Radio Bristol Book Club: Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Radio Bristol Book Club: Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?

Welcome to Radio Bristol Book Club! Originally inspired by Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature, a recent special exhibit at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, readers from the museum and the Bristol Public Library came together from March to June to explore books featured in the exhibit.

Four members of Radio Bristol Book Club gathered round the mic in the radio studio, each holding their copy of Sounder.
The very first Radio Bristol Book Club in March 2018, when the group read Sounder by William Armstrong. © Birthplace of Country Music

But we just loved this program so much that we decided to make it a permanent Radio Bristol show! And so each month we will be live on-air discussing books related to the museum’s content, regional music heritage and music history further afield, and Appalachian culture and stories. We invite you to read along and then listen in on the fourth Thursday of each month at 11—11:30am when we will dig deep into the feelings and questions raised by the books, learn more about the authors, and celebrate the joys of being a bookworm!

For our first book within this new focus, we chose a book about some of the main players in the story of the 1927 Bristol Sessions: Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music by Mark Zwonitzer with Charles Hirshberg. We will be discussing this book on July 25 at 11am live on Radio Bristol.

Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? serves as both history and biography. It shares the story of the Carter Family as musical pioneers, tracing their journey from the hills and mountains of Virginia to the 1927 Bristol Sessions to national recognition via border radio and a large catalog of influential and iconic recordings. The book explores their musical impact, along with the various routes A. P., Sara, and Maybelle took after they were no longer performing together and their continuing legacy. Not only does Zwonitzer and Hirshberg’s meticulously researched but eminently readable book give readers a deep understanding and appreciation of the Carters’ as a potent musical force, but the book also shines a light on the early commercial country music industry.

The cover of Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone has an old publicity photograph of the Carters -- A. P. standing, Sara with her autoharp, and Maybelle with her guitar. On the bottom left of the cover a vintage record label-style graphic bears the title and subtitle of the book.
Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? The Carter Family & Their Legacy in American Music was published in 2002. It was a finalist in the National Book Critics Circle awards for biography/autobiography, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and an American Library Association’s Booklist Editor’s Choice.

Mark Zwonitzer is a writer, director, and producer, who has worked on numerous documentaries including American Experience, Freedom Riders, The Supreme Court, and The Irish in America. In 2016 he published his second book, The Statesman and the Storyteller: John Hay, Mark Twain, and the Rise of American Imperialism. Charles Hirshberg is a journalist and sportswriter, with articles appearing in numerous publications such as Time, Sports Illustrated, Life, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. In 2004, he also wrote a history of television sports journalism, ESPN 25. Reflecting some interesting scientific connections in his family – his mother is astrophysicist Joan Feynman and his uncle is physicist Richard Feynman – Hirschberg was once editor of Popular Science magazine.

We cannot wait to bring this story of The Carter Family to Radio Bristol Book Club! We hope that you can read Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone? too and then join us at 11am on Thursday, July 25 as we discuss the book on air. You can tune in locally at 100.1 FM or listen via the website or app. Many of the Radio Bristol Book Club books will be available at the Bristol Public Library or The Museum Store at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum so stop by to borrow or buy a copy. The BPL librarians or the museum’s frontline staff will be happy to help you find the book.

You can listen to archived book club discussions from previous shows here.

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