Pure Country: The Leon Kagarise Archives, 1961-1971 Hardcover – December 1, 2008
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About the Author
- Publisher : Daniel 13 / Process; 1st edition (December 1, 2008)
- Language : English
- Hardcover : 204 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1934170038
- ISBN-13 : 978-1934170038
- Item Weight : 2.43 pounds
- Dimensions : 9.8 x 0.9 x 9.8 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #983,036 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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A wonderfully vital union of pictures and prose. Eddie, please give us more books like this one.
every weekend was a treat with country entertainers coming in by bus and/or car to put on a wonderful show and
mingle with the people. How great of Mr. Kagarise to document them - many of whom are no longer living.
My own introduction to bluegrass (just called "hillbilly music" back then) came courtesy of Ray Davis, pictured in the book with an impressive `50s pompadour. I happened to stumble upon WBMD AM and Ray`s broadcast from Johnnies` Used Cars at 900 East Fayette Street in Baltimore, a few years before the dealership moved out to Harford Road. Before Ray kindly told me what it was I had no idea what a 5-string banjo was. He`d been playing Don Reno`s "Dixie Breakdown". I was utterly blown away and rented one that day from "Ted`s Music Store" in Baltimore.
Ray told me about New River Ranch and Sunset Park and just about every Sunday for quite a few years found me, my friends Bob Talbott, Dick Otten, Don Loweree and the late Cumberland Dugan, all fledgling musicians at one venue or the other, sometimes arriving and, if it would start, leaving in Bob`s 1929 Ford Model AA 1.5 ton farm truck.
A few years later Don, Bob and I found ourselves competing in the annual banjo contest at Sunset Park. Shame, not modesty, prevents me from recounting how I did....
Leon Kagarise`s photos, especially of the Stonemans, with whom he was clearly impressed, are wonderful. A bunch of us made certain not to miss their performances at New River Ranch, Sunset Park, the "Famous Bar" on New York Avenue in D.C. and other local spots.
In short, a great book and a must for anyone interested in bluegrass and old time country music.
Leon reportedly said that: "I was trying in my own little way to stop time." We must certainly be thankful for that effort and the result as pictured here is marvelous. In total there are about 750 color slides (about a quarter of them are published here) of audiences, posters, tickets, programs and surroundings but mostly, of course, the artists - Ernest Tubb, Louvin Brothers, Porter Wagoner, Reno & Smiley, Ray Price, Jimmy Martin, George Jones, Stanley Brothers, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Bill Monroe and Johnny Cash to mention a few.
The importance of the pictures are that they are in full color, but mostly because they catch the artists off guard and back stage - relaxed with arms along their sides, looking straight into Leon's $20 Zeiss camera without trying to pose. Perhaps it was Leon's status as an amateur that made them relax. That's what makes these pictures interesting but they also catch an era - the American 1950s evolving into the 1960s. Just look at the clothes, the cars, the amplifiers and the microphones.
I don't think there are that many photo books around covering country music (golden age or not), therefore it's a pity that it appears to have been rushed out onto the market without enough proof reading - page references in the index are not always correct, some names are misspelled and the picture of "Ralph Stanley" is of course Carter Stanley. And a friend of mine is quite certain that "Johnny Wright" on page 126 is Bill Phillips. These blemishes shouldn't stop anyone interested from getting this lovely book. We may have to wait for the tapes (the fact that the Library of Congress, Country Music Hall of Fame, Smithsonian Institution and some record companies have shown interest is probably an indication of the dignity of the material) but these pictures, according to Eddie Dean, reveal "... one man's glimpse of a paradise he found here on earth, at least for fleeting moments of Sundays many summers ago". A few pictures have lost some color over the years but take a look at your own pictures from 1963, 1966 or thereabout and you will find that they have lost some color too but they will still transport you back to a time when most things were different.
Top reviews from other countries
Leon Kagarise's photographs - beautifully displayed in this hardcover, glossy 194 page book - don't present the glamour of a professional photo shoot, where make-up and poses are prerequisites, but detailing history with instant poses and candid shots.
It's a time capsule that of an era where country music ruled in rural settings, light years away from today's industry governed by technology, lawyers and accountants. Here Kagarise catches such as a young, crewcut George Jones on stage; Ernest Tubb, Roy Acuff, Jim Reeves and Bill Anderson signing autographs; Ray Price and Hank Snow posing with fans; Charlie and Ira Louvin harmonising; Johnny Cash singing and June Carter dancing; a pre-superstar Dolly Parton on stage with mentor Porter Wagoner; and Connie Smith as she moved from housewife to Nashville chart-topper. There's a surfeit of bluegrass and old-timey artists artists - Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt, the Osbourne Brothers, Hilo Brown, Doc and Chickie Williams, Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Martin and Pee Wee King (not forgetting his show's dancers) to name but a few - alongside amateur and local musicians gathering for informal picking, and a chapter devoted to the now near forgotten Stoneman Family (an acknowledged Kagarise favourite), in particular sisters Roni and Donna, viewed in on-stage performances and off-stage poses, alongside the family patriarch Pop Stoneman.
There's almost 200 photos in the book, plus several illustrations of posters and record labels, interwoven with informative text by Eddie Dean providing a real insight "into these intimate, $1-a-carload picnic concerts", a rural phenomenon that's part of an era now long gone and possibly unimaginable to the 21st century country fan.
The late country music historian Charles Wolfe described this collection of rare colour images as "one of the richest discoveries in the history of American music" and there can hardly be any better recommendation for this book than that.