Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nashville Chrome by Rick Bass

This fact-based historical novel tells the story of the country music singing sensations The Browns, who rocketed to fame, but not fortune, in the 1950s. The act consisted of two sisters and one brother, Maxine, Bonnie, and Jim Ed, a trio of siblings who grew up dirt poor in Arkansas during the Great Depression and were blessed with perfect pitch, which they honed on their father's backwoods sawmill, always identifying the exact moment when the saw was perfectly sharpened by the sound it made.

They were friends with the likes of Jim Reeves and Elvis, who courted the younger sister Bonnie. At the start of their career, they were taken advantage of by an unscrupulous agent, so they never received their fair share of the money their records and appearances earned.

After a few years of number one hits, their fame faded away, and the siblings went their separate ways and drifted into oblivion. Though Bonnie found happiness as the wife of a country doctor, and Jim Ed did well enough on his own and also found contentment in his personal life, the eldest sister Maxine grew old and frail always yearning for another chance at fame. Dreaming of a movie about herself and her famous siblings, she even goes without air conditioning for a month to pay for an advertisement hoping to interest a filmmaker in the project, but instead has to make do with a precocious young boy and his video camera instead of a big budget Hollywood biopic.

This was an interesting novel to read, and I thank the publisher for sending me an Advance Readers' Copy, as it was a story I was unfamiliar with and might otherwise never have read as I am not a country music fan. I would recommend it to anyone interested in rags to riches stories about the fleeting nature of fame.

1 comment:

librarypat said...

The number of musicians who have been taken advantage of by agents is sad. Both Motown and Nashville had their share of managers who took advantage of young hopefuls gaining control of the rights to their songs and a large chunk of their profits. They would get rich on the royalties while these talented performers were often left in poverty.
Thanks ofr the review.