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My First 90 Years Plus 3 Hardcover – March 1, 2007
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Now that I have read his autobiography, I am amazed at how much about himself he was finally willing to reveal, even the unhappy things that happened at various stages of his life. Equally interesting are the shear volume of dates, places, and names he was able to associate with even the smaller things that he recalls.
Another interesting feature of Nelson's book are the texts of numerous speeches he gave during his life, especially those given at meetings of the Country Music Association, during which he announced results of surveys and plans completed and started to expand the market for country music.
The vast number of records Ken Nelson produced during this period may be unmatched by any other producer. How did he find time to do anything other than just turn the tape machine on and let it roll? I just recently read a quote by the late Buck Owens (one of Nelson's biggest hit makers) who said that Nelson made it a habit of signing contracts with musicians who had their own bands and wrote their own songs thus making it easier when it was time to go into the studio and record. More often than not, the songs, arrangements, and rehearsals were done and the artists were ready for recording. Thus there was less to do before the recording stage. That's how Nelson managed to record so many artists and songs.
Nelson details his professional and social relationships with dozens of musicians. So, if you are fan of just about any Capitol country or rock musician from this era, you will find much to read about them here, along with photos.
As with everything else in his life, Nelson offers great detail about the illnesses he suffered during the final decade of his life, which paralleled the deaths of dozens of his family members and music associates. This final part of the book is rather sad and greatly resembles what my own parents went through in recent years.
One person stands out in this book, that being his daughter Claudia, who is lovingly credited with taking care of Nelson's many needs, as he got older. Nelson's wife died about twenty years before he did and his daughter is depicted as being very helpful to her widower father.
His autobiography, "My First 90 Years Plus 3" is a fascinating account of his life, not just the recording industry, but also his personal life.
Ken worked his way up through the ranks of the entertainment industry. He was a musician, a radio announcer, a publisher, a producer, a shrewd businessman and so many more things. He had a total understanding of the industry like so few have had. Nashville would benefit today from someone of Ken Nelson's understanding.
For me, the most fascinating part of Ken's book is when he relates stories to individuals he had worked with with through the years. He was involved in the careers of so many first rate entertainers. I would like to have heard more stories involving the country music entertainers. Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Ferlin Husky, Rose Maddox and so many others were under his guidance. Ken didn't change their sound. He wanted each of them to be unique. He wasn't there to create images, he was there to help with the creation of an artist's music.
A disappointment to me was Ken's lack of information on groundbreaking recordings. For instance, in the early 1960's he recorded Rose Maddox with a Bluegrass band backing. To my knowledge this was the first female recorded singing Bluegrass. When I call it a Bluegrass band, that is an understatement. The band was Don Reno, Red Smiley and The Tennessee Cut-Ups along with Bill Monroe on mandolin. This would also create another landmark: the only time Bill Monroe and Don Reno would record in a studio together. There was no mention of these sessions in his book. I'm sure Ken had many other groundbreaking recordings. Maybe Ken wasn't aware of these achievements with all the things he was involved with.
Ken sounds like a person that enjoyed life and wanted to share his life story with others. Few have accomplished as many great honors in the music industry as Ken Nelson.
A very good reading book.
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