Tell the Truth Until They Bleed—Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock 'n' Roll

by Christel Loar

11 June 2008


“[Rock ‘n’ Roll] is a distortion and exaggeration of a simple thing.” - Jerry Leiber

Tell the Truth Until They Bleed” Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock ‘N’ Roll is everything you thought you knew about the music business, and it’s everything you never knew about the dark side of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll. Author and journalist Josh Alan Friedman throws backstage doors open wide, gets the goods straight from the mouths of the masters, and shines a light into the seedy, sordid corners of the lives of the men behind the music industry in the time before it became big business as we know it today.

cover art

Tell the Truth Until They Bleed

Josh Alan Friedman

Coming Clean in the Dirty World of Blues and Rock 'n' Roll

(Backbeat Books)

In 15 riveting chapters, Friedman talks to, and about, the architects and the artists, the legends and the liars, the famously acclaimed and the anonymously unsung. The scope spans 60 years of modern music. Some of this material is culled from Friedman’s articles in the Dallas Observer, but it also has previously unpublished stories and interviews with people like Jerry Leiber, Dr. John, Sam Myers and Cornell Dupree. Other luminaries and lesser-knowns profiled include Doc Pomus, Mose Allison, Double Trouble’s Tommy Shannon, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds’ Keith Ferguson. There are chapters detailing what went on behind closed doors at the famed Regent Sound Studios, following the bank-robbing (for gas money to get to gigs) exploits of Rick Sikes and the Rhythm Rebels and exposing the emasculating love story of an unnamed boyfriend of Ronnie Spector.

These inside stories are like addictive little morsels of forbidden fruit, each one a delectable bit of voyeurism. None is more deliciously worth devouring than Friedman’s lengthy interview with Jerry Leiber. The more talkative half of famed songwriting and production team, Leiber and Stoller, Jerry Leiber walks Friedman through his musical memories like he’s giving a grand tour of a stately home (which he is at times, as well, proudly displaying his many awards). He takes us back to the beginning of the Brill Building, tells tales of how the mob took over the music industry, fondly recalls writing, with Mike Stoller, some of the best rock ‘n’ roll to ever hit vinyl, and not-so-fondly remembers some of the people he worked with (Leiber felt that Elvis Presley ruined “Hound Dog”, for example.).

Through Leiber, we get dirty secrets and true details. We get the way it was and the way it should have been. Leiber talks about everyone from Big Mama Thorton (who originally recorded “Hound Dog”, and who got it right!), to Nesuhi and Ahmet Ertegun (The Erteguns, along with Jerry Wexler, founded Atlantic Records.), from Phil Spector to Frank Sinatra. 

Big names and tall tales abound in Tell the Truth Until They Bleed, and they don’t all come from Leiber. Everyone’s got a story, and Friedman gives them all their due. Hustlers and heartaches, myths and men mingle with facts and forgotten moments in musical history. If you’re a fan of the blues and rock ‘n’ roll, whether or not you think you know all there is to know, Tell the Truth Until They Bleed is a wild ride and a riveting read.

Tell the Truth Until They Bleed


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