I will occasionally review books when the subject speaks to me in some way (past reviews here and here). Typically, these books are heavy on pictures and light on words since I am ‘old school’, refusing to own a Kindle or iPad and not a fan of reading books on my laptop. This stance severely limits my review opportunities so when I was given the chance to weigh in on Tony Brown’s “Elvis, Strait to Jesus: An Iconic Producer’s Journey with Legends of Rock n Roll, Country and Gospel Music” I immediately said yes.
I had three very personal reasons for wanting to review Mr. Brown’s book; 1) I love all types of music, especially rock and roll and anything Elvis; 2) I’ve been involved in the Nashville music scene for many years; and 3) Tony Brown played a rather sizable role in my life in the 90’s. Truth be told, I was also hoping to see a face or two I knew within the book’s pages.
In ‘Elvis, Strait to Jesus’ Tony talks about his musical upbringing and features 40 people who have impacted his life. He describes his life journey as serendipitous, and the way he has laid out his story shows how one thing led to another but everything, always, revolved around his love for music. I really enjoyed learning about Brown’s playing days as a youth in his family’s The Brown Family Singers, and then as a young man tickling the ivories with J.D. Sumner and his Stamps Quartet, Elvis’s TCB Band, Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band, and Rodney Crowell’s The Cherry Bombs. Tony eventually moved on from playing to producing, and enjoyed tremendous success in the 80’s and 90’s with artists like George Strait, Reba McEntyre, and Jimmy Buffet, all of whom take a seat in the book’s ‘chair’ to reminisce about their relationship with Tony.
As they say in the South, Tony’s momma ‘done raised him right’. Here is a man who has seen it all and then some but any salacious tales he knows don’t appear in this book. Instead, what comes through in the stunning black and white photos and the words of his friends is his genuine love for each of them and the music they made, along with wonder at the path his life has taken. Tony Brown’s journey is a testament to honing your skills, doing what you love, and always always always following the twists and turns of your own life soundtrack.