This is my periodic newsletter on "Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story," published by the University of Illinois Press in 2007, and on progress toward writing "Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins." Please send me a note if you want your address removed from this list.
I learned of Ken Nelson's death when Arie den Dulk called me from Holland on Monday. Ken died Sunday, only a few days short of his 97th birthday. When I went to his house in 2000 to interview him about Faron, he was busy writing his autobiography. A card file and yellow legal pads sat on his dining room table. He told me his goal was to get it published before he kicked the bucket. He eventually self-published because mainstream publishers weren't interested in behind-the-scenes guys. "My First Ninety Years Plus Three" came out last year. Although he suffered from shingles the last several years, Ken remained independent and living alone in his house. His contributions to the country music industry are much greater than he received recognition for. Read his autobiography and you'll be amazed at the energy of this man--even in retirement. He did more traveling after his retirement than most people do in a lifetime.
LOOKING FOR MARTY ROBBINS IN THE SOUTH PACIFIC
Marty Robbins didn't talk about his World War II combat experiences. Many veterans have waited until their 70s and 80s before telling their stories, and Marty didn't live that long. While transcribing tapes of Marty's conversations with Ralph Emery, I longed to hear them discuss the Navy. But whenever Ralph brought it up, Marty cut him off.
Ralph: "What did you do in the Navy?"
Marty: "Not much, really, of anything."
Ralph: "How about those landings in the South Pacific? You were part of
those landings, weren't you?"
Marty: "Yeah. Yeah."
Seaman Second Class Martin David Robinson reported aboard USS Crescent City (APA 21) at Noumea, New Caledonia, in September 1943. The Allied forces invaded Bougainville in the Solomon Islands on 1 November 1943. USS Crescent City landed portions of the 3rd Marines at Cape Torokina in Empress Augusta Bay. In a brief comment to Ralph, Marty said, "I worked on a landing craft. [My job] was to lower and then bring up the gate, what we called the ramp--you dropped it when you'd get on the beach."
Ralph: "You ran one of these into the beach."
Ralph: "Under fire."
And that's all Marty had to say. I'm hoping other interviews exist where he went into greater detail. I've already made several trips to the National Archives in search of information to put Marty's Navy history together. I'd appreciate any help readers can provide.
Debra writes from the U.K., "I have just finished reading your Faron Young book and I so very much enjoyed it. I'm actually in tears now after the final chapter. I feel for Faron what he went through in the last weeks/days and I feel for his family, that man was the greatest singer who ever walked the earth. I wish I'd had the chance to see him perform but sadly I never did, thank you for an honest enjoyable interesting and wonderful book."