Author(s): Karl Du Fresne
Like most New Zealand kids in the 1960s, Karl du Fresne grew up listening to songs about American towns and cities: Kansas City, El Paso, New Orleans, Detroit and Tulsa, to name just a few. He found himself wondering what sort of places they were and what had motivated such illustrious pop composers as Jimmy Webb, Hal David, Neil Sedaka and Chuck Berry to write about them. A career journalist, former musician and keen amateur musicologist, he eventually decided to find out for himself. Thus was launched a serial pilgrimage that took him to 24 towns and cities, from Abilene to Wichita and Memphis to Mendocino. Each chapter is devoted to a specific hit song and the town that inspired it. Du Fresne combines information about the songs - who wrote them (and why), who recorded them, how well they did on the pop charts - with often quirky personal observations about the places themselves and the characters he encountered there. He explores the rich musical connections of cities such as New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville and Detroit and describes detours to out-of-the-way places such as the gospel church in the Louisiana Delta where a young Jerry Lee Lewis performed for the first time, the Tallahatchie bridge made famous in Bobbie Gentry's 'Ode to Billie Joe' and the lonely Mississippi graveyard where the legendary bluesman Robert Johnson lies buried under a pecan tree.