Started by the National Life and Accident Insurance Company in 1925, WSM became one of the most influential and exceptional radio stations in the history of broadcasting and country music. WSM gave Nashville the moniker “Music City USA” as well as a rich tradition of music, news, and broad-based entertainment. With the rise of country music broadcasting and recording between the 1920s and ‘50s, WSM, Nashville, and country music became inseparable, stemming from WSM’s launch of the Grand Ole Opry, popular daily shows like Noontime Neighbors, and early morning artist-driven shows such as Hank Williams on Mother’s Best Flour.
Sparked by public outcry following a proposal to pull country music and the Opry from WSM-AM in 2002, Craig Havighurst scoured new and existing sources to document the station’s profound effect on the character and self-image of Nashville. Introducing the reader to colorful artists and businessmen from the station’s history, including Owen Bradley, Minnie Pearl, Jim Denny, Edwin Craig, and Dinah Shore, the volume invites the reader to reflect on the status of Nashville, radio, and country music in American culture.
Bean Blossom, Indiana--near Brown County State Park and the artist-colony town of Nashville, Indiana--is home to the annual Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival, founded in 1967 by Bill Monroe, the father of bluegrass. Widely recognized as the oldest continuously running bluegrass music festival in the world, this June festival's roots run back to late 1951, when Monroe purchased the Brown County Jamboree, a live weekly country music show presented between April and November each year. Over the years, Monroe's festival featured the top performers in bluegrass music, including Jimmy Martin, Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs, the Goins Brothers, the Stanley Brothers, and many more.
Thomas A. Adler's history of Bean Blossom traces the long and colorful life of the Brown County Jamboree and Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Festival. Adler discusses the development of bluegrass music, the many personalities involved in the bluegrass music scene, the interplay of local, regional, and national interests, and the meaning of this venue to the music's many performers--both professional and amateur--and its legions of fans.
The most atypical of bluegrass artists, Bill Clifton has enjoyed a long career as a recording artist, performer, and champion of old-time music. Bill C. Malone pens the story of Clifton's eclectic life and influential career. Born into a prominent Maryland family, Clifton connected with old-time music as a boy. Clifton made records around earning a Master's degree, fifteen years in the British folk scene, and stints in the Peace Corps and Marines. Yet that was just the beginning. Closely allied with the Carter Family, Woody Guthrie, Mike Seeger, and others, Clifton altered our very perceptions of the music--organizing one of the first outdoor bluegrass festivals, publishing a book of folk and gospel standards that became a cornerstone of the folk revival, and introducing both traditional and progressive bluegrass around the world. As Malone shows, Clifton clothed the music of working-class people in the vestments of romance, celebrating the log cabin as a refuge from modernism that rang with the timeless music of Appalachia. An entertaining account by an eminent music historian, Bill Clifton clarifies the myths and illuminates the paradoxes of an amazing musical life.
The Father of Bluegrass Music, Bill Monroe was a major star of the Grand Ole Opry for over fifty years; a member of the Country Music, Songwriters, and Rock and Roll Halls of Fame; and a legendary figure in American music. This authoritative biography sets out to examine his life in careful detail--to move beyond hearsay and sensationalism to explain how and why he accomplished so much. Former Blue Grass Boy and longtime music journalist Tom Ewing draws on hundreds of interviews, his personal relationship with Monroe, and an immense personal archive of materials to separate the truth from longstanding myth. Ewing tells the story of the Monroe family's musical household and Bill's early career in the Monroe Brothers duo. He brings to life Monroe's 1940s heyday with the Classic Bluegrass Band, the renewed fervor for his music sparked by the folk revival of the 1960s, and his declining fortunes in the years that followed. Throughout, Ewing deftly captures Monroe's relationships and the personalities of an ever-shifting roster of band members while shedding light on his business dealings and his pioneering work with Bean Blossom and other music festivals. Filled with a wealth of previously unknown details, Bill Monroe offers even the most devoted fan a deeper understanding of Monroe's towering achievements and timeless music.
Bluegrass Ambassadors is the first book-length study of the McLain Family Band, which has spread the gospel of bluegrass for more than fifty years. Rooted in bluegrass but also collaborating with classical composers and performing folk, jazz, gospel, and even marches, the band traveled to sixty-two foreign countries in the 1970s under the auspices of the State Department. The band’s verve and joyful approach to its art perfectly suited its ambassadorial role. After retiring as full-time performers, most members of the group became educators, with patriarch Raymond K. McLain’s work at Berea College playing a particularly important role in bringing bluegrass to the higher education curriculum.
Interpreting the band’s diverse repertoire as both a source of its popularity and a reason for its exclusion from the bluegrass pantheon, Paul Jenkins advances subtle arguments about genre, criticism, and audience. Bluegrass Ambassadors analyzes the McLains’ compositions, recordings, and performances, and features a complete discography.
Bluegrass Bluesman: A Memoir
Josh Graves; Edited by Fred Bartenstein; Foreword by Neil Rosenberg University of Illinois Press, 2012 Library of Congress ML418.G73A3 2012 | Dewey Decimal 787.871642092
A pivotal member of the hugely successful bluegrass band Flatt and Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys, Dobro pioneer Josh Graves (1927-2006) was a living link between bluegrass music and the blues. In Bluegrass Bluesman, this influential performer shares the story of his lifelong career in music.
In lively anecdotes, Graves describes his upbringing in East Tennessee and the climate in which bluegrass music emerged during the 1940s. Deeply influenced by the blues, he adapted Earl Scruggs's revolutionary banjo style to the Dobro resonator slide guitar and gave the Foggy Mountain Boys their distinctive sound. Graves' accounts of daily life on the road through the 1950s and 1960s reveal the band's dedication to musical excellence, Scruggs' leadership, and an often grueling life on the road. He also comments on his later career when he played in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass and the Earl Scruggs Revue and collaborated with the likes of Boz Scaggs, Charlie McCoy, Kenny Baker, Eddie Adcock, Jesse McReynolds, Marty Stuart, Jerry Douglas, Alison Krauss, and his three musical sons. A colorful storyteller, Graves brings to life the world of an American troubadour and the mountain culture that he never left behind.
Born in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, Josh Graves (1927-2006) is universally acknowledged as the father of the bluegrass Dobro. In 1997 he was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
Bluegrass Breakdown is an expansive foray into the makings of bluegrass. More than any other book of its kind, it gets to the roots of a uniquely American music that is deeply linked to working-class ideals and romanticism.
Robert Cantwell engages the historical background, commercial origins, internal workings, and cultural and social significance of popular, old-time music to provide a unique musicological and sociological perspective. Well versed in the history of the tradition and equally as interested in those who listen to the music as in those who create it, Cantwell links bluegrass to its hillbilly roots in Appalachia and shows how the music was transformed by African American folk traditions, the influence of jazz, ragtime, blues, and country music, and the growth of radio and recording technology.
Neil V. Rosenberg met the legendary Bill Monroe at the Brown County Jamboree. Rosenberg's subsequent experiences in Bean Blossom put his feet on the intertwined musical and scholarly paths that made him a preeminent scholar of bluegrass music. Rosenberg's memoir shines a light on the changing bluegrass scene of the early 1960s. Already a fan and aspiring musician, his appetite for banjo music quickly put him on the Jamboree stage. Rosenberg eventually played with Monroe and spent four months managing the Jamboree. Those heights gave him an eyewitness view of nothing less than bluegrass's emergence from the shadow of country music into its own distinct art form. As the likes of Bill Keith and Del McCoury played, Rosenberg watched Monroe begin to share a personal link to the music that tied audiences to its history and his life--and helped turn him into bluegrass's foundational figure. An intimate look at a transformative time, Bluegrass Generation tells the inside story of how an American musical tradition came to be.
While other work on Bill Monroe has been written from a historical point of view, Come Hither to Go Yonder is told from the perspective of a musician who was actually there. Filled with observations made from the unique vantage point of a man who has traveled and performed extensively with the master, this book is Bob Black's personal memoir about the profound influence that Monroe exerted on the musicians who have carried on the bluegrass tradition in the wake of his 1996 death.
This volume also includes a complete listing of Bob Black's appearances with Monroe, his most memorable experiences while they worked together, brief descriptions of the more important musicians and bands mentioned, and suggestions for further reading and listening. Offering a rare perspective on the creative forces that drove one of America's greatest composers and musical innovators, Come Hither to Go Yonder will deeply reward any fans of Bill Monroe, of bluegrass, or of American vernacular music.
This volume is an encyclopedia of country music performers who have used comedy as a central component of their presentation. Loyal Jones offers a conversational and informative biographical sketch of each performer, often including a sample of the musician's humor, a recording history, and amusing anecdotal tidbits. In an entertaining style, Jones covers performers throughout the twentieth century, from such early stars of vaudeville and radio barn dances as the Skillet Lickers and the Weaver Brothers and Elviry, to regulars on Hee Haw and the Grand Old Opry, continuing to current comedians such as the Austin Lounge Lizards, Ray Stevens, and Jeff Foxworthy.
In Creating Country Music, Richard Peterson traces the development of country music and its institutionalization from Fiddlin' John Carson's pioneering recordings in Atlanta in 1923 to the posthumous success of Hank Williams. Peterson captures the free-wheeling entrepreneurial spirit of the era, detailing the activities of the key promoters who sculpted the emerging country music scene. More than just a history of the music and its performers, this book is the first to explore what it means to be authentic within popular culture.
"[Peterson] restores to the music a sense of fun and diversity and possibility that more naive fans (and performers) miss. Like Buck Owens, Peterson knows there is no greater adventure or challenge than to 'act naturally.'"—Ken Emerson, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A triumphal history and theory of the country music industry between 1920 and 1953."—Robert Crowley, International Journal of Comparative Sociology
"One of the most important books ever written about a popular music form."—Timothy White, Billboard Magazine
In this first biography of legendary banjoist J. D. Crowe, Marty Godbey charts the life and career of one of bluegrass's most important innovators. Born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, Crowe picked up the banjo when he was thirteen years old, inspired by a Flatt & Scruggs performance at the Kentucky Barn Dance. Godbey relates the long, distinguished career that followed, as Crowe performed and recorded both solo and as part of such varied ensembles as Jimmy Martin's Sunny Mountain Boys, the all-acoustic Kentucky Mountain Boys, and the revolutionary New South, who created an adventurously eclectic brand of bluegrass by merging rock and country music influences with traditional forms. Over the decades, this highly influential group launched the careers of many other fresh talents such as Keith Whitley, Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Jerry Douglas, and Doyle Lawson.
With a selective discography and drawing from more than twenty interviews with Crowe and dozens more with the players who know him best, Crowe on the Banjo: The Music Life of J. D. Crowe is the definitive music biography of a true bluegrass original.
Bluegrass has found an unlikely home, and avid following, in the Czech Republic. The music’s emergence in Central Europe places it within an increasingly global network of communities built around bluegrass activities.
Lee Bidgood offers a fascinating study of the Czech bluegrass phenomenon that merges intimate immersion in the music with on-the-ground fieldwork informed by his life as a working musician. Drawing on his own close personal and professional interactions, Bidgood charts how Czech bluegrass put down roots and looks at its performance as a uniquely Czech musical practice. He also reflects on “Americanist” musical projects and the ways Czech musicians use them to construct personal and social identities. Bidgood sees these acts of construction as a response to the Czech Republic’s postsocialist environment but also to US cultural prominence within our global mediascape.
The richness of Detroit’s music history has by now been well established. We know all about Motown, the MC5, and Iggy and the Stooges. We also know about the important part the Motor City has played in the history of jazz. But there are stories about the music of Detroit that remain untold. One of the lesser known but nonetheless fascinating histories is contained within Detroit’s country music roots. At last, Craig Maki and Keith Cady bring to light Detroit’s most important country and western and bluegrass stars, such as Chief Redbird, the York Brothers, and Roy Hall. Beyond the individuals, Maki and Cady also map out the labels, radio programs, and performance venues that sustained Detroit’s vibrant country and bluegrass music scene. In the process, Detroit Country Music examines how and why the city’s growth in the early twentieth century, particularly the southern migration tied to the auto industry, led to this vibrant roots music scene.
This is the first book—the first resource of any kind—to tell the story of Detroit’s contributions to country music. Craig Maki and Keith Cady have spent two decades collecting music and images, and visiting veteran musicians to amass more than seventy interviews about country music in Detroit. Just as astounding as the book’s revelations are the photographs, most of which have never been published before. Detroit Country Musicwill be essential reading for music historians, record collectors, roots music fans, and Detroit music aficionados.
One of the earliest performers on WSM in Nashville, Uncle Dave Macon became the Grand Ole Opry's first superstar. His old-time music and energetic stage shows made him a national sensation and fueled a thirty-year run as one of America's most beloved entertainers. Michael D. Doubler tells the amazing story of the Dixie Dewdrop, a country music icon. Born in 1870, David Harrison Macon learned the banjo from musicians passing through his parents' Nashville hotel. After playing local shows in Middle Tennessee for decades, a big break led Macon to Vaudeville, the earliest of his two hundred-plus recordings and eventually to national stardom. Uncle Dave--clad in his trademark plug hat and gates-ajar collar--soon became the face of the Opry itself with his spirited singing, humor, and array of banjo picking styles. For the rest of his life, he defied age to tour and record prolifically, manage his business affairs, mentor up-and-comers like David "Stringbean" Akeman, and play with the Delmore Brothers, Roy Acuff, and Bill Monroe.
As charismatic and gifted as he was volatile, Jimmy Martin recorded dozens of bluegrass classics and co-invented the high lonesome sound. Barbara Martin Stephens became involved with the King of Bluegrass at age seventeen. Don't Give your Heart to a Rambler tells the story of their often tumultuous life together. Barbara bore his children and took on a crucial job as his booking agent when the agent he was using failed to obtain show dates for the group. Female booking agents were non-existent at that time but she persevered and went on to become the first female booking agent on Music Row. She also endured years of physical and emotional abuse at Martin's hands. With courage and candor, Barbara tells of the suffering and traces the hard-won personal growth she found inside marriage, motherhood, and her work. Her vivid account of Martin's explosive personality and torment over his exclusion from the Grand Ole Opry fill in the missing details on a career renowned for being stormy. Yet, Barbara also shares her own journey, one of good humor and proud achievements, and filled with fond and funny recollections of the music legends and ordinary people she met, befriended, and represented along the way. Straightforward and honest, Don't Give your Heart to a Rambler is a woman's story of the world of bluegrass and one of its most colorful, conflicted artists.
Recorded in 1949, "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" changed the face of American music. Earl Scruggs's instrumental essentially transformed the folk culture that came before it while helping to energize bluegrass's entry into the mainstream in the 1960s. The song has become a gateway to bluegrass for musicians and fans alike as well as a happily inescapable track in film and television. Thomas Goldsmith explores the origins and influence of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" against the backdrop of Scruggs's legendary career. Interviews with Scruggs, his wife Louise, disciple Bela Fleck, and sidemen like Curly Seckler, Mac Wiseman, and Jerry Douglas shed light on topics like Scruggs's musical evolution and his working relationship with Bill Monroe. As Goldsmith shows, the captivating sound of "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" helped bring back the banjo from obscurity and distinguished the low-key Scruggs as a principal figure in American acoustic music.Passionate and long overdue, Earl Scruggs and Foggy Mountain Breakdown takes readers on an ear-opening journey into two minutes and forty-three seconds of heaven.
In this definitive biography of Ernest Tubb, Ronnie Pugh brings one of country music’s greatest performers back to center stage. Tracing a career that began in the 1930s and continued until just a few years before Tubb’s death in 1984, Pugh presents not only the long and legendary life of the Texas Troubadour but also an unparalleled view of the world of country music in which Ernest Tubb played an essential part. Tubb began his career as an imitator of Jimmie Rodgers, but stormed the country music scene in the 1940s with a new honky tonk sound and a string of hits that included “Walking the Floor Over You.” His innovations marked an important transition in country music to a style and lyric in tune with modern American working people, or at least that offered the real-life themes of hard drinking, divorce, tough times, and ruined lives—changes that helped define the music we recognize today as “country.” A member of the Grand Ole Opry until 1982, Tubb hosted a live radio broadcast from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop in Nashville for years and became one of the first country music stars to host his own television show in the mid-1960s. Always popular and on the road much of the time even after his prime hit-making years had ended, he was well-known for promoting the careers of many new performers on the rise. Delving into fan club journals, songbooks, newspaper broadcast logs, record company files, and hundreds of interviews, Ronnie Pugh draws a picture of Tubb—exploring both his personal and professional life—that is unprecedented in its intimacy, detail, and vitality. We get a close-up view of Tubb riding the crest of his popularity, setting the pace for Nashville, facing the onslaught of Elvis Presley and rock ’n roll, and surviving as a country music legend. Richly illustrated with almost a hundred photographs, many of which are rare unpublished shots from private collections, Ernest Tubb also contains a detailed and complete sessionography, a resource that will be of continuing importance for serious record collectors. A biography that has been long awaited from Ronnie Pugh, unquestionably the leading authority on Ernest Tubb, this book will delight readers from among the fans of country music, those interested in the history of country music or American popular music and culture generally, and, of course, Ernest Tubb fans.
From Ann-Margret to Bob Dylan and George Jones to Simon & Garfunkel, Nashville harmonica virtuoso and multi-instrumentalist Charlie McCoy has contributed to some of the most successful recordings of country, pop, and rock music of the last six decades. As the leader of the Hee Haw “Million-Dollar Band,” McCoy spent more than two decades appearing on the television screens of country music fans around the United States. And, as a solo artist, he has entertained audiences across North America, Europe, and Japan and has earned numerous honors as a result. Fifty Cents and a Box Top: The Creative Life of Nashville Session Musician Charlie McCoy offers rare firsthand insights into life in the recording studio, on the road, and on the small screen as Nashville became a leading center of popular music production in the 1960s and as a young McCoy established himself as one of the most sought after session musicians in the country.
Gone to the Country chronicles the life and music of the New Lost City Ramblers, a trio of city-bred musicians who helped pioneer the resurgence of southern roots music during the folk revival of the late 1950s and 1960s. Formed in 1958 by Mike Seeger, John Cohen, and Tom Paley, the Ramblers introduced the regional styles of southern ballads, blues, string bands, and bluegrass to northerners yearning for a sound and an experience not found in mainstream music.
Ray Allen interweaves biography, history, and music criticism to follow the band from its New York roots to their involvement with the commercial folk music boom. Allen details their struggle to establish themselves amid critical debates about traditionalism brought on by their brand of folk revivalism. He explores how the Ramblers ascribed notions of cultural authenticity to certain musical practices and performers and how the trio served as a link between southern folk music and northern urban audiences who had little previous exposure to rural roots styles. Highlighting the role of tradition in the social upheaval of mid-century America, Gone to the Country draws on extensive interviews and personal correspondence with band members and digs deep into the Ramblers' rich trove of recordings.
The National Barn Dance was the nation's most popular country music radio show during the 1930s and 1940s, essentially defining country and western entertainment until it was supplanted by the Grand Ole Opry and rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. Broadcast for more than three decades from Chicago on WLS's powerful 50,000-watt signal, the show reached listeners throughout the Midwest, the East Coast, and large regions of the South, delivering popular entertainment to rural and urban areas and celebrating the folk traditions that were fading in an increasingly urbanized America.
Drawing on the colorful commentary of performers and former listeners, these essays analyze the National Barn Dance and its audience, trace the history of barn dance radio, explore the paradox of country music in a major urban center, investigate notions of authenticity in the presentation of country music and entertainment, and delve into other provocative issues raised by the barn dance phenomenon.
Contributors are Chad Berry, Michael T. Bertrand, Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Don Cusic, Wayne W. Daniel, Loyal Jones, Kristine M. McCusker, Stephen Parry, Susan Smulyan, Paul L. Tyler, and Michael Ann Williams.
Country music's debt to African American music has long been recognized. Black musicians have helped to shape the styles of many of the most important performers in the country canon. The partnership between Lesley Riddle and A. P. Carter produced much of the Carter Family's repertoire; the street musician Tee Tot Payne taught a young Hank Williams Sr.; the guitar playing of Arnold Schultz influenced western Kentuckians, including Bill Monroe and Ike Everly. Yet attention to how these and other African Americans enriched the music played by whites has obscured the achievements of black country-music performers and the enjoyment of black listeners.
The contributors to Hidden in the Mix examine how country music became "white," how that fictive racialization has been maintained, and how African American artists and fans have used country music to elaborate their own identities. They investigate topics as diverse as the role of race in shaping old-time record catalogues, the transracial West of the hick-hopper Cowboy Troy, and the place of U.S. country music in postcolonial debates about race and resistance. Revealing how music mediates both the ideology and the lived experience of race, Hidden in the Mix challenges the status of country music as "the white man’s blues."
Contributors. Michael Awkward, Erika Brady, Barbara Ching, Adam Gussow, Patrick Huber, Charles Hughes, Jeffrey A. Keith, Kip Lornell, Diane Pecknold, David Sanjek, Tony Thomas, Jerry Wever
From the 1930s to the 1960s, the booming popularity of country music threw a spotlight on a new generation of innovative women artists. These individuals blazed trails as singers, musicians, and performers even as the industry hemmed in their potential popularity with labels like woman hillbilly, singing cowgirl, and honky-tonk angel.
Stephanie Vander Wel looks at the careers of artists like Patsy Montana, Rose Maddox, and Kitty Wells against the backdrop of country music's golden age. Analyzing recordings and appearances on radio, film, and television, she connects performances to real and imagined places and examines how the music sparked new ways for women listeners to imagine the open range, the honky-tonk, and the home. The music also captured the tensions felt by women facing geographic disruption and economic uncertainty. While classic songs and heartfelt performances might ease anxieties, the subject matter underlined women's ambivalent relationships to industrialism, middle-class security, and established notions of femininity.
Long before the United States had presidents from the world of movies and reality TV, we had scores of politicians with connections to country music. In I’d Fight the World, Peter La Chapelle traces the deep bonds between country music and politics, from the nineteenth-century rise of fiddler-politicians to more recent figures like Pappy O’Daniel, Roy Acuff, and Rob Quist. These performers and politicians both rode and resisted cultural waves: some advocated for the poor and dispossessed, and others voiced religious and racial anger, but they all walked the line between exploiting their celebrity and righteously taking on the world. La Chapelle vividly shows how country music campaigners have profoundly influenced the American political landscape.
Brought by Appalachian migrants in search of jobs, bluegrass soon established itself as the cornerstone of a thriving music scene in southwestern Ohio. Fred Bartenstein and Curtis W. Ellison edit a collection of eyewitness narratives and in-depth analyses that explore southwestern Ohio’s bluegrass musicians, radio broadcasters, recording studios, record labels, performance venues, and festivals. The collection ranges from histories of the arrival of migrating "briars" to artists' accounts of their experiences and careers. As the scene grew, bluegrass reached new fans unconnected to Appalachia, nurtured the careers of the Osborne Brothers and others, and became an important facet of local public education and community development. The region's distinctive sound, meanwhile, influenced the wider world of bluegrass and roots music and the people who played it, produced it, and loved it.
Revelatory and multifaceted, Industrial Strength Bluegrass shares the inspiring story of a bluegrass hotbed and the people who created it.
Contributors: Fred Bartenstein, Curtis W. Ellison, Jon Hartley Fox, Rick Good, Lily Isaacs, Ben Krakauer, Russell “Mac” McDivitt, Nathan McGee, Daniel Mullins, Joe Mullins, Larry Nager, Phillip J. Obermiller, Bobby Osborne, and Neil V. Rosenberg
Across all imaginable borders, Johnny Cash fans show the appeal of a thoroughly American performer who simultaneously inspires people worldwide. A young Norwegian shows off his Johnny Cash tattoo. A Canadian vlogger sings “I Walk the Line” to camel herders in Egypt’s White Desert. A shopkeeper in Northern Ireland plays Cash as his constant soundtrack. A Dutchwoman coordinates the activities of Cash fans worldwide and is subsequently offered the privilege of sleeping in Johnny’s bedroom. And on a more global scale, millions of people watch Cash’s videos online, then express themselves through commentary and debate.
In Johnny Cash International, Hinds and Silverman examine digital and real-world fan communities and the individuals who comprise them, profiling their relationships to Cash and each other. Studying Johnny Cash’s international fans and their love for the man reveals new insights about music, fandom, and the United States.
As one of the best-known honky tonkers to appear in the wake of Hank Williams’s death, Faron Young was a popular presence on Nashville’s music scene for more than four decades. The Singing Sheriff produced a string of Top Ten hits, placed over eighty songs on the country music charts, and founded the long-running country music periodical Music City News in 1963. Flamboyant, impulsive, and generous, he helped and encouraged a new generation of talented songwriter-performers that included Willie Nelson and Bill Anderson. In 2000, four years after his untimely death, Faron was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Presenting the first detailed portrayal of this lively and unpredictable country music star, Diane Diekman masterfully draws on extensive interviews with Young’s family, band members, and colleagues. Impeccably researched, Diekman’s narrative also weaves anecdotes from Louisiana Hayride and other old radio shows with ones from Young’s business associates, including Ralph Emery. Her unique insider’s look into Young’s career adds to an understanding of the burgeoning country music entertainment industry during the key years from 1950 to 1980, when the music expanded beyond its original rural roots and blossomed into a national (ultimately, international) enterprise. Echoing Young’s characteristic ability to entertain and surprise fans, Diekman combines an account of his public career with a revealing, intimate portrait of his personal life.
A vocal group without peer, The Browns were central artists in the changing sound of country and American popular music at mid-century. They were part of major changes in the entertainment business and American culture, participated in the folk music movement in the ‘60’s, and saw the steady birth of rock ‘n’ roll up close as they worked with Presley and others. Illustrated with many never-before-published photographs, Looking Back to See is a remarkable story told here for the first time.
The Music of the Stanley Brothers brings together forty years of passionate research by scholar and record label owner Gary Reid. A leading authority on Carter and Ralph Stanley, Reid augments his own vast knowledge of their music with interviews, documents ranging from books to folios sold by the brothers at shows, and the words of Ralph Stanley, former band members, guest musicians, session producers, songwriters, and bluegrass experts. The result is a reference that illuminates the Stanleys' art and history. It is all here: dates and locations; the roster of players on well-known and obscure sessions alike; master/matrix and catalog/release numbers, with reissue information; a full discography sorting out the Stanleys' complex recording history; the stories behind the music; and exquisitely informed biographical notes that place events in the context of the brothers' careers and lives.
Monumental and indispensable, The Music of the Stanley Brothers provides fans and scholars alike with a guide for immersion in the long career and breathtaking repertoire of two legendary American musicians.
We were going down the road, and we came to this house. There was a little boy standing by the road just crying and crying. We stopped, and we heard the biggest racket you ever heard up in the house. œWhat ™s the matter, son? œWhy, Maw and Paw are up there fightin ™. œWho is your Paw, son? œWell, that ™s what they are fightin ™ over. Brimming with ballads, stories, riddles, tall tales, and great good humor, My Curious and Jocular Heroes pays homage to four people who guided and inspired Loyal Jones ™s own study of Appalachian culture. His sharp-eyed portraits introduce a new generation to Bascom Lunsford, the pioneer behind the œmemory collections of song and story at Columbia University and the Library of Congress; the Sorbonne-educated collector and performer Josiah H. Combs; Cratis D. Williams, the legendary father of Appalachian studies; and the folklorist and master storyteller Leonard W. Roberts. Throughout, Jones highlights the tales, songs, jokes, and other collected nuggets that define the breadth of each man ™s research and repertoire.
"'All I gotta do is act naturally,' Buck Owens sang, and Pamela Fox knows where the acting comes in. From early hillbilly acts to alt.country, Natural Acts lays bare, with wide-ranging scholarship and incisive analysis, the ideologies of authenticity on which country music rests. As engrossing and useful as any book I know on country music."
---Eric Lott, author of Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class
"The first completely mature book of country music historical criticism. It is a deep investigation of country music's power to articulate the displaced pleasures and anxieties of a society wracked by structural change. Historically rigorous, Fox uncovers documents that demonstrate the ongoing power of minstrelsy in barn dance programs across the country past World War II; musically and lyrically astute, she shows how the best honky-tonk music simultaneously critiques the dangers of that setting while seductively luring listeners to those sawdust and alcohol drenched environments; with her ear attuned to the formal complexities of autobiography, Fox directs our attention to the contradictory performance of identity that characterizes the life stories of Reba McEntire, Naomi Judd, Dolly Parton, and others. Natural Acts is provocative, stunning, and engagingly written. Country music studies has come of age."
---Barry Shank, The Ohio State University
Whether found in country barn dances, the plaintive twang of Hank Williams, the glitzy glamour of Dolly Parton, or the country-pop sound of Faith Hill, country music has always maintained an allegiance to its own authenticity. Its specific sounds and images have changed over the past century, but country music has consistently been associated with rusticity, a notion connected to the working class and rooted in ideals like unspoiled rural life and values and humble origins. The music suggests not only uncomplicated musical arrangements and old-time instruments such as the banjo and fiddle, but performers who identify with their everyday fans.
Natural Acts explores the ways that country musicians---particularly women artists---have established a "natural" country identity. Pamela Fox focuses on five revealing moments in country performance: blackface comedy during country music's "Golden Age" of pre-1945 radio and stage programming; the minstrel's "rube" or hillbilly equivalent in the same period; postwar honky-tonk music and culture; the country star memoir or autobiography of the '80s and '90s; and the recent roots phenomenon known as alt.country.
Pamela Fox is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program at Georgetown University. She is the author of Class Fictions: Shame and Resistance in the British Working-Class Novel, 1890-1945 and coeditor (with Barbara Ching) of Old Roots, New Routes: The Cultural Politics of Alt.Country Music.
Photo: Lulu Belle Wiseman and Red Foley, 1930s. Courtesy of Country Music Hall of Fame ® and Museum.
A star par excellence, Dolly Parton is one of country music’s most likable personalities. Even a hard-rocking punk or orchestral aesthete can’t help cracking a smile or singing along with songs like “Jolene” and “9 to 5.” More than a mere singer or actress, Parton is a true cultural phenomenon, immediately recognizable and beloved for her talent, tinkling laugh, and steel magnolia spirit. She is also the only female star to have her own themed amusement park: Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. Every year thousands of fans flock to Dollywood to celebrate the icon, and Helen Morales is one of those fans.
In Pilgrimage to Dollywood, Morales sets out to discover Parton’s Tennessee. Her travels begin at the top celebrity pilgrimage site of Elvis Presley’s Graceland, then take her to Loretta Lynn’s ranch in Hurricane Mills; the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville; to Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; and finally to Pigeon Forge, home of the “Dolly Homecoming Parade,” featuring the star herself as grand marshall. Morales’s adventure allows her to compare the imaginary Tennessee of Parton’s lyrics with the real Tennessee where the singer grew up, looking at essential connections between country music, the land, and a way of life. It’s also a personal pilgrimage for Morales. Accompanied by her partner, Tony, and their nine-year-old daughter, Athena (who respectively prefer Mozart and Miley Cyrus), Morales, a recent transplant from England, seeks to understand America and American values through the celebrity sites and attractions of Tennessee.
This celebration of Dolly and Americana is for anyone with an old country soul who relies on music to help understand the world, and it is guaranteed to make a Dolly Parton fan of anyone who has not yet fallen for her music or charisma.
The tragicomic life story of one of America's best-known country entertainers, told with warmth and honesty
This book recounts the fascinating life of Roni Stoneman, the youngest daughter of the pioneering country music family, and a girl who, in spite of poverty and abusive husbands, eventually became "The First Lady of Banjo," a fixture on the Nashville scene, and, as Hee Haw's Ironing Board Lady, a comedienne beloved by millions of Americans nationwide.
Drawn from over seventy-five hours of recorded interviews, Pressing On reveals that Roni is also a master storyteller. In her own words and with characteristic spunk and candor, she describes her "pooristic" ("way beyond 'poverty-stricken'") Appalachian childhood, and how she learned from her brother Scott to play the challenging and innovative three-finger banjo picking style developed by Earl Scruggs. She also warmly recounts Hee Haw-era adventures with Minnie Pearl, Roy Clark, and Buck Owens; her encounters as a musician with country greats including Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, June Carter, and Patsy Cline; as well as her personal struggles with shiftless and violent husbands, her relationships with her children, and her musical life after Hee Haw.
The first book devoted entirely to women in bluegrass, Pretty Good for a Girl documents the lives of more than seventy women whose vibrant contributions to the development of bluegrass have been, for the most part, overlooked. Accessibly written and organized by decade, the book begins with Sally Ann Forrester, who played accordion and sang with Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys from 1943 to 1946, and continues into the present with artists such as Alison Krauss, Rhonda Vincent, and the Dixie Chicks. Drawing from extensive interviews, well-known banjoist Murphy Hicks Henry gives voice to women performers and innovators throughout bluegrass's history, including such pioneers as Bessie Lee Mauldin, Wilma Lee Cooper, and Roni and Donna Stoneman; family bands including the Lewises, Whites, and McLains; and later pathbreaking performers such as the Buffalo Gals and other all-girl bands, Laurie Lewis, Lynn Morris, Missy Raines, and many others.
With its steel guitars, Opry stars, and honky-tonk bars, country music is an American original. The most popular music in America today, it’s also big business. Amazing, then, that country music has been so little studied by critics, given its predominance in American culture. Reading Country Music acknowledges the significance of country music as part of an authentic American heritage and turns a loving, critical eye toward understanding the sweep of this peculiarly American phenomenon. Bringing together a wide range of scholars and critics from literature, communications, history, sociology, art, and music, this anthology looks at everything from the inner workings of the country music industry to the iconography of certain stars to the development of distinctive styles within the country music genre. Essays include a look at the shift from "hard-core" to "soft-shell" country music in recent years; Johnny Cash as lesbian icon; gender, class, and region in Dolly Parton’s star image; and bluegrass’s gothic tradition. Originally published as a special issue of South Atlantic Quarterly, this expanded book edition includes new articles on the spirituality of Willie Nelson, the legacy and tradition of stringed music, and the revival of Stephen Foster’s blackface musical, among others.
Contributors. Mary A. Bufwack, Don Cusic, Curtis W. Ellison, Mark Fenster, Vivien Green Fryd, Teresa Goddu, T. Walter Herbert, Christine Kreyling, Michael Kurek, Amy Schrager Lang, Charmaine Lanham, Bill Malone, Christopher Metress, Jocelyn Neal, Teresa Ortega, Richard A. Peterson, Ronnie Pugh, John W. Rumble, David Sanjek, Cecelia Tichi, Pamela Wilson, Charles K. Wolfe
In Lockhart, Texas, a rural working-class town just south of Austin, country music is a way of life. Conversation slips easily into song, and the songs are full of conversation. Anthropologist and musician Aaron A. Fox spent years in Lockhart making research notes, music, and friends. In Real Country, he provides an intimate, in-depth ethnography of the community and its music. Showing that country music is deeply embedded in the textures of working-class life, Fox argues that it is the cultural and intellectual property of working-class people and not only of the Nashville-based music industry or the stars whose lives figure so prominently in popular and scholarly writing about the genre.
Fox spent hundreds of hours observing, recording, and participating in talk and music-making in homes, beer joints, and garage jam sessions. He renders the everyday life of Lockhart’s working-class community in detail, right down to the ice cold beer, the battered guitars, and the technical skills of such local musical legends as Randy Meyer and Larry “Hoppy” Hopkins. Throughout, Fox focuses on the human voice. His analyses of conversations, interviews, songs, and vocal techniques show how feeling and experience are expressed, and how local understandings of place, memory, musical aesthetics, working-class social history, race, and gender are shared. In Real Country, working-class Texans re-imagine their past and give voice to the struggles and satisfactions of their lives in the present through music.
River of Tears is the first ethnography of Brazilian country music, one of the most popular genres in Brazil yet least-known outside it. Beginning in the mid-1980s, commercial musical duos practicing música sertaneja reached beyond their home in Brazil’s central-southern region to become national bestsellers. Rodeo events revolving around country music came to rival soccer matches in attendance. A revival of folkloric rural music called música caipira, heralded as música sertaneja’s ancestor, also took shape. And all the while, large numbers of Brazilians in the central-south were moving to cities, using music to support the claim that their Brazil was first and foremost a rural nation.
Since 1998, Alexander Sebastian Dent has analyzed rural music in the state of São Paulo, interviewing and spending time with listeners, musicians, songwriters, journalists, record-company owners, and radio hosts. Dent not only describes the production and reception of this music, he also explains why the genre experienced such tremendous growth as Brazil transitioned from an era of dictatorship to a period of intense neoliberal reform. Dent argues that rural genres reflect a widespread anxiety that change has been too radical and has come too fast. In defining their music as rural, Brazil’s country musicians—whose work circulates largely in cities—are criticizing an increasingly inescapable urban life characterized by suppressed emotions and an inattentiveness to the past. Their performances evoke a river of tears flowing through a landscape of loss—of love, of life in the countryside, and of man’s connections to the natural world.
Joe Wilson served for twenty-eight years as executive director of the National Folk Festival and National Council for Traditional Arts. Throughout his impressive career, Wilson wrote extensively and colorfully about many facets of vernacular music in North America, including works on major folk instruments, as well as on characteristic musical styles, especially old-time, bluegrass, modern country, blues, cowboy, a cappella gospel, and others. This volume, a companion to Lucky Joe’s Namesake: The Extraordinary Life and Observations of Joe Wilson, compiles Wilson’s best writings on musical topics, including some previously unpublished works.
With wry humor, Wilson covers the origins of roots music in eighteenth-century America and its subsequent dispersion through races, classes, ethnic groups, and newly settled regions. Wilson knew, worked with, and wrote about many iconic artists of the twentieth century, including Willie Nelson, Doc Watson, Clarence Ashley, the Stanley Brothers, Kenny Baker, Cephas & Wiggins, John Jackson, and members of the Hill Billies—the band whose name came to signify an entire genre of the earliest recorded roots music. This carefully curated volume is comprised of works previously scattered in liner notes, small-circulation magazines, tour booklets, and unpublished manuscripts, all collected here and organized by theme.
The writings of this legendary, internationally recognized figure will be indispensable to roots music fans and will delight readers and students interested in the traditional arts and dedicated to preserving historic folkways.
Fred Bartenstein teaches country and bluegrass music history at the University of Dayton. He is the editor of Bluegrass Bluesman: Josh Graves, a Memoir and coauthor and editor of The Bluegrass Hall of Fame: Inductee Biographies, 1991–2014
In Segregating Sound, Karl Hagstrom Miller argues that the categories that we have inherited to think and talk about southern music bear little relation to the ways that southerners long played and heard music. Focusing on the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth, Miller chronicles how southern music—a fluid complex of sounds and styles in practice—was reduced to a series of distinct genres linked to particular racial and ethnic identities. The blues were African American. Rural white southerners played country music. By the 1920s, these depictions were touted in folk song collections and the catalogs of “race” and “hillbilly” records produced by the phonograph industry. Such links among race, region, and music were new. Black and white artists alike had played not only blues, ballads, ragtime, and string band music, but also nationally popular sentimental ballads, minstrel songs, Tin Pan Alley tunes, and Broadway hits.
In a cultural history filled with musicians, listeners, scholars, and business people, Miller describes how folklore studies and the music industry helped to create a “musical color line,” a cultural parallel to the physical color line that came to define the Jim Crow South. Segregated sound emerged slowly through the interactions of southern and northern musicians, record companies that sought to penetrate new markets across the South and the globe, and academic folklorists who attempted to tap southern music for evidence about the history of human civilization. Contending that people’s musical worlds were defined less by who they were than by the music that they heard, Miller challenges assumptions about the relation of race, music, and the market.
Few expressions of popular culture have been shaped as profoundly by the relationship between commercialism and authenticity as country music has. While its apparent realism, sincerity, and frank depictions of everyday life are country’s most obvious stylistic hallmarks, Diane Pecknold demonstrates that commercialism has been just as powerful a cultural narrative in its development. Listeners have long been deeply invested in the “business side” of country. When fans complained in the mid-1950s about elite control of the mass media, or when they expressed their gratitude that the Country Music Hall of Fame served as a physical symbol of the industry’s power, they engaged directly with the commercial apparatus surrounding country music, not with particular songs or stars. In The Selling Sound, Pecknold explores how country music’s commercialism, widely acknowledged but largely unexamined, has affected the way it is produced, the way it is received by fans and critics, and the way it is valued within the American cultural hierarchy.
Pecknold draws on sources as diverse as radio advertising journals, fan magazines, Hollywood films, and interviews with industry insiders. Her sweeping social history encompasses the genre’s early days as an adjunct of radio advertising in the 1920s, the friction between Billboard and more genre-oriented trade papers over generating the rankings that shaped radio play lists, the establishment of the Country Music Association, and the influence of rock ‘n’ roll on the trend toward single-genre radio stations. Tracing the rise of a large and influential network of country fan clubs, Pecknold highlights the significant promotional responsibilities assumed by club organizers until the early 1970s, when many of their tasks were taken over by professional publicists.
Hank Williams (1923–53) was an American singer-songwriter and musician regarded as the most important country music artist of all time, creator of an unforgettable sound and persona that helped to define the genre from its infancy and beyond. Though unable to read or notate music to any substantive degree, Williams recorded 11 number one hits between 1948 and 1953, which carried him to music’s mainstream and left an enduring legacy. In So Lonesome, Richard A. Peterson captures the free-wheeling entrepreneurial spirit of an era gone by, when the Grand Ole Opry put Nashville’s star on the map, while detailing how Williams came to fame and helped launch country music both during his life and after his death. More than just a history of the music and one of its most celebrated performers, So Lonesome explores what it means to live an authentic life within the confines of marketing popular culture.
One of the most influential and acclaimed female vocalists of the twentieth century, Patsy Cline (1932–63) was best known for her rich tone and emotionally expressive voice. Born Virginia Patterson Hensley, she launched her musical career during the early 1950s as a young woman in Winchester, Virginia, and her heartfelt songs reflect her life and times in this community. A country music singer who enjoyed pop music crossover success, Cline embodied the power and appeal of women in country music, helping open the lucrative industry to future female solo artists.
Bringing together noted authorities on Patsy Cline and country music, Sweet Dreams: The World of Patsy Cline examines the regional and national history that shaped Cline's career and the popular culture that she so profoundly influenced with her music. In detailed, deeply researched essays, contributors provide an account of Cline's early performance days in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, analyze the politics of the split between pop and country music, and discuss her strategies for negotiating gender in relation to her public and private persona. Interpreting rich visual images, fan correspondence, publicity tactics, and community mores, this volume explores the rich and complex history of a woman whose music and image changed the shape of country music and American popular culture.
Contributors are Beth Bailey, Mike Foreman, Douglas Gomery, George Hamilton IV, Warren R. Hofstra, Joli Jensen, Bill C. Malone, Kristine M. McCusker, and Jocelyn R. Neal.
Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is the first biography of this legendary country music artist and NASCAR driver who scored sixteen number-one hits and two Grammy awards. Yet even with fame and fortune, Marty Robbins always yearned for more.
Drawing from personal interviews and in-depth research, biographer Diane Diekman explains how Robbins saw himself as a drifter, a man always searching for self-fulfillment and inner peace. Born Martin David Robinson to a hardworking mother and an abusive alcoholic father, he never fully escaped the insecurities burned into him by a poverty-stricken nomadic childhood in the Arizona desert. In 1947 he got his first gig as a singer and guitar player. Too nervous to talk, the shy young man walked onstage singing. Soon he changed his name to Marty Robbins, cultivated his magnetic stage presence, and established himself as an entertainer, songwriter, and successful NASCAR driver.
For fans of Robbins, NASCAR, and classic country music, Twentieth Century Drifter: The Life of Marty Robbins is a revealing portrait of this well-loved, restless entertainer, a private man who kept those who loved him at a distance.
Dolly Parton's success as a performer and pop culture phenomenon has overshadowed her achievements as a songwriter. But she sees herself as a songwriter first, and with good reason. Parton's compositions like "I Will Always Love You" and "Jolene" have become American standards with an impact far beyond country music.
Lydia R. Hamessley's expert analysis and Parton’s characteristically straightforward input inform this comprehensive look at the process, influences, and themes that have shaped the superstar's songwriting artistry. Hamessley reveals how Parton’s loving, hardscrabble childhood in the Smoky Mountains provided the musical language, rhythms, and memories of old-time music that resonate in so many of her songs. Hamessley further provides an understanding of how Parton combines her cultural and musical heritage with an artisan’s sense of craft and design to compose eloquent, painfully honest, and gripping songs about women's lives, poverty, heartbreak, inspiration, and love.
Filled with insights on hit songs and less familiar gems, Unlikely Angel covers the full arc of Dolly Parton's career and offers an unprecedented look at the creative force behind the image.
From his earliest recordings to his posthumously released albums, the haunting baritone of Waylon Jennings marked him as an extraordinarily individualistic country music artist. This biography by the late R. Serge Denisoff, first published in 1983, recounts Waylon’s west Texas upbringing, his introduction to music as a radio announcer at thirteen years old, his tutelage by rock star Buddy Holly, and his eventual stellar yet stormy music career. Where the original 1983 biography ends, music scholar Travis Stimeling picks up with the waning years of Waylon’s recording and performing. Stimeling recounts in the new afterword Waylon’s continued musical success in the early 1980s—though his financial troubles and battle with drugs and alcohol would soon cost him both professionally and personally—his triumphant and sober return in the 1990s and collaboration with longtime recording artists in the industry, and his continued musical relevance in an evolving industry driven by Nashville’s urban popularization of country music. Additionally, series editor Ted Olson, in his foreword, touches on Waylon’s legacy and the continued influence of his outlaw style of country music. Fans of Waylon, country music, and the Nashville music scene are sure to find this second edition of R. Serge Denisoff’s classic biography a welcome addition to the publications on the father of outlaw country.
Hazel Dickens is an Appalachian singer and songwriter known for her superb musicianship, feminist country songs, union anthems, and blue-collar laments. Growing up in a West Virginia coal mining community, she drew on the mountain music and repertoire of her family and neighbors when establishing her own vibrant and powerful vocal style that is a trademark in old-time, bluegrass, and traditional country circles. Working Girl Blues presents forty original songs that Hazel Dickens wrote about coal mining, labor issues, personal relationships, and her life and family in Appalachia. Conveying sensitivity, determination, and feistiness, Dickens comments on each of her songs, explaining how she came to write them and what they meant and continue to mean to her. Bill C. Malone's introduction traces Dickens's life, musical career, and development as a songwriter, and the book features forty-one illustrations and a detailed discography of her commercial recordings.
Merging scholarly insight with a professional guitarist's keen sense of the musical life, Yankee Twang delves into the rich tradition of country & western music that is played and loved in the mill towns and cities of the American northeast. Clifford R. Murphy draws on a wealth of ethnographic material, interviews, and encounters with recorded and live music to reveal the central role of country and western in the social lives and musical activity of working-class New Englanders.
As Murphy shows, an extraordinary multiculturalism informed by New England's kaleidoscope of ethnic groups created a distinctive country and western music style. But the music also gave--and gives--voice to working-class feeling. Yankee country and western emphasizes the western, reflecting the longing for the mythical cowboy's life of rugged but fulfilling individualism. Indeed, many New Englanders use country and western to comment on economic disenfranchisement and express their resentment of a mass media, government, and Nashville music establishment they believe neither reflects nor understands their life experiences.