How does one learn to yodel? Yodeling local yokel Bret Bertholf, aka Halden Wofford of the Hi-Beams, says, "First, pretend you're swallowing a monkey." The rest, he adds, comes naturally, if you let out a howl and have a friend pinch your rear mid-note. That's just one of the many entertaining lessons to be learned in Bertholf's new children's book, The Long Gone Lonesome History of Country Music, a slim tour de force of a picture book that blends the author's many interests and talents connoisseur of country music, fine artist and caricaturist, kid-friendly singing frontman into something special, funny and inherently shareable among readers of all ages.
"It's a cultural history, but with a lot of silly things in it," Bertholf says of the book, which delves not only into the lives of a whole cavalcade of country greats from "Singing Brakeman" and yodeler extraordinaire Jimmy Rodgers to the genre's crossover stars of today but also examines the historical events that influenced the development of country music. "So maybe they'll get the history accidentally, while they're having fun."
And what fun it is: Along the way, you'll encounter a legion of singing cowboys, Nudie Suit paper dolls and glossaries of "country" words, nicknames and vittles, all tucked in between vivid first-person portraits of Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Minnie Pearl, Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe and others. Bertholf's detailed illustrations enhance the entire package (he's a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design), bringing to life dozens of country personalities.
Bertholf hits the road today, with the Hi-Beams in tow, to present the book with live musical accompaniment, beginning with a 2 p.m. book signing at the Colfax Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax Avenue. Later, hell reprise the tuneful introduction at the Stories for All Seasons monthly reading series, tonight at 7:30 p.m. at West Side Books, 3434 West 32nd Avenue. Both programs are free; call the Tattered Cover at 303-322-7727 or West Side at 303-480-0220 for details.