The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song: exclusive excerpt from new graphic novel about country music pioneers

What is the year that country music started to suck? 1970? 1960? 1950? I don't know, but The Carter Family was around well before any of those years, and I love their music. I also love this new graphic novel, The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song, By Frank M. Young and David Lasky, published by Abrams ComicArts. I was hooked from the very first page. Enjoy the excerpt!

The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song is a rich and compelling original graphic novel that tells the story of the Carter Family -- the first superstar group of country music—who made hundreds of recordings and sold millions of records. Many of their hit songs, such as “Wildwood Flower” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” have influenced countless musicians and remain timeless country standards.

The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song is not only a unique illustrated biography, but a moving account that reveals the family’s rise to success, their struggles along the way, and their impact on contemporary music. Illustrated with exacting detail and written in the Southern dialect of the time, its dynamic narrative is pure Americana. It is also a story of success and failure, of poverty and wealth, of racism and tolerance, of creativity and business, and of the power of music and love.

Includes bonus CD with original Carter Family music.

Click images to enlarge.

The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song


  1. “What is the year that country music started to suck? 1970? 1960? 1950?”

    There’s always been sucky country music, just like there’s always been good country music. As with any other genre, you just have to search through piles of crap to find it. 

  2. Yay! David Lasky’s a great guy, very talented, and it’s so exciting that this book’s finally come out! 

  3. While reading this, I had “Single Girl, Married Girl” playing in winamp.

    Music stripped down to its purest, cleanest essentials.

  4. I didn’t know The Carter Family was considered country music. I thought they were bluegrass.

    Country music’s slide down the scupper started with Conway Twitty. He single-handedly alienated half the genre’s fan base. When Hank Williams, Jr. showed up in the 80’s, he alienated the other half. Today, all the new stuff is garbage and empty-headed cowboy cartoons.

    1. A shallow and utterly laughable critique of country music.

      Oh, and you forgot to yell “Get offa my bluegrass lawn!!!”

      1.  With an industry that favored bubble-gum country over people like Johnny Cash? I’d say that it is a pretty spot on critique. I mean, the man was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980 and then pretty much IGNORED by the industry until he was on his deathbed.

        Country music today is as watered down and formulaic as 90’s boy band music.

    2. The original Carter Family were labeled ‘hillbilly,’ since the term  ‘country’ hadn’t been invented yet, but today they are considered ‘the first family of country music’. Bluegrass didn’t get going until the late forties – it might have drawn from the same well as hillbilly, but the idea was to play it fast (like a racehorse raised on Kentucky bluegrass). The cowboy cartoon is nothing new – have a look at some promotional photos of Jimmie Rodgers (aka ‘the father of country music’) in his late twenties cowboy duds.

    3. Definitely not Bluegrass. The people I play with typically refer to Carter Family as “Old Time.”

      And 3 of them make moonshine, so, y’know … credible.

    1. It’s the common ancestor of both. According to some sources, the decisive split happened during the McCarthy trials, at least in terms of marketing categories. After the term ‘hillbilly’ had worn out its welcome, they waffled for a while on what to call white non-urban popular music. Billboard was all ready to use ‘folk’ as an umbrella term, but when that took on a communist taint, they settled once and for all on ‘country and western’.

  5. Whoa Whoa Whoa! Back up the truck — Country Music certainly did not suck in the 50’s, 60’s, or 70’s. I’ve got strong feels about music from garth brooks on, but you can’t argue against the greats of any of those decades. (You can argue against the crap, as per Sturgeon, and please feel free to do so)

    *gets all pedantic*
     Country music really has its roots in the beginnings of radio, both in the way that it made it possible to share music across the country, and in the way that sharing music destroyed local music and replaced it with a sort of national conformity. Replace some of that harsh language with nicer words as you please, because I don’t really mean to imply that all of that is a terrible thing. Barn Dance (precursor to grand ole opry) radio music shows popularized the music of the moment, and led to the simultaneous hunt for new music to be written in the styles that were getting displayed and for pre-existant music hidden away in american backwaters to get recorded. Hopefully, this is where this graphic novel jumps in, and that’s why i’m excited to read it!

    The whole finding music that has been unsullied by the radio of the time is an interesting thing — The big hunters in this vein are the lomax’s — and it was neat how they’d go to the darkest valleys and hollers of west virginia and kentucky to find folk musics. Talking to long time prisoners in the 1930’s to find out what blues music sounded like in the 1910’s before radio got to it. I’m lookin at you, lead belly! (Some of this, by the way, is narrative/suspect specious B.S., but it sure is good stuff anyways.)

    So, yeah, I’ve had a hard time loving country music since the late 1980’s. I referenced Garth Brooks; he has written and recorded some good songs, but he is symbolic of a tectonic shift in production style; I don’t hold it against him personally, but something about the mode of singing and recording, the hyper-compression that resulted from the Loudness Wars, and the politically/cultural trends of the last 20 years has rendered a higher ration of crap to quality for me. I would settle for a 9 to 1 ratio of crap to good, but i worry it has gotten way beyond that.

    But, I’ll think about it in another few decades and probably reverse my view.

    Whoo Hooooo, long posts about stuff not many people care about, shouted into the wind!

    1. Not to the wind. Great post.

      I think there’s a ton of good country music of all stripes, and there always has been (and *definitely* during the “Garth Brooks” era). It’s just not the stuff they play on the radio

      1. You know, I wanted to teasingly post that my favorite song of the last couple years has been ‘Red Solo Cup’ — and then i thought about it, and I’m not sure if that post would be sarcastic. I feel enormously conflicted.

  6. I haven’t read the bio, but it would appear from what’s posted above that one piece of the Carter Family story may have been neglected, that of the significant contribution of an African-American by the name of Lesley Riddle. Lesley’s role is described in a Wikipedia entry:

    In the mid-1970s, while working at the Genesee Co-op in Rochester, NY, I and a group of others started and ran the Genesee Co-op Teahouse, a music venue with a special interest in American roots music. We hosted the legendary Son House, living in Rochester at that time and also Elizabeth Cotten, living in nearby Syracuse at the time.

    We also hosted the New Lost City Ramblers and were thus introduced to musician and music historian Mike Seeger, brother of Pete and Peggy Seeger, part of the amazing musical Seeger family.

    Mike brought Lesley to our attention. Lesley was working as a traffic crossing guard at a local elementary school at the time. A quiet and unassuming gentleman, Lesley graced our stage numerous times and generously shared his musical knowledge with anyone who would listen. I was honored to have known him briefly.

    Michael Brisson

  7. Some good chat here. I discovered the Carter Family through a friend many years ago and have been ken keen ever since – the old time music in my opinion seemed to ahve been drived from the traditional music brought by the variosu immigrants from Europe etc. – but that diversity does seem to haev been lost in the rush to popularise “Country” music.
    I’m real keen to read this comic now!

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