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River of No Return: Tennessee Ernie Ford and the Woman He Loved Hardcover – May 1, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
"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.
Top Customer Reviews
In River of No Return, Jeffrey Buckner Ford, eldest of the Ford sons, mixes his fond memories of growing up next door to Bob Hope and of the several successful television series that his father hosted with sad recollections of how alcohol and pills ended up destroying both his parents. He speaks frankly of the addictions and dissatisfaction with her life that resulted in his mother's suicide after several earlier attempts had failed, and he speaks just as honestly of how his father failed to do the things that might have saved her life. Perhaps saddest of all is his disclosure of how Ernie Ford's decision to protect his sons by moving them from Hollywood was doomed to failure because of what the boys witnessed in their own home, wherever it might be located.
Betty Jean Heminger met Ernie Ford when he was stationed at Victorville Army Air Base in California, where she worked as a secretary; she was only nineteen years old when they married.Read more ›
This is NOT a typical biography, though it does contain a lot of factual information. In many respects, it's not my cup of tea. The author's literary style occasionally veers into purplish excess (his descriptions of crying and liquor, for instance, include "liquid", "lubrication", "salty thick stream", etc); however, these are balanced by other passages, such as his memories of his family's sunset sailing adventures in Hawaii, that are truly poetic and beautifully worded.
There are passages that seem to go on forever....including an overwrought description of one of Ernie's hunting buddies who accidentally shot himself in the butt, a grotesque retelling that has NOTHING important to do with the narrative of the book. These sections are frustrating, since I had hoped to find more detailed information about, say, Ernie's professional working relationship with his fabulous musical director, Jack Fascinato.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
We remember growing up with Tennessee Ernie Ford starting with I Love Lucy show plus many others. This book tells about his personal life and later years. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Jim Holland
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 22 months 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 on July 29, 2014 by Deborah
I had a difficult time reading the book because it just lacked interest. I do not recommend this book. Sorry.Published on March 9, 2014 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 on January 12, 2014 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