Sixteen Tons: The Merle Travis Story Finally Released!

Nov 22, 2022

TODAY’S THE BIG DAY: Sixteen Tons: The Merle Travis Story is officially released!

I’m just so thrilled that the book is FINALLY out. We signed the book deal back in 2017. Thanks again to Scott B. Bomar from BMG books and Merle’s daughters, Merlene Travis and Cindy Travis, for supporting me and believing in the project (we did it, y’all!). I researched and wrote the book over a three-year period, only to have the pandemic happen in 2020. For a while, I wasn’t sure if the book would ever come out—there was about a year and a half delay after the text was completed when everything was in limbo. Then when BMG went to print the book, there was a massive worldwide printing delay (some of you may remember it first appeared as an Amazon pre-order last year, only to be delayed another eight or nine months).

Merle Travis has always been one of my favorite performing artists, and it was a privilege to be able to tell his story. Travis was like a cat—he seemed to have led nine lives in his sixty-five years on this planet. Guitarist, singer, songwriter, inventor, cartoonist, actor, writer, humorist—he could do it all. Everybody I interviewed who knew him spoke of his genius. Travis also had a dark side, the low ebb of an undiagnosed mental illness, and he fought with alcohol and pills and guns and police his entire adult life. Running with country music legends with similar vices (Travis and Johnny Cash were best friends) almost killed him. Despite all this turmoil in his life, Travis lived to see an appreciation for his music and songs in his later years, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Merle Travis’s story is a fascinating one, and if you enjoy wild and wooly tales of country music’s checkered past (keywords: guitars, motorcycles, Nudie suits, Cadillacs, women), then you will enjoy this book. I certainly enjoyed writing it. I interviewed about seventy-five people, nine of whom have passed away since I spoke to them (I’m so glad I did the interviews back in 2018 and 2019). I scoured tens of thousands of photos, letters, and articles, trying to piece it all together. I had help from many people, too many to thank here. I wrote and rewrote and fact-checked and then had a series of editors go over it with a fine-toothed comb. The book wound up at a massive 480 pages (again, thanks to Scott B. Bomar for believing in the project), but I kept thinking to myself: this is the one and only chance to tell this important and interesting man’s life story. It has to be done right. I hope that those of you who read it will agree.

It seems a bit surreal that the book is finally out. I hope that every one of you will buy a bunch of copies to give your friends as Christmas presents! I’m also happy to autograph any books you bring to my shows. Today is the day, after five years of work—the Merle Travis book is OUT!