The ABCs of Rock author Melissa Duke Mooney couldn’t find a rock ’n’ roll alphabet book for kids, so she made one herself 

By the Letters

By the Letters

After hunting around for an ABC book for her daughter Nola, then a preschooler, Melissa Duke Mooney found the available choices less than inspiring. Then she got an idea: "I should do an ABC book with a rock theme," she told her husband, "a different band for every letter."

And thus was born The ABCs of Rock. An avid music fan and a musician herself, Melissa saw an opening on the bookshelf and set out to fill it. Necessity, as the saying goes, is the mother of invention, though it should be noted that The Mothers of Invention are not included in the book. Those that made the cut — including AC/DC (A), The White Stripes (W) and Elvis Costello (E) — are each accompanied by eye-popping, rock show poster-style graphics created by Bowling Green, Ky.-based screenprint collective Print Mafia. As cool as the book is — the dust jacket doubles as a poster — it almost never got made.

In February 2009, the project was in full swing. (Perhaps ironically, the phrase "easy as ABC" can be applied to many situations, but getting the management of 26 different musical acts to sign off on permission to use their names in an ABC book is not one of them.) It was slow going, but the artwork looked fantastic, and things were progressing. Then one night, Melissa woke up with a severe headache.

"Twenty-four hours later," her husband Neil Mooney says, "she was gone." The cause of death: meningitis. She was 41. (In her five years in Nashville, Melissa had become a beloved member of East Nashville's community of artists and musicians. Her New Orleans-style second-line funeral parade, complete with brass band, stretched on for several blocks.)

"I hoped we could still put out the book," Neil says. "She'd been so excited about it — I thought that her dream did not have to die just because she did." Tricycle Press, the publisher, agreed to go forward, and two friends of the family, Anissa Mason and Skip Rudsenske, helped see the project to completion. The result is something like the perfect cross between language-learning primer and hipster coffee table book.

Today, both Mooney girls, Nola and Tallulah, know their ABCs — and maybe just as important, they know the difference between R.E.M. and Nirvana.

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16, there will be a book release party at Grimey's, featuring a signing by Print Mafia illustrators, a set of kid-friendly music by Neil Mooney's band The Red Caps, coloring activities, snacks and refreshments, and in the spirit of rock 'n'roll, temporary tattoos.


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