series, attempts to set the record straight after a century
of romantic myth and bowdlerizing by collectors and publishers, and to
"make available a true range of songs that have been-and remain-a
significant part of cowboy culture and experience" (p. xx).
The product of some thirty years of collecting and research, Whore-
house Bells brings together sixty-one cowboy favorites not published

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/. Accessed July 31, 2014.