The late Paul Hemphill, who served at Brenau’s writer-in-residence from June 1985 until August of ’93, broke into the national consciousness as a writer with the 1970 book The Nashville Sound: Bright Lights and Country Music. The book was his first and best-selling work. But his wife Susan Percy, the retired editor of Georgia Trend magazine who frequently oversaw publication of articles about Brenau, announced that the University of Georgia Press will re-issue the book in the spring of 2015.
Birmingham, Alabama, native Hemphill, then a newspaper columnist of some repute in Atlanta, started the book while he was on a Nieman Fellowship for journalists at Harvard University. The New York Times described the book as “one of the best works on country music ever written.” Hemphill got the title from a song by Georgia singer-songwriter Whisperin’ Bill Anderson, and it turned the national spotlight on the scene around the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, at a time when the often-ridiculed genre was making its break into the mainstream to achieve broader cultural recognition.
Hemphill in his work often referred to long nights on the road with his truck-driving father listening to fellow Alabaman Hank Williams on the radio. His 2005 book, Lovesick Blues, a critically acclaimed biography of Williams, returned him to his familiar subject matter.
Hemphill died of throat cancer in 2009 at 73.