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Story Archives: From politics to music, Aswell has seen it all
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|From politics to music, Aswell has seen it all|
As the owner of the Capitol News Service, Tom Aswell covered the heyday of Louisiana politics.
It wasn't until a close friend died of cancer, though, that Aswell finally decided to follow his true love — music.
Aswell has lived most of his life on the periphery of the Louisiana music scene. It was this proximity to the singers, songwriters and strummers which led Aswell to the conclusion that has formed the basis of a book on Louisiana's influence in rock and roll music, which Aswell wrote.
"Rock and roll started in 1947, when Roy Brown walked into Cosimo Metasis's studio in New Orleans and recorded a song he wrote, 'Good Rockin' Tonight,' " Aswell said in an interview with The Ouachita Citizen over the weekend. Aswell was in the parish for a speaking engagement.
"Good Rockin' Tonight" would later be covered by another rock pioneer, Wynnone Harris. It was Harris' version that is listed as one of the 500 songs that influenced rock.
Brown's song and his recording of it is just one of countless songs either written by Louisiana musicians or recorded in Louisiana studios, Aswell said.
He traces those roots in "Louisiana Rocks: The True Genesis of Rock and Roll," coming in 2009, from Pelican Books.
Aswell contends it is impossible to separate the beginning of rock from the Louisiana music scene in the 1940s and 1950s.
He pointed to the Louisiana Hayride in Bossier City as the center of the change. It was at the hayride that Hank Williams Sr. performed and recorded "Lovesick Blues."
"It was a huge break from traditional country and it opened the door for rockabilly, which Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash perfected on the Hayride," Aswell said.
Aswell also details Presley's long history with Louisiana and its musicians. He pointed out that four Presley guitarists, a drummer and a pianist all came from Louisiana.
One of those pianists would become famous in his own right.
Aswell said people often forget that Floyd Cramer played for years with Presley. In fact, the two shared the top of the Billboard chart once.
"Cramer recorded 'Last Date' and it made it to number two on the Billboard top hits," Aswell said. "The only reason it didn't get to number one was that Elvis Presley had it with 'Are You Lonesome Tonight,' and Floyd Cramer played the piano on that recording."
Aswell's first draft of Louisiana Rocks topped out at 190,000 words, a long book by any measure. At the publisher's prodding, Aswell cut 90,000 words and a number of biographies, too.
Still, the book promises to be a seminal work for musicologists interested in tracing the roots of rock and roll.
Aswell profiles more than 300 musicians and countless songs, and Louisiana Rocks is peopled with the famous (Jerry Lee Lewis figures in prominently, as does Presley), and the not so famous (Gerry McGee of Eunice, one of Presley's guitarists).
Aswell's life in music will make for good reading as well.
He recounts the time he accompanied a Ruston disc jockey to the Hayride when Aswell was in the sixth grade.
The disc jockey handed Aswell the microphone when it came time to interview Presley; Aswell panicked. Without missing a beat, Presley took charge
"He took the microphone from me and interviewed me," Aswell said with a laugh. "They played that interview for weeks and all the little girls at school would come up to me and squeal and want to touch me."
When "Louisiana Rocks: The True Genesis of Rock and Roll" becomes available from Pelican Books next fall Aswell said he will embark on a state-wide book tour to promote the book.