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"Jackson", "Coward of the County" Songwriter Billy Edd Wheeler Releases Memoir

Title: Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: A Hillbilly Poet's Journey From Appalachia to Yale to Writing Hits for Elvis, Johnny Cash & More
Author: Billy Edd Wheeler
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: BMG

BMG has announced the release of Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout: A Hillbilly Poet's Journey From Appalachia to Yale to Writing Hits for Elvis, Johnny Cash & More. The book is an intimate memoir by Billy Edd Wheeler, an award-winning songwriter, musician, author, playwright, poet, visual artist, folk singer and Appalachian Renaissance man, and is available today.

Wheeler is best known for penning "Jackson," the Grammy-winning single popularized by Johnny Cash and June Carter in 1967. His songs have been recorded by Country Music Hall of Fame members such as Bill Anderson, Chet Atkins, Bobby Bare, Jim Ed Brown, Glen Campbell, Roy Clark, Tom T. Hall, Elvis Presley, Jerry Reed, Kenny Rogers, Hank Snow, Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, and others. He notched his own Top 5 country hit with “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back” in 1964.

Folk artists covering his material include Judy Collins, The Country Gentlemen, John Denver, Hazel Dickens, Richie Havens, The Kingston Trio and Tim O’Brien. In addition, Wheeler has released 20 albums, 14 plays and musicals, nine books, and two collections of poetry.

Wheeler's memoir is populated by a fascinating cast of characters he encountered on his journey from humble Appalachian beginnings to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His lengthy career saw the birth of classic tunes such as "The Reverend Mr. Black," "High Flyin' Bird," "The Coming of the Roads," "It's Midnight," "Coal Tattoo," “Coward of the County,” and others. Peppered with the folksy wisdom of his beloved region, Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout chronicles the following milestones: Billy Edd’s troubled relationship with his volatile stepdad; his time studying at Yale to become a playwright; his years working for legendary songwriter/publishers Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in New York’s famed Brill Building; his experiences with the Nashville music industry; and his friendship with Chet Atkins.

“When I look at Billy Edd I see two people,” writes singer-songwriter Janis Ian in the book’s foreword. “The scared little boy who walked a mile through an unlit train tunnel at the age of eleven, with only a sapling he rubbed along the rail to guide him in the dark. He’ll say he was running from his abusive stepfather, but he was really running from the life laid out for him, the assumption that it was the only life he could ever live. Then I look again, and I see that incredibly brave little boy from coal country, who left it for the bigger world beyond but kept the best of it alive in his heart. He kept it alive so he could write it and sing it and paint it—and teach people like me about it.”

Hotter Than a Pepper Sprout is the fourth book published by BMG, following the success of The “Odessey”: The Zombies in Words and Images, For the Sake of Heaviness: The History of Metal Blade Records, and Wanda Jackson’s autobiography, Every Night is Saturday Night: A Country Girl’s Journey to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.