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‘Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas’

“Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas” edited by Ann Wicker. Novello Festival Press, Charlotte, N.C., 2008. 260 pp. $22.95.By Sarah Hall
shall @salisburypost.com
Journalist Ann Wicker grew up in Mooresville where she says her love of music began when she first heard the Beatles on TV. Her interest in music intensified shortly after, when she heard Jimi Hendrix open for The Monkees at the old Charlotte Coliseum in 1966.
Wicker would later become managing editor of Creative Loafing, and marry well-known music producer Mark Williams. Who better to edit a collection of writings about the music of our region? She has pulled her extensive musician and journalist contacts together in creating “Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas.”
This book reveals the Carolinas’ deep, rich music history and spotlights how it continues to be a center of thriving activity for all kinds of music. The collection contains essays and reminiscences about, and by, musicians.
It’s entertaining, informative and an easy read. The essays are brief and varied. Readers may want to read the whole thing or just pick and choose from musical topics they find interesting: James Taylor or James Brown, Doc, Dizzy or Thelonius, or even Charlotte Symphony. There’s something for everyone, and the book doesn’t play favorites, genre-wise.
Some of the book’s chapters were drawn from previously written articles.
“Why reinvent the wheel when you already have a good story?” said Wicker, when asked how the essays were selected. These stories were supplemented by Novello’s open call for submissions from which many of the essays were selected, then narrowed down to the 64 choices contained in the collection.
Of course, when you are dealing with a topic as broad as “music” and an area as rife with talent as the Carolinas, you’re going to hear complaints from those wanting to know why this person or that topic got left out.
“I expected that,” says Wicker, “but it’s not an encyclopedia. It doesn’t cover everything.”
She selected writings by writers and musicians “with really strong voices.” Some submissions didn’t fit the theme. Some were too much of the same thing.
Eventually the project was whittled down to this entertaining and edifying sampler of music stories.
Many chapters deal with a specific musician or band. In others, the writer reveals something about themselves in their observation about music.
Some high points in the book:
– Tommy Tomlinson’s chapter “Chevy Van.” That 1975 hit by Charlotte singer Sammy Johns is at the center of Tomlinson’s humorous and nostalgic musings about K-Tel and Ronco.
– “Hootie Comes Home” by Michael Leon Miller. This story about the lengths Hootie and the Blowfish went to in order to take advantage of an invitation from David Letterman illustrates how exhausting the path to the top can be.
– “Tom Dooley: Bound to Die” by Sharyn McCrumb. Dooley is not just the subject of a famous folk song. He’s at the center of a North Carolina murder mystery that is still unsolved, and still the topic of speculation, as this essay illustrates.
– “Duelin’ Banjos” by Frye Gaillard. In the space of three pages you learn a lot about Arthur Smith, including how he went up against Warner Bros.’ lawyers ó and won, and how, surprisingly, he helped make James Brown a star.
This is not just a history book, it goes right up to the present. In “Conquering the World, One Gig at a Time” Courtney Devores recounts her impressions of the Avett Brothers, the Concord band still headed up and poised on the brink of something even bigger. With their loyal and fanatical admirers and music industry accolades, they look like the next musicians in line to keep North Carolina prominent on the music map.
Wicker credits Novello for making this book possible, and for the unique opportunities this library-sponsored publisher gives to writers in this region.
For more information about Novello Festival Press, go to www.novellopress.org.

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