Local Professor On Verge Of National Acclaim With Release Of First Book, “The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story”

June 26, 2012 at 9:17 am

Spartanburg resident Dr. Gregg Akkerman had no idea his new book would attract such attention. The Last Balladeer: The Johnny Hartman Story (Scarecrow Press) is a biography of the enigmatic vocalist best known for his album with saxophonist legend John Coltrane and as the singing voice behind several romantic scenes in Clint Eastwood’s The Bridges of Madison County.

“I started out just writing a book on a baritone singer whom I loved that had been somewhat overlooked by music journalists,” said Akkerman, who is a professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate. “Now that it’s about to be released, I’m hearing from people all over the world saying, ‘I love Hartman too. It’s so good to know I’m not alone!’”

Akkerman has a reading and signing of his first book scheduled for Tuesday, July 10 at 5:30 p.m. at the Hub City Bookshop, 189 West Main Street in downtown Spartanburg.  This is the first book to trace the complete story of the beloved singer’s life and it follows Hartman’s story from his big-band origins to a Grammy-nominated solo career, and includes interviews with his family, friends, and fellow musicians including Tony Bennett, Jon Hendricks, and Bill Taylor. Akkerman will read excerpts, answer questions, and perform live music with a duo.

While Akkerman is launching his book release locally, he is generating nationwide interest.  Reviews will soon be published in both Down Beat and Jazz Times magazines, as well as several prominent websites and blogs.

“It’s really taking off,” said Akkerman. “In November I will fly to New York for a week to speak at some rather prominent engagements, including the Jazz at Lincoln Center under the direction of Wynton Marsalis and the Institute of Jazz Studies at Rutgers University.”

Akkerman has also offered to speak for free at the New York Public Library while he is in the area. “Several radio interviews have been arranged for me as well. It’s a blast to hear my favorite Hartman music played and then talk about it with the listeners,” added Akkerman.

Dr. Gregg Akkerman is a songwriter, as well as an associate professor of music and director of jazz studies and commercial music at the University of South Carolina Upstate. He earned his Doctor of Arts in Music Theory and Composition with a secondary emphasis in Jazz Pedagogy from the University of Northern Colorado. He still performs regularly as a pianist-vocalist specializing in the Great American Songbook. Akkerman is the editor of The Listener’s Companion book series from Scarecrow Press and his articles have appeared in JAZZed and the Jazz Education Journal.

For information, visit www.johnnyhartmanbook.com or call Dr. Gregg Akkerman at 864-503-5263.