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Chinaberry Sidewalksby Rodney Crowell
Synopses & Reviews
From the acclaimed musician comes a tender, surprising, and often uproarious memoir about his dirt-poor southeast Texas boyhood.
The only child of a hard-drinking father and a Holy Rollermother, Rodney Crowell was no stranger to bombast from an early age, whether knock-down-drag-outs at a local dive bar or fire-and-brimstone sermons at Pentecostal tent revivals. He was an expert at reading hisfather's mercurial moods and gauging exactly when his mother was likely to erupt, and even before he learned to ride a bike, he was often forced to take matters into his own hands. He broke up hisparents' raucous New Year's Eve party with gunfire and ended their slugfest at the local drive-in (actual restaurants weren't on the Crowells' menu) by smashing a glass pop bottleover his own head.
Despite the violent undercurrents always threatening to burst to the surface, he fiercely loved his epilepsy-racked mother, who scorned boring preachers and improvised wildly when thebills went unpaid. And he idolized his blustering father, a honky-tonk man who took his boy to see Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash perform live, and bought him a drum set so he could join hisband at age eleven.
Shot through with raggedy friends and their neighborhood capers, hilariously awkward adolescent angst, and an indelible depiction of the bloodlines Crowell came from, Chinaberry Sidewalks also vividly re-creates Houston in the fifties: a rough frontier town where icehouses sold beer by the gallon on paydays; teeming with musical venues from standard roadhouses to theMagnolia Gardens, where name-brand stars brought glamour to a place starved for it; filling up with cheap subdivisions where blue-collar day laborers could finally afford a house of their own; a place where apocalyptichurricanes and pest infestations were nearly routine.
But at its heart this is Crowell's tribute to his parents and an exploration of their troubled yet ultimately redeeming romance. Wry, clear-eyed, and generous, it is, like the very best memoirs, firmly rooted in time and place and station, never dismissive, and truly fulfilling.
From the Hardcover edition.
Recounts the author's experiences on frontier Houston as the only child of an alcoholic father and epileptic fanatical mother, describing a coming-of-age marked by honky-tonk barroom brawls, apocalyptic hurricanes and wild improvisations in the face of unpaid bills.
The only child of a hard-drinking father and a Holy Roller mother, Rodney was no stranger to either barroom brawls or Pentecostal sermons. Though anguished by their violent predilections, he adored his epilepsy-racked mother, who scorned boring preachers and improvised wildly when the bills went unpaid. And he idolized his blustering father, a honkytonk man who took his son to hear Hank Williams and Johnny Cash, and had him playing drums in his band at age eleven.
Shot through with neighborhood capers, raggedy friends, hilariously awkward adolescent angst, and an indelible depiction of the bloodlines he came from, ChinaberrySidewalks vividly recreates frontier Houston, where icehouses sold beer by the gallon and apocalyptic hurricanes were a fact of life. But at its heart this is Crowell’s tribute to his parents and their troubled yet ultimately redeeming romance. Wry, clear-eyed, and generous, it is, like the very best memoirs, firmly rooted, never dismissive, and truly fulfilling.
About the Author
Born in Houston in 1950, Rodney Crowell has released nearly twenty albums in four decades, with five consecutive number-one hits, and has also worked widely as a songwriter and a producer. His honors include a Grammy, an ASCAP lifetime achievement award, and membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. He lives in Nashville.
Table of Contents
New Year's Eve, 1955 — The house on Norvic Street — Chinaberry sidewalks — J.W. — Cauzette — Gone to Texas — Altar falters and prayer witches — Christian's drive-in — The Buck family chronicles — Ricky Schmidt and the Norvic Street Freedom Fighters — Mrs. Boyer — Spit-shine Charlie and Grandma Katie — LaQuita Freeman and the Kotex Kid — Tripod throws a punch — Pawnshop drums — Inexplicable behavior — Shotzie goes deep — From love's first fever to her plague — Transition.
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