The only thing I hate about this book is that I didn’t write it, and I didn’t think of the idea first. Who did write it and did all the incredible research was Renae Johnson, also know as Renae the Waitress on the RFD-TV traditional country show Larry’s Country Diner. And it’s hard to think of a better person to tackle the subject with knowledge, passion, and love, especially after you hold a copy in your hands, thumb through the pages, read the loving memorials to each artist, peruse all of the pictures taken by Renae’s husband Phil, and behold the palpable emotion of remembering all the past greats that have left us, and the impact they had on the music that lingers so considerably even today.
Precious Memories Memorial documents the lives, deaths, and final resting places of over 80 country music legends from all around the United States, personally curated by Johnson with a small obituary, notes about the funeral, and pictures and details of their final resting places. But this is not just a reference book for tourists, it’s a detailed and thorough tribute to these artists told through the story of their passing, while also giving great detail of where to find these artists’ final resting places.
Johnson did not just pull some information off the Internet and compile it into a book, she went to these places to experience the mystique of visiting the past greats, and took special note of what makes many of these resting places unique. Some of this info can be procured on the internet, but it’s usually served to you in an antiseptic manner compared to what Renae has compiled here. The book has tons of excellent, full-color pictures of both the graves and the artists, making it appropriate for coffee tables or a gift for a country music aficionado, and includes many extras, including a cemetery section with maps and other helpful information for finding the graves, and even a road trip guide with estimated times to visit the sites from Nashville.
And during Johnson’s efforts and research, she unearthed some previously-undiscovered gravesites, and tells some untold stories behind certain stars’ and their final resting places, while also including some past country music greats whose final resting places are unknown. Precious Memories Memorial is an essential compendium if you have a passion for finding gravesites and cherishing your moments in the presence of country music greatness. It’s for the adventurous, yet is full of reverence.
Though a line had to be drawn somewhere and not every country artist who ever lived could be included here, you’re nonetheless surprised by the breadth of this book. It’s not just Hall of Famers, but folks like Johnny Paycheck and John Hartford who are included. Recent passings in 2016 are also included, like Joey Martin Feek. And in a year where the death of music royalty has very much dominated the narrative, this book is very timely.
As a true music fan, there is nothing more rewarding than visiting the grave of one of your musical heroes. Taking of your time to make a personal visit always results in a moment that you will remember, and is well worth the side junket on a road trip, cutting across town, and rearranging your plans to show your respects. You never forget how the weather was when you stopped in to see the Hank Williams grave, or what time of year it was when you saw Tammy Wynette’s tomb.
It’s the ultimate treasure to get see these stars when they’re living, but it’s the ultimate tribute to take your time to see them when they’re gone, and it always leaves you fulfilled knowing you’ve made the effort to give back what their music has given you during life. Precious Memories is the perfect guide to help fulfill that quest.
Two Guns Up! (10/10)
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Precious Memories is dedicated to Renae Johnson’s son Justin Browning Johnson, who passed away tragically in a vehicle accident.