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Stacy's Music Row Report  All Rights Reserved 

Stacy's Book Reviews

With Stacy Harris

(author of Comedians of Country Music, The Carter Family: Country Music's First Family, Classic Country and The Best of Country: The Official CD Guide and contributor to Country Music Stars and the Supernatural  and The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History & Culture) 

Tennessee Encyclopedia History & Culture Edited by Carroll Van West with entries by Stacy Harris  (November 15, 2002)

Classic Country by STACY HARRIS (January 1, 2000) 

Country Music Stars and The Supernatural Edited by Cliff Linedecker with chapters by Stacy Harris (1979)

You are So Nashville If... Edited by Bruce Dobie with entries by Stacy Harris (April 1, 1998)

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April Kirkwood’s brief (146 pages) memoir, while linking its title (the final line from The Four Seasons’ 1962 smash Big Girls Don’t Cry) to its subtitle, My Love Affair with Frankie Valli, is just that: the author’s memoir.

The Four Seasons’ falsetto-voiced lead singer (who continues to tour on the strength of, not only the vocal blends that made him and his fellow Jersey Boys famous, but also Valli’s solo success), while the obsessive focus of much of Kirkwood’s life, is but one of several strong influences referenced in April’s memoir.

All that is prologue to a paperback that is probably not what the reader expected if the reader cannot distinguish between a personal memoir and a celebrity biography. 

April was six years old when she first heard The Four Seasons’ music.  She met the quartet’s diminutive lead singer two years later.

The backstage meeting would be the first of many, sporadic (and arguably more eventful) meetings between April and Frankie over a period of decades.  (By the time Kirkwood formally ended the affair, in 2008, prompted by circumstances that made the timing as appropriate as ever, she writes she had been Valli’s sex partner for more than 20 years.)

On her way to becoming Miss Ohio Teenage (1975), April lost her virginity at age 17 to the then-39-year-old married singer (whose given name is Francesco Stephen Castelluccio) in a burst of underage passion in Valli’s hotel room.

Suffice to say April quickly learned the ways of a “successful” groupie and, while happy to provide a few pointers to concert fans in search of a meeting with their singing idol(s)  (“Go early when sound check is about to happen”), Kirkwood’s story, with Valli as its backdrop, is by her own admission a cautionary tale.

When not bouncing back-and-forth between actualizing her fantasy life (“I wasn’t stupid; I was trusting.”) and reality (including the “Pentecostal brainwashing resonating in my head”), the beauty queen sought a degree from Oral Roberts University.

Too questioning and rebellious to remain at ORU for very long, April parlayed her interest in astrology into more secular educational pursuits, obtaining two masters degrees in counseling that she has put to use as a social worker, guidance counselor and public speaker.

Not to say that the author, who borrows titles from hits popularized by Frankie Valli and/or The Four Seasons to separate the chapters in her memoir, has it all together: Twice married before meeting and beginning a 15-year-long affair with her then-married lover, Ron (whom April describes as “the only guy who could replace Frankie in my life”), Kirkwood calls both Frankie and Ron (whom, we suspect, will not answer if April calls him Ronnie) “uneducated” and “narcissistic.”

Further, the mother of the late “serial cheater” Billy Kirkwood’s two children (daughter Dana Nicole and son, Grant) calls Dana (thankfully not named Sherry, Dawn, etc.), not Ron, her “soulmate.”

While I’m a big Four Seasons fan, as a published author I’m well aware of the differences between memoir and biography.  As such, I wasn’t expecting to learn much more about Frankie Valli than I already know.

What struck me, however, is April’s failure to realize that she never got to know (and maybe never cared to know) Francesco Castelluccio.  The emotional component of what Kirkwood hoped to have with Valli, even absent the sex that, given her availability, set the tone for their interaction early on, never transpired for reasons other than that murky, though in another context, fundamental foundation.

While April, at 58, may still love Frankie (now age 81), her references to him (and her other Italian lovers) as a “dago," to name yet another of her uncomplimentary descriptions, suggests a love-hate relationship that never transcended the physicality of what Valli embodies and the persona of his celebrity.

A reader finishes the book feeling that, during their time together, if Valli wanted to talk about current events, his childhood friends, illnesses (his own or those he cares about), his favorite sports team, if any, and the like (in short, subjects that might speak more to whom Frankie is than whom April wanted him to be), April, bored to tears, would have been out of his hotel room in a heartbeat!    



Subtitled The Man Who Bailed Out The Beatles, Made The Stones, and Transformed Rock & Roll, Fred Goodman’s biography of famed but controversial business manager Allen Klein is a somewhat sympathetic portrait of an often vilified music mogul Goodman calls an “unapologetic hustler.”

Klein began his career as an accountant whose clients included Bobby VintonBobby Darin and Sam Cooke and, as his business interests expanded, Allen was asked to assist in audits of music publishers and records labels.

An early advocate of underpaid music artists (the rabbi’s grandson was also  a supporter of the United Negro College Fund), Klein launched a successful charm offensive against the equally abrasive and, in Alan’s opinion, equally charming when necessary, infamous music mobster Morris Levy.

Vinton, who became one of Klein’s early management clients, believes that Klein’s misunderstanding with Hullaballoo producers Gary Smith and Dwight Hemion, at the height of Bobby’s popularity, resulted in Vinton’s effectively being “blackballed from television for five years.”

As part of the Yiddish Invasion that preceded the British Invasion, the street-brawling, coarse Klein networked his way to introductions to Beatles’ (and Rolling Stones) publicist Andrew Oldham and Fab Four impresario Brian Epstein. 

When, as the group’s business manager, Klein negotiated a better deal for Stones than Epstein could command for the Beatles, Paul McCartney was particularly “frustrated.”

That frustration was matched by Klein’s obsession to manage the Beatles.  Even as Paul became an impediment, attaining that goal was Allen’s self-validation. (Summarizing what followed, the admonition “Be careful what you wish for” comes to mind.)

Goodman gives readers a front row seat to the wheeling and dealing that Klein thrived on in a book that belongs in every music historian’s and dedicated music trivia fan’s library. 


The Masterpiece Within: Five Key Lifestyles To Becoming a Living Work of Art is a collaboration between Guy Scholz, (a "three-time Canadian  bestselling author, award-winning journalist and U.S. National Arena
Curling Champion") and Claudia Church (whose credits include ABC-TV's Nashville series and the 2015  film, Captive, starring David Oylowo and Kate Mara).

The actress and the athlete have chosen;an artistic metaphor, blending it with narratives of  personal experience, quotable quotes from famous figures and an exercise workbook, to motivate readers toward  self-actualization.

By counteracting "demotivators" with "remotivators," recognizing "major life barriers" as excuses, employing filters, action plans and "life bliss tools," the authors seek to restore balance to the mind, spirit, body and emotions.

It's a tall order and its success will be measured by the extent to which readers find the workbook challenges useful.

Review copies;(as mine was) of books usually contain "cheat sheets" written by publicists to assist reviewers too lazy to read the books we are sent,  The irony of that circumstance is a book in itself, however in this instance the joke is on the book's publicist
who identifies Claudia as being "married to singer/songwriter Randy Crowell."

Claudia's spouse is, of course, Rodney Crowell.  Though the gaffe was confined to publicity materials, there appears to be at least one error in the book itself: a reference (on page 318) to "The ABC News show, Lifeline..." 

Perhaps a spell checker changed an intended reference to Nightline?

The Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books has proven to be a literary staple among non-fiction book lovers who love the realism of stories built around certain themes that resonate as only the tales of contributors drawing upon their unique, personal life experiences are able to do as they share those heartfelt experiences.

The latest in the series, a paperback of "101 Stories of Gratitude, Love and Lessons," offered in "Thanks to My Mom," is no exception.    

Compiled by nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist Amy Newmark and Grammy-nominated country singer Jo Dee Messina,  this collection delivers, as promised, featuring tributes to moms lauded as role models to profiles of mothers known for their maternal mischief- and all of the motherly teachers and cheerleaders who reared us in between.

Country-music fans will be especially drawn to the paperback's first essay: The String that Binds Our Hearts.  Written by Jo Dee Messina, the reminiscence, running less than four pages, takes Messina from her reluctant release from Mom's apron strings on Jo Dee's first day of kindergarten to a grown-up challenges that, thanks to a mother's wisdom, gave Messina a "lifeline."

A short (51 pages) but gripping (and important) account of a decorated (Silver Star, Purple Heart) Vietnam veteran's service to his country and the rejection he (and too many other vets) experienced upon returning home, Across the Pond is a Marine's memoir, raw and unfiltered.

With a foreward by Ron KovicReport reader Michael McCormick dedicates his novella "to the veterans of the Vietnam era," who, it is hoped, can prevail as McCormick has been able to do.

McCormick, who left his home in Jackson, Ohio to face the uncertain fortunes of a marine sergeant, persevered after leaving the military for civilian life.  Michael completed his education (a B.A. degree in psychology followed by a master's in clinical psychology) and today he and his wife, Gina make their home in Oakland, California.

Stacy's earlier online book reviews are archived.  Click here for more information.