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Ronald Kidd - April 2019

Research for a New Novel

I love reading. I love writing. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, I’m able combine the two.

I’m working on a new novel about a neglected part of Nashville’s music history. When the country music business was just taking shape on Music Row in South Nashville, there was already a thriving R&B scene in North Nashville. You could find it in a dozen clubs that lined Jefferson Street and featured African American artists from Aretha Franklin to Jimi Hendrix. (Hendrix, left, is shown here with the King Kasuals at the Del Morocco Club in 1963.)

As part of my research, I read a fascinating new book about that era:


Shake Your Hips: The Excello Records Story
Randy Fox

For those who think Nashville’s only music is country, take a look at this book. Randy Fox tells the story of the R&B scene on Jefferson Street in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, describing how the music escaped its local confines and was heard across the U.S. and as far away as Great Britain.

The formula involved clear-channel radio station WLAC and its late-night R&B programs; Ernie’s Record Mart, the downtown store that did 90 percent of its business through the mail, much of it overseas; and the group of record labels run by Ernest Young, owner of the store, that featured R&B (Excello) and gospel (Nashboro).

Other Books on My Shelf 

The Library Book
Susan Orlean  

Here’s a treat for book lovers and library lovers. As a member of both groups, I recommend it enthusiastically. Author Susan Orlean uses as her starting point the disastrous Los Angeles Public Library fire of 1986, exploring the event and following the investigation of it.  

Beginning with this thread, she weaves a gripping story about the history, mission, architecture, culture, and many uses of the L.A. Public Library specifically and of libraries generally. This is a complex and fascinating portrait of a great institution that serves the community in substantial and surprising ways.    

Ben Hecht: Fighting Words, Moving Pictures
Adina Hoffman

Ben Hecht, a screenwriter, playwright, and novelist, was one of the inventors of modern film and yet today is virtually unknown among the general public. His list of screenwriting projects (credited and uncredited) is astounding: Scarface, Notorious, A Star Is Born, Stagecoach, The Shop Around the Corner, Foreign Correspondent, Duel in the Sun, Strangers on a Train, Roman Holiday, His Girl Friday, and dozens of others.

This beautifully written biography, which is promising during the sections about Hecht’s early life, leaves us wanting to know more about his Hollywood years. However, it provides lots of good information about his later life, when he adopted and championed Jewish causes. The emphasis is understandable given the series in which the biography appears, Yale University Press’s “Jewish Lives,” which includes biographies of some of America’s most compelling figures.

Now Available

  • Lord of the Mountain
    The “big bang” of country music in 1927 at Bristol, Tennessee.
    Read more
  • Room of Shadows
    Edgar Allan Poe returns and gets the glorious death he deserved.
    Read more
Learn about my books, plays, and music at ronaldkidd.com.
Download a sampler of chapters from three of my latest books.

Copyright © 2019 Ronald Kidd, All rights reserved.


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