Honky Tonk: Portraits Of Country Music 1972-1981
Why does Roscoe Holcomb look so forlorn? He’s the very picture of hangdog, sad beyond imagining; his photo is an image for the ages, one that’s difficult to forget.
But this book is filled with images that humor and haunt. For nine years, Boston photographer Henry Horenstein, who shot covers for Rounder Records in the label’s early years, took backstage portraits and candid snapshots of country music artists and their giddy fans, from humid northern rural music parks to Nashville tavern Tootsie’s to the Grand Ole Opry. The oversized black-and-white photos collected in this carefully produced 144-page album show a maturing face of American roots music as it moved from homegrown hoedowns to big business.
The big names are here — Ernest Tubb, Possum, Conway, Loretta, Tammy, Waylon — but also Curly Ray Cline, Don Stover, the Holy Modal Rounders and Tommy Cash…Tommy Cash?
The reproductions are lovingly tendered large-format reproductions that shimmer with silvery blacks and nice clean whites. Paragraph-long descriptions put the images in context, as does a heartfelt foreword by Eddie Stubbs, house announcer of the Opry and a respected DJ for WSM-AM, and a shot of Horenstein himself (page 6, his white cowboy hat at a jaunty angle as he poses near a stone wall with the Johnson Mountain Boys in 1981). An index would have been nice to find photos at will, but it’s just as instructive to thumb through it all again and again.
But why is Roscoe Holcomb so forlorn?