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JACK WEATHERLY — Mississippian writes American School of Rock 101

JACK WEATHERLY

JACK WEATHERLY

Playing in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day in New Orleans was a dream come true for long-suffering Ole Miss fans.

But for Emily Gatlin, an Ole Miss grad, her biggest thrill came on New Year’s Eve on Canal Street.

In town to witness what would be a sound thrashing of the opponent, Oklahoma State, she strolled into the CVS pharmacy and saw her baby.

There on the periodicals rack was the 101 Greatest American Rock Songs, and the Stories Behind Them.

She grabbed it (actually all three copies, each with a different cover) in her arms and started telling strangers that she wrote this – she wrote this.

In her fit of ecstacy, she personally inscribed the two copies she left for others – then took a selfie.

“They probably thought some 4-year-old scribbled in them,” she said with a laugh.

Emily Gatlin grabs an armful of '101 Greatest' bookazines.

Emily Gatlin grabs an armful of ‘101 Greatest’ bookazines.

At 32, Gatlin had been tasked with choosing the best 101 American rock songs.

Rock ‘n’ roll is twice as old as she.

So how’d she do it?

It helped that she had an older sister and an older brother and she listened to their music as she grew up. That gave her a feel for the ‘80s and ‘90s.

Plus, her parents would play Time-Life rock compilations on family road trips.

Also, she’s a quick study, says her publisher, Bob Guccione Jr., namesake of the late founder and publisher of Penthouse magazine.

“Emily is an extraordinary writer,” Guccione said in an interview.

He said the writing in 101 is “99.9 percent” Gatlin’s, which provides clever, bite-size musical morsels that may make you hunger for a rock table laden with more than you can ever consume.

The younger Guccione founded Spin magazine in 1985, which is still spinning (online under different ownership after he sold it for a reported $43 million in 1997) tales of the popular music industry.

Guccione and Gatlin, by the way, agreed that country music has stolen the thunder from rock in recent years, so the list stops with Green Day’s “American Idiot” album in 2004. The year that rock died? Maybe a hint as to the top song in this publication? Check it out at your local pharmacy or bookstore.

Guccione collaborated with Engaged Media to produce a series of what are called bookazines in the industry, which he says account for 40 to 50 percent of magazine rack sales revenue.

For $12.99, “you actually get more value for the money” than for a magazine at half the price but stuffed with ads, he said in an interview.

A psychology major and English minor, Gatlin didn’t do any writing outside of classwork as an undergraduate.

After graduation, she managed Reed’s GumTree Bookstore in Tupelo for four years and met writers there.

She caught the bug. She started writing a book blog and eventually became editor of hottytoddy.com, which she described as a teaching tool for Ole Miss journalism students.

Meantime, Guccione was an adjunct professor of journalism at the school for a year and she reprinted his article about the Delta. A professional relationship evolved.

They started work on a luxury travel publication a year ago, but that was put on the shelf as Engaged Media asked Guccione to do a series of bookazines.

One was to be about Jimi Hendrix.

She had grown up in Clarksville, Tenn., which is not far from Fort Campbell, Ky., where Hendrix was stationed long before he became a rock god.

Bob Guccione-hs_4C

BOB GUCCIONE JR.

She had heard stories about Hendrix as a member of the 101st Airborne, so when Guccione asked her to write about the guitar virtuoso, she naturally assumed it was to be a local-color piece.

Not so. He assigned the whole project to her.

An “intense” six weeks later, the project was complete.

To choose the top American rock songs is a far broader task in the obvious sense, but at the same time it’s not as broad as it might seem.

This was to be an American rock songs compilation. Brits and Irish need not apply. No Beatles or Stones, no Van Morrison or U2.

And not any of those sneaky Canadians who immigrate south and sound so American. So no Neil Young.

Guccione suggested she come up with 175 songs and winnow them down.

She had a prior commitment as coordinator of schedules for authors at the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson, which was held Aug. 22 at the state Capitol.

He told her not to bother thinking about the bookazine until the previous commitment was behind her.

Traveling between Tupelo, where she and her husband live, and the capital, she took time to think about the list, she confessed.

She and Guccione cut down the list, difficult in itself, but ranking them was the hardest part, she said.

“It’s like trying to pick a favorite child,” she said. But after six weeks, she had, plus 100 more.

She had signed off on the page proofs, but hadn’t seen the finished product till she walked into the New Orleans drugstore and saw it on the rack.

Now the travel magazine is on the front burner.

She’ll work out of Tupelo as managing editor, with writers based in New York City, Chicago, Australia and elsewhere, including Oxford.

The online magazine, Wonderlust, will launch online in early spring as “a luxury travel site” initially, then probably as a print publication at some point in the future, said Guccione, who will be publisher and editor-in-chief.

Even the best travel publications tend to be “on autopilot” because they’re an “easy sell to advertisers,’ he said.

Wonderlust will always address the human condition and never be “about the thread count on bedsheets,” Guccione vowed.

» Contact Mississippi Business Journal staff writer Jack Weatherly at jack.weatherly@msbusiness.com or (601) 364-1016.

About Jack Weatherly

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