Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes, and the Changing Face of Nashville

( 5 )


Country music has exploded across the U.S. and undergone a sweeping revolution, transforming the once ridiculed world of Nashville into an unlikely focal point of American pop culture. Bruce Feiler was granted unprecedented access to the private moments of the revolution. Here is the acclaimed report: a chronicle of the genre's biggest stars as they change the face of American music.

From the historic stage of the Grand Ole Opry to the dim light of a recording studio, here is a ...

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Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes,

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Country music has exploded across the U.S. and undergone a sweeping revolution, transforming the once ridiculed world of Nashville into an unlikely focal point of American pop culture. Bruce Feiler was granted unprecedented access to the private moments of the revolution. Here is the acclaimed report: a chronicle of the genre's biggest stars as they change the face of American music.

From the historic stage of the Grand Ole Opry to the dim light of a recording studio, here is a ruggedly authentic behind the scenes tour that takes you places outsiders have never been allowed to go. Part social history, part backstage pass, this penetrating and graceful book presents the most comprehensive portraits yet painted of Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd-two of the most celebrated artists of our times-as well as a touching picture of Wade Hayes, a young man who hopes to follow them to the exalted heights of one of America's richest traditions: the world of country music.

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Editorial Reviews

Elvis Mitchell
“Penetrating and insightful...Bruce Feiler’s DREAMING OUT LOUD details the ins and outs of Nashville.”
Chet Flippo
“One of the best books about country music to appear in years.”
Chicago Tribune
“Reading this is like going backstage.”
Chicago Tribune
“Reading this is like going backstage.”
Entertainment Weekly
[F]ine reportial detail...
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380794706
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/28/1999
  • Series: Harper Perennial
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 1,182,855
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Bruce Feiler

Bruce Feiler is the author of six consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including Abraham, Where God Was Born, America's Prophet, The Council of Dads, and The Secrets of Happy Families. He is a columnist for the New York Times, a popular lecturer, and a frequent commentator on radio and television. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and twin daughters.


Bruce Feiler has turned his curiosity into a career, writing on topics from clowning to Christianity with a sense of wonder, humor and inquisitiveness. Most recently he has become known as both theological tourist and tour guide, exploring Biblical history and its physical and cultural roots in the 2001 bestseller Walking the Bible and in 2002's Abraham: A Journey to the Heart of Three Faiths.

Feiler had begun his career writing about another culture with Learning to Bow: Inside the Heart of Japan, a funny and enlightening account of his year as an English teacher in a small Japanese town. The book continues to be embraced by those who want a better understanding of Japanese culture, one spiked with the humor of its alien gaijin observer. Feiler depicted another hallowed educational system in Looking for Class: Days and Nights at Oxford and Cambridge, an account of the author's experiences as a graduate student at Cambridge. Feiler's books educate, but their appeal also lies in the discoveries he makes as someone entering a new situation with natural preconceptions, then having those ideas upended by reality.

Kicking the fish-out-of-water theme up a notch, Feiler joined the circus for Under the Big Top: A Season with the Circus. Here, Feiler showed the journalistic enterprise and mettle that would later figure into his bold journeys through Biblical territory. Spending a year performing as a clown on the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus, Feiler provides a surprising look at the show, its performers and the often seamy underside that accompanies circus life.

Feiler jumped into yet another milieu with his look at the country music industry, Dreaming Out Loud. Presenting an insider's view of Nashville made possible by his access as a journalist to stars such as Garth Brooks and Wynonna Judd, Feiler puts together of picture of starmaking -- including in his profiles a young talent named Wade Hayes -- and the machinery that runs modern country music. As with his other books, Feiler describes how his notions (he hated country music before Brooks made him a fan) have evolved along with his subject.

Feiler is also an award-winning food writer and journalist who has written articles for major publications such as the New York Times, Rolling Stone, and the New Republic. But he gained a larger audience when he took on his biggest topic yet: the Bible. "Over more than a decade of living and working abroad I found that ideas, and places, became more real to me when I experienced them firsthand....In the Middle East, the Bible is not some abstraction," Feiler wrote in an essay on Barnes & Noble.com about the origins of Walking the Bible. "It's a living, breathing entity unencumbered by the sterilization of time. That was the Bible I wanted to know, and almost immediately I realized that the only way to find it was to walk along those lines myself."

In taking that walk, Feiler vastly expanded his audience and found himself a subject he would stick with. He was already working on a sequel to the book when September 11 redirected him toward one aspect of his earlier studies: the religious father figure of Abraham. He set out to find hope in this binding tie among Judaism, Christianity and Islam; but found, again, a different picture than the one he anticipated painting. Feiler's education is ours; without him asking the questions, we might not have new insights on cultural fixtures that already seem so familiar.

Good To Know

How he wrote his first book: Feiler appropriated sci-fi writer Isaac Asimov's self-description as an "explainaholic," then explained in an interview with a country music web site how he came to write his first book: "I wrote a series of letters home [from Japan] of the ‘you’re not going to believe what happened to me today' variety. When I came back home, everywhere I went people said to me, ‘I really liked your letters,’ and I would say, ‘Do I know you?’. It turns out that these letters had been passed around. I thought, well, if this is as interesting for me and my family and all of you, I should write a book about [my experiences]."

Feiler, who grew up Jewish in Savannah, Georgia, says that an early encounter with the legend of Abraham was part of a watershed moment for him. The Torah passage he read for his Bar Mitzvah was Lekh Lekha, the story of Abraham going forth from his father's house. He told BeliefNet, "The defining moment of my life was the night of my Bar Mitzvah, when my father pulled me aside at this family gathering, poured me a drink, and said, 'Son, you're a man now, you're responsible for your own actions.'"

Feiler's exploration of the Bible has been confined to the Hebrew Bible, leaving out much in the Old Testament and the entirety of the New Testament; but he told readers in a USA Today chat that he hopes to do a sequel that would take him through the events of Jesus' life.

Feiler is also a contributing editor at Gourmet magazine and has won two James Beard Awards for his food writing.

Feiler says he has traveled to over 60 countries and sprained his ankle on four continents.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Bruce S. Fieler
    2. Hometown:
      New York, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 25, 1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Savannah, Georgia
    1. Education:
      B.A., Yale University, 1987; M.Phil. in international relations, Cambridge University, 1991

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The sheets of rain were falling so hard and the rush of headlights was so expectant that it was easy to miss the cloverleaf exit that banks hard to the east off Briley Parkway and deposits the driver right into the heart of what the neon hails as MUSIC VALLEY. U.S.A. Turn here for Shoney's. There for Cracker Barrel. You don't even have to turn at all to veer into the WORLD-FAMOUS NASHVILLE PALACE, which appears to be a Denny's with an overly ambitious Vegas Strip sign attached. All these establishments, with their blinkety beacons and boppity billboards promising extra-fluffy biscuits and the BEST CATFISH ANYWHERE!, are to the east off McGavock Pike, which itself is ten miles east of downtown Music City, not far from the blue-collar outposts of town, and just up the road from the real countryside. In short, in the middle of nowhere. A fine place to recreate a small corner of Everywhere, circa Anytime at all.



Unlike the ones across the street, these signs are written in soothing script. They are painted in white on handsome red boards that remind you of fairy-tale wholesomeness. And they unfold before the driver's eyes on a faux country tableau of fluffy green grass, a white picket fence, and dozens of sculpted storybook trees wrapped in thousands of twinkling lights. On this night, uncommonly cold and rainy, the normally idyllic entrance to the Opryland Hotel, with its churchlike steeples, plantationlike columns, and county courthouselike red brick grandeur, has been overtaken by an even more idyllic constellation of candy cane light polesand plush fir wreaths in a holiday vision out of Currier and Ives. Even the guardhouse has been rebaked as a two-story peach-colored gingerbread house complete with giant plastic gumdrops and bouncing marshmallow ladies who wave at every car that makes it through the valley and into the parking lot of Gaylord s fantasy: WELCOME TO A COUNTRY CHRISTMAS. ALL SELF PARKING $4.00

Gaylord, in this instance, is Edward Gaylord, the Walt Disney of Southern culture and the aging, legendarily frugal proprietor of Gaylord Entertainment Co., which controls the dominant institutions in country music, the Opryland Hotel, Opryland Theme Park, CMT, TNN, and the gemstone in this hillbilly tiara, the Grand Ole Opry itself. All of these he has gathered in a 406-acre entertainment complex that draws visitors to an undistinguished plot of land not far from the airport with the paradoxical promise of unimagined wonder and old-fashioned small-town wholesomeness. Ironically, the hotel alone is larger than many small towns. With 2,870 rooms—the seventh-largest in the country and the largest outside Las Vegas—the hotel is an air-conditioned biosphere cum-theme park complete with giant murals, dancing fountains, and a 6-acre, glass-covered interiorscape with over ten thousand tropical plants. The newest extension, known as "The Delta," has a fifteen-story-high glass dome covering 4.5 acres and featuring a 110-foot-wide waterfall and a quarter-mile-long "river." Move over, Mickey Mouse. Tom Sawyer is the new American icon here, and he has gone uptown.

Driving around the facility (24 MPH SPEED LIMIT), past the Conservatory, alongside the Cascades, under several neo-Georgian overhangs, I finally arrive ten minutes later at the backdoor entrance to a modest, unornate, redbrick theater that since 1974 has been home to America's most beloved radio show, the Holy See of Country Music, the Grand Ole Opry.

"Hi. May I have your name please, sir . . . ?" The officer retrieves a portable stop sign that has blown over in the wind.

"And who are you here with . . . ?" He starts flipping through his clipboard.

"Ah, well, Mr. Brooks is expecting you. He's not here yet. Just drive up to the canopy and park wherever you can. The show starts in about an hour."

The Grand Ole Opry is as old as country music itself and is one of the few institutions in American life to survive the transition from radio to television to global satellite intimacy. Begun in November 1925 as one of a burgeoning breed of down-home variety shows popping up on newly formed commercial radio stations, the "WSM Barn Dance" was simply a marketing tool for the National Life and Accident Insurance Company to sell products to rural listeners. Broadcast from the studios of clear-channel WSM-AM (an acronym for the company's slogan, "We Shield Millions"), the show mixed banjos, fiddles, harmonicas, and string bands, along with homespun advertisements and a flamboyant host, George D. Hay, the "Solemn Old Judge." It was Hay, in 1927, who gave the show its indelible name when he followed a network broadcast of opera classics by saying, "You've been up in the clouds with Grand Opera, now get down to earth with us in a performance of Grand Ole Opry." It's never missed a weekend since, moving to the legendary Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville in 1943, and then decamping to its current suburban roost in 1974.

Since moving to the suburbs, though, the Opry has lost much of its clout. Garth Brooks, like many new stars, may identify his induction into the elite cast of seventy-five performing Opry "members" as the highlight of his career (a position that is wise marketing, if nothing else), but his career no longer depends on the Opry. Simply put, he has outgrown it. As a result, it was something of a surprise that Garth chose the Opry this night—just a month after the much-heralded release of his new album, Fresh Horses and still a month before his gaff at the American Music Awards—to break his year-long hiatus from public view. Under the circumstances, it was clearly designed to send a message. Having flirted with rock'n'roll for years, Garth had long been viewed with suspicion among some traditional country fans....

Dreaming Out Loud. Copyright © by Bruce Feiler. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2015

    Furry Rp The Warrior Side

    *You receive a note from the Kentucky Forces You open it and see a note and read it* Welcome to the Kentucky forces! We invite you to help us defeat the Furries! We have killed their leader, Sunny and the deputy has taken charge. They've moved to 'wolfy' deep into the forest. Please, join ud and defeat them totally! <p> Backstory~~~~~~ The furries have tortured us humans and they want to supposedly live in 'peace', so if you wish to help camp is the next res, so Defeat the the furries with us! You are a blazing fire, so let's do this once and for all! - General Chloe <p>

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2014


    No why do u think that

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    A master piece

    Truly amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    Andy to Lizzy

    Hey, is something up?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2003

    Fascinating portrait of country music business

    Feiler's book is ostensibly a portrait of three modern country artists, Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd and Wade Hayes. And though he provides interesting portraiture of all three, what he really documents - using the three artists as vehicles - is the changing business of the country music industry, and by association, the broader changes wrought by and to American media and culture. It's a well-written volume, with some illuminating conclusions, fleshed out by first-hand observations the author made in and around Nashville. ¶ Much has been made of Feiler's veracity, but, to a large degree, his larger theses are independent of the specifics. Brooks and Judd have each taken their digs at Feiler (the latter being more surprising, since Feiler's portrait of Judd is, ultimately, quite flattering), so one might take his biography of their lives with a grain of salt. Even so, his conclusions about Nashville's changing face, both musically and operationally, are usually spot-on. ¶ The Cliff's Notes rendition of Feiler's work focuses on his portraiture of the three principals: Garth Brooks as an obsessive careerist who only finds joy during his time on stage, Wynonna Judd as the screwed-up (but ultimately triumphant) result of a screwed-up childhood brought upon her by the most heinous of mothers, and Wade Hayes as the naïf, making his way through a hurricane of market forces. By threading these three stories with history of Nashville's business, the reader sees how the threads of art and commerce have intertwined over the years, with commerce realizing a substantial choke-hold on artistry in the '90s. ¶ Of particular interest is Feiler's description of the symbiosis between artists, labels and radio. The manipulations of hit single charts, the conniving for chart position (and the lurid world of not-exactly-payola that fuels it), the trading of accurate charts for those that can be "influenced" is eye-opening for those outside the industry. Feiler's discussion about various trends in country music, the rise of women signaled, in part, by the Judd's supremacy, the displacement of Wynonna by the sex-appeal of Shania, and the replacement of earlier artists by a new wave, are all very compelling. ¶ The book is weighted towards reporting on Garth Brooks, which isn't necessarily a negative, since his is the most complex portrait, and Feiler finds his greatest insights in Brooks' rise and plateau. On the negative side, parts of this book were previously published as magazine articles, and there is some unnecessary repetition. The careful reader will wonder whether Feiler's editor actually read the entire book through. ¶ Feiler is a fine writer, and has provided a unique portrait of Nashville through the peak of its '90s supremacy. Whether or not you believe the details he reports on his principal subjects, there's a deep ring of truth in his analyses. ¶ 4-1/2 stars, if allowed fractional ratings.

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