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Publishers WeeklyStarred Review.
"Ernie Ford was never known for having a passion to succeed," his son deadpans in this masterfully rendered biography of the entertainer, best known for his song "Sixteen Tons," whose lifelong alcoholism and chronic depression drove himself and his first wife to their deaths. Ambition notwithstanding, Tennessee Ernie Ford possessed a winning combination of talent and luck that made him one of the biggest stars in the country, with numerous Top Ten hits and, at the height of his popularity, a weekly television show watched by millions. The younger Ford gives readers an in-depth look behind the curtain, painting a multilayered portrait of the man who hid his pain behind a salt-of-the-earth Everyman pose. The heart of the book is Ford's doomed relationship with his first wife Betty, who would, after more than 40 years of marriage, take her own life. Though storm clouds continually threaten, the Fords' life wasn't all dark; Ford includes colorful anecdotes featuring celebrities like Jerry Lewis and Bob Hope, their neighbor, as well as happy family memories like Disneyland on opening day. Though Ernie recorded hundreds of songs, Ford keeps his dad's career manageable with broad strokes, delving into minutiae only when the topic turns to mega-hit "Sixteen Tons" and the beginning of his gospel period. Ford's ability to stay both honest and impartial make this a compulsively readable story, and a fine model for celebrity bios to come. Even readers unfamiliar with Ford's massive body of work will find the drama, pain and success that marked his life fascinating.
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