Bing Crosby, Bill Monroe and Neville Bros. Bios Win Gleason Book Awards

Posted in News on September 23, 2001

Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams, The Early Years 1903-1940 by Gary Giddins was awarded first place at the 12th annual Ralph J. Gleason Music Book Awards, sponsored by Rolling Stone, BMI and New York University. Richard D. Smith’s biography of Bill Monroe, Can’t You Hear Me Callin’: The Life of Bill Monroe, The Father of Bluegrass, was awarded second place and The Brothers, an autobiography by Art, Aaron, Charles & Cyril Neville and David Ritz won third place. All three books are published by Little, Brown & Co. for the second time in the history of the awards (1995). Both Giddins and Ritz are previous Gleason Award winners.

Gleason Book Award winners gather after the presentation to show off their certificates. Seen here are: Gleason committee member Holly George Warren who presented third place award to author David Ritz; Ritz; BMI President and CEO Frances Preston who presented second place to author Richard Smith; Smith; first place winner Gary Giddins; and Spin magazine editor and Gleason committee member Alan Light who presented the top award to Giddins. Photo: Dana Rodriguez

The awards were presented on Friday, September 21 during an invitation-only cocktail reception at New York’s Sony Club. Founded in 1989 to honor the best books about contemporary music and musicians, the awards are named for San Francisco music critic and Rolling Stone co-founder Ralph J. Gleason. The ceremony also honored the late Bob Rolontz, founder and chairman of the awards, who sadly lost his long battle with Parkinson’s disease last year.

Giddins, who won second place in 1999 for his book Visions of Jazz, chronicles the extraordinary life of an American cultural icon in his book, Bing Crosby: A Pocketful of Dreams. From Crosby’s early beginnings in Spokane, Washington as a young law student to his rise to the top of the entertainment world, Giddins delivers the definitive biography of one of the world’s most beloved entertainers. A longtime columnist for New York’s Village Voice, Giddins has also written biographies on Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker.  

 Through a multitude of in-depth interviews with Bill Monroe’s surviving friends and colleagues, second place author and veteran bluegrass journalist Richard D. Smith expertly depicts the life of the brilliant and complex man universally known as the “Father of Bluegrass” in Can’t You Hear Me Callin’. Smith is also the author of Bluegrass: An Informal Guide and is a regular reviewer for Bluegrass Unlimited magazine.

The Brothers is a candid collection of each of the four Neville brother’s remarkable life story, which author David Ritz has masterfully compiled into a single epic that takes us through the history of American pop music. Currently all living in New Orleans, Art, Aaron, Charles and Cyril Neville have recorded 14 albums together since 1978. David Ritz has previously won three Gleason Awards, the only author to ever do so, for his biographies on B.B. King, Etta James and Jerry Wexler. His other books include biographies on Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and Smokey Robinson. Also a songwriter, Ritz co-wrote the lyrics to the 80s hit “Sexual Healing.”  

More than 80 titles were reviewed by the Gleason Awards committee, which includes BMI's Pat Baird, Rolling Stone contributing editor Anthony DeCurtis, authors Chet Flippo and Nelson George, formerRolling Stone Press editor and author Holly George-Warren, NYU music professor Dr. John Gilbert, New York Daily News music editor David Hinckley and Spin editor Alan Light. The three winning books, chosen from 12 finalists, share $5,000 funded by Rolling Stone and BMI: first prize is $2,500, second prize is $1,500 and third prize is $1,000.


The Weekly

Each week, Learn, Listen, Watch, Discover and Share with BMI! From must-see videos, to creative inspiration and dynamic playlists we’re excited about, BMI’s The Weekly is dedicated to delivering specially curated content designed for music creators and music fans alike!

Join BMI Live

BMI Live
Back to Top