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"Ernie Ford was never known for having a passion to succeed," his son deadpans in this masterfully rendered biography of the entertainer, best known for his song "Sixteen Tons," whose lifelong alcoholism and chronic depression drove himself and his first wife to their deaths. Ambition notwithstanding, Tennessee Ernie Ford possessed a winning combination of talent and luck that made him one of the biggest stars in the country, with numerous Top Ten hits and, at the height of his popularity, a weekly television show watched by millions. The younger Ford gives readers an in-depth look behind the curtain, painting a multilayered portrait of the man who hid his pain behind a salt-of-the-earth Everyman pose. The heart of the book is Ford's doomed relationship with his first wife Betty, who would, after more than 40 years of marriage, take her own life. Though storm clouds continually threaten, the Fords' life wasn't all dark; Ford includes colorful anecdotes featuring celebrities like Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope, their neighbor, as well as happy family memories like Disneyland on opening day. Though Ernie recorded hundreds of songs, Ford keeps his dad's career manageable with broad strokes, delving into minutiae only when the topic turns to mega-hit "Sixteen Tons" and the beginning of his gospel period. Ford's ability to stay both honest and impartial make this a compulsively readable story, and a fine model for celebrity bios to come. Even readers unfamiliar with Ford's massive body work will find the drama, pain and success that marked his life fascinating.--Publishers Weekly June 16, 2008
Verdict: Tennessee Ernie Ford was loved by millions. Unfortunately, his fame caused overwhelming problems for his wife and two sons. This memoir by Ernie's eldest is recommendable for larger libraries with interest in celebrity biographies.
Background: Jeffrey "Buck" Ford, the oldest son of Ernie and Betty Ford, writes about a life of wealth and privilege. He sensitively remembers the good and bad times of a disintegrating family. Tennessee Ernie Ford began his career in radio and soon became an instant hit. From hosting NBC's Ford Show (1956 61) to gold records (he's best known for his recording of "Sixteen Tons") and guest appearances, Tennessee Ernie became a major star. Growing up in a tumultuous environment took a toll on Jeffrey, his brother, and Ernie, whose wife, Betty, had a difficult time adjusting to Ernie's fame. Betty was a gifted artist who buried her pain in alcohol and prescription drugs. Ford's two sons disappointed him; Betty's attempted suicides and a failing career soon caused Ernie to become an alcoholic. Other biographies cannot emit the raw emotion and intimate details that Jeffrey has presented in this well-written and compelling memoir.Rosalind Dayen, South Regional Lib., Broward Cty., FL --Library Journal - April 15, 2008 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Tennessee Ernie Ford "and his lovely wife Betty" (a phrase that becomes increasingly, and more clearly, ironic during the progression of this book) had a deeply complex, troubled... Read morePublished 6 days ago by goldpet66
My heart was broken over the life of TN Ernie Ford, but I was not moved to judge but to know life is hard and he stayed with the stuff. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Deborah
I had a difficult time reading the book because it just lacked interest. I do not recommend this book. Sorry.Published 7 months ago by Sharon Cramer
This book really holds your interest. There are parts that move slower, but over-all, it's a good read. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Linda H.
I loved the character of Tennessee Ernie Ford. His voice was a treasure and his charm came through the airwaves and captured the world. Read morePublished on July 23, 2012 by Praiz
If you thought you knew Tennessee Ernie Ford just as the ole pea-pickin' gospel singer, you're in for a surprise. Read morePublished on April 30, 2012 by mrshvd3
Having always been a fan of Tennessee Ernie Ford it was so-o-o interesting to read about his life. Especially since it was written with such affection by his son. Read morePublished on October 17, 2009 by Shirlea
Buck Ford has done an absolutely beautiful job in telling his family history here in River of No Return. Read morePublished on October 4, 2009 by Julie A. Ball
This is a wonderful book, very interesting and entertaining to read! I loved it and my only regret is that I wish it had gone into more details about the family's private lives. Read morePublished on September 24, 2009 by Alphia D. Larkins