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All He Wrote

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, he’ll 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.


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