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Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City (Music in American Life) Hardcover – November 5, 2007

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Air Castle of the South: WSM and the Making of Music City (Music in American Life) + How Nashville Became Music City, U.S.A.: 50 Years of Music Row (Book and CD)
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Editorial Reviews

Review

"In the midst of commercial radio's struggles comes a reminder of its glory days, when stations' soaring transmitter towers seemed like monuments to the broadcasters' influence. Air Castle of the South, by Craig Havighurst, tells the story of one such station, Nashville's WSM-AM. . . . While Mr. Havighurst, a music journalist and documentarian, is most interested in the station's cultural import, Air Castle of the South also presents a fascinating case study in the rise of commercial broadcasting. . . . Mr. Havighurst has done a service in preserving the colorful and instructive history of WSM - and in reminding us that giants once lived on the radio dial."--Wall Street Journal


Air Castle of the South brings a great deal of existing and new information about WSM into a single location. Havighurst employs a very readable style in presenting the history of this radio station, and there is no doubt that WSM has fostered the dissemination of country music. This book will have tremendous appeal to both general readers and scholars interested in country music.”--James E. Akenson, cochairman, International Country Music Conference, and coeditor of Country Music Goes to War 



"This is a vital book in the canons of country music history, but it's also a delightful read because the corporate growth and technological advances are peppered with stories such as Ernest Tubb's arrest for firing a gun in the National Life lobby and Hank Williams's call from jail. Havighurst treats WSM as if it's a character as rich and important as those it made famous, and he recreates the intangible studio moments that evaporate into thin air after reaching listeners' homes."--Weekly Standard

Book Description

Started by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1925, WSM became one of the most influential and exceptional radio stations in the history of broadcasting and country music. WSM gave Nashville the moniker “Music City USA” as well as a rich tradition of music, news, and broad-based entertainment. With the rise of country music broadcasting and recording between the 1920s and ‘50s, WSM, Nashville, and country music became inseparable, stemming from WSM’s launch of the Grand Ole Opry, popular daily shows like Noontime Neighbors, and early morning artist-driven shows such as Hank Williams on Mother’s Best Flour.

 

Sparked by public outcry following a proposal to pull country music and the Opry from WSM-AM in 2002, Craig Havighurst scoured new and existing sources to document the station’s profound effect on the character and self-image of Nashville. Introducing the reader to colorful artists and businessmen from the station’s history, including Owen Bradley, Minnie Pearl, Jim Denny, Edwin Craig, and Dinah Shore, the volume invites the reader to reflect on the status of Nashville, radio, and country music in American culture.

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Product Details

  • Series: Music in American Life
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: University of Illinois Press; Presumed 1st as edition not stated edition (November 5, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0252032578
  • ISBN-13: 978-0252032578
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #695,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. GORMAN on February 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Havighurst has compiled a tremendous amount of information on this subject into a story which comes to life. I can't imagine any one writing a more definitive work on WSM and that era. He has succeeded, for this reader, into making WSM a living, breathing character unto itself within this story. I'm not even a huge country music fan but no matter, Havighurst's storytelling style and obvious passion for telling this story won me over early on. Once I picked it up I couldn't put it down. He made me feel as if I was right there in the early days of radio, watching and listening as all the early pioneers of the industry shaped the airwaves. Great read for anyone interested in how radio began and evolved and it's impact on not only country music but the world as well.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William B. Knowlton on October 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Just finished Craig Havighurst's magnificent history of WSM. It's a read that you hate to see come to an end.

What a GREAT station WSM was in its golden age which extended into the TV era while other stations of its size threw in the towel and got rid of its live musicians and the stuff that made bigtime radio great.

The book comes to a sad ending--the rash sacking of TNN and Opryland--and I kinda felt like I was finishing the final pages of "Gone With the Wind."

Anybody with an interest in Bluegrass, Country, Nashville, big time radio, the Ryman and/or the roots of country music and broadcasting has to read this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ray Aubrey on April 3, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Legend, WSM AM 650 is without doubt the greatest radio station that ever existed anywhere. Heard in some 38 states in the evening, WSM has brought millions of hours of listening pleasure to millions of people since 1925. No other radio station even comes close to the programming and content of this great radio station. This book chronicles The Legend from it's infancy to it's prowness in today's radio world. Great reading and information for a true American icon and institution.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Paul Jensen on January 4, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Havighurst traces the history of Nashville's signature broadcaster from the very first utterance, "This is Ward-Belmont, Nashville", to the destruction of Opryland and its replacement by Opry Mills.

You'll read about how one of the most popular broadcasts for a decade was the daily passing of the Pan American passenger train. How all of the local programming was performed live in the studios at Seventh and Union, and how a couple of those shows live on today. Yes, the Grand Ole Opry and Friday Night Opry. You'll read about the Opry from the very beginning, including details about all of its former homes. You'll read how Nashvillians turned their nose at this hillbilly music and how the show survived and thrived despite local indifference. Some wanted to cancel it, but it was just too popular.

Read how a local insurance company turned a small promotional gadget into a media empire, how a man from Oklahoma saved that empire when the insurance company morphed into American General and discarded the entertainment business, and how that empire was nearly destroyed by corporate greed and ineptness.

You'll read how the Ryman escaped the wrecking ball. How the recording industry was born in Nashville by a group of moonlighting radio engineers. The term "Music City" was coined on WSM.

Two radio stations. Nashville's first TV station. Two cable networks. The Ryman Auditorium. The Wildhorse Saloon. The General Jackson. Opry Mills. And of course the beloved Opryland.

It all came from one radio station. The story is amazing. I enjoyed this book, and if you have any interest in learning about the building of Music City, you will too.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Lionel Cartwright on January 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I believe Air Castle of the South is an important book, in that it goes far beyond the history of a musical genre. It sheds light on the mindset of those who first dabbled in a revolutionary new medium. The innocence, curiosity, and zeal of some of radio's brilliantly naive pioneers is painstakingly recorded, as is their evolution from enthusiastic hobbyists to full time broadcasters. But this accessible read is not just a nostalgic indulgence. It's full of insights for the era-changing times we are in now, where the Internet is opening new doors of opportunity for those willing to rethink the why, the what, and the how. As a performing artist who came up through the ranks playing on country music radio shows, including the Opry, Air Castle rekindled my affection for the charm and simplicity of those shows. As someone who grew up listening to a transistor radio in bed late at night with an earphone, it renewed my love of the medium of sound; where the absence of force-fed visual images allows one's imagination to create them in the theater of the mind. Thank you, Craig Havighurst, for this invaluable work. It is clearly a labor of love.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SL in TN on May 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a fascinating, engaging read. It feels more like a great story than a history book, but is a really interesting insight into the beginnings of WSM, the early history of radio, country music, the Opry, the start of many a famous name in broadcasting, and Nashville itself. Thoroughly enjoyable, I would recommend this to every reader I know.
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By Jim Cox on November 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I lived in Nashville from the 1950s through the middle of the 1970s which may have been the heyday of WSM's operation, overlapping the inauguration of Opryland. Havinghurst's text tells it just the way I remember it and I have to constantly remind myself that he didn't move there until the latter 1990s. It seems as if he was always there for there is so little he's missed. I'm not finished reading the book yet but give it a ringing endorsement. If a better book has been written on a single radio station (and I've read quite a few), I've yet to read it. This is really gripping for anybody who wants to know what went on behind the scenes of country music. WSM is one of the premier stations of the South and in the 20th century, none could touch it in so many dimensions. What a terrific collection of memories!
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