Music from the True Vine

Mike Seeger's Life and Musical Journey

By Bill C. Malone

256 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 25 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2198-2
    Published: December 2014
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-6940-6
    Published: October 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4256-5
    Published: October 2011

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Awards & distinctions

A 2013 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

A musician, documentarian, scholar, and one of the founding members of the influential folk revival group the New Lost City Ramblers, Mike Seeger (1933-2009) spent more than fifty years collecting, performing, and commemorating the culture and folk music of white and black southerners, which he called "music from the true vine." In this fascinating biography, Bill Malone explores the life and musical contributions of folk artist Seeger, son of musicologists Charles and Ruth Crawford Seeger and brother of folksingers Pete and Peggy Seeger.

Malone argues that Seeger, while not as well known as his brother, may be more important to the history of American music through his work in identifying and giving voice to the people from whom the folk revival borrowed its songs. Seeger recorded and produced over forty albums, including the work of artists such as Libba Cotten, Tommy Jarrell, Dock Boggs, and Maybelle Carter. In 1958, with an ambition to recreate the southern string bands of the twenties, he formed the New Lost City Ramblers, helping to inspire the urban folk revival of the sixties. Music from the True Vine presents Seeger as a gatekeeper of American roots music and culture, showing why generations of musicians and fans of traditional music regard him as a mentor and an inspiration.

About the Author

Bill Malone is professor of history emeritus at Tulane University.

For more information about Bill C. Malone, visit the Author Page.


"[An] illuminating biography. . . . Paints Seeger's contribution to the folk music revival as one of genuine respect for and commemoration of the music he was preserving and lets the importance of Seeger's work speak for itself."--Library Journal

"In Bill C. Malone, Seeger has a biographer worthy of his importance."--ForeWord

"Resistant to making his own life a central part of his legacy, [Mike Seeger] remained an enigma to many who'd long relished and built on his music. . . . The more obscure parts of the story are clarified in Bill C. Malone's biography, Music from the True Vine."--Wall Street Journal

"[An] excellent and affectionate biography."--Times Literary Supplement

"This is a delightful biography of Mike Seeger . . . . A must read for anyone interested in folk music. Essential. All readers."--Choice

"Malone traces Seeger's life and achievements with affection and in remarkable detail."--Booklist

Multimedia & Links

Widely regarded as the dean of country music, he is author of Country Music, U.S.A. and Don't Get above Your Raisin': Country Music and the Southern Working Class. His books with UNC Press include Music from the True Vine: Mike Seeger's Life and Musical Journey and The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Vol. 12: Music.