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Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk

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An intimate account of country music, social change, and a vanishing way of life as a Shenandoah town collides with the twenty-first century Winchester, Virginia is an emblematic American town. When John Lingan first traveled there, it was to seek out Jim McCoy: local honky-tonk owner and the DJ who first gave airtime to a brassy-voiced singer known as Patsy Cline, setting An intimate account of country music, social change, and a vanishing way of life as a Shenandoah town collides with the twenty-first century Winchester, Virginia is an emblematic American town. When John Lingan first traveled there, it was to seek out Jim McCoy: local honky-tonk owner and the DJ who first gave airtime to a brassy-voiced singer known as Patsy Cline, setting her on a course for fame that outlasted her tragically short life. What Lingan found was a town in the midst of an identity crisis.   As the U.S. economy and American culture have transformed in recent decades, the ground under centuries-old social codes has shifted, throwing old folkways into chaos. Homeplace teases apart the tangle of class, race, and family origin that still defines the town, and illuminates questions that now dominate our national conversation—about how we move into the future without pretending our past doesn't exist, about what we salvage and what we leave behind. Lingan writes in “penetrating, soulful ways about the intersection between place and personality, individual and collective, spirit and song.”*   * Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams


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An intimate account of country music, social change, and a vanishing way of life as a Shenandoah town collides with the twenty-first century Winchester, Virginia is an emblematic American town. When John Lingan first traveled there, it was to seek out Jim McCoy: local honky-tonk owner and the DJ who first gave airtime to a brassy-voiced singer known as Patsy Cline, setting An intimate account of country music, social change, and a vanishing way of life as a Shenandoah town collides with the twenty-first century Winchester, Virginia is an emblematic American town. When John Lingan first traveled there, it was to seek out Jim McCoy: local honky-tonk owner and the DJ who first gave airtime to a brassy-voiced singer known as Patsy Cline, setting her on a course for fame that outlasted her tragically short life. What Lingan found was a town in the midst of an identity crisis.   As the U.S. economy and American culture have transformed in recent decades, the ground under centuries-old social codes has shifted, throwing old folkways into chaos. Homeplace teases apart the tangle of class, race, and family origin that still defines the town, and illuminates questions that now dominate our national conversation—about how we move into the future without pretending our past doesn't exist, about what we salvage and what we leave behind. Lingan writes in “penetrating, soulful ways about the intersection between place and personality, individual and collective, spirit and song.”*   * Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams

30 review for Homeplace: A Southern Town, a Country Legend, and the Last Days of a Mountaintop Honky-Tonk

  1. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Polansky

    The last honky tonk in the Shenedoah proves the entry point into a collection of essays about the rapid change of rural America, family, authenticity, a lot of other things. Fair warning, I would pay even less attention to my opinion on this one then you are used to normally, since John is a very, very old friend of mine, and I’d happily lie to a stranger to feather his nest, but happily here I don’t need to. John’s a thoughtful guy and writes with a sharp pen, interweaving history and personal The last honky tonk in the Shenedoah proves the entry point into a collection of essays about the rapid change of rural America, family, authenticity, a lot of other things. Fair warning, I would pay even less attention to my opinion on this one then you are used to normally, since John is a very, very old friend of mine, and I’d happily lie to a stranger to feather his nest, but happily here I don’t need to. John’s a thoughtful guy and writes with a sharp pen, interweaving history and personal experience in the best travelogue tradition. Strong rec.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jay

    I began reading this book after a brief skimming of the book’s description. I expected a lot of country and roots music history, with some small town-loving prose. I got a lot less of the music I was expecting. I got a lot more of the small town story, but it was a story of change, not all reminiscing. Sure, there’s a lot of reminiscing about the history of Winchester and the area, especially the recent history, the Patsy Cline years. And there’s a lot about what has changed as the townspeople h I began reading this book after a brief skimming of the book’s description. I expected a lot of country and roots music history, with some small town-loving prose. I got a lot less of the music I was expecting. I got a lot more of the small town story, but it was a story of change, not all reminiscing. Sure, there’s a lot of reminiscing about the history of Winchester and the area, especially the recent history, the Patsy Cline years. And there’s a lot about what has changed as the townspeople have changed, with the old residents dying off and new outsiders, almost always from bigger cities, moving in. Those outsiders often have different ideas, and the clash of old and new is what the book is really about. The section that really explained the situation was about a water tasting competition held in town. This event has become the area’s draw, or what it is known for, usurping “the birthplace of Patsy Cline," or the home to a very traditional mountain honky tonk. The idea for the event was by outsiders, and the event is mostly run by outsiders. I liked the way the author illustrated the perspectives of the outsiders as well as some of the older, traditional residents in their thoughts on the water tasting event. You can sense that growth and progress will overtake history and tradition. The same kind of thing happened in my small hometown. An outsider mayor gifted the town a 30 foot tall plastic statue of a man on an old high-wheel bicycle, and had it placed on city property in the center of town. There’s no historic reason to showcase a bike there, but it is along a bike trail. There was lots of grousing by the long-time residents initially, but that has mostly died down, and the statue is becoming what the town is known for. (Previously the town was best known for writing a prodigious number of speeding tickets, so maybe this is an actual upgrade.) This book covered topics that seemed all too familiar.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- An intimate account of country music, social change, and a vanishing way of life as a Shenandoah town collides with the twenty-first century Winchester, Virginia is an emblematic American town. When John Lingan first traveled there, it was to seek out Jim McCoy: local honky-tonk owner and the DJ who first gave airtime to a brassy-voiced singer known as Patsy Cline, settin I received a DIGITAL Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. From the publisher --- An intimate account of country music, social change, and a vanishing way of life as a Shenandoah town collides with the twenty-first century Winchester, Virginia is an emblematic American town. When John Lingan first traveled there, it was to seek out Jim McCoy: local honky-tonk owner and the DJ who first gave airtime to a brassy-voiced singer known as Patsy Cline, setting her on a course for fame that outlasted her tragically short life. What Lingan found was a town in the midst of an identity crisis. As the U.S. economy and American culture have transformed in recent decades, the ground under centuries-old social codes has shifted, throwing old folkways into chaos. Homeplace teases apart the tangle of class, race, and family origin that still defines the town, and illuminates questions that now dominate our national conversation—about how we move into the future without pretending our past doesn't exist, about what we salvage and what we leave behind. Lingan writes in “penetrating, soulful ways about the intersection between place and personality, individual and collective, spirit and song.”* * Leslie Jamison, author of The Empathy Exams This is a very lyrical book that you want to read slowly and savour as you know this life and lifestyle is slowly disappearing from America and American history...ask a total stranger passing by who Patsy Cline is and you may get an interesting answer :-) Lingnan's writing style is smooth and easy to read and I absolutely adored this book and I hated it when I was done reading it...I wanted more. MT TAKE AWAY: Some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world (along with its quirky citizens) and its history is being destroyed by (in my opinion) meth, unemployment, crime and addiction to social media and TV shows like "Teen Mom" which makes people want to be TV or YouTube stars.

  4. 5 out of 5

    J.S. Green

    Not at all what I expected based upon the book description: "As the U.S. economy and American culture have transformed in recent decades, the ground under centuries-old social codes has shifted, throwing old folkways into chaos. Homeplace teases apart the tangle of class, race, and family origin that still defines the town, and illuminates questions that now dominate our national conversation..." Perhaps it's my own fault, but I imagined this might be similar to Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Fami Not at all what I expected based upon the book description: "As the U.S. economy and American culture have transformed in recent decades, the ground under centuries-old social codes has shifted, throwing old folkways into chaos. Homeplace teases apart the tangle of class, race, and family origin that still defines the town, and illuminates questions that now dominate our national conversation..." Perhaps it's my own fault, but I imagined this might be similar to Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, with a little cultural history on old-time country music thrown in. (I'm not a fan of country music, but I enjoy cultural histories.) Instead, this appears to be a memoir of one man's visits to a charming little town with a lot of history - maybe someone else's 'cuppa' but not mine. I feel bad but I'm going to have to mark it DNF. One final note: I see some reviews on Amazon are critical of the several pages devoted to an eggs and bacon breakfast in an old-fashioned diner. I actually thought that was the high point of my experience with this book and enjoyed those pages. Much to my wife's embarrassment, I like eating in diners and found my mouth watering with his descriptions. I guess on that level I can certainly relate to Mr. Lingan. (I rec'd an advance reader copy from Amazon Vine.)

  5. 4 out of 5

    Brenden Gallagher

    I blew through John Lingan's "Homeplace" in two days. But, this isn't to say that the book is shallow or light. This is a book that you float through: its lyrical beauty carries you from chapter to chapter and character to character, back and forth through the history of the town of Winchester, VA, with elegiac ease. To say what the book is about is at once complicated and easy. The book is about Jim McCoy, the aging owner of one of America's last surviving country honky-tonks. But, the book is a I blew through John Lingan's "Homeplace" in two days. But, this isn't to say that the book is shallow or light. This is a book that you float through: its lyrical beauty carries you from chapter to chapter and character to character, back and forth through the history of the town of Winchester, VA, with elegiac ease. To say what the book is about is at once complicated and easy. The book is about Jim McCoy, the aging owner of one of America's last surviving country honky-tonks. But, the book is also about Patsy Cline and the way her legacy hangs over the town of Winchester, Virginia. And then, the book is also about the various people in the orbit of McCoy and Cline trying to keep the town on the map in one way or another. But also, the book is about country music, rural America, class, The South, and vanishing small towns in as big and broad a way as you could possibly conceive. "Homeplace" situates itself as one of a number of cultural documents of Winchester, VA, from William Byrd's "History of the Dividing Line" to Joe Bageant's "Deer Hunting with Jesus." In my opinion, this book deserves more credit than that. It stands alongside Tony Horwitz's "Confederates in the Attic" as one of the best summations of modern American rural life I have ever read, offering a generosity of spirit that stretches beyond the confines of its chosen subjects. Lingan understands that in a small town history is still alive, time often seems to stand still, and you can never quite escape, no matter how far away you go. And yet, he also understands the beautiful eternal twilight and the dauntless communal spirit that draws people back home again and again. "Homeplace" is a wonderful book, an essential book, if you are the kind of person who finds themselves compelled to read "Hillbilly Elegy" to try to "understand" the great, vast rest of America between our half-dozen or so megalopolises. That being said, I get the sense there is a higher compliment that I can pay the book and the author, which is that I wish I could have had a drink with Jim McCoy before he passed, and I hope that someday I can make it up to The Troubadour before the lights go out for good.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Diana

    I bought this because I love visiting Winchester. This book certainly widened my knowledge of the greater area, but wandered pretty far afield (the water in West Virginia, local wrestling matches, etc.). Also, there were statements that I know to be exaggerated. For example, Lingan said that a particular street in Winchester was lined with million-dollar homes. I know exactly where he was talking about. While there are SOME very, very nice homes on that street, and a few worth over a million dol I bought this because I love visiting Winchester. This book certainly widened my knowledge of the greater area, but wandered pretty far afield (the water in West Virginia, local wrestling matches, etc.). Also, there were statements that I know to be exaggerated. For example, Lingan said that a particular street in Winchester was lined with million-dollar homes. I know exactly where he was talking about. While there are SOME very, very nice homes on that street, and a few worth over a million dollars, there are also plenty of homes worth less than that and quite a few that are considerably more modest. He made it sound as if the whole street was covered with mansions when that's definitely not true. Still, it gave me a broader understanding of the greater area overall.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Marjorie Dillon

    I received this book as a gift after a recent trip to Winchester and so was eager to dive into it. It was fascinating to read not only about the Winchester I visited but also the one I missed. Beyond Winchester specifically, the book made me ponder those ways in which all small towns are changing, struggling, coping. I also loved getting to know the characters in a way a casual visitor would not. This book evoked for me memories of places and people from my own ”home place.” Lingan writes a thou I received this book as a gift after a recent trip to Winchester and so was eager to dive into it. It was fascinating to read not only about the Winchester I visited but also the one I missed. Beyond Winchester specifically, the book made me ponder those ways in which all small towns are changing, struggling, coping. I also loved getting to know the characters in a way a casual visitor would not. This book evoked for me memories of places and people from my own ”home place.” Lingan writes a thoughtful, readable, pleasantly meandering narrative and I would love to see what he would do if he tried his hand at fiction.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Loretta Gaffney

    Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars; I'm rounding up because it was a lifesaver this week. I needed something relatively gentle. Though it meandered, and had insufficient attention to race, I thought this fond and sorrowful portrait of Winchester, VA was a great read. I could dive right back in and lose myself in this small town world of country music lovers, Patsy Cline fanatics, honky tonk singers and drinkers, and the wistful musings of the oldtimers. Definitely a case of the right book for the r Somewhere between 3 and 4 stars; I'm rounding up because it was a lifesaver this week. I needed something relatively gentle. Though it meandered, and had insufficient attention to race, I thought this fond and sorrowful portrait of Winchester, VA was a great read. I could dive right back in and lose myself in this small town world of country music lovers, Patsy Cline fanatics, honky tonk singers and drinkers, and the wistful musings of the oldtimers. Definitely a case of the right book for the right person at the right time!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Are you interested in the backstory of some historical country musicians and bands from the deep South? Are you curious about how these people found their music getting a boost to a noticeable level? This well researched book will reveal that to you. Many, many visits and interviews went into this and if you like a meandering, narrative re-telling, this book will likely make you smile.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Donna Benton

    Lovely style of writing. Story detailing history of the man who brought country music to Winchester, VA. Patsy Cline was one of his discoveries.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hillary Copsey

    This is a poorly reported, jumbled mess of anecdotes that's not worth anyone's time.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Khiro Bouazizi

    Bittersweet, well researched, I enjoyed every page. For years I wondered why Winchester didn't celebrate Patsy Cline. THIS book led to a greater understanding of the social mores of the area,.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Leah Angstman

    I reviewed this book and interviewed the author for a wonderful feature in Pacific Standard.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Brett Marie

    My review, for PopMatters: https://www.popmatters.com/homeplace-...

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Pechotta

    Bittersweet, well researched, I enjoyed every page. For years I wondered why Winchester didn't celebrate Patsy Cline. THIS book led to a greater understanding of the social mores of the area,.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ralph

    3.5 stars. Mostly entertaining read about Winchester, Va., class warfare, Patsy Cline and the last damn honky-tonk in the free world.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Ford

    From the first word of Homeplace, a reader can tell that this was a labor of love for John Lingan. At the book’s center is Jim McCoy, an earnest, former traveling want-to-be music star who first introduced the airwaves to Patsy Cline. Jim’s story is the starter pistol that leads Lingan to investigate more characters and tall tales that populate Winchester, Virginia and the surrounding area. There is more than a touch of the poet in the author’s prose, and his four years of research and reporting From the first word of Homeplace, a reader can tell that this was a labor of love for John Lingan. At the book’s center is Jim McCoy, an earnest, former traveling want-to-be music star who first introduced the airwaves to Patsy Cline. Jim’s story is the starter pistol that leads Lingan to investigate more characters and tall tales that populate Winchester, Virginia and the surrounding area. There is more than a touch of the poet in the author’s prose, and his four years of research and reporting give readers a clear picture of a Shenandoah town within an America in flux. It wouldn’t hurt to have some bourbon or “Rocket Fuel” on hand—while listening to Patsy, of course—as you read this lyrical debut.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark Bailey

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jim

  20. 4 out of 5

    Mike

  21. 4 out of 5

    Robyn Obermeyer

  22. 5 out of 5

    Dustin Renner

  23. 5 out of 5

    Phil Melton

  24. 4 out of 5

    Cathleen B. Miller

  25. 5 out of 5

    Chris Langdon

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sally

  27. 4 out of 5

    Peter Stepek

  28. 5 out of 5

    Libby

  29. 5 out of 5

    David Williamson

  30. 4 out of 5

    David Gray

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