Madison Authors, Topics, Book Events and Publishers
On today’s show, two very special guests – WORT’s own Bill and Bobbie Malone, here to talk about their new book Nashville’s Songwriting Sweethearts: The Boudleaux and Felice Bryant Story.
Diadorious Boudleaux Bryant was a classically trained violinist from southern Georgia who found he had more fun playing the fiddle in country and swing bands. Even though it gave him a drinking problem. Mathilda Genevieve Scaduto was a feisty, poetry-writing teenager working three jobs in her native Milwaukee. Their chance encounter at the Schroeder Hotel on Valentine’s Day 1945 was something straight out of a romantic comedy.
Over the next 40 years, they would write some of the biggest songs in pop and country music, and pretty much invent the job of independent full-time songwriters in Nashville. Bye Bye Love, Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have to Do is Dream, Love Hurts, Rocky Top – just some of the 6,000 songs they wrote. About 900 have been recorded, selling more than 350 million copies worldwide – and inspiring not just other songwriters, but performers who would change the course of music history.
There’s no one more qualified to write the Bryants’ biography than the Malones. Bill C. Malone, as he is known in this context, is the foremost historian of country music, with two Grammy nominations for liner notes, a Guggenheim fellowship and a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Music Society to his credit. He has published more than a half-dozen books about country music and Southern culture, most notably County Music USA, which started as his doctoral dissertation at the University of Texas and became the definitive text on the subject, with a completely revised edition for its 50th anniversary.
His other books include Southern Music/American Music; Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class, and Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers: Southern Culture and the Roots of Country Music. And, of course, he was the only talking head historian in Ken Burns’ 16-hour documentary on country music. Not bad for someone who started their professional career teaching at UW-Whitewater before moving to Tulane University in New Orleans.
Which is where he met Barbara S. “Bobbie” Sontheimer, of the San Antonio Sontheimers. Her doctoral dissertation was also published, as Rabbi Max Heller: Reformer, Zionist, Southerner, 1860-1929.There being few jobs in the deep South teaching Jewish American history, Bobbie taught elementary school for a while before becoming director of the Office of School Services at the Wisconsin Historical Society, writing and editing books for our state’s classrooms. That is what brought the Malones to Madison in 1995, and where she worked until 2011.
After retiring “because of Scott Walker,” Bobbie wrote the award-winning Lois Lenski: Storycatcher, about her favorite children’s author and illustrator, and Striding Lines: The Unique Story Quilts of Rumi O’Brien, about the Madison-based Japanese American quilter.
Music is how Bill and Bobbie met, and it is still an important part of their lives, performing once a week at the Common Ground coffee shop in Middleton. And of course, for the past 24 years, Bill has been the host of Back to the Country, which you can hear right here on WORT every Wednesday from nine to noon. It is an honor to share a radio station with Bill and Bobbie Malone and a real pleasure to welcome them to Madison BookBeat.