Music is fundamental to human existence; it is embedded in our evolution and encoded in our DNA, which is to say, essential to our survival. Academics in a variety of disciplines have devised explanations that Richard Manning, a lifelong journalist, finds hollow, incomplete, ivory-towered, and just plain wrong. He approaches the question from a wholly different angle, using his own guitar and banjo as instruments of discovery. In the process, he finds himself dancing in celebration of music rough and rowdy. American roots music is not a product of an elite leisure class, as some academics contend, but of explosive creativity among slaves, hillbillies, field hands, drunks, slackers, and hucksters. Yet these people--poor, working people--built the foundations of jazz, gospel, blues, bluegrass, rock 'n' roll, and country music, in an unparalleled burst of invention. Use this book to follow where Manning's guitar leads. Ultimately, it sings the American body electric.