Music     

Get a Shot of Rhythm & Blues: 
The Arthur Alexander Story
by Richard Younger
University of Alabama Press, 2000
ISBN: 0-8173-1024X

 

Arthur Alexander, a poor black man living in the South, wants to make a living as a songwriter and singer during a segregationist period. Add to this the fact that he cannot play any musical instrument, or even read music; he "arranges in his head."

Then, one day while working as a bellhop at a local hotel, he hears of a music studio opening up over a Drug Store in the downtown area. He goes there and tries out. To his amazement, he is not only recorded, but eventually becomes the first person in the area to have a nationally recognized smash hit ("You Better Move On") in the Muscle Shoals, Alabama area which is in its infancy in the music industry.

He goes on to Nashville to further himself and finds himself in the company of creative musicians such as Larry Gatlin, Ray Stevens, Jerry Reed, Dolly Parton, Tony Joe White, Billy Swan, and Kris Kristofferson. Only, he now becomes victim to malicious publishers and contending recording studios who take his work and give him nothing in return.

How does he exist in this climate? He writes what he knows about - himself. And he sings his own song, like a bird that knows only his special tune. When he approaches a microphone, he doesn't jiggle or wiggle. He does not dance and shake. No. He approaches it - a gentle giant who sings with a voice that is calm, soothing, and kind. He makes love to the microphone and treats it as one would a gentle lover. But, music is a fickle lover for "June" as his friends call him.

As his songs are picked up by known artists of the day: "Anna (Go To Him)" by the Beatles, "You Better Move On" by the Rolling Stones, and "Sally Sue Brown" by Bob Dylan among many others, fame and fortune still continue to elude "June."

He struggles. . . with drugs. . .with alcohol. . .with his own private demons. And when he can't take it any more, he exits the scene for a while.  When he comes back to it, he is a changed man with clearer insight into what he has been and a perfect perspective of what kind of man he is. Oh, that we all could have that perspective in the end!

Written by a writer Richard Younger, this book has is the product of exhaustive research and footnoting. (In the back of the book, so as not to detract from the story line) A good discography for music purists is also included. Here is a book for not only the followers of an artist who deserves recognition, but who pioneered the Muscle Shoals music industry and was totally involved with the Nashville music scene, producing a treasure trove of original American music.


Robert L. Hall
Southern Scribe Reviews

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