Originally created 03/28/04

These coffee table books are right on key

The Lower Broadway section of Nashville, Tenn., has long been a hangout and proving ground for country music performers.

Photographer Bill Rouda introduces readers to the street's haunts and habitues through the 90 black-and-white images in "Nashville's Lower Broad: The Street That Music Made" (Smithsonian Books, $29.95).

When the Grand Ole Opry moved from the Ryman Auditorium in 1974, Lower Broad declined into a skid row. Urban gentrification and the Opry's return to Ryman in the 1990s have revitalized the area.

In one photo, singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams, who wrote the book's foreword, works on a song, sitting alone in Robert's Western World bar with a guitar on her lap and two cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon on the table.

In another image, fast-food packaging litters the Wagon Burner club's treacherous-looking flight of back stairs that offers a shortcut to Ryman. A couple of guys are shown shooting pool next to cartons and cartons of beer cans stacked up against the wall in the landmark Music City Lounge, which closed in 1999 after severe tornado damage.

A nighttime image shows the business district's new, brightly lighted skyscrapers looming over the 400 block of Lower Broad, home of Tootsie's Orchid Lounge, a favorite meeting place for country music's headliners and hopefuls. It's where, legend has it, Roger Miller wrote his Grammy Hall of Fame song "Dang Me."

"But," writes David Eason in the introduction, "that may be a story that should be true and isn't."

* * * *

Hawaii has given us pineapples, the hula, loud shirts and, of course, the ukulele. That diminutive stringed instrument is the subject of an appropriately modest-size coffee-table book, "The Ukulele: A Visual History" (Backbeat Books, $24.95).

This revised and expanded edition of the 1997 book by Jim Beloff, ukulele authority and aficionado, provides a visual history of the uke in more than 200 color photos.

Readers might be surprised to learn that although "ukulele" is a Hawaiian word ("jumping flea"), the instrument is not totally Hawaiian in origin. It was adapted from an even smaller instrument that Portuguese settlers introduced into the islands in 1879.

Beloff traces the development of the uke and its spread to the mainland, where it found a home in the hands of Ukulele Ike (aka Cliff Edwards), Arthur Godfrey and Tiny Tim, who played his uke left-handed while tiptoeing through the tulips and blowing kisses.

The book describes the instrument's influence on pop music and pop culture worldwide, and its appearance on radio and television, and in movies - even an Elvis film ("Blue Hawaii").

The illustrations include more than 100 of the finest and most unusual ukes, and sheet music covers for "Ukulele Lady," "Vo-Do-De-O," "Hello, Hawaii" and other ditties.

Ukes are shown on record covers, movie posters, a canned-pineapple label, and print ads for ice cream and mouthwash, and being strummed by Elvis, Bing Crosby, Lawrence Welk, Poncie Ponce and even Laurel and Hardy.

* * * *

Duncan Schiedt has been photographing jazz musicians for 60 years - with black-and-white film.

"Jazz is a black-and-white music. Its range, from blinding brilliance to deepest shadings, seems to demand the drama that black and white can so easily provide," he writes in the preface to his book, "Jazz in Black & White" (Indiana University Press, $34.95), which features more than 80 of his portraits of jazz artists.

Each photo is accompanied by a brief biography of the subject and history of the photo.

There are images of Wes Montgomery playing guitar, Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown posing together, and Marian McPartland, the "first lady of jazz piano," in a familiar spot - at her piano.

Pee Wee Russell holds his "licorice stick" (clarinet) and a cigarette at the same time; and the bell of Jack Teagarden's trombone obscures half his face, so only his nose and eyes peer out over it.

The all-star lineup also includes Louis Armstrong, Errol Garner, Anita O'Day, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Mary Lou Williams and even Japanese-born jazz pianist Michiko Ogawa.

* * * *

Jazz greats Duke Ellington, Stan Getz and Billie Holiday are among the performers featured in a 1952 poster announcing a gig at Carnegie Hall. The poster is among the music artifacts on display in "Christie's Rock & Pop Memorabilia" (Billboard Books, $35).

Authors Peter Doggett and Sarah Hodgson, who assess and sell pop-music collectibles for Christie's auction house in London, present the book's treasures within sections that include autographs, recordings, musical instruments, costumes, posters and awards.

The book's 160 color illustrations include publicity shots autographed by the members of ABBA, covers of Fabulous magazines from the 1960s and Madonna's black bustier (shown with and without Madonna in it).

There are handwritten correspondences by Joan Baez, Elvis, Donovan and Brian Jones, and lyrics by Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Bruce Springsteen.

Other features include information for collectors, a glossary, and lists of the top 10 highest-priced sale items - instruments, lyrics, costumes, autographs and cars.

No. 1 among the vehicles is John Lennon's 1965 Rolls-Royce limousine, which probably hasn't been parked on the street since being bought in 1995 for $2.6 million and change.


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