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 bandmates 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 and accessible as a hook-filled song and proves that the people who struggle the most are invariably the most interesting – and the most noble whether they succeed or not.
Long Gone Daddies is at once dreamy and wild, a churning, soul-searching trip into the root of music making. Readers will find in this novel an immersive and imaginative experience. — Foreword Reviews
This lyrical multigenerational musicians tale marks veteran newspaperman Williams’s impressive first novel. Luther Gaunt is the young front man and lyricist for the rock-’n’-roll band Long Gone Daddies, their name derived from an early Hank Williams song. Luther comes from a family of talented but frustrated musicians. His grandfather Malcolm, “a white man [who] could sing black,” was fatally shot in a married woman’s bed, and his father, who took after his father when it came to women, stuck around just long enough to teach his son guitar chords. Inspired by his family’s colorful musical tradition, Luther views his destiny as making it big without losing his integrity and finds a willing ally when Delia Shook and her “endless legs” joins the band. A femme fatale fired with ambition, she seduces Luther, usurps control of Long Gone Daddies, and coerces Luther to write her the megahit song, “I Don’t Melt,” just in time for a transformative gig in Memphis. 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
The real treat of this novel is the language. It’s lyrical when need be, gritty when need be, funny at times, and always evocative. It’s like listening to a good country song, or some country blues, or early rockabilly. It has rhythm and melody and soul. — York Daily Record
Winner, Independent Publishers Book Award