Long Gone Daddies
John F. Blair, Publisher
5½ x 8½
March 5, 2013
Some nights, we have the road to ourselves and the radio sings only for us. We play our shows and tear-ass out. Tonight, it was this little dive bar in a town we took to calling East Motherless. But we play, no matter. We rock and then we roll. The soundcheck and the fury, the power chord and the glory. Then we load our gear into a muddy-brown Merc with a little trailer behind, and we’re off. Slinging gravel, filling sky with road.
All his life, Luther Gaunt has heard songs in his head—songs of sweet evil and blue ruckus, odes to ghosts, drinking hymns. In search of his past, he hits the road with his band, the Long Gone Daddies, and his grandfather’s cursed guitar, Cassie.
While his band mates just want to make it big when they get to Memphis, Luther retraces the steps of his father and grandfather, who each made the same journey with the same guitar years earlier. Malcolm Gaunt could have been Elvis—that white man who could sing black—except his rounder’s ways got him shot before he could strike that first note for Sam Phillips at Sun Records. At least that’s what Luther’s father—Malcolm’s son—always told him before he made like smoke when fame came calling and disappeared down south, too.
As Luther discovers the truth about the two generations of musicians that came before him, he must face the ghosts of history, the temptations of the road, and the fame cravings of a seriously treacherous woman named Delia, who, it turns out, can sing like an angel forsaken.
Long Gone Daddies is lyrically written but accessible as a hook-filled favorite song and proves that the people who struggle the most are invariably the most interesting—the most noble—whether they succeed or not.
“All kinds of histories have been written about the music and lore of Memphis, Sun Records, and Elvis Presley. Then there’s Long Gone Daddies, a work of fiction that gets to core truths mere facts can’t convey—namely, what it is about the sound that leads a grown man to spend his life chasing it down blind alleys and back roads into countless smoky bars, juke joints, and recording studios. Guitar wrangler Luther Gaunt and his band of beautiful losers pursue their musical dreams with “a righteous fury, a fool’s joy, and bulletproof souls.” Long Gone Daddies is a highly entertaining read that’s so Southern-fried you can smell the barbecue, taste the beer, and tap your foot to the honky-tonk beat. It is a book about and for anyone who knows what it means to be a prisoner of rock ’n’ roll.” —Parke Puterbaugh, author of Phish: The Biography and former senior editor at Rolling Stone
“I’ve been a fan of David Wesley Williams and of his novel Long Gone Daddies since I saw the first pages of it two years ago. I’m so happy to see my anticipation of the event of its publication realized. It is a book full of wild music and generous imagining. Read it slowly. You’ll love it.” —Richard Bausch, author of Something Is Out There and winner of the PEN/Malamud Award
“This lyrical multigenerational musician’s tale marks veteran newspaperman Williams’s impressive first novel. . . . The historical backdrop, including a cameo by young Elvis as a busboy, adds delightful texture and rich depth to Williams’s fictional account of the early days of rock ’n’ roll.” —Publishers Weekly
“Luther, Delia, and the Long Gone Daddies are on a rocking, rhythm-and-blues tear across the South, and you want to be there when the band starts playing. By turns exuberant and intimate, David Wesley Williams’s prose captures the glories, perils, and pleasures of the road—a soulful musical tour de force!” —Bland Simpson of The Red Clay Ramblers, author of Into the Sound Country
“Long Gone Daddies is a story that sings. This tale of a struggling band unfolds in the places where my favorite music was born. But like a good song, it transcends the particular. It conjures Maxwell Perkins’s idea that one of the great themes in literature is a man’s pursuit of his father, and Utah Phillips’s line that ‘the past didn’t go anywhere.’ ” —Singer-songwriter John Gorka
“Long Gone Daddies is a rich, full-bodied novel that ebbs and flows like the Mississippi into its flood plains. It is about wanting and getting what you want, but mostly it is that rare creature in fiction: an honest lie.” —Courtney Miller Santo, author of Roots of the Olive Tree