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Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller


Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller

GOODBYE, LITTLE ROCK AND ROLLER takes its title from a song of the
same name composed by Marshall Chapman, the author of this
occasionally disjointed but always interesting memoir of a wild
life's ride. Chapman is one of those musicians who is well known
and well thought of among critics, musicians and aficionados of
rock and country music, yet whose work is better known than her
name among the masses. Her best-known work is probably "Betty's
Bein' Bad," which interestingly enough is certified as having been
played or performed over one million times. Yet Chapman's name is
not well known; certainly she deserves wider fame and fortune than
she has. Yet, as she points out in GOODBYE, LITTLE ROCK AND ROLLER,
true happiness comes from wanting what you have, not having what
you want.

GOODBYE, LITTLE ROCK AND ROLLER is not an autobiography per se; it
is divided into twelve chapters, each titled after one of Chapman's
compositions. I would have liked to have had as an accompaniment to
the book a CD containing these songs, though I'm sure it would have
been a licensing nightmare. Still, it was great fun to go back
through my own Chapman collection while reading each chapter and
listening to the particular song each chapter is titled after. And
while GOODBYE, LITTLE ROCK AND ROLLER starts at the beginning (kind
of) it goes here, there and everywhere before reaching an ending of

Chapman was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina in 1949, of
well-to-do parents. As was the custom then, a good deal of her
upbringing was performed by black housekeepers; so it was that
seven-year-old Marshall Chapman found herself sitting in the
balcony section, for blacks only, in Spartanburg's Carolina Theatre
in 1956 during an Elvis Presley concert, an event that changed her
life forever. With respect to events of that life, Chapman's
account is neither linear nor chronological. She has a tendency to
begin a story about her life and then veer off in another direction
for a while before coming back to the topic at hand. It's kind of
like driving down one of those New Orleans streets that somehow
manages to intersect itself once or twice before you ultimately get
where you're going. Reading Chapman is like listening to a slightly
tipsy friend at the end of a long day in the sun. Well, make that a
slightly tipsy, really interesting friend.

Chapman is also --- there's no way around it --- really
self-absorbed. One gets the feeling that if there were a blackout
imposed upon the city of Nashville, there would be one light on and
she would be underneath it yelling, "Here I am!" What is really
cool, even charming, however, is that she acknowledges these less
than endearing traits, noting that her significant other has
described her as having Attention Deficit Disorder --- she just
can't get enough attention and will do anything to get more.
GOODBYE, LITTLE ROCK AND ROLLER is a testament to that statement.
Further, there are indications in each account of Chapman's life
that this is a person in need of a good twelve-step program.
Indeed, Chapman comes to that realization in her own time, cleaning
up herself and turning her life around. Chapman's neat, commendable
trick is that she was able to do this while remaining steadfast and
true to her own vision. It is a triumph when, like author Ross
MacDonald and singer/songwriter Warren Zevon before her, she
realizes that the substance abuse doesn't aid and abet the writing,
and that she can live and perform without it.

Those unfamiliar with the Nashville music scene or with Chapman's
work might be confused by some of her reference points here (though
is there anyone on the planet who by now does not know of Jimmy
Buffett?). Her stories, however, are incredibly well told and
always interesting, even at times fascinating. And if perusing
GOODBYE, LITTLE ROCK AND ROLLER nudges you toward exploring her
catalogue of work, you'll be happy to go with the flow.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011

Goodbye, Little Rock and Roller
by Marshall Chapman

  • Publication Date: August 26, 2004
  • Genres: Nonfiction
  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  • ISBN-10: 0312315694
  • ISBN-13: 9780312315696