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UPress of Mississippi

Winner of the 2012 Belmont Book Award - Best Book on Country Music

Winner of a 2012 ARSC Award for Excellence for Best Research in Record Labels


The Starday Story—The House That Country Music Built, is the first book entirely dedicated
to one of the most influential music labels of the 20th century.

In addition to creating the largest bluegrass catalogue throughout the 1950s and '60s, Starday was also known for its legendary rockabilly catalogue, an extensive Texas honky-tonk outpouring, classic gospel and sacred recordings and as a Nashville independent powerhouse studio and label. Written by Nathan D. Gibson with label president and co-founder Don Pierce, the book retraces the label's origins in 1953 through 1968 and the Starday-King merger. Interviews with artists and their families, employees and Pierce contribute to the stories of famous hit songs including "Y'all Come," "A Satisfied Mind," "Why Baby Why," "Giddy-Up Go," "Alabam," and many others. Gibson's research and interviews also shed new light on the musical careers of George Jones, Arlie Duff, Willie Nelson, the Big Bopper, Roger Miller, the Stanley Brothers, Cowboy Copas, Dottie West, Red Sovine, Johnny Bond, and countless other Starday artists. Conversations with the children of Pappy Daily and Jack Starns provide a unique perspective on the early days of Starday and extensive interviews with Pierce offer an insider glance at the country music industry during the Golden Era of country music. Weathering through the storm of rock and roll and, later, the Nashville Sound, Starday was a home to traditional country musicians and became one of the most successful independent labels in American history. Ultimately, the Starday Story is the preservation of a country music label that played an integral role in preserving our nation's musical heritage.

272 pages. Published by University Press of Mississippi.


  • Interviews were conducted with many of the artists and employees themselves including Betty Amos, Glenn Barber, Bobby Black, Eddie Bond, Chuck Chellman, Bill Clifton, Jimmy Dean, Charlie Dick, Patsy Elshire, Freddie Frank, Tillman Franks, Luke Gordon, Rudy "Tutti" Grayzell, Aubrey Holt, Loyd Howell, Orangie Ray Hubbard, George Jones, Merle Kilgore, W.D. Kilpatrick, Sleepy LaBeef, Billy Linneman, Hoss Linneman, Jesse McReynolds, Rose Lee Maphis, Frankie Miller, Lattie Moore, James O'Gwynn, Arnold Parker, Tom Perryman, Kenny Roberts, Shelby Singleton, Eddie Skelton, Roni Stoneman, Howard Vokes, Link Wray and many others
  • Features 60 photos, the majority of which have never before been published, including many from Don Pierce's personal collection
  • A near-complete listing of Starday Records and affiliated labels (including Dixie, Mercury-Starday, Nashville, Juke Box Oldies and the custom series) issued between 1953-1970

What they're saying:

"Nathan Gibson's The Starday Story: The House that Country Music Built is among the best books I've read on the subject of country music in Starday's era (1953-1968). It covers not merely the history and activities of a very important independent record label, but also offers valuable insights on artist and song selection, studio recording, and the production, distribution, and marketing of records during that time. Starday Records has been often overlooked through the years, despite the role it played in the early careers of such eventual stars as George Jones, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, and many others. Don Pierce, who led the company throughout its active years, was something of an administrative and innovative marketing genius, for which he, like the label itself, never got the credit deserved. That is all remedied by The Starday Story. The book is thoroughly researched and well written; anyone with a serious interest in American popular culture ought to have a copy."
—Nolan Porterfield, author of Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America's Blue Yodeler

"If we are ever able to understand the complete story of country music, and the ways in which it touched, enriched, and explained the lives of ordinary people, it will be because of books like The Starday Story. Nathan Gibson has given us a meticulously-researched and highly-detailed account of one of the most important record labels that helped to introduce country music to an international public. The Starday Story is not simply an entertaining account of some of country music's most colorful and influential performers, it is also an insightful study of American working class history, and the ways in which plain people interrelated with their musical messengers and spokesmen. I am pleased to give the book my unqualified endorsement."
—Bill C. Malone, professor emeritus of history at Tulane University and author of Country Music U.S.A. and Don't Get above your Raisin': Country Music and the Southern Working Class

"The story of Starday, Nashville maverick of the fifties and sixties, is told well in this book for which Nathan Gibson was fortunate to have the help of Starday's glory years' president, the late Don Pierce. At a time of turmoil in Nashville, Pierce found ways to record and market a diversity of gritty music that's stood the test of time: rockabilly, gospel, bluegrass, honky-tonk, old-time, historic country and more. Pierce's own comments and insights mix enthusiasm and business acumen in unique ways that make for fascinating reading. Gibson's meticulous research pulls in new threads and offers fresh insights into the workings of mid-20th century popular music."
—Neil V. Rosenberg, professor emeritus of folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland and coauthor of Bluegrass Odyssey: A Documentary in Pictures and Words, 1966-86

"Starday is arguably the greatest maverick country music label of the 1950s-60s. Despite minimal investments in sessions and infrastructure, Starday produced lasting classics by George Jones, the Stanley Brothers, Cowboy Copas, Minnie Pearl, the Country Gentlemen, Ola Belle Reed, Charlie Monroe, Red Sovine, the Blue Sky Boys, Buzz Busby, Harry Choates, Johnny Bond, Carl Story, Jim & Jesse, the Stoneman Family, the Lewis Family, and many more, from celebrities to obscurities. Nate Gibson quotes Starday CEO Don Pierce extensively as he illuminates Starday's beginnings, growth, successes, failures and demise. This fascinating account includes rare insights into country music and the industry it built over half a century ago."
—Dick Spottswood, author of Banjo on the Mountain: Wade Mainer's First Hundred Years and producer and online host of The Dick Spottswood Show,

"Based on a close collaboration between Starday founder Don Pierce and musician/scholar Nathan Gibson, The Starday Story is more than a company history; it's also the story of a man who believed in American grassroots music—from honky tonk to southern gospel to bluegrass—and tirelessly worked from 1953 until 1970 to build one of the largest, broadest-based, and most artistically successful post-World War II independent record companies."
—Kip Lornell, editor, with Tracy E. W. Laird, of Shreveport Sounds in Black and White

"In The Starday Story, Nate Gibson, musician, scholar, and sprightly writer, assembles a wealth of facts and photos, and establishes the record label as a productive locus for an investigation of the relations between art and commerce and the connections among the varieties of American country music."
—Henry Glassie, Professor Emeritus of folklore at Indiana University and author of fourteen books, including The Spirit of Folk Art, Passing the Time in Ballymenone, and The Stars of Ballymenone