Wednesday, November 29, 2006

ROCKIN' thru the Grushkin archives

I'm particularly proud of the psychedelic-era photos featured in ROCKIN'. Why? Because that's MY era. I was a Dead Head and proud of it. So to find a photo of Neal Casady piloting the Prankster bus, or the photo Zane Kesey took of his Dad, Ken, sparking up the ghost of Jerry Garcia . . . well, I can relate to all that big time. Not to mention, my first book was GRATEFUL DEAD BOOK OF THE DEAD HEADS (and Jerry wrote the foreword to that one).

Also there in Chapter Five (on pages 144 - 145) is a photo of Norman Ruth's Terrapin Trailways bus, outta New Mexico. I got to know Norman and the extended travelin' family back in the early '80s, when the DEAD HEADS book was in its formative stages. In the photo here, taken by Ken Friedman of Bill Graham Presents, that's me with Norman outside the Berkeley Greek Theater in the summer of 1984, a year after the book was published. Interestingly (for anybody interested), THE BOOK OF THE DEAD HEADS went through 16 US printings, and was never out of print for more than 23 years. ROCKIN'--I expect no less from you too!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

ROCKIN' the front table at Borders

Today I checked in at Borders Books & Music in Emeryville, CA, next to the big Public Market, to see how ROCKIN' was doing. The staff put the book right up front! What a great feeling!

Authors anxiously wait to see where their book is placed. It's natural. You spend two and a half years on a project (as I did with this one) and you hope against hope that your work will be recognized. Now, in truth, all my books have been bestsellers, and the folks in Emeryville remembered that. ART OF MODERN ROCK was a huge performer for Borders. Now, to keep that prominent place in the store, ROCKIN' has to perform too. Gotta think, cars and rock & roll--that oughta work even better than rock posters.

I'll say this: with cover art as striking as Darrell Mayabb's illustration, it's hard to imagine red-blooded car guys not being attracted--"hey, what's that all about??" And, just as likely, there'll be women who respond in kind or instantly think, "I know someone who just HAS to have THAT!"

It's an exciting time. The book's on the big table.

Monday, November 27, 2006

ROCKIN' in the gift guides

Today Autoweek magazine chose ROCKIN' as one of their 2006 Holiday gift recommendations (as shown in the photo). Wonderful news, of course. It's great that the automotive world is learning about the book as quickly as the music world.

What we're also seeing is that the San Francisco Chronicle's review in their gift guide--which also showcased ROCKIN' as one of the year's best--has now been syndicated all across the country to local and regional newspapers. You can tell by doing the Google every morning.

This is an exciting time to be an author, with major publicity for ROCKIN' yet to come. But it's also just as pleasing to realize that this book has major legs--that events surrounding the book are already being set for January and February, beyond the holiday season. For instance, I'll be speaking at the prestigious San Francisco Rod, Custom and Motorcycle Show's hall-of-fame luncheon, and signing books at the DuPont booth over three days. That's in mid-January, and it's one of the first highlights of the 2007 automotive year.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Sam Sargent, ROCKIN' s indefatigable photog

Yesterday I visited with lensman Sam Sargent and his wife Mary Merrick, also an esteemed photographer, and presented them with their copy of ROCKIN'. Sam shot all the archival material for ROCKIN'--the hundreds of 45s, 78s, LPs, magazine covers, and related historic paper and ephemera--that designer Brent Rector used so creatively months after the actual photo sessions. Sam and Mary were very interested to see how everything had unfolded since, as you can't quite get a grasp on the overall plan when you're obsessively focused-in on each piece separately.

Sam said the hardest thing about flat-art photography is that you're 'assuming the position' (ie, half bent over, as in the photo above) for hours on end. Patience and exactitude are the requirements here, as you get only one chance to do it right. Sam's work captured magnificent treasures from the collections of Frank Vacanti, Joel Selvin, Barry Wickham, Paul Getchell, Mickey McGowan, Mike LaVella and others (see previous blogs), some in their own homes, some in Sam's Oakland, CA studio.

What pleased Sam the most about ROCKIN' was seeing the fidelity of the capture all the way through to the actual printing of the book. The devil's in the details, and the details of each piece are there in each shot. And many pieces were truly difficult to work with--such as the black-on-red record labels.

The collectors really appreciated Sam's care. We never dropped a piece (I was Sam's positioner and retriever), never scratched a record, never bent a corner, and there were nearly 2,000 such captures made. Whew!

I took this photo in the apartment above Chris Strachwitz' Arhoolie Records vault, where Sam set up shop for a memorable afternoon shoot involving some of the rarest blues 78s in the world. More on that in an upcoming blog . . .

Thursday, November 23, 2006

ROCKIN' props to Mike Ness and Christine Marie this Thanksgiving day

Gotta do a shout-out to Mike Ness and his wife, since today's all about givin' thanks.

Mike and I didn't know each other before we got together at his Black Cat car-customizing shop in SoCal. We kinda circled around the cars and bikes, then settled in for a long interview. He spoke frankly and with much insight. At the time I didn't know his thoughts would become the book's foreword, but as time went on it just seemed entirely appropriate.

When we needed an evocative photo, Mike's wife Christine Marie stepped in. Everyone who first sees the book remarks on how her photo so well accentuates the tone that his words set.

Gotta also thank Shane Trulin at Rebel Waltz, Mike's management company, for facilitating the meeting and continuing to work closely with me and the publisher's staff. Here's what Shane later told me: "Mike loved the book, and he thinks it's really cool. He wanted me to thank you." Big smiles!

Thanks also to David Glossner for getting the ball rollin', and snapping the photo of me and Ness. And, thanks as well to photog Steve Melidossian for the photo of Ness on one of his fine machines.

Keep tuned to this blog, because it looks like there'll be a major event at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles, where we hope to honor Mike--rocker and gearhead--and help celebrate ROCKIN'in grand style.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

ROCKIN' the ABC radio network

Yesterday I spent a totally wonderful HOUR at KGO radio in SF, taping a nationwide broadcast on the ABC radio network. I'm not quite sure when it will air, likely at the tail end of November.

The interviewer was Lucy Tauss, and she was inspired. Great questions, and I was able to stretch out just a little bit, which isn't always possible on radio. The experience reminded me of the interview I did on NPR/All Things Considered when ART OF MODERN ROCK was published in the Fall of '04. The best radio is when you get DOWN, when you tell stories. And ROCKIN' is of course full of great stories.

To be a good interviewer, you have to be a good listener. I thing one of the reasons why ROCKIN' resonates is that there're good ruminations throughout, which I set up and handled to the very best of my ability, just like Lucy did for me.

Happy Thanksgiving to one and all. The next day, if you haven't already . . . check out ROCKIN' at your local bookstore.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

ROCKIN' with pinstriper Herb Martinez

Herb Martinez--one of the leading pinstripers in the world today--and I've been motoring around in the same circles. Although for years he's known of my work, beginning with THE ART OF ROCK, we first met, formally, at the annual TRPS rock poster show (that's The Rock Poster Society) at the Hall of Flowers in San Francisco two months ago. That's where Herb first saw ROCKIN', amongst an acre of spectacular rock & roll art.

We met again at the SEMA convention in Las Vegas, signing books at Bob Larivee's Art and Heritage section of South Hall. Herb was promoting the excellent PINSTRIPE PLANET: FINE LINES FROM THE WORLD'S BEST (Motorbooks, 2006), for which he's General Editor. Herb's work is featured inside, alongside luminaries like Von Dutch, Tommy the Greek, Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, "Dirty Donny" and many, many others.

Herb then invited me to sign books at the "Anatomy of a Hot Rod" exhibit at the Bedford Gallery (inside the Dean Lesher Center for the Arts) in Walnut Creek, CA, curated by Oakland Museum's Phil Linhares. That's Herb with ROCKIN' next to a cherry '33 Plymouth which he pinstriped. And there's me and Herb admiring a nicely pinstriped rear lid on a rod outside the hall.

Oh, and we we sold the most books of all the participating authors!

Monday, November 20, 2006

ROCKIN': "one of the best books of the season": SF Chronicle

The San Francisco Chronicle named ROCKIN' as one of the "best books of the season" in their holiday book review yesterday. Here's what deputy editor Regan McMahon had to say:

"It's a natural connection: cars and rock 'n' roll. But it took Bay Area author-archivist Paul Grushkin ("The Art of Rock") to put them together in a book, and draw from R&B, country, punk, funk, and hip-hop as well.

"Lavishly illustrated with photos, memorabilia, albums, singles, and magazine covers, and lots of photos of recording artists in their cars, from the Beach Boys and Elvis to the Ramones and Snoop Dogg, this comprehensive compendium highlights classic car songs from Jan and Dean's "Dead Man's Curve" to Springsteen's "Racing in the Streets."

"There are cars as metaphors, cars as boy toys, cars as teen freedom, hot rods, Caddies, limos and tour buses -- if it's got wheels and there's a musician anywhere in the vicinity, it's in here."

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

ROCKIN' in ROLLING STONE: "Amazing vintage photos"

Rolling Stone has always done me proud, going back to reviews of my first and second books, GRATEFUL DEAD BOOK OF THE DEADHEADS (Wm. Morrow/HarperCollins, 1983) and THE ART OF ROCK: POSTERS FROM PRESLEY TO PUNK (Abbeville Press, 1987). Now, ROCKIN' has joined the party.

Jann Wenner, publisher of Rolling Stone, was sent a copy by Bob Merlis, our ace publicist. Wenner, a man not easily impressed--but very taken with ROCKIN', I'm told-- then gave it to Andy Greene, who e-mailed Merlis "Got it! Love it! Gonna review it!"

Sometimes it all comes together, and that's how people learn about your books.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

ROCKIN on the Tonight Show stage with car guy Jay Leno

This afternoon Jay Leno--who apparently knew all about ROCKIN' and was very anxious to see it--finally got his copy . . . directly from me! We both look pretty pleased, standing there on The Tonight Show stage.

Ace publicist Bob Merlis put the two of us together, helped by a number of people on Jay's staff. What was very touching was that Leno must have come up to me and thanked me at least four times, following the taping of the show. I get the feeling he's gonna like the book, and tell a lot of friends about it. He's one of the all-time car guys, with a fantastic fleet of his own and two hanger-size buildings to house 'em, near the Burbank airport.

Kinda reminds me again of the Englewood, NJ Public Library bookplate, "Books are friends." Sure are! You rock, Jay.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Two ROCKIN' guys at Motorbooks

This is the fun part, the homestretch, as we head toward Thanksgiving and then Christmas '06. Hearing that people everywhere are discovering your book. Today the author-publisher team achieved a major milestone at There, you can see a book's ranking every hour of the day, and the lower ranking your book achieves, the more copies it's selling. A book enters Amazon with a ranking in the 300,000's. A ranking under 10,000 is considered, in baseball analogy, a decent hit, maybe even a double up the alley. Under 5,000--you're sliding into third base.

Today ROCKIN' hit 3,504 (meaning, on Amazon, only 3,503 books are selling better). As a reference point, my previous book, ART OF MODERN ROCK, achieved the incredible ranking of 136, Christmas week, 2004. You can bet I'm watching every day now.

Now you gotta think . . . cars and rock & roll . . . that has to be a winner! I'm hopeful, that's for sure. As an author who spent two and a half years producing ROCKIN', I want as many people as possible to discover it.

Two people at Voyageur Press--the new imprint of MBI/Motorbooks Publishing, under which ROCKIN' has been published--deserve particular credit for what's now happening in the marketplace. Meet Randy Roland (left), the president-CEO guy, and Dennis Pernu (right), my esteemed editor. Both are holding Mike Martin's skull-engine, the poster art which opens up Chapter Two. Good juju all around!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Alison Zawacki, ROCKIN' artist

A few blogs ago I showed you photos of the staff at Ear X-Tacy in Louisville, KY admiring Alison Zawacki's interpretation of Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car." Not only is it an inspired painting, Alison also provided her own personal reflections on what the piece meant to her. It's not easy explaining art--especially an artist shedding additional light on what's by nature a vision--but Alison's thoughts are welcome indeed.

Here's Alison with one of her most famous concert posters, for Alicia Keys. I'm proud to tell you Alison's a much-sought-after commercial artist (and a fine artist as well), and her studio is in Sacramento, CA, not far from Brent Rector's office (Brent of course designed ROCKIN').

Sunday, November 12, 2006

ROCKIN' the Twin Cities and all across the Land O' Lakes

"Are You Ready for a Brand New Beat?"

Dorothy Molstad, ace Marketing Manager for Voyageur Press (ROCKIN's publisher), has pulled out all the stops in getting the word out in the upper midwest.

She just sent me photos from Terri Schlichenmeyer's (aka THE BOOKWORMSEZ) top-rated Saturday segment on KARE, the powerful NBC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Terri told Dorothy she's also planning to include ROCKIN' in her holiday gift column, going out to about 200 newspapers across the country.

"They'll be dancing in Chicago, down in New Orleans."

Saturday, November 11, 2006

ROCKIN' the homefront

Today I did my duty as 'local author' and signed dozens of copies of ROCKIN' at the grand opening of the new Hercules, CA public library, in the town next to mine. My Mom, Jean, is a paraprofessional librarian at my hometown library (Englewood, NJ) and I never miss a chance to support the library. As the bookplate in Englewood has read for 100 years, "Books Are Friends."

When I got back to the house, there waiting in the mailbox was the Barnes & Noble Holiday Catalog for 2006. It's always a nervous moment opening it, hoping (of course) that your new book will be featured somewhere within, but there it was, on page 62, next to "Orange County Choppers" and "Awesome Bill (Elliott) from Dawsonville." Hey, hey, hey!!!

Selling books requires that author, publisher, and bookseller do everything possible to get the word out, especially at holiday time. ROCKIN's publisher, Voyageur Press (an imprint of MBI/Motorbooks Publishing), has gone the extra mile for weeks and weeks now, and it was a joy to see the book promoted in this essential catalog.

ROCKIN' at ear X-tacy in Louisville, KY

I was in Louisville, KY last week helping my artist friend Jeral Tidwell with a publishing venture. He took me over to one of the GREAT independent record stores in America, ear X-Tacy, on Bardstown Road, where they'd just received ROCKIN' and were displaying it very nicely in their large book section.

I strolled over to the counter and told the staff how proud I was of the new book. Some of them had not seen it yet, so I opened a copy and had them take a look. Dani (on the left) and Alex (right) were especially pleased with the art contributed by Eleanor Grosch, Kathleen Judge, and Alison Zawacki (Dani is pointing to Alison's piece). The book resonates on so many levels.

Friday, November 10, 2006

ROCKIN' on the subway, buses, streets with the NY Daily News

As a teenager, I'd often take the bus into Manhattan from my Jersey hometown of Englewood. Once at the Port Authority bus terminal on 168th Street, I'd pick up a copy of the Daily News--the great NY tabloid--and read it on the subway on my way into midtown. It was one of the quintessential NY experiences.

Earlier this week, over one million New Yorkers had the opportunity to read about ROCKIN' in the Daily News--in the Nov. 8th post-election issue (also featuring Britney Spears impending divorce, a double whammy). David Hinckley's review rolls around in your brain like a great piece of street-wise journalism should--impassioned, opinionated, snarky, elementally New York. He LOVED the Sugar Ray Robinson photo which leads off Chapter 8--for all the same reasons I did, when I first encountered it myself.

I dispatched my brother-in-law, Paul Florczyk, whose office is in the garment district, to pick me up a couple of copies. He told me later, "hey there were only a handful of copies remaining at the newsstand downstairs. Guy said they were flyin'." You can tell, I am proud of this review. Made me feel like the homey that I am.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The Kustom King--George Barris--ROCKIN' at SEMA

George Barris is in his sixth decade--at least--promoting the custom car scene he helped create in Southern California. He's a real hero to me because he believes 100% in his creations. I was honored to present George with his copy of ROCKIN' at the SEMA show in Las Vegas last week.

George proudly pointed out to the many friends gathered 'round his table at the Heritage Art Show upstairs in South Hall, the photos I included of him and the Kustom Kings (page 78), a studio group he pulled together at the height of the surf-rod explosion. That's me in the center, and the blonde is George's showtime assistant, working in the tradition of the great Linda Vaughn, Ms. Hurst Shifter.

My all-time favorite photos of George are on page 79: George with Marvin Gaye and George with John and Yoko. When you visit Barris Kustoms in North Hollywood, you'll be struck by the hundreds and hundreds of photos spread over the entire building, along with some truly amazing 6-foot-high trophies his vehicles won at the great car shows.

Dale Jr. gets ROCKIN' at SEMA

Dale Earnhardt Jr., very much in the hunt for the '06 Nextel Cup, was at SEMA in Las Vegas last week to meet corporate execs at many booths and the public at the XM Satellite Radio booth, where hundreds were waiting to greet him.

I managed to get myself 'backstage,' where Dale and his racer friends Tony Kanaan and Michael Andretti (among others) were gathered. I gave Dale his copy of ROCKIN', and turned to his spread (page 184) where he talks about growing up in rock & roll and hearing Nirvana for the first time.

Dale then said, "this looks like a really cool book, man." I said, "I do believe it is--and it's a great read too." We had only about 45 seconds to rap about ROCKIN' and then the curtains would part and he'd be before the flashbulbs. I asked if I could take his photo holding the book, and he said "go for it."

So here he is, Dale Jr. and ROCKIN'. I hope he had a chance to read parts of the book on his planeflight down to Fort Worth, Texas, where he'd finish six (and jump to 3rd in the points standings).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

ROCKIN' a BIG HIT at SEMA Convention, Las Vegas

ROCKIN' cover artist Darrell Mayabb and I traveled to the SEMA Convention in Las Vegas last week to autograph copies of the book. SEMA (Specialty Equipment Manufacturers Association)is one of the two largest conventions at Vegas--it draws upwards of 100,000 people.

I have to say, I was hugely proud that SEMA's magazine--the show issue!!--featured three pages on ROCKIN' (see cover).

Darrell and I must have signed several hundred copies over three days. People from all over the automotive industry saw the feature piece and saw the book in the hands of legends like Carroll Shelby and Don Garlits (pictured here with Darrell). It was neat to hear Garlits talk about the book, about his page, about his photo with Shirley Muldowney (in context with the L7 song "Shirley") and about how unusual the photo actually was, since it showed Shirley's dragster with a plexi canopy top (which she rarely employed, as it made her feel claustrophobic). Garlits has a museum in Ocala, Florida, and is anxious to get the book featured there.

I was on Bob Long's national Motor Trend Radio show not once, but twice. I don't think I got any sleep at all, I was so excited by the positive reaction to the book.