Night Owl Reviews- May, 2015 Review by Terri, 4.5 Star – “Top Pick”
Get ready to take a trip to the past. This book is one man’s remembrances of his childhood and a time of change in the US. He shares stories of a more innocent time and a time where things were evolving quickly. He also shares his views on the USA today. I found it very well written and interesting. It was as if a friend or family member were sharing their life stories with you. That being said, you won’t be able to sit down and read this book in one sitting, or at least, I couldn’t. Thankfully it is broke down in sections so you can take your time to really enjoy what you are reading and if you are a boomer, remember your youth too. Also, while it is written from the west coast perspective, many of the themes, issues and problems were nationwide making them universal within the US. I would think this would pretty much be classified as an oral history book but I would suggest checking it out even if you’re not into history, especially if this is the era of your youth. There are some fantastic insights that some may not agree with but remember, this is one man’s view. From the beginning to the end, I enjoyed the stories, the view points and the pictures. Yes, there are lots of photos, some are family pictures while others are just pictures of the time and places. And, while I enjoyed this book, for the most part it’s going to be a one read book. However, sharing it with other boomers will have the memories flowing and sharing. This would also make a great book for anyone wanting to understand that time.
Cliff Branch shares his life and what it was like growing up in central California during the 50’s and 60’s. From hitchhiking and camping without adults to the Vietnam War, this age of transition is laid out through one man’s life. He continues with insights into today’s world and problems. While everyone may not agree with him, he does present his views with clarity and passion. Each section of is full of pictures and there is a bonus photo album at the end.
Book Summary '70s 'Mad Man' Cliff Branch Reflects on the Triumphs and Tribulations of the Boomer Generation in His New Book, American Made. American Made captures the zeitgeist of baby boomer-dominated American culture, starting in the '60s up to present day. Written by Cliff Branch, one of the pioneers in youth marketing during the post-Vietnam era, the book features an abundance of compelling photographs (over 600 images) chronicling the last 50 years of American pop, business and political culture. Heartfelt and humorous, the book is fearless in its scrutiny of the Boomer Generation. Throughout the book, Branch speaks frankly about his successes, failures and insights into the shifting American landscape. Having previously written a national best seller (under a pseudonym) about the pitfalls of excessive recreational drugs, Branch has a knack for connecting with fellow boomers. The book also highlights Branch's 46-year business partnership with Tom Spalding, whom he met at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo. Together, the two students became millionaires in their early 20s when they sold their first company to CBS, and subsequently launched (together and separately) multiple other national companies. American Made also presents a series of short essays written from "a marketeer's perspective" about American life under "boomer rule." The subjects range from Wall Street to Fox News to health care. In essence, Branch examines the Boomer's Generation's success in living up to its own '60s idealism and ponders its legacy as we transition into the digital age. Whether you're a member of the Baby Boomer Generation or know someone who is, you owe it to yourself to explore this entertaining journey down memory lane. More information, photos and sample chapters at AmericanMadeStory.com Annie's Publishing: #9781573977341
Reviewed by Diane Donovan
Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review,
Editor, California Bookwatch.
There's no better discussion that captures the nuances and feel of the boomer generation than American Made: A Boomer's Reflection.
The book begins in the 1960s and proceeds to modern times. It packs in over 600 color photo images and details the last fifty years of American pop, business and cultural changes from one of the pioneers in youth marketing during the post-Vietnam era - but that's only the tip of its iceberg.
American Made also reveals business partnerships and changing business environments with an eye to examining changing priorities, offering critiques of education, the growing pains and evolution of civil rights struggles, and personal and political processes.
It's difficult to easily categorize American Mede’s wide-reaching chronicle: call it an autobiography, then add in a healthy dose of social observation and reflection and make it personal with vignettes. Because that's the crux of Branch's survey: a personal approach to social change that shows its strength in the colorful words and photos.
American Made: A Boomer's Reflection
Author: Cliff Branch. Annie's Publishing 9781573977341
Daniel Blackburn is the Senior Correspondent and Co-Founder of Cal Coast News. He is also a veteran journalist, a best-selling author and the former capital bureau chief of the Orange County Register.
By Love Solutions on August 17, 2015
“It is hard to imagine reading this book and not like spending time with Cliff Branch. As others have noted, it's an enjoyable book that reader can pick up and putdown or be involved for lengthy periods. It will invoke smiles, LOL ha-ha, and pensive reflection on not-so-happy aspects of life. Reward yourself...”
5 Five Stars!
By D. Parmley on August 16, 2015
By D. Dee. August 13, 2015
“Great thing to have on my coffee table when International guests come through because of all the pictures. Inevitably they will often pick a little story or two to read aloud and we all end up laughing. The illustrations really add a lot to the stories and the book paints such a unique picture of central California, my guests just love it. I've had to replace this book several times because I end up giving it to them when they go. Who knows how many distant corners of the world will end up hearing the stories and thoughts of Cliff Branch? :-)"
Required Reading for High School Students
By Alison Serey on August 13, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
“As a boomer myself, I can say this read is a fun ride through the 60’s and a true reflection of the times. The author is brilliant, humorous, and hits the nail on the head – every time. The book should be required reading in every high school social studies class across the country. Imagine … a book every student and teacher would enjoy reading and benefit from at the same time! "
Baby Boomer’s Bible
By D. Davis on August 12, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
“What a surprising find! Witty, insightful, honest account of the Baby Boomers era!! I am from the Central Coast of California and growing up heard many stories of Cliff Branch as Central Coast Legend. When a friend told me I had to read this book I was not interested in another self-story, but after hearing a bunch of the stories second hand I decided to give it a try. I literally read the book cover to cover. The entire read I felt like I was getting the honest scoop on the times and that each story had a pearl of wisdom or lesson that I could take away. By the end of the book I had slightly re-written my perspective on the one historical time that I wish I had experienced. Thank you Cliff Branch for a great ride! A must read for anyone who is a Baby-Boomer or who is looking to better understand America's Greatest Generation...."
Loved the Journey!
By Cheryl Baum on August 7, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
“This book took me back in time. Being a boomer myself I loved reflecting on all of the things that we have accomplished in our lifetime. Cliff Branch puts this book together in such a way that you that you really felt like we made a difference. Fast forward to the present and a look at where we are now. Makes you think! So thought provoking"
American Made...a road less traveled
By SLOFireDon "Captn'" on April 16, 2015
“Jack Kerouac gave us the "Beat" generation of the 50's and Cliff Branch gives us intimate insight into the "Boomer" generation of the 60's and 70's! Cliff takes you down his road less traveled, from small towns like Carmel and San Luis Obispo, California to big time business adventures. He shares his insights, concerns and close personal relationships openly and holds those in public office and financial industries accountable for their actions. Both a personal history and a journey through time, with laugh out loud moments, American Made shines a clear light on past events and brings into focus what's around the corner."
The Way 20th Century History Should Be Written
By Scott Radovich on April 16, 2015
“Cliff Branch has taken us back to a time of tumult and triumph, of California's golden promise seen through the lens of a true entrepreneur. Well before the "dot commers", there were people like Cliff Branch who harnessed creativity into innovations. American Made is a great and fun read. It is the way 20th Century history should be taught."
Inspiring and thought-provoking
By B. McAdams on April 5, 2015
“A fun, inspiring and enlightening first-hand account of entrepreneurial spirit and the American Dream lived out in sunny California. Worth reading as a glimpse into the early days of California's rise as the country's cultural innovator, but even more so as a practical guide to being in business while keeping your soul. Every 18 year old should read it!"
Real American History
By Paul Barry on March 29, 2015
“The modern American success story - Cliff Branch looks back on his fascinating life over the last 50 years. Business, culture and family - hot tubs, hi-fis, race cars and computers, they are all here, captured with a keen eye for constant political and societal change. From the American Graffiti hot rod 50s, to the "peace and love" (and war) of the 60s, the drugs (and yes, the hot tubs) of the 70s, to the Wall Street excesses of the 80s and beyond, Cliff tells the true story of modern America.
Witty, honest and hopeful, this is a must read for all baby boomers, but more importantly, also for their children and grandchildren, to help them really understand the world we live in."
By John Summer on March 18, 2015
“When I was a college student in the late 60's to early 70's... all we cared about was music, protests and whatever would "enhance" both. But what was lacking was any thought of what we'd do after that. Then I became aware of a small niche among the "counter culture" movement that could actually create a business both serving, and (shamelessly) profiting off of the unique needs of our generation. I knew Cliff Branch before I actually came to know him. Through his unique marketing of both audio systems and hot tubs, Cliff was a hero and inspiration of mine back when most others were dropping out of the free market system that makes America such a vibrant land of opportunity and world enhancing innovation. As fellow residents of the Central Coast of California now, I'm proud to know Cliff and am sure after reading his wonderful homage to our special part of the world and how he's contributed to it, you will want to know Cliff too. 'American Made" is exactly what the title says it is. And Cliff is a blue chip example of what anyone can do in America, if they dream and work hard to make it so. And it doesn't hurt to have a good time along the way!"
By Bill Fro on March 11, 2015
“When I first picked it up, I was skeptical, thinking it might be simply a hodge-podge of someone's photos and personal reflections and not really all that relevant to me. Then I opened the pages and started the journey -- and what a journey -- a real trip, but without needing the drugs! This guy can write with a conversational ease, as well as with a probing insight, and the expressed wisdom and honesty of lessons learned. This is nostalgia at its best, something that leads you positively forward with a deep appreciation and understanding of where you've been. The photos are actually fabulous -- funny, poignant, cool, and eye-opening. Cliff and his friend and former partner, Tom Spalding, created or were involved in many activities and business ventures that touched my life and I would imagine many, many people out there, no matter where you're from -- you'll dig these guys. This was great time-tripping. Grab a cup of Joe, kick back, and take a great ride. I'm a boomer, but you don't have to be one to enjoy this book. As John Denver loved saying: "Far out, man!"
By Barbara Israel on March 6, 2015
“Funny, insightful, educational and enlightening. One of my favorite reads so far, this year. I recognized several of Cliff's accomplishments from my time growing up in the 70's, when his company’s advertising materials were part of the landscape of my life, growing up. Also loved his take on a number of the cultural touchstone's that have been a key part of being a baby boomer, everything from the heinous misdeeds of Wall Streeter to the insidious back story driving Fox News and its ilk. A fun read I was lucky to be turned onto.”
Not Just for Boomers Anymore. ;-)
By Angelea Walkup on March 6, 2015
“In the pages of Cliff Branch’s, American Made, you’re served generous helpings of The Wonder Years and Mad Men with a spicy side of The Social Network.”
A great read for the boomer generation...and what it was like for the non boomers.
By bobmga62 on March 4, 2015
“Baby boomers rejoice...Mr. Branch clearly captures the youth of growing up in the fifties and sixties... a great throwback of your youth and how as we all age, we all unite, whether it’s with the Beach Boys, Vietnam or the Lone Ranger, we discover so much in common, no matter which coast you grew up on.”
Deeply and enjoyably so
Comments by Sandy Hopper on Facebook:
“The Author, Cliff Branch said on the Dave Congalton radio show that the book was "a personal book." Deeply and enjoyably so. Thanks for writing it! Well, I am halfway through the book and really feeling like I am traveling through his life history. I especially enjoyed/ laughed a LOT at “stories from youth” in Monterey County! Daring guy(s)! I am in the middle section now, "Ages 44 to 65 in Four Pages". What I like about your book is the candid storytelling and most of all, the supporting facts/photos. I like the layout that references to the back of the book. Having all that supporting info in the "Scrapbook" lessens any interruption of the story in progress (that is if you don't read the back pages immediately, which I have EVERY TIME!) Good writing/sharing a life’s history. I am sure many more people will comment on how much they truly have enjoyed the book!"
By KCBX NEWSROOM
PBS for the Central Coast of California
Cliff Branch's new book, American Made: A Boomer's Reflection is part biography, part retrospective on what it was like to grow up during the 50s, 60s, and 70s on California's Central Coast.
Branch was raised in Santa Barbara, went to Cal Poly for college, and began his adventures as a serial entrepreneur in San Luis Obispo.
Branch also delivers his opinions on the nation's political culture—from the perspective of somebody who has a lot of experience with marketing.
Interview available on line at KCBX, PBS for the Central Coast.
Story by Gareth Kelly
Cliff Branch has done and seen it all.
As a teen he traveled to Asia during the Vietnam War, wrote a novel against the war to submit in his college writing class and then went on to start a successful stereo mail order equipment company right here in San Luis Obispo. Many parties later, Branch was selling hot tubs all over the U.S. under the auspices that buying a hot tub would lead to scantily clad women appearing everywhere.
More parties, appearances in Rolling Stone magazine and on The Today Show followed, and before he knew it he found himself surrounded by cocaine. At the point, he wrote a cocaine addiction self-help book under a pen name and it became a best seller.
Kids, a wife, properties and more companies followed before Branch found himself as an antiwar activist again—this time the second Iraq war. In 2006, after spending around $40,000 of his own money on a full-page anti-war ad in USA Today, Branch was now political and, in 2008, even helped get Obama elected rallying against Republicans in YouTube videos and a DVD.
Finally, about a year and a half ago Branch sat down and wrote a book, American Made, a Boomers Reflection. It’s a memoir chronicling not only an incredible life but also the life of America all told through his eyes as part of the baby Boomer generation.
“My mom died a few years ago and I came across all these old boxes of stuff simply labeled ‘Family Stuff’” Branch said. “It was full of newspaper cuttings, postcards, pictures, all sorts of stuff. My dad was a writer and editor. He wrote some classic pulp fiction and both he and my mom always said they wish they had written something. Luckily these boxes of memories my mom had saved provided the perfect inspiration for my story.”
A serial entrepreneur, Branch was in his mid sixties and like many Boomers started to realize getting old was very real and that one’s body starts to deteriorate. Coupled with the recent recession in which he saw many friends lose all their retirement funds overnight, Branch got some devastating news. “I got diagnosed with a serious disease,” Branch said. “It made me very reflective.”
“This is going on with many Boomers as they start to assess their morality. I really started to look back at my life and what it all meant. I had been lucky. I was born to a relatively affluent family in Coastal California in the fifties, life was good. We traveled, we had adventures and life seemed easy. It also turned out that the doctors were wrong about the disease, it was only a scare, but it had been enough to make me want to sit down and write this book.”
Branch was not new to writing. There was that anti-Vietnam novel, that he wrote while attending college at Cal Poly, after traveling to Asia – he submitted it to his professor only to be told it was “sloppily written” and contained “totally inappropriate subject matter.” Then in the late seventies Branch had had a fling with that era’s drug of choice, cocaine. Managing to finally kick its addictive lure, he wrote the best selling self-help book The All American Cocaine Story in 1983 under the pen name David Britt.
“Life was wild back then,” said Branch. “I was selling redwood hot tubs under the California Cooperage name and I was doing really well. Life was good. There were girls, money and then cocaine. It was a part of my life, but I realized I needed to stop. When I saw there were no books out there to help, I decided to write one. I used a pen name so as not to cause distress for both my personal and professional life. These days with the internet I would have been found out very quickly.”
Many businesses followed, as did real estate deals and developments and in the early nineties, Branch reconnected with an old friend Tom Spalding. The two of them were off to Asia, this time to launch a high tech computer company Ergo Computers. Today, Branch owns buildings up and down the California Coast including the Morgan Stanley building in SLO where his office is located. American Made, his book, speaks to the millions of baby Boomers starting to reflect on life in a different time. The 1950s America seems rosy through tinted glasses but Branch pulls no punches when critiquing the many flaws of his generation. In fact, towards the end of the book Branch is scathing about many issues from the corruption on Wall Street, the abject failure of the Iraq War, America’s obsession with guns, religion and politics and many more issues. Clearly a man not afraid to speak his mind and clearly a man who has used his success for good, American Made is not only a fascinating look back at a period of American history but also illustrates how some things never change. The issues Branch discusses are as timely today as they were in the fifties. His wit and visceral descriptions on life provide for a most entertaining read. More than simply just a book, Branch is always looking for the next thing or issue or project to get involved with. Perhaps that next project will be working with Millennials, a group Branch touches on towards the end of the book.
In talking with Branch, one can see he still has that twinkle in his eye and is fascinated by humanity and the world around us. For more information on American Made, A Boomers Reflection or the author visit www.AmericanMadeStory.com
This brief newspaper article could never do this great man justice – his book and his own prose does. Having now become a new personal hero of this writer I highly recommend everyone goes and reads American Made. Gareth would love to travel back to the 50s especially if he could take all the sports results with him. What period in time would you love to visit? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow all his ramblings at garethckelly.com