Released in September 2011, Alabama Musicians, Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie by C.S. Fuqua is a welcome resource for anyone interested in Alabama's role in music history. The book begins with an essay on the history of Alabama's musical contributions, including people who have been instrumental in the preservation of the state's musical heritage, beginning in the early 20th Century with folklorist Ruby Pickens Tartt. Fuqua gives us over 70 biographies that focus on Alabama-born musicians and music industry notables. His profiles include early figures like the champion of shape-note gospel, Jesse Randall "Pa" Baxter and old-time music stars The Stripling Brothers; mid-century ground-breakers Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton and the Delmore Brothers as well as jazz luminaries Sun Ra and Cleveland Eaton. Also included are some historically conscious contemporary figures like The Civil Wars and "American Idol" contestant Taylor Hicks.
Particularly interesting are the combined biographies, like the one for Clarence "Pinetop" Smith and Charles Edward "Cow Cow" Davenport who each played prominent roles in the emergence and popularization of the boogie woogie style. Alabama Musicians is illustrated throughout with photographs, some of which are from the musicians' own collections. The book doesn't attempt to cover every aspect of Alabama's music history which would, of course, take many volumes. At a concise and well-written 176 pages it does provide an excellent snapshot of the rich diversity and accomplishments of Alabama musicians, promoters and producers. Alabama Musicians, Musical Heritage from the Heart of Dixie is both a good read and a valuable reference. It's available thorough Amazon.com.