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A Century of Country

An Illustrated History of Country Music (TV Books, 1619 Broadway, New York, NY 10019)

Robert K. Oermann

By Jean Metcalfe

Robert Oermann and country music go together like Brooks & Dunn. Don't know if Oermann sings, but when TV's "Biography" features a country music personality, it's frequently Oermann they put on camera to provide insight. Based on TNN's original 13-episode series "Century of Country," for which Oermann served as historical consultant, this volume covers musical matters from Acuff to Zydeco.

And if Oermann's name doesn't grab your attention, then the cover photos of Jimmie Rodgers, Patsy Cline, Willie, and Maybelle Carter or one of the other 15 will. Inside photos include a full-page sepia of a young Marty Robbins, a color shot of a Gene Autry jigsaw puzzle and a Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunch box. Also, Asher Sizemore and Little Jimmie's Fireside Treasures songbook, Dolly Parton and Roy Acuff dolls, and a 1965 Bill Monroe LP jacket. By no means limited to nostalgia, A Century of Country ends with a chapter devoted to "Young Country," which contains color photos of present-day hit-makers such as Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, and the Dixie Chicks.

The sixteen chapter titles attest to the variety of country categories included, e.g., "Singing Cowboys," "Honky-Tonk Heroes," "Rockabilly," "Songwriters" (hooray), "Outlaws," "Countrypolitan," as well as chapters devoted to "The Radio Barn Dance," "Country and the Movies" and "Country on TV."

Since Kentucky has spawned many successful country music artists, the Commonwealth is well represented in Oermann's 320 pages. Look for Stringbean Akeman, Bob Atcher, Jumpin' Bill Carlisle, Rosemary Clooney, John Conlee, Billy Ray Cyrus, The Everly Brothers, Tom T. Hall, adopted Louisvillians Pee Wee King and Redd Stewart, The Judds, Patty Loveless, Loretta Lynn, Bill Monroe, John Michael Montgomery, Ricky Skaggs, Keith Whitley, Dwight Yoakam, and more.

Make room on your bookshelf or your coffee table for A Century of Country. It's a classy, fun-to-read volume that's well worth the space.