Rock around the Pew

Randall Stephens

For those of you who work at the intersection of southern history, religion, and music, the H-Southern Music email list just might be for you. I recently posted a question to list members and got some great feedback.

I asked about the work I'm doing for a chapter/article on the interconnections of early rock music and revivalistic religion/hot protestantism/pentecostalism . . . etc. (I wrote a little about this in the last chapter of my book The Fire Spreads, but I'll be exploring this in much greater detail now.) I asked list members about sources--primary or secondary . . . interviews, archives, what have you--that they could suggest. Here are a few of the items that I have found useful mixed in with those that I only learned about through the suggestions of list members (in no particular order). Anything else to add?

Walt Trott and Bill Carlisle, Sister Sunshine: The Martha Carson Story (1st Books Library, 2000)

Macel Ely II, Ain't No Grave: The Life and Legacy of Brother Claude Ely (Dust to Digital, 2010)

Lynn Abbott, I've Got Two Wings (Casequarter, 2009)

Rodney Crowell, Chinaberry Sidewalks (Knopf 2011)

Russ Cheatam, Bad Boy of Gospel Music: The Calvin Newton Story (University Press of Mississippi 2003)

Joe Moscheo, The Gospel Side of Elvis (Center Street, 2007)

Vestal Goodman with Ken Abraham, Vestal!: "Lord, I Wouldn't Take Nothin' for My Journey Now" (WaterBrook Press, 1999)

Bob Terrell, The Life and Times of J.D. Sumner: The World's Lowest Bass Singer (Daywind, 2009)

David Stowe, No Sympathy for the Devil: Christian Pop Music and the Transformation of American Evangelicalism (UNC Press, 2011)

Gayle Wald, Shout, Sister, Shout!: The Untold Story of Rock-and-Roll Trailblazer Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Beacon, 2007)

Jamie Buckingham, O Happy Day: The Happy Goodman Story (Word Press, 1973)

Jerma Jackson, “Sister Rosetta Tharpe and the Evolution of Gospel Music,” Religion in the American South: Protestants and Others in History and Culture, eds. Beth Barton Schweiger and Donald G. Mathews (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004)

Paul Oliver, Songsters and Saints: Vocal Traditions on Race Records (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984)

Stephen R. Tucker, “Pentecostalism and Popular Culture in the South: A Study of Four Musicians,” Journal of Popular Culture 16 (Winter 1982)

Jimmy Wayne Jones, Jr., “Modern American Pentecostalism: The Significance of Race, Class, and Culture in Charismatic Growth, 1900-2000” (Ph.D. diss., University of Arkansas, 2002)

Johnny Cash, Man in Black (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975)

Tammy Wynette with Joan Dew, Stand by Your Man (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979)

Charles Sawyer, The Arrival of B. B. King (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1980)

Myra Lewis with Murray Silver, Great Balls of Fire: The Uncensored Story of Jerry Lee Lewis (New York: William Murrow and Company, Inc., 1982)

Charles White, The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Quasar of Rock (New York: De Capo Press, 1994)

Vince Staten, The Real Elvis: Good Old Boy (Dayton, Oh.: Media Ventures, 1978)

Van K. Brock, “Assemblies of God: Elvis and Pentecostalism,” Bulletin of the Center for the Study of Southern Culture and Religion 3 (June 1979)

James R. Goff, Jr., Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002)

Peter Guralnick, Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1994)

Nick Tosches, Hellfire: The Jerry Lee Lewis Story (New York: Grove Press, 1998. I'm using this one for my fall 2011 course on the history of rock)

Ann Rowe Seaman, Swaggart: The Unauthorized Biography of an American Evangelist (New York: Continuum, 1999)

Jimmy Swaggart, To Cross a River (Plainfield, NJ: Logos International, 1977)


Paul Harvey said…
Hey Randall, at the conference in Indy just passed I met Douglas Harrison, whose work is great on things related to this subject, see "Why Southern Gospel Matters," Religion and American Culture 18 (2008): 27-58. He also writes about the Gaithers and has other pieces of interest, listed at
Hilde said…
Fuller Seminary has a Jesus People Collection that might be of interest:

There's also the documentary about Larry Norman. I haven't seen it, so can't say whether or not it's any good, but it's worth checking out. See:
Randall said…
Thanks for those suggestions. I've only seen the Lonnie Frisbee doc. Need to check out the Larry Norman one. Have emailed a little back and fourth with Harrison. Sounds like his will be a great book.
Randall: Glad you are working on this topic. I review some of this literature in my "Popular Culture" chapter in the Blackwell Companion to American Religion (edited by Philip Goff):
Carrie Allen said…
There's also James Goff's Close Harmony: A History of Southern Gospel Music--good text for overview of the genre's development from a historical perspective (not so much from a musicological/sonic perspective).

C.R. Wilson had a great piece in Southern Cultures several years ago called something like "Just a Little Talk With Jesus": Elvis Presley, Religious Music, and Southern Spirituality.

Also, Peter Guralnick's bio set on Elvis delves a bit into the whole Pentecostalism thing.
amware said…
We screened the Larry Norman doc at the Florida State Graduate Religion Symposium two years ago. It's not a bad documentary, but its narrative emphasis shifts relatively early into the business decisions behind the creation and demise of Solid Rock Records, and the legal/economic wrangling that led to Norman's late-life requests for fans' financial support, etc. Which is to say that less time is spent on the emergence of Jesus music in the 70s, etc. Certainly worth watching if you haven't given it a look, though.