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Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South

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In Dixie Lullaby, a veteran music journalist ponders the transformative effects of rock and roll on the generation of white southerners who came of age in the 1970s--the heyday of disco, Jimmy Carter, and Saturday Night Live. Growing up in North Carolina, Mark Kemp burned with shame and anger at the attitudes of many white southerners--some in his own family--toward the re In Dixie Lullaby, a veteran music journalist ponders the transformative effects of rock and roll on the generation of white southerners who came of age in the 1970s--the heyday of disco, Jimmy Carter, and Saturday Night Live. Growing up in North Carolina, Mark Kemp burned with shame and anger at the attitudes of many white southerners--some in his own family--toward the recently won victories of the civil rights movement. "I loved the land that surrounded me but hated the history that haunted that land," he writes.Then the down-home, bluesy rock of the Deep South began taking the nation by storm, and Kemp had a new way of relating to the region that allowed him to see beyond its legacy of racism and stereotypes of backwardness. Although Kemp would always struggle with an ambivalence familiar to many white southerners, the seeds of redemption were planted in adolescence when he first heard Duane Allman and Ronnie Van Zant pour their feelings into their songs. In the tradition of Nick Tosches, Peter Guralnick, and other music historians, Kemp maps his own southern odyssey onto the stories of such iconic bands as the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and R.E.M., as well as influential indies like the Drive-By Truckers. In dozens of interviews with quintessential southern rockers and some of their most diehard fans, Kemp charts the course of the music that both liberated him and united him with countless others who came of age under its spell. This is a thought-provoking, searingly intimate, and utterly original journey through the South and its music from the 1960s through the 1990s.


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In Dixie Lullaby, a veteran music journalist ponders the transformative effects of rock and roll on the generation of white southerners who came of age in the 1970s--the heyday of disco, Jimmy Carter, and Saturday Night Live. Growing up in North Carolina, Mark Kemp burned with shame and anger at the attitudes of many white southerners--some in his own family--toward the re In Dixie Lullaby, a veteran music journalist ponders the transformative effects of rock and roll on the generation of white southerners who came of age in the 1970s--the heyday of disco, Jimmy Carter, and Saturday Night Live. Growing up in North Carolina, Mark Kemp burned with shame and anger at the attitudes of many white southerners--some in his own family--toward the recently won victories of the civil rights movement. "I loved the land that surrounded me but hated the history that haunted that land," he writes.Then the down-home, bluesy rock of the Deep South began taking the nation by storm, and Kemp had a new way of relating to the region that allowed him to see beyond its legacy of racism and stereotypes of backwardness. Although Kemp would always struggle with an ambivalence familiar to many white southerners, the seeds of redemption were planted in adolescence when he first heard Duane Allman and Ronnie Van Zant pour their feelings into their songs. In the tradition of Nick Tosches, Peter Guralnick, and other music historians, Kemp maps his own southern odyssey onto the stories of such iconic bands as the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and R.E.M., as well as influential indies like the Drive-By Truckers. In dozens of interviews with quintessential southern rockers and some of their most diehard fans, Kemp charts the course of the music that both liberated him and united him with countless others who came of age under its spell. This is a thought-provoking, searingly intimate, and utterly original journey through the South and its music from the 1960s through the 1990s.

53 review for Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South

  1. 4 out of 5

    ``Laurie Henderson

    One reason I wanted to read this book was that I thought it would be about the emergence of the Southern Rock bands in the 1970's and their rags to riches rise to success. Instead the author mainly tells of growing up in the south and HIS experience listening to the southern rock bands with precious little information about the groups and their history. The author seems to be a nice enough guy but ultimately not interesting enough to read a whole book mostly about him. Dixie Lullaby tells the sto One reason I wanted to read this book was that I thought it would be about the emergence of the Southern Rock bands in the 1970's and their rags to riches rise to success. Instead the author mainly tells of growing up in the south and HIS experience listening to the southern rock bands with precious little information about the groups and their history. The author seems to be a nice enough guy but ultimately not interesting enough to read a whole book mostly about him. Dixie Lullaby tells the story of the small label southern recording studios that mainly recorded rhythm and blues by southern Black artists. After the King assassination, these artists began to desert these small studios and took their talents elsewhere. This left a lot of these small studios in dire financial straits so what were they to do? They began scouting and signing local talent that had been overlooked in the past, talent the larger corporations ignored. With their new recording contracts these formerly amateur, southern rock bands began to improve rapidly and sold successfully in the south drawing large crowds to their concerts. The Allman Brothers returned home after an unsuccessful venture to find fame and fortune in California, quickly signed to a southern label and began recording in Muscle Shoals, Alabama. They were the first southern rock band to break nationally and with their success other southern acts were soon to follow in their footsteps. The author mainly interviewed the producers of the small label studios and tells the story from their POV with very little input from the band members themselves. For this reason I didn't find the book to be what I was expecting and was disappointed.

  2. 5 out of 5

    David Weiss

    I got this book from the library after seeing a youtube video about this subject - I think the book was mentioned in the video credits. I enjoyed the book because I loved the Allman Brothers back when and I still do. I'm happy to say that I saw Duane Allman and Berry Oakley with the group in the summer of 1971. As I had not been aware of this, I loved the way Kemp explained how important the rise of rock music was to the South and integrated his adolescence and early teen years with the cultural I got this book from the library after seeing a youtube video about this subject - I think the book was mentioned in the video credits. I enjoyed the book because I loved the Allman Brothers back when and I still do. I'm happy to say that I saw Duane Allman and Berry Oakley with the group in the summer of 1971. As I had not been aware of this, I loved the way Kemp explained how important the rise of rock music was to the South and integrated his adolescence and early teen years with the cultural (music), social and political changes that were going on then. I was not much of a Lynyrd Skynyrd or Charlie Daniels fan but liked reading about the rise of these early pioneers of Southern rock as well. My interest faded after that when Kemp got into other bands and types of music that I was not familiar with or just was not into very much. I have to say that my interest in rock music waned a lot after the very early 70s, so this is not a criticism of the book itself. So, for me the first part of the book was essentially a long essay on the beginnings of Southern rock that I'm glad I read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    It is easy to say that a book changed your life, but this is hands down the case for me with Dixie Lullaby. As a lifelong music fanboy scholar and as a transplant from the midwest to middle Tennessee, this book speaks to my sensibilities on multiple levels. Mark Kemp is a prophet of sorts, because as Southerners and music fans, we need to desperately revisit these issues now more than ever. Recently, I have begun teaching one-day, one-credit classes on topics related to pop culture in our School It is easy to say that a book changed your life, but this is hands down the case for me with Dixie Lullaby. As a lifelong music fanboy scholar and as a transplant from the midwest to middle Tennessee, this book speaks to my sensibilities on multiple levels. Mark Kemp is a prophet of sorts, because as Southerners and music fans, we need to desperately revisit these issues now more than ever. Recently, I have begun teaching one-day, one-credit classes on topics related to pop culture in our School of Interdisciplinary Studies, and this book is one of my guides for the next installment of that series, looking at race, region, and American music.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    I didn't think I was interested enough in reading a whole book on the music so I thought I would probably just read a few chapters, but it had a lot of history outside of music too so I read all of it. Great read. I didn't think I was interested enough in reading a whole book on the music so I thought I would probably just read a few chapters, but it had a lot of history outside of music too so I read all of it. Great read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amy Lively

    I grew up in the Midwest, a bit too late to be a fan of southern rock in its prime. When I was a teenager, .38 Special was considered southern rock. It was only after I went back to learn more about the origin of southern rock and as I began to study more about the importance of time and place to the creation of music, did I really appreciate what bands like the Allman Brothers and Lynryd Skynrd were doing. I picked up this book to try to get some understanding of why southern bands felt/feel th I grew up in the Midwest, a bit too late to be a fan of southern rock in its prime. When I was a teenager, .38 Special was considered southern rock. It was only after I went back to learn more about the origin of southern rock and as I began to study more about the importance of time and place to the creation of music, did I really appreciate what bands like the Allman Brothers and Lynryd Skynrd were doing. I picked up this book to try to get some understanding of why southern bands felt/feel the need to fly the Confederate flag on stage. What I did not want was excuses. When all was said and done, I think that Kemp was as honest as he could be about the racism of his childhood, his conflict over being a southerner, and wanting to have some sense of pride about his home. He was raised in a racist society. He needed to come to terms with that and I found his thoughts on it very compelling. The book kind of lost me once Kemp moved beyond the 70s, other than his writing about REM, which I never considered a "southern band" until recently. I would have actually liked to read more about his interviews with hip hop artists of the 80s and 90s. That might have made an interesting tie-in to the concept of how your place influences your music. Still, this was a very interesting read about southern culture and race.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Rush

    I begin this review with a confession. I am confessing to being a little biased, since I am just beginning to know the author of this book as a friend. We are both from the same small town of Asheboro, NC and are both fellow authors. It is crazy for me that he begins the book by describing a scene where he is sitting in his all-White elementary school, being told that Black children will be integrated into it. Guess what? Since Mark is two years older than I am, I was one of the Black children t I begin this review with a confession. I am confessing to being a little biased, since I am just beginning to know the author of this book as a friend. We are both from the same small town of Asheboro, NC and are both fellow authors. It is crazy for me that he begins the book by describing a scene where he is sitting in his all-White elementary school, being told that Black children will be integrated into it. Guess what? Since Mark is two years older than I am, I was one of the Black children to help integrate that school. I was one of the Black children that he was being told would be coming. No one could have told us at the beginning of the 1969-1970 school year that one day we would both wind up writing books and becoming friends. Such a small World. Well, anyways, reading Mark's book was an educational experience for me, because although we are of the same generation and from the same town, I am forced to admit that my musical tastes, growing up, were strictly segregated, meaning that nearly all of the music I listened to was by Black artists. What this book does for me is to take me into the musical minds of some of my White contemporaries, and allow me to “see” and “hear” the music they were listening to, and having Mark explain in a profound and meaningful way, what was taken from it, covering its cultural background, and what hopes and ambitions are to be gained from it. It brought me into the world of Lynyrd Skynyrd and The Allman Brothers, and a whole host of others, I truly did not know. I may have heard their music growing up, but I would not have known them to call them by name. This book also makes it clear that for Mark, music is down deep in his DNA, guiding him on a life-long odyssey, opening his mind and spirit to all types of music. I see him using music as a source that benefits him on multiple levels, but I think it's fair to say, that it benefits him most deeply when it resonates within his soul. I'll conclude this with my last statement acting as segue, that is the heart of the matter. Music is at the very soul of Mr. Mark Kemp, and any reader who pays attention while reading this book will have that come out loud and clear. This was an eye-opening, educational, inspirational and deeply moving book, written by a man whose very being is intermingled with, and wrapped up in, music. A great job, this!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alex Bledsoe

    I'd read this book before, but I wanted to reread it in light of more current events. The author is just a little bit older than me, so we have the same musical background (I never got into the Allman Brothers, but Lynyrd Skynyrd ruled when I was a teen), and although I'm from Tennessee and he's from North Carolina, there are enough similarities to make the book really hit home. Since it came out in 2004, its analysis of southern music and society ends fifteen years ago; nevertheless, it's a per I'd read this book before, but I wanted to reread it in light of more current events. The author is just a little bit older than me, so we have the same musical background (I never got into the Allman Brothers, but Lynyrd Skynyrd ruled when I was a teen), and although I'm from Tennessee and he's from North Carolina, there are enough similarities to make the book really hit home. Since it came out in 2004, its analysis of southern music and society ends fifteen years ago; nevertheless, it's a perceptive tour through southern rock in all its permutations until then, showing how the music gave voice to a certain segment of southern society (white teens, mainly). It's not definitive (how could it be?) but it does a good job of explicating the uneasy southern (white) pride based mainly on class, and that has very little to do with race. Still, it's a sad read, because at the end he feels real hope for the future of the south. We now know that it not only was he wrong, but that the south has been revealed as the cesspool of racism and hypocrisy all natives already knew it was.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Abby

    I think I'm going to love this one. Read the preface and started in on the chapters, then quickly realized I needed to devote my full attention to reading it. I'm finishing up some other books first so I can do just that. Mark Kemp is a music lover, and he grew up in the South. This is his story, but it's embedded in the South he grew up in. It's part southern cultural history, part autobiography, part civil rights, and part just a romantic love story between the author and the music he adores. I think I'm going to love this one. Read the preface and started in on the chapters, then quickly realized I needed to devote my full attention to reading it. I'm finishing up some other books first so I can do just that. Mark Kemp is a music lover, and he grew up in the South. This is his story, but it's embedded in the South he grew up in. It's part southern cultural history, part autobiography, part civil rights, and part just a romantic love story between the author and the music he adores. Yes, I got all of that from what I've read so far. I'm going to get back into it very, very soon. Just have to finish up with Kristin Hersh's amazing Rat Girl first. Then 100% attention to Dixie Lullaby.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Brad

    really good book that covers all the bases of southern rock from the beginning to current day....i could really identify with the mk's rebelliousness against his southern upbringing, then his coming to appreciate it later..like him, i associate a lot of whats happened in my life with the music i was listening to at the time..i can vividly remember wanting nothing more to leave south carolina and having this feeling that the west was somehow everything that was right, while the south was everythi really good book that covers all the bases of southern rock from the beginning to current day....i could really identify with the mk's rebelliousness against his southern upbringing, then his coming to appreciate it later..like him, i associate a lot of whats happened in my life with the music i was listening to at the time..i can vividly remember wanting nothing more to leave south carolina and having this feeling that the west was somehow everything that was right, while the south was everything that was wrong...really addresses issues around race and how music in the south was able to break down many barriers....

  10. 5 out of 5

    Agatha Lund

    Seriously phenomenal book, at least for me, right now -- part history of (white) music in the South (Kemp notes that he focuses there because much has been well-written about black music in the South), part memoir of Kemp's journey as a music fan. It's a book about Southern music and racial issues in the South and the Drive-By Truckers (the book literally opens with references to David Hood, bassist for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, in the first ten pages, and concludes with an interview wit Seriously phenomenal book, at least for me, right now -- part history of (white) music in the South (Kemp notes that he focuses there because much has been well-written about black music in the South), part memoir of Kemp's journey as a music fan. It's a book about Southern music and racial issues in the South and the Drive-By Truckers (the book literally opens with references to David Hood, bassist for the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section, in the first ten pages, and concludes with an interview with Patterson Hood of the Truckers, who's also David's son), and it couldn't have been more tailor-made for me at this exact moment. I absolutely couldn't put it down.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Some stuff in this book is just wrong (Steve Dubner did not go to Western Carolina University), but too be fair--no one else would care about that detail. Some really good stuff here about the role of southern music, but it gets a little too preachy at points about the angst of the white southerner. Still--glad I read it.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ash Crowe

    This book is the 41st book I've read this year, and many of them have been excellent, but this book is my favorite so far this year. There is a honesty to Kemp's writing that really hit home for me. I grew up in the South a decade after Kemp but his writing certainly translates well to my life. I feel like any music fan, Southern or not, would love this book. It resonates with emotion and music. This book is the 41st book I've read this year, and many of them have been excellent, but this book is my favorite so far this year. There is a honesty to Kemp's writing that really hit home for me. I grew up in the South a decade after Kemp but his writing certainly translates well to my life. I feel like any music fan, Southern or not, would love this book. It resonates with emotion and music.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Al

    One of my old roommates from college hits the nail on the head searching for the crossroads where music, race and personal memoir come together. If you listened to southern rock in the 70s or to punk in the 80s or to alternative rock in the 90s, and/or you grew up in the south, you want to read this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    very quick review...will edit later: 5 stars for covering topic not many have done before. However, downgraded to a four as no mentioned was made of southern metal scenes & bands, which we know there were/are. Great exploration of how southern rock influenced one southern mans southern identity. Definately will go on my to read again list.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Smith

    Not only have I read Mark's book, I have read it probably five times. Well written and informative. And the subject matter is my very favorite. Not only have I read Mark's book, I have read it probably five times. Well written and informative. And the subject matter is my very favorite.

  16. 4 out of 5

    David Ward

    Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South by Mark Kemp (Free Press 2004) (781.66)(3412). This is the definitive book about Southern Rock and Roll as it burst into bloom in the late 1960's and 1970's. The first hundred and forty pages of Mark Kemp's book may as well have been written as a catalog of the bands and the concerts I saw in the college town of Knoxville, Tennessee during my early teens.And what a lineup it was! Mark Kemp highlights the best music there Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South by Mark Kemp (Free Press 2004) (781.66)(3412). This is the definitive book about Southern Rock and Roll as it burst into bloom in the late 1960's and 1970's. The first hundred and forty pages of Mark Kemp's book may as well have been written as a catalog of the bands and the concerts I saw in the college town of Knoxville, Tennessee during my early teens.And what a lineup it was! Mark Kemp highlights the best music there ever had been: The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Leon Russell, Charlie Daniels, the Outlaws, Elvin Bishop, Grinder Switch, the Dixie Dregs, and many more. I saw all of these great old bands play live several times a year at the bonus price of five dollars in advance, six dollars “day of the show.” And there were always three bands on the nightly bill. Ooo-wee!!! The book goes on to pay tribute to the Southern bands that became stars as the calendar rolled into the nineteen eighties and beyond: REM, The B-52's, Southern Culture on the Skids, and Widespread Panic.Kudos to the author. He and I are contemporaries; it is more than likely that we have mutual friends and acquaintances. Not only were we both introduced to the same music during the same era, my college roommate and four other good friends of mine were all from the same little North Carolina mill town where Mark Kemp grew up and formed his musical tastes. They likely went to high school together.It's hard to get much more personal than that! My rating: 7.75/10, finished 01/08/20 (3412). I purchased a HB copy in very good shape for $5.00 from my local used book store on 1/3/20. HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ray

    I wanted to like this book more than I do. About half way through I realized it is only about Southern rock. Allmans, Skynyrd, R.E.M. are the focus bands here. The author is from the South, which puts the book a few notches above a music writer with a penchant for detail. I enjoyed the detail connecting the political climates to the culture. I gotta high five the guy…if i wrote a book about music I'd be tempted to include ex-girlfriends into the narrative. I'm not from the South. Across a ten ye I wanted to like this book more than I do. About half way through I realized it is only about Southern rock. Allmans, Skynyrd, R.E.M. are the focus bands here. The author is from the South, which puts the book a few notches above a music writer with a penchant for detail. I enjoyed the detail connecting the political climates to the culture. I gotta high five the guy…if i wrote a book about music I'd be tempted to include ex-girlfriends into the narrative. I'm not from the South. Across a ten year period I found opportunities to spend long periods of time there. The book doesn't cover how the 90's and oughts college circuit was how a lot of college kids grooved to Lattimore, Bobby Rush, Dash Rip Rock and to a lesser extent, the Hill Country blues of R.L. Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill. Chitlin circuit artists aren't here. Like I said, this is about rock music. The author takes a lot of space discussing his own Sherman's march of a writing career. About 3/4 way through the book I skimmed the rest.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Allison

    This was an interesting blend of personal narrative and musical/political history. However, I found myself wanting to like it more than I actually did. The ending did not help matters- the author returned to the south in order to find his ending, but it seemed like he was still unsure.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Laura! I think you would like this book. Frankly I don't care about southern rock enough to be THAT interested in it. His take is certainly not radical or left, but it seems like a good liberal sincere take on southern rock and what it meant to white southerners. Laura! I think you would like this book. Frankly I don't care about southern rock enough to be THAT interested in it. His take is certainly not radical or left, but it seems like a good liberal sincere take on southern rock and what it meant to white southerners.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Richard

    A really good read from a local guy with an interesting view. Good thoughts on how growing up "here" made it different for us. A really good read from a local guy with an interesting view. Good thoughts on how growing up "here" made it different for us.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bruce

    Would have amounted to a pretty good magazine article. Did the subject matter warrant a whole book? Not really.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mayghan Campbell

    How do you start reading this book on here? Help!!!!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Shannon Mandel

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jody Taylor

  26. 5 out of 5

    Hanana

  27. 4 out of 5

    Leanne Ahronian

  28. 4 out of 5

    R.L. Bailey

  29. 5 out of 5

    Charles Hale

  30. 4 out of 5

    Robin

  31. 5 out of 5

    Carla Jean

  32. 4 out of 5

    Monika

  33. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

  34. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie

  35. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  36. 5 out of 5

    Todd

  37. 5 out of 5

    Tom

  38. 5 out of 5

    Reinaert

  39. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Beers

  40. 5 out of 5

    Wendi Weinman

  41. 5 out of 5

    Scott Bailey

  42. 5 out of 5

    bill k

  43. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

  44. 4 out of 5

    Travis Becker

  45. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Ellis

  46. 4 out of 5

    Reggie Cahoon

  47. 4 out of 5

    Jenella Herring

  48. 5 out of 5

    Curt R

  49. 4 out of 5

    Shalon van Tine

  50. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  51. 4 out of 5

    Corey

  52. 5 out of 5

    Jaimee

  53. 5 out of 5

    Paul

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