From The Desk Of Luther Russell: “After The Ball: Pop Music From Rag To Rock” By Ian Whitcomb

You might not know Luther Russell by name, but you’ve probably heard music he’s made with the likes of Jakob Dylan (Wallflowers), Jody Stephens (Big Star), Brian Bell (Weezer), Ethan Johns (Emmylou Harris, Ryan Adams) and countless others. Selective Memories: An Anthology, out February 23 on Hanky Panky, is a two-CD compilation of Russell’s material that’s a stellar introduction for newcomers to this musician’s musician. Russell will be guest editing all week.

Russell: Been really enjoying this 1972 book on, well, the whole damned history of popular music, as told by one who knows: the great Ian Whitcomb. As a performer, he came over here during the British Invasion and had a top-10 hit in “You Turn Me On,” appearing on such programs as Shindig, American Bandstand and Hollywood A-Go-Go. After making a few records and even producing a record for Mae West(!), Whitcomb settled into his role as expert and aficionado for the glory days of Tin Pan Alley. He wrote this colorful and brilliant history of 20th century music, tracing it’s roots from the first real pop “hit” (“After The Ball”) on to the era of the Beatles. I recently picked up an original pressing, only to realize that my dad had this book when I was a kid, and I used to stare at it and wonder who all the stars were on the jacket. I think After The Ball has held up as one of the more witty and personal books on the subject of popular music and will continue to do so. By the way, there are some amazing interviews Whitcomb conducted in the early-’70s with some of the greatest songwriters in history like Irving Caesar, Johnny Marks, Abe Olman and Harry Warren, which you can find on YouTube. They’re a mind-blowing window into the processes of these giants and leave you wanting so much more.