Nighthawk Blues

A Novel


By Peter Guralnick

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Peter Guralnick—in this, his only novel to date—draws on his rich storytelling skills and his intimate knowledge of music to create an an unforgettable character, and to give us an "engrossing, evocative" (Washington Post) look at the blues life.

The Screamin' Nighthawk is a legendary bluesman, an uncompromising musician, and a cantankerous old man awash in memories of road trips and one-night stands, recording sessions and barroom escapades, love affairs and driven, inspired, down-home music making. As Hawk travels back down Highway 61 to Yola, Mississippi, for what may be his last gig, the novel immerses us in the world of Hawk, his friends and family, the nursemaid manager he craftily evades, and the beautiful young blues singer who alone can crack Hawk's crusty exterior.


Also by Peter Guralnick

Feel Like Going Home

Lost Highway

Sweet Soul Music

Searching for Robert Johnson

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley

Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley

Copyright © 1980, 1988 by Peter Guralnick

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.

Originally published in hardcover by Seaview Books, November 1980 First Back Bay paperback edition, October 2003

The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts for financial assistance with the publication of this work. Permission to reprint lyrics from the following songs is gratefully acknowledged: "Don't Deceive Me" by Chuck Willis © 1954 by Tideland Music Corp.; "How Long, How Long Blues" words and music by Leroy Carr © copyright 1929 by MCA Music, a division of MCA Inc., N.Y., N.Y., copyright renewed. All rights reserved.

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First eBook Edition: April 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-07544-2



JERRY was in the middle of an uncharacteristic sequence of conference calls—shifting phones from ear to ear, trying to act casual, as if it were really he who was negotiating another big-time deal instead of that improbable impostor who had taken over his true klutzy self—when his secretary, a high-school dropout in blue jeans and pigtails, sailed in oblivious and tapped him on the shoulder. He stared at her, looked out the window, listened to what Sid and the lawyer each had to say, watched the kids run through Harvard Square and the traffic jostle noiselessly along. He raised his hand—no interruptions, he said with a gesture, knowing that Stephie wouldn't take that kind of ceremony, she would just give him shit about it afterward. Over in the corner was a bar, though Jerry never drank alone and rarely had people in. The big-screen color TV had a game show on; the women were exclaiming silently over a new, all-purpose, all-in-one appliance which, if you believed all the claims made for it, could only help implement Thoreau's advice to simplify, simplify; the MC cooed with his patent-leather hair and stay-press soul. …

"It's Hawk," Stephie said loudly.

"Look, could you, I'm sorry, could you hold for a minute, look, why don't you guys just, uh, talk to each other, I just, something just—What?" he said to Stephie, knowing full well what she had just said.

"It's Hawk on the other line."

"So?" He stared at her blankly.

"He's calling from the hospital," Stephie said.

This was ridiculous, he was thirty-six years old, he might in some quarters even be considered a success, he didn't have to apologize to anyone. …

"Look. I'll call him back."

"He doesn't sound so good," she said. She dabbed at her eye. Did Stephie, too, have feelings that extended beyond the next Springsteen concert? Oh, shit. Why did Hawk always have to be his problem? Truly sometimes he wished he had never met—but then, of course, he would never have met Lori, whose contract he was in the midst of renegotiating. In fact everything that had happened in the last ten years, good or bad, was in some way connected with Hawk. He wished he were married. He should long ago have come to some resolution—

"Look, gentlemen, something's come up." He sensed the consternation at the other end. Did they think he was getting smart? Did they think he was getting cute in his old age? What was there to get cute about? Lori hadn't really made any money for the company, 120,000 units on her last album, sure, but what was that compared to her potential? And there was no way she could live up to her potential if she wouldn't guarantee a minimum of personal appearances, if she wouldn't promise to follow up the next album with a full-blown personal tour. And that she wouldn't do under any circumstances. She insisted on seeing her music as art, not commerce, making the records the way she wanted, when she wanted, and with whom she wanted. He'd be lucky if he could get front money of $50,000 for re-signing, and this was for an artist who everyone agreed could be a monster. Which was the only reason they still wanted to hang onto her. They didn't want to let him go, but he was firm. Who knew? Maybe this would jack up the price another $25,000.

"Yeah?" he said, jabbing the button on the phone console.

Hawk's voice sounded whispery and far away. The familiar hoarse rasp was barely audible.

"Something happened, boss."

Jerry was annoyed. What the fuck did he have to call him boss for? He knew how it irritated him. It made him look like an asshole. He supposed that was why Hawk did it. Hawk thought he was an asshole. After all he had done for Hawk, practically lifting him out of the gutter—well, out of the Sunset Cafe in Yola, Mississippi, which wasn't far from it. A ludicrous fate for this man who was virtually a legend in his own time, a source, an inspiration, an unreconstructed—Jerry was embarrassed at the rhetorical flourishes even his imagination conjured up after all the similar flights of fancy he had served to the world, both before and after meeting their subject—genius. "Nigger," Hawk corrected him in mournful, dolorous tones. "You know, boss, I ain't nobody's angel child, just another nigger baby trying to get along in the world."

"An accident," said the voice on the line. "We just about made Indianapolis."

Jerry began to get worried. Maybe he shouldn't have sent them out alone. Three septuagenarians in one of Hawk's interchangeable twenty-year-old piles of junk on wheels. The Blues Express, his idea—they should be playing Notre Dame tonight.

"What kind of an accident?" Jerry's voice rose in concern.

"How many kinds of accidents is there? Ain't never heard of a good accident myself. Wheatstraw gone."

"Wheatstraw's dead?"

"Yeah, that simpleminded fool done gone to his reward. He couldn't hardly talk, but he could play."

Jerry thought he must have come in in the middle of some bizarre joke. "He's not dead?"

"Went flying right through the fucking windshield. I saw him. Man, I know. He looked like some big bird just about to take off. I say, Hey there, motherfucker, you think you can fly, so that's what you mean when you sing about that old flying crow?" Jerry thought he must be losing his mind. Was Hawk chuckling softly under his breath? "He didn't never do nobody no harm, he were just simpleminded from a kid on up. I told you, man, I didn't never want to do this tour. Didn't want to be no blues legend."

Little beads of sweat stood out on Jerry's forehead. Wheat-straw dead. Hawk was right, it was his fault. Hawk hadn't wanted it. Hawk hadn't wanted the tour in the first place. But Jerry had seen it as the opportunity for one last payday. In the ten years that he and Hawk had been associated, trends and styles had several times changed, and the wave of nostalgia which had unearthed the great blues singers in their sixties and seventies had now passed on to something else, bookings were fewer and farther between, and old black men were no longer fashionable on campus. Jerry didn't tell Hawk any of this, but he had conceived of this tour as a kind of farewell appearance on campuses across the country and promoted it as such. Three old black men. The Screamin' Nighthawk. Alex Wheatstraw. T&O "Teenochie" Slim, the piano player.

"How about Slim?"

Hawk mumbled something.


"Ain't nothing wrong with Mr. T&O Slim that a gag in the mouth wouldn't cure. Man, what you send me out with that sorry-ass motherfucker for? Always getting fucked up by them pretty young things. Oh, Mr. Slim, would you teach me how to tickle them ivories? Tell me about the time Mr. Lester Melrose brung you up to Chicago so's you could make your classic sides with Big Bill and Tampa. Tampa, shit, can't even tie his own shoelaces, and Slim couldn't never keep his yap shut, dawn to dusk, drunk or sober, whether he knowed what he was talking about or not, he always be shooting off about something—"

Oh shit. Oh shit. He was going to have to go out to Indianapolis, he knew he was, he was going to have to straighten out this whole mess—

"Well, look, how do you feel? Do you think you can hang on for a little while? I'm kind of tied up here right now, but I can catch a plane later tonight or tomorrow morning."

The voice on the other end audibly weakened. "Well, you know, boss, I ain't doing all that good, really, but I'm sure I'll be fine. Why don't you just stay where you are, I don't require nothing, ain't no need to call Mattie, I don't suppose. They say it must have been some kind of shock, but I'm coming along real good now. Won't be no time, boss, before I can get around on my own, you know."

Jerry had visions of old black men reproaching him in his sleep. It wasn't his fault. It wasn't his responsibility. "Look, I'll be out," he said. "You just tell the doctors or whoever that I'll be out, I'll straighten it all out—"

There was only a satisfied silence at the other end.

He hurried to get ready, called the airport, shaved around his beard and drooping mustache, observing himself all the while with soft self-pitying brown eyes. He packed a light suitcase, called back CBS, and then explained to Stephie what was going on. He gave her careful instructions to close the office at five, put the phone on answering service, and not bother to show up until he got in touch with her in a few days. He called the wire services and tried to think of anything else there was to do, and when he couldn't then he made the call.

She was in New Orleans for no good reason. She had gone down there with her bass player, who was black, fifty-two years old, a junkie, a physical wreck, and had played with every prominent New Orleans musician for the last forty years. By sheer chance he got her after only a couple of calls at some old jazzman's house. He didn't have to explain, he knew he wouldn't; that quality of passionate intensity that seemed so at odds with her flat self-conscious speech patterns came into play almost before he got the words out. It was the same quality that transformed her singing voice into a graceful, soaring, instinctive instrument that seemingly had little to do with plan or intention. Was there anything she could do? She'd fly out right away. She would, of course, pay for Wheatstraw's funeral, at least help out, she insisted, when he mumbled that wasn't necessary. Here were some numbers where she could be reached. How was Hawk? Jerry answered all the questions slowly, patiently, all the while seething inside. There was never a word, of course, not a single word, about her discoverer and mentor—how he was, how he was bearing up under the strain, how terrible it must be for him. She was, after all, his discovery; if she had the talent he was the only one with the willingness to advance it, to promote it, to indulge it, to put up with her absurd middle-class guilt, the lack of necessity behind her art. Her public should give him a medal, they honestly should, because without him—oh, it was absurd on the face of it, he was just distorting the reality. It was Hawk, not Jerry, who had first heard that something in her voice, it was Lori herself who had sought and captured Sid's attention. Still, if it hadn't been for him, she might still be in ethnomusicology getting her Ph.D. somewhere, playing timid botdeneck behind some decrepit old bluesman the local Blues Appreciation Society had brought to town, beautiful, deferential, effacing herself and her talent. Her pictures surrounded him mockingly, each click of the camera undeniably capturing some aspect of her appeal but somehow leaving the inner self untouched. Her eyes calm, still, playful, her lips pursed in an oddly self-satisfied smile, her blond hair whipped around her face no doubt by one of those vigorous blushing denials, elusive, teasing, inviting, sensual, the whole obscured by each of the parts, the whole somehow untranslatable—

He knew now what he should have done. He should have hidden her talent from her, he should have denied it when others spotted it, never even hinted that it might exist. But that hadn't been an option. That had never been an option. She would have realized, someone else would have told her, and then he would have lost her anyway. He hung up the phone bitterly. "What do you say?" he said to himself, not for the first time. "What do you say?"

At the airport he was as confused as ever by the dizzying rush, the isolating busde. They were just thousands of strangers gathered under one roof. And yet somehow, as he always did, as he always would, of course, he got through. On the plane he ordered a double Scotch and then another, setded back, sailed into the sunset, and closed his eyes for a brief troubled dream before the rude shock of landing jarred him awake. At the claims area he hung around waiting for his bag, eyeing the black porters, black taxi drivers, black maintenance men, middle-aged and elderly, any one of whom for all he knew might be another Screamin' Nighthawk, another castoff from another life who might be sought out and lionized by a community of whose existence he could be only dimly aware, while he was himself insignificant and anonymous within his own community. God help him.

At the hospital they gave him a hard time, because it was after visiting hours. It didn't seem to make much difference that he had come all this way, nor were they interested in who the Screamin' Nighthawk was. What they were interested in, of course, was who was going to pay the bill. Indianapolis had enough indigents of its own, thank you, said the admitting nurse, taking down the scanty information that Jerry was able to provide—born December 27, 1902, 1900, 1899? Given name: T.R. Jefferson. Social security number? Jerry almost wished he had brought clippings, but it wouldn't have meant shit. Name. Rank. Serial number. Date of birth. Mother's maiden name. Father's occupation. Maybe these people had it right. Maybe that was all that counted, these statistics, facts, an orderly life's progression, the very factors whose absence had made it so impossible to locate Hawk for a period of nearly twenty years.

At last he cornered a young, mustached doctor. Briefly he explained the situation. The doctor introduced him to another doctor, portly, middle-aged, his white hospital gown wrinkled and stained. The old man led him to the elevator, which was stuck somewhere between the fifth and sixth floors, explaining between emphysematous puffs just what had happened and what was likely to happen. It was just as Hawk had said. An automobile accident, Wheatstraw like a big black crow sailing through the windshield. Teenochie had escaped unharmed. Teenochie in fact had escaped altogether, vanishing into the early-morning squalor of Indianapolis, where no doubt he had a friend, knew a woman, was acquainted with a bar where thirty-five years before he had passed through and no doubt thirty-five years hence he would expect to pass through again. And what about Hawk?

"Mr., uh, Jefferson is doing about as well as can be expected," said the doctor as the elevator doors finally opened and a stretcher with a covered-up body on it was wheeled out. "He is, after all, not a young man. He's subjected his body to a considerable amount of abuse. From what he says, I gather he must be in his seventies, he has sustained a number of coronary attacks already—"

Jerry expressed surprise.

"Oh yes, there's no doubt about that. There's some evidence of ventricular damage, cholesterol level is high, blood sugar is elevated, too, and of course he suffered a small shock."

"Shock?" Jerry remembered Hawk saying something like this, but he thought Hawk said it had been quite a shock.

"Yes. Mr. Jefferson suffered a slight shock, a cerebral incident—in fact that's probably what caused the accident, though it's difficult to be sure. For a period of time he lost control of his functions, which is not uncommon, and until a short while ago he was unable to move his left side—"

"You mean he's paralyzed?"

"The feeling seems to be coming back. I'm quite sure he'll have nearly full use in no time. With the proper therapy we'll probably even get him back to strumming on the guitar. But, of course, there can be no question of his continuing as an entertainer. The shock should be taken as a warning, really. The effects will probably wear off, but it's a signal, it can't be ignored. The next one could leave him paralyzed or worse—and there's bound to be a next one, unless he radically changes the way he lives. I don't know how much of this Mr. Jefferson can take in, but I hope you can appreciate the seriousness of his condition. There can't be any thought of performing. His diet, medication, drinking will all have to be strictly regulated." He paused, stared openly into Jerry's eyes, as if he doubted that Jerry was even listening to what he was saying.

Jerry glared back at him. He could have been a doctor, he supposed. Except he hadn't wanted to be a doctor. Cold-hearted motherfuckers—he might have made his parents happy.

"Do you think he'll be all right?" said Jerry miserably.

"Well, frankly, I just don't know," said the doctor. "It's always hard to tell with this kind of case. You know, these people really don't take very good care of themselves."

He shrugged, and for a moment Jerry bristled once again with the kind of indignation he rarely felt these days. Take in … these people! Hawk had never been a lush—what did these assholes mean? Didn't they realize they were in the presence of a great American poet, proud spokesman for a proud people who had had to reinvent language and experience for themselves as strangers in a strange land? His heart wasn't in it, though. His heart hadn't been in it for a long time. Let the chickens come home to roost, let everyone suffer under his own self-perpetuating delusions.

"You know, we had to put Mr. Jefferson in restraints. He insisted that he had to leave the hospital, that he had to make an engagement—"

"He did," said Jerry helplessly. "He had a concert at Notre Dame tonight."

"Ah, well, perhaps if you could speak to him—"

Jerry nodded, not so much in agreement as out of exhaustion. This man didn't understand, he couldn't understand, how could anyone understand if they didn't know Hawk? You could talk for a minute, or you could talk for an hour, you could talk until you were blue in the face and think you were making progress, but Hawk would never do anything other than precisely what he intended all along. He was the most self-centered man Jerry had ever met, and by that Jerry didn't mean the most selfish or least generous. He could show real warmth and generosity of spirit on occasion. But he was the most self-oriented, self-righteous, self-assured son of a bitch that Jerry ever hoped to encounter. He was the Screamin' Nighthawk, and that, Jerry thought, might turn out to be his eternal misfortune. He was a man who had built a self-conception around a legend, and it was the legend that he felt obliged to live up to, holding himself erect even if he was doubled over inside, referring to himself so often in song and speech as a marauding bird of prey that it almost seemed as if he had come to believe it, expending every last ounce of energy so long as he had a public of even one to impress with his vitality. From the day he had made those great early records for a furniture company that manufactured phonograph records in Graf ton, Wisconsin, from the moment his caricatured face had appeared in Paramount advertisements with the legend "You think you've heard the blues? Well, you haven't heard anything yet, until you've heard this Mississippi native moan, cry, shout and, yes, scream the blues," he was hooked, stuck forever on his own publicity notices. And even as his voice had thickened over the years and that eerie high-pitched edge had modulated into a thick-toned growl, even though today's seamed and weatherworn face bore little resemblance to that of the bright-eyed young man who had physically had to be held back to keep him from rushing time in those early days, though the guitar he now carried was a patched facsimile of the new Gibson he held in the picture, he was still the Screamin' Night-hawk and he still roared out the words of the song with conviction.

I'm the screamin nighthawk, baby,

And I hunts both night and day

When I gets my claws in you, baby,

You gonna scream and holler hooray

"The Screaming Nighthawk is in your town," the tattered poster read. "He will entertain you and sing the blues. When this Hawk screams and plays his golden guitar, the whole town is going to run for cover. Come and see the Screaming Nighthawk on _______________ at _________________." That was his calling card, and that was his life. …

There was a television set on low, a beeper sounded, Jerry looked straight down the long stinking corridor into the crowded ward where one man lay with his foot up in the air, another groaned. "I think I'll go in and see him now."

Hawk was furious. His thick beetling brows knit in concentration. His squat heavy body was wrapped in hospital swaddling clothes. The long scar on his cheek burned with indignation. His eyes were yellow with fury. "I want to get out of here, boss," he croaked. "I told these sorry-ass mother fuckers, I got to get out of here."

Jerry didn't know what to say. The room was filled with sick old men. Helpless men. Sad old rummies with tears running down their cheeks. Dying men. In their midst Hawk didn't look all that different, unless you studied the anger in his eyes, the veins popping out on either side of his forehead. It would make a good picture, Jerry thought. If he'd just thought to bring his camera—maybe he'd pick one up, send it out on the wires, get some free play—oh shit, what was the matter with him?

"So how you doing? Boy, you really gave me a scare," Jerry said, looking for conversational cheer. Hawk didn't say anything, just glared. "They treating you all right? Oh man, what happened to Teenochie?"

"They treating me like a piece of dogshit," Hawk said at last.

"You know, I talked to the doctor. He says you're going to be out of here in no time, seemed like a nice guy, wanted"—Jerry didn't know why he had to say this—"me to send him one of your records."


"I said I would."

Hawk didn't even lift an eyebrow. "They tied me down."

"Well, they were worried about you."

"Tied me up like some damned baboon didn't even know enough to scratch his own ass. They taken all my clothes. They won't give me my guitar, bother me with all their damnfool questions, they keeping me here against my will, ain't that against the law even for niggers?"

Jerry scrutinized him surreptitiously. With his right hand he gestured forcefully; his left lay down at his side. Was it imagination, or was the expression on his face slightly lopsided with the left side frozen in a lifeless grin? It would be a helluva way for it to come to an end, in a fleabitten urban hospital—

"You know, Lori wanted to fly up to be with you, she's down in New Orleans now with Coot."

"Yeah, Coot." Hawk chuckled.

"I told her to wait a few days."

Hawk's face softened. "Yeah. It be better in a few days. How she doing anyway? Her and old Coot?" Hawk slapped the white sheet with his right hand. "Oh man, I known Coot since he was a little kid and we passed through New Orleans with Silas Green. He better be taking good care of that gal."

Hawk had always had a soft spot in his heart for Lori, Jerry didn't really know why. It was as if he had reserved some special space for her which he would grant to no other individual or musician. Jerry remembered the reporter from Newsweek who had badgered Hawk for a quote on the Rolling Stones after they had recorded one of his songs and made a big show of presenting the first royalty check, even though truthfully there was no way of proving that Hawk had written the song. "They're nice boys," Hawk said diplomatically, thinking no doubt of $10,000 in the bank and maybe more to come. "But are they blues musicians?" the Newsweek reporter persisted. "I mean, have they suffered enough, have they paid their dues, can a white person ever really sing the blues?" Hawk glowered at him and said nothing. The reporter was a bright kid, had long tangled red hair, and had indulged Jerry in an hour of reminiscence for a one-sentence quote to lead the article. "I mean, I know that Muddy says that whites can play the blues, but they can't ever sing the blues—" Hawk passed a big paw over his close-cropped head. "That's dogshit," he said. "You listen to Lori Peebles if you want to hear a white girl got soul." "But what about the Rolling Stones?" the reporter implored. "There ain't no way," said Hawk, "they could cause a nigger whore to even wiggle her ass." Thus ending the discussion, ending the interview, ending the checks, and eliminating the possibility of any tour with the Rolling Stones. "I don't know what it is," Hawk said whenever he was asked to explain it. "That girl must got memory pain. Cause she singing about experiences she could only have had in another life. Can't nobody tell me that that girl ain't singing from the heart." To which Jerry, though he had doubts about reincarnation, was forced to agree.

The other inmates of the room glanced over from time to time but were scared off by Hawk's unblinking gaze. His eyes, Jerry thought, burned yellow. He wondered if Hawk was going to die. "Naw, I ain't gonna die, motherfucker," Hawk said in strange good humor. "You know, Crow Jane think she too beautiful to die, but I'm just too mean. You see that motherfucker, Teenochie, you tell him he just better make sure to deliver me the money that he stole. Cause if he counting on I'm gonna kick, he better start running now, I don't get that money. You know, I give him his chance back in '29. He fucked up then, and he's fucking up now. Probably gambling my money away in a game right now. I told you he wasn't nobody to be trusted all along, I knowed it then and I knowed it now." And with that Hawk fell off to sleep.

JERRY checked into a hotel near the hospital and right away started making calls. When his ear started to ache from the phone, he flicked on the TV and watched a few minutes of a situation comedy about the '50s that wasn't anything like the way he remembered it. Then wearily he got up and went looking for the desk clerk to see if he could get any kind of a line on Teenochie.

The clerk, an old white-haired man who was watching the same program on his own TV, a little portable, didn't seem to understand what he was talking about at first. "Oh yes," he said with weary enthusiasm, "we have some wonderful nightspots in Indianapolis." He started running down a list of glittery-sounding clubs and show bars. Jerry shook his head. "I'm looking for a colored place, a little bar maybe, where they have a piano, feature old-fashioned music."


  • "Guralnick clearly knows his stuff. The Nighthawk is brought alive—a little dirty, smelly, obstinate, and sexy, hateful to his enemies, who are all over the place and never forgotten, still in love with all the women he ever bedded...Anyone who likes Studs Terkel and George V. Higgins, who enjoys the headlong pace, will enjoy Nighthawk Blues."—Frank Pierson, Los Angeles Times
  • "There's a finely tuned sensibility at work in Nighthawk Blues...Guralnick has fashioned a portrait that reveals his subject's nobility through humanizing rather than glorifying him."—Don McLeese, Chicago Reader
  • "Engrossing and evocative...A literary picture of a cantankerous yet thoroughly music-saturated character for whom the blues is not a musical style but a way of life."—Harry Sumrall, Washington Post
  • "Unlike most efforts to explicate the mystery, majesty, and urgency of the blues, this book is grounded in a black voice—the ornery, weathered, contradictory, restless voice of the Screamin' Nighthawk...Guralnick takes a larger-than-life mythos and grounds it within the humble boundaries of tar-paper shacks and dirt roads, feverish one-night stands and jugs of demon whiskey."—Steve Dollar, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
  • "A true love story full of pleasure as well as pain."—Walter Carter, Nashville Tennessean
  • "An ambitious novel...Refreshingly different from the usual run of music fiction."—Simon Frith, Boston Phoenix
  • "An exceptional book...In Nighthawk Blues Guralnick reaches for the most elusive goal of anyone who writes about music this passionate and complex—to make the reader feel the power of the blues, and the joy it offers."—Franklin Jones, Jackson Sun

On Sale
May 30, 2009
Page Count
256 pages
Back Bay Books

Peter Guralnick

About the Author

Peter Guralnick’s books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love; an acclaimed trilogy on American roots music, Feel Like Going Home, Lost Highway, and Sweet Soul Music; the biographical inquiry Searching for Robert Johnson; and Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. Guralnick won a Grammy for his liner notes for Sam Cooke Live at the Harlem Square Club, wrote and co-produced the documentary Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll, and wrote the scripts for the Grammy-winning documentary Sam Cooke/Legend and Martin Scorsese’s blues documentary Feel Like Going Home. His 2015 book Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ’n’ Roll was a finalist for the Plutarch Award for Best Biography of the Year, awarded by the Biographers International Organization. His most recent book is Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing.



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