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Memoir Review    



Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller
by Marshall Chapman
Forward by Lee Smith
St. Martin's Press, 2003
Hardcover, $24.95 (259 pages)
ISBN: 0-312-31568-6
In my career as a country music DJ, I would from time to time fill out the BMI reporting list with the names of songwriters-- this is how songwriters are paid royalties for airplay. "M. Chapman" was a common name during my shift with songs like "Rode Hard and Put Up Wet," "A Woman's Heart," "Somewhere South of Macon," "The Perfect Partner," and many more to follow after I hung up my head set.  But I didn't really know who "M. Chapman" was till she teamed up with Matraca Berg, Lee Smith and Jill McCorkle to create the stage musical "Good Ol' Girls." Marshall Chapman was/is a force! When she rocks, Marshall is "raise hell" fun. When she gets bluesy, Marshall rips your heart out with her raw emotions.

The book cover gives a clue to the person between the flaps. The photo of a nude Marshall sunbathing and giving the photographer the "bird" alludes to a tough girl image; but at the same time Marshall's face is hidden and the cover is washed in pink, suggesting that this is a feminine woman, shy and vulnerable. Marshall Chapman is a mixture of contradictions. Her memoir, like her songs, is raw honesty about her rock and roll life in Nashville, poor choices in men, cleaning up her life, and finally finding love and balance. She uses her song titles as chapters, in which she tells the story behind each song and the chronological experiences during that time.

The daughter of a mill owner in South Carolina, Marshall grew up in a nice neighborhood with the normal elements connected to good breeding. Marshall was a rebel, from the first time she heard Elvis Presley live in 1956, to the parties at Vanderbilt, and her time touring with Jimmy Buffet. When even Jerry Lee Lewis says, "Don't you burn out now, hon'." -- it's clear that Marshall was burning both ends of the candle.

One of the most touching chapters deals with Marshall Chapman's performance with her band the Love Slaves at the Tennessee State Prison for Women. She was too scared to be locked up with them, that she put off responding to the warden's request for years. But meeting these women had a profound effect on Marshall. Many of her songs connected to the abused women who finally killed or paid someone else to kill their husbands. Songs like "Bad Debt," "Betty's Bein' Bad," and the tender "Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller." The prison concert was recorded, and that CD is rich in the emotion of Marshall's commentaries from the stage and the inmates response from the audience.

Another chapter and song that raises this book to the must read of memoirs, is "Call the Lamas!" that deals with the death of the baby brother in the Chapman house. Jamie Chapman was an artist living in Atlanta and dying from AIDS. Like the angelic baby of the song, Jamie had the power to charm his sisters.

Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller has a companion CD of the featured chapter songs available at Marshall Chapman's web site  Also, I recommend getting the "It's About Time..." CD, which is the live recording from the Tennessee State Prison for Women. I have to admit, this woman has been singing my life for years, so I picked up the whole collection.

Marshall Chapman's style of songwriting works well with storytelling. I hope she will compose more stage musicals...and write more books.


Joyce Dixon
Southern Scribe Reviews


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