Chinaberry Sidewalks

A Memoir

Crowell, Rodney

Paperback - 2012
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Chinaberry Sidewalks
Random House, Inc.

In a tender and uproarious memoir, singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell reveals the good, the bad, and the ugly of a dirt-poor southeast Texas boyhood.

The only child of a hard-drinking father and a holy-roller mother, acclaimed musician Rodney Crowell was no stranger to bombast. But despite a home life always threatening to burst into violence, Rodney fiercely loved his mother and idolized his blustering father, a frustrated musician who took him to see Hank Williams, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash perform. Set in 1950s Houston, a frontier-rough town with icehouses selling beer by the gallon on payday, pest infestations right out of a horror film, and the kind of freedom mischievous kids dream of, Chinaberry Sidewalks is Rodney's tribute to his parents and his remarkable youth. Full of the most satisfying kind of nostalgia, it is hardly recognizable as a celebrity memoir. Rather, it's a story of coming-of-age at a particular time, place, and station, crafted as well as the perfect song.

Baker & Taylor
Recounts the author's experiences growing up in Houston in the 1950s as the only child of an alcoholic father and epileptic mother, describing a childhood marked by barroom brawls, apocalyptic hurricanes, and improvisations to pay bills.

Publisher: New York : Vintage Books, 2012
Edition: 1st Vintage Books ed
ISBN: 0307740978
Branch Call Number: B Crowell C
Characteristics: viii, 259 p. : ill. ; 21 cm.


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Oct 03, 2011
  • DeltaQueen50 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Rodney Crowell’s memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks covers his early years. This is not a book about his rise to fame, but more of a loving tribute to his parents. Rodney was often in the middle of his father’s drunken rages against his mother, who in her turn, was a holy-roller who also had a fondness for beer and whipping Rodney. Yet his words are laced with humor, wryness and a loving fondness and the final pages, when he’s by the bedside at first his father and then his mother’s death there is a tender strength that often shows up in his musical lyrics.

Growing up in the 1950’s and 60‘s, his parents were scrabbling to make a living in East Austin. Rodney both idolized and abhorred his father. Together they had a love of music, and Rodney was taken to see Hank Williams Senior, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis by him. But the dark undercurrent that was brought out by his father’s drinking was never far from Rodney’s thoughts. He also had to keep a close eye on his mother at all times as she was epileptic and Rodney had to be ready at a moments notice to administer to her when she had a seizure.

Rodney Crowell is a master lyricist and this ability shines through the pages of this book. Honest, humble, and humorous, he paints a picture of growing up poor, with these damaged parents, yet also is able to portray the love that his family ultimately shared and the value in this upbringing that shaped the man he is today.

Aug 25, 2011
  • okbookgirl rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

Crowell evokes his hardscrabble Texas childhood with humour and surprisingly warm remembrances of his parents. It was not a "Father Knows Best" kind of family, and many other people raised there would be bitter and sitting in psychologists' offices forever. But Crowell is generous, kind and forgiving. I have never heard a Crowell song, but if his songwriting is half as good as this memoir - I've been missing out.


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