There’s so much that goes in to writing an iconic song. Whether it’s a run-in with the law or an intense heartbreak, the artists that pen those lyrics have plenty of stories to tell. The lives of our favorite country singers weren’t always easy, but their tales continue to intrigue fans to this day. After reading these 10 fascinating biographies, you’ll hear country music in a whole new way.
10. Smart Blonde: Dolly Parton, Thomas E. Miller
Dolly Parton’s iconic image is only a fraction of what makes her unique. In Thomas E. Miller’s biography, Smart Blonde, readers get the chance to meet the woman behind the spectacle. This biography spans over 60 years and is packed with quirky anecdotes.
9. Tammy Wynette: Tragic Country Queen, Jimmy McDonough
Lovers of Tammy Wynette’s heartbreaking ballads won’t be able to put this book down. Although occasionally critical, Jimmy McDonough’s account of Wynette’s tumultuous marriages and sudden rise to fame will grip you from beginning to end.
8. Kristofferson the Wild American, Stephen Miller
If you want to dive into Kris Kristofferson’s expansive film career and discography, there’s no better place to start than with Stephen Miller’s detailed biography. Loaded with little-known information, this book will give you an inside look into Kristofferson’s professional and personal life.
7. Hardcore Troubadour: The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle, Lauren St. John
At first, Steve Earle’s risky and wild career sounds too raucous to be real. Recounting his five unsteady marriages, conflict with the law and brief stint in jail, Lauren St. John’s biography could inspire a riveting screenplay. Her interviews with Earle’s friends and former wives gives this account an intimate perspective.
6. Honky Tonk Angel: The Intimate Story of Patsy Cline, Ellis Nassour
Patsy Cline’s story is familiar one, but Nassour’s account digs even deeper into the star’s personal life. Honky Tonk Angel includes rare photographs and personal letters that most fans have never seen. By collaborating with artists who worked closely with her, Nassour was able to expertly capture Cline’s sudden shot to stardom and plummeting marriage. Even if it’s a story you know by heart, this book will tangle your emotions.
5. Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass, Murphy Hicks Henry
Detailing the lives of over 70 female pickers, Pretty Good for a Girl is both a musical history lesson and stunning homage to the trailblazers of bluegrass. Organized by decade, this book discusses everyone from 1940s accordionist Sally Ann Forrester to Alison Krauss. The anecdotes may be brief, but they’re packed with intimate details.
4. Can’t You Hear Me Calling: The Life Of Bill Monroe, Richard D. Smith
Bill Monroe, often referred to as the Father of Bluegrass, didn’t just influence mandolin players. Monroe’s reach has expanded into all genres. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and Jerry Garcia have all drawn from Monroe’s musical stylings, and this biography is rich with history. Richard D. Smith’s deep research, collection of interviews and effortless storytelling makes these 400 pages fly by.
3. Hank Williams: The Biography, Colin Escott, George Merritt, William MacEwen
If you loved the recent Hank William’s biopic I Saw the Light, then you’ll adore Hank Williams: The Biography. As the book that inspired the 2015 biographical drama, this page-turner is the most respected account of Hank William’s life. Covering his troubled childhood, magnetic musical career and tragic troubles with alcoholism, this biography gives you a comprehensive view of his short life. The latest edition contains previously-unpublished photos and Williams’ complete musical catalog.
2. Merle Haggard: The Running Kind, David Cantwell
Merle Haggard: The Running Kind is so much more than a biography. David Cantwell dives into his music and dissects each element in a critical and fascinating way. With his witty and easy-going writing style, Cantwell tells Haggard’s story in a way you haven’t heard it before.
1. Waylon: Tales of My Outlaw Dad, Terry Jennings with David Thomas
This version of Waylon’s story comes from a source who knows about his life first-hand. Waylon’s son, Terry Jennings, tells raw, rare stories of his father’s travels, successes, and depression. Never holding anything back, Jennings’ anecdotes will give you an entirely new perspective on the country music legend.