Twin passions – writing and music – are woven throughout Alanna Nash’s life. By the time the Louisville native graduated from Atherton High School, she was a published writer; Seventeen magazine ran a piece she wrote when she was only fourteen. Nash went on to study journalism and mass media at Stephens College in Missouri, and earned a master’s degree at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.
As a musician (violin, guitar, mandolin and drums), Nash has played folk and rock music, but her love is for country music. “The storytelling aspect is the hook for me, and is why I can’t stay away from Nashville,” she says. “The storytelling and the heart.”
Nash has authored or co-authored four books about Elvis Presley: “Baby, Let’s Play House: Elvis Presley and the Women Who Loved Him;” “The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley;” “Elvis: From Memphis to Hollywood” (with Alan Fortas); and “Elvis and the Memphis Mafia.” She has also written extensively about Dolly Parton, including “Dolly: The Biography.” In addition, Nash wrote “Behind Closed Doors: Talking with the Legends of Country Music,” and “Golden Girl: The Story of Jessica Savitch.”
Nash co-edited “Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Country Music in America,” for which she received the 2007 Belmont Award. She has received numerous other awards, including a second Belmont Award for The Colonel, the Country Music Association’s media achievement award, and two Charlie Lamb Awards for excellence in country music journalism. (Nash is the only person to receive the Charlie Lamb Award twice.)
The author’s natural writing ability came through at an early age. “I was reading the newspaper by age five, announcing to my parents that our neighbor had been arrested again for drunk driving,” says Nash. “I was really taken by the idea of newspapers, of the tactile sense of holding the newsprint, and communicating to hundreds of thousands of people via the written word.”
Nash has written for publications such as Rolling Stone, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Ms., Vanity Fair, Entertainment Weekly, and The New York Times. Nash was also a reporter at The Courier-Journal, during which time she and fellow reporter John Filiatreau covered Elvis Presley’s death and funeral. “I was amazed that each decade, Elvis was capable of sustaining his artistry and reinventing himself,” Nash says. “On the flip side, I was greatly saddened by his lack of emotional development past a certain point. It led to much frustration on his part and, ultimately, I think, to his death.”
Nash says she continues to be fascinated with Dolly Parton and Roseanne Cash. “But as a singer, Emmylou Harris is my gal. I also confess to really liking Taylor Swift’s music,” she says. “The really good male singers are too numerous to mention, but as a singer-songwriter combination, my money is usually on Rodney Crowell.”
Nash is seeking funding to archive the research materials and interviews from her career, including material on Elvis Presley, Tom Parker, Jessica Savitch, numerous country and pop musicians, D. W. Griffith, James Dean, and outlaws John Dillinger, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. “It would be terrific to have this popular culture archive stay in Kentucky.”