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July 12, 2024

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Shaking, Rattling and... Reading??!
Dowling Press Makes it Worth Reading Again (Dowling Press)

By: Gary "Pig" Gold

Listen, flu season quietly crept up then threw me flat down onto bed for a couple of weeks lately, I'll have you all know, and so drawn and snuckered was I that strength enough to program even yon CD changer could barely be mustered.

What to do then? Well, drastic measures needed to be taken. And I mean Drastic. So, believe it or not, I actually decided to roll over, pull on my slippers, and attempt to scale the mountain of musty literary material that's been piling high 'round the bedroom windows for, oh, about a decade or so now.

Yes, you heard right: I actually --gasp!-- tried to READ Some BOOKS.

Sure, I too thought thirteen years of schooling had pretty well seen to it that any remaining desire to crack open such objects was forever, and completely, extinguished: YOU try not only swallowing "Pride And Prejudice," but then adapting it for a Grade Ten theatre group-- then see if the mere thought of approaching even a lowly Backstreet Boys paperback doesn't strike terror deep into the bowels of your very soul.

But alas, I'm happy to report said Fear was recently faced down and thoroughly squashed upon becoming reacquainted with a cool little company out of Nashville called Dowling Press, and their tiny but intriguing roster of, as they themselves describe it, "decidedly unique books about music, murder, road trips, or whatever."

Huh! Well, seeing as music, and music-related road trips, may actually be both the broth AND the bane of my very existence (having spent enough lifetimes locked inside speeding equipment vans to write a book or two myself), and murder is a topic that's truly never far from mind (speaking of road trips and smelly vans), I guess I naturally couldn't help but fall deep in literary love with each and every Dowling title I've so far grazed my eyes upon. That's, by the way, a near dozen and counting so far; books which uncannily immortalize in print everything from the most chilling of facts (R. Gary Patterson's "Hellhounds On Their Trail") and fiction ("Jealous Heart" and "Cryin' Time" by Cecelia Tishy) clear on over to both the sublime ("Rock 'n' Roll Call: The History and Mystery Behind Rock Names" by Dean M. Boland) AND the positively ridiculous (Chuck Oliver's strangely majestic "On The Throne With The King: The Ultimate BATHROOM Elvis Trivia Book"). All are immensely entertaining but somehow still absorbing and even -- whoops! -- educational tomes which more than productively fill time otherwise frittered away on transcontinental air jaunts or visits to one's own household throne.

Crave a tad more verbal meat between the covers though, you say? Deeper and sometimes even more disturbing reads can duly be found inside the downright terrifying "The Whole World Sings" (in which a typical crew of Barry Manilow fans share their, um, stories) and especially within the wholly rollin' -- yet never less than rockin' -- "Cheese Chronicles," the one and only Tommy Womack's no-less-than-epic saga of an R 'n' R life. His very own, in fact. Suffice to say, this particular title should be considered Absolutely Required Reading by each and every teen and pre-teen in the land who's entertained even passing thoughts towards turning their MTV years into a (serious?) career choice.

As Dowling's founder Maryglenn McCombs is thankfully never afraid to admit, "Mostly what I look for are books about music and pop culture -- books that offer something valuable, new and noteworthy to the fans." Perfect example: Actual Fab Four Opening Act Barry ("and the Remains") Tashian's luvingly detailed "Ticket To Ride: The Extraordinary Diary Of The Beatles' Last Tour," which illuminates Those Swingful Sixties as few others amongst literal countless books on said subject ever really have. And speaking musically, Maryglenn reveals yer pesky sub-genre know as Alternative Country "is particularly appealing because, I think, it's a movement that's worthy of a lot of attention. Overall, it's damned good music, and I think with the Internet and all that entails it's a movement that's really starting to define itself." To whit, Dowling has so far published two inclusively exemplary books on all things rooty: an enthralling collection of thirty-five artist profiles from no less than the sacred pages of "No Depression" Magazine, plus a fat, fact-filled alphabetical "alt. country sourcebook" called "Modern Twang," whose compiler David Goodman promises will have a companion volume, containing even more thorough and enlightening essays on this fascinating field of study, due soon. From, naturally, the good folk at Dowling Press.

You see then, just like those tiny independent record labels who've long been responsible for helping discover, nurture, and ultimately "legitimize" such pigeonholes as alt.C&W (and, before that, punk, folk, and r-o-c-k itself), Dowling Press fills a likewise sorely-needed role within the still-haughty-indeed literary world. "I think what separates us from the giant publishing houses out there is that we're very grass-roots -- we sell to a ton of mom and pop stores, and our authors do tons of radio interviews and public appearances," explains Maryglenn. "Sure, we aren't Oprah books, but often I think our titles get a lot of word-of-mouth exposure." And oh so deservedly so, I hereby heartily proclaim!

And then, for something (yes) completely different, there's always Jim Yoakum's -- no relation of Dwight's, I'm sure -- "Non-Inflatable Monty Python TV Companion." Honestly, of the several mock-scholarly studies already published over the years, this is the one book on the subject that actually succeeds in translating -- embracing even -- the sweet insanity of the Pythons right on to the lowly printed page. Why, even the very-late-indeed Graham Chapman consented to provide an altogether legal Foreword to this very silly episode guide and then some. Need I say more then, squire?

No, I really shouldn't. Except to urge each and every one of you out there to please not wait for the latest virus (electronic or otherwise) to strike before discovering for yourself the delightful and, dare I say it, completely rock 'n' roll-worthy reading experiences to be found within each and every one of Dowling's growing roster of books-too-good-to-be-found-most-anywhere-else. Why, you can start ordering your very own copies right now from 1-800-243-9230, 1110 17th Avenue South, Suite 4, Nashville, TN 37212, or very soon too.

But don't forget to tell 'em Gary the Flu Pig sentcha, ok?

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