FT5: Music Books

1030top5coverWith today’s Top 5 I am starting the ATH Book Club. This is a list of the best books about music I’ve ever read. Mine are all biographies, but any old book about music can qualify. Obviously I haven’t read everything out there, so if I missed something important let me know. I’m always up for a good book recommendation, and I hope I have a few on my list that you might want to check out. So without further ado, follow the jump for my Top 5 music books.

georgejonesbook5. I Lived To Tell it All – George Jones

George Jones is hands down the craziest musician I’ve ever read about. Johnny Cash’s darkest hours read like Dr. Seuss compared to “No Show Jones”. Each time you turn the page you wonder to yourself how George Jones is still a living, breathing person. With that aside, the book is full of amusing road stories and there’s never a dull moment as he writes about his life. “The Possum” also grew up in the Beaumont area which adds a little South East Texas history to the mix.


brianwilsonbook4. Catch a Wave: The Rise, Fall and Redemption of the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson – Peter Ames Carlin

I find Brian Wilson to be one of the most mysterious and intriguing figures in the history of rock music. Catch a Wave is a great introduction for the casual fan wanting to learn more about the troubled genius. The writer really dives into Brian’s relationship with the band and his innovations as a musician. The part I found most interesting was Brian’s relationship with his controlling and sometimes psychotic psychiatrist, Dr. Eugene Landy. But unlike most biographies of troubled artists, this one has a happy ending.


ramonesbook3. On The Road with the Ramones – Monte Melnick and Frank Meyer

If I had to make a Top 5 list of my fantasy musical experiences, going on tour with The Ramones would be on it and long-time manager Monte Melnick will get you as close to that dream as possible. He managed the band for over 20 years (2,263 live shows according to his count) and you get to hear firsthand about the interesting dynamic created by a band full of conflicting (and sometimes dangerous) personalities. If you’re a fan of the Ramones and haven’t read this one, shame on you.


srvbook2. Stevie Ray Vaughan: Caught in the Crossfire – Joe Nick Patoski & Bill Crawford

Composed by former Daily Texan & Texas Monthly writers, this book about our local legend had me tearing up by the end. It’s a truly tragic story about the rise and fall of a once-in-a-lifetime talent. Not only is the book a great read on SRV‘s battle with addiction and his impact on the blues, it also offers a fascinating history of the Austin music scene during the 70s and 80s. You’ll find yourself with a new appreciation of local music and the people that made it what is today … a must read for any Austinite.


cashbook1. Cash: The Autobiography – Johnny Cash

Imagine sitting in a huge rocking chair in front of a roaring fire. Next to you is Johnny Cash. And you ask him to tell you some stories about his life. That’s what reading this book feels like. After reading Man in Black and watching Walk The Line, I never really felt like I got an accurate idea of what Johnny Cash was really like. This book did it for me. His true personality shines as the book is a genuinely honest and humble reflection on his career towards the end of his life. I’ve loaned this book out to countless friends and gotten rave reviews. If I leave you with 1 book for your next trip to Half Price Books, this is it.



  • Great picks! One of my personal favorites would be Our Band Could Be Your Life by Michael Azerrad. It documents the careers (with band interviews!) of Black Flag, Minutemen, Minor Threat, Mission of Burma, Husker Du, The Replacements, Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Dinosaur Jr., Fugazi, Mudhoney, and Beat Happening.

    It’s a great read for anyone who is a fan of this music.

  • Mr Rice, I’ve had that one on my to-read list for some time now but haven’t gotten around to reading it.

    I read Azerrad’s book about Nirvana (Come As Your Are) and really enjoyed it. Now that I think of it, his Nirvana book probably should have snuck onto this list somewhere. Curses!

  • Whoa! Where is Please Kill Me? The definitive punk book! And no Lester Bangs? There is no rock criticism without that guy. Shame on you Raygun

  • @nathan

    Whoa! I haven’t read that one yet! But I have heard great things about it! And I will read it! Why are we yelling?!

  • i was going to ask about the Nirvana book. also, isn’t the Motley Crüe book supposed to be really good? i don’t read so I don’t have much to contribute to this.

  • Top to bottom, left to right… a group of words together is called a sentence.

    Take Tylenol for any headaches… Midol for any cramps


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