What follows is the first of a few excerpts from my 2012 book PRISONER OF SOUTHERN ROCK: A MEMOIR (Mercer University Press) The book is available at MU Press, Amazon, and most book websites.
All through Elementary and Junior High schools I was in resistance to reading. I don’t really know why, but the fact remains I read about four books prior to hitting High School. To be honest, I have to credit rock and roll with turning me onto reading. Had I not become such a huge fan of music, I probably would not have started reading magazines like Creem, Circus, Crawdaddy and Rolling Stone. I still remember the first time I ever bought an issue of Rolling Stone. 1972. I was at Pic-a-Book in Spartanburg, and saw this newspaper, quarter-folded with Alice Cooper and his pet boa constrictor on the cover. I had to have it.A
The issue was dated March 30, 1972, issue #105. I know because I somehow still have it. The magazine also had great articles on The Mersey Scene (featuring many famous Beatles locations such as the Cavern Club, Penny Lane etc), President Nixon in China, John McLauglin of Mahavishnu Orchestra, the Concert for Bangladesh Money Trail, 1972 Voter Registration Laws, Paul McCartney, and record reviews of Eddie Cochran, Al Green, The Firesign Theatre, Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Family, Manfred Mann's Earth Band, Little Feat, and a Captain Beefheart record review by a man I would soon grow to idolize, the king of all rock critics, Lester Bangs.
Lester’s writing sucked me in, and soon I was reading the musings of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and rock writer turned movie producer Cameron Crowe with equal fervor. That same year, a kid named Jimmy Johnson and his friend Moondog were looking over a magazine in agriculture class. It was a rag called Circus, and again, Alice Cooper was on the cover. The issue included a fold out poster of Alice, apparently naked, wrapped in his boa constrictor. Freaky. That day I went out and bought my first issue of Circus.
The memories kind of swirl together at this point, but what I do remember is buying every issue of Circus and Rolling Stone, and especially Creem, that I could get my hands on. Once in a while I would also buy Rock Scene, a magazine that focused more on the New York City scene and the all night parties and shows. My Dad always loved reading those, and it amused me that he liked to read Wayne County’s (noted New York transvestite rocker who later became Jane County) advice column. Of course this was during that early-seventies period where I turned Daddy onto Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper and The New York Dolls. Shortly after that he would really dig the sounds coming from my bedroom stereo - The Allman Brothers Band, The Marshall Tucker Band and Charlie Daniels.
From those humble beginnings, I began to devour books. Lots of science fiction and fantasy. Everything Harlan Ellison ever wrote. Isaac Asimov. And books like Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, On The Road by Jack Kerouac, and my favorite, A Catcher in The Rye, by J.D. Sallinger. Then I began to read Stephen King and there was no stopping me. I had to read every word the New Englander wrote.
So I credit rock and roll with my love of reading. And I credit Circus, Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and Creem for planting the seed that would one day grow GRITZ Magazine. And after I left GRITZ, it was on to The Universal Music Tribe online, which morphed into KUDZOO Magazine, while still harboring a dream of doing my own print magazine again.
© Michael Buffalo Smith