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Between Wyomings
Author: Ken Mansfield
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Softback 294 pp.
 
This is the story of two journeys. One is the author’s long road trip with his wife from their home in California through a lifetime of personally significant venues and back again; the other is this reader’s emotional struggle with the book.
 
The latter started awkwardly. There was something in his style that made me think that Mansfield was a bit of a name-dropper with an annoyingly nebulous way of recounting his prayer life. He admitted at the start that he writes “like a Christian on acid” and I was worried about how much of his story I could trust, when he also confessed, “I sometimes confuse or counter-create times and places.”
 
The name dropping I came to forgive, though. This was his real life. Mansfield was an award-winning producer, who started at Capitol Records just as it was struck by the cultural tsunami of the ‘sixties music revolution; he was the former US manager of Apple Records, who was present on that rooftop for that legendary Beatles concert; and someone whose labyrinthine mansion had been lived in by stars from the old western actor Lash Larue to rockers such as Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young.
 
Along the journey across America – and briefly beyond – we meet musicians like Gene Clark, Bobbie Gentry, Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton, as well as many industry characters.
 
By the end of the book, it dawns on Mansfield that he has been not one person, but four: “1) the young innocent fellow of my growing up, high school and college years; 2) the selfishly ambitious person of my successful career years; 3) the beaten-down victim of my failure years; and 4) the brand-new being I became as a Christian.”  
 
While – at the start – his spiritual reflections jarred as much as his anecdotes engaged me, I grew to understand them. Particularly pertinent is a twist half-way through the book. Meanwhile, his recollections of the music days maintained their fascination. 
 
I got the sense that Mansfield is a gregarious character, who has polished his anecdotes over years of telling, and his stories pass in no time. We hear about how Ringo Starr spent one Christmas Day; the amusing and embarrassing way that Mrs Miller’s career was launched and collapsed; power struggles for control of the mixing desk; life and pranks amid the Payola scandal; and clues to how the music business became what it is. He even goes right back to his young school days when his family had to move house at short notice, and he went to school in his “Lord Fauntleroy” outfit and found out the hard way that this is not how you dress in lumberjack country.
 
Not only did I come to enjoy this book, but it even tempted me to try one of his others. Mansfield does not delight in a sordid past and then nip in a quick bit of faith to justify it; this is a genuine reflection of an interesting life with some real spiritual inspiration. 
 
Derek Walker            

       
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
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