From the King Of Blogging, Sean Conners. Various articles and op/ed's on just about anything from A to Z. Politics, religion, entertainment and whatever else seems interesting at the moment. Members and non-members alike are welcomed to participate in th
In my 1st installment of my musical series, we looked at the history and future of hip hop. today, I am going to talk about another genre that draws almost as much controversy, in a very different way, Country music. It seems that out of all the genres, when you ask someone what kind of music they listen to, the most common answers usually exclude either rap or country. they are 2 very different musical styles, but both are based around the telling of stories from within a certain culture. While hip-hop deals with street life, country tells more rural tales of families, struggles and learning about life from atop a mountain or working a farm.

The roots of country go back to the hills of appalachia, by most people's account. Country's seeds were planted when the mountain folk would jam on the porch playing music that told their stories. Not many people got to hear those stories, but eventually, the sounds trickled down the hills and into the studios in Nashville, Tennessee.

The early blugrass jammers eventually made their way out of the hills and in small rural southern and western towns country music began to grow and develop. The 1st major pubicity boost for country was the Grand Ol Opry radio show, which started out as the "WSM" radio show in 1926. This show exposed early country artists to the rest of the nation and world. It would take time, but eventually, country music made it to the ears of the world.

Hank Williams was country music's 1st major star, in my opinion, that expanded country music into the mainstream of American popular music. And his influence and popularity outside of traditional country music fans continues today. And Hank's life was controversial. He was by far the most sought after artist to play places like the Opry and other major venues of the day. Hank however, preferred jammin with the musicians that could be found in the backroom taverns and gin joints that peppered Nashville and other towns. he played with black musicians which upset many in the day. He openly drank and partied excessively, womazized and lived his life the way today's country writers can only write about. His wild life had it's consequences tho, and at age 29, Hank Williams was found in his Caddilac Coupe de Ville dead.

Bill Monroe was another early catalyst that revolutionized many musicians attitude and approach to country. Most notably, his style of playing the mandolin and making it a "featured" instrument in many country bands. Monroe played the instrument in an entirely new way and people loved his sounds. Soon, his way of playing, which can be heard on many classics, became the standard. Today, it still is.

Over the years, country grew slowly in popularity. It didn't have the big dollar marketing machines that promoted the popular artists that came out of New York City and Los Angeles. They didn't have access to most of the major markets, especially as payola began to infect the major radio markets. What country did have was talented, magnetic artists. It was just a matter of getting the public to know them. And they worked hard, playing every hole in the wall in every 1 horse town they could find. Then came Patsy Cline.

Patsy Cline was the perfect artist for the time. She was attractive, personable and not afraid to take center stage in a male dominated world. She also lived a hard life and could draw from her experiences to make each song special. When she was presented with a song by a young Nashville writer, Willie Nelson, a song called "Crazy" which was origonally an upbeat number, she slowed it down and nailed it. The song, followed by a string of hits, brought country to an even larger audience. She was tragically killed in a plane crash way too early, but she set the stage and opened the door for a host of country artists who would bring the genre into the limelight even more.

Patsy Cline's inroads made it possible for artsts like Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard and George Jones to actually get heard. The 60's saw country music grow by leaps and bounds. finally, in the early 1970's, country truly arrived with the introduction of their 1st National, prime time show, "Hee-Haw." Hee -Haw would enjoy a long run, going well into the 80's. the show launched the careers of many artists, gave Hank Williams Jr. a chance to "reinvent" himself and before it's demise, would even bridge the gap with today's country by showing the world a young Garth Brooks and George Strait. there was one other big event for country that gave it tons of exposure, the movie "Urban Cowboy."

Urban Cowboy brought country to the city. Mickey Gilley not only had a big hit with his "Lookin For Love In All The Wrong Places" but showed the world how much fun a mechanical bull could be. His honkey tonk became the template for what a country music bar could and should be. All over the country, city folk put on 10 gallon hats and boots and went down to the new fangled honkey tonks and 2 stepped theri way thru the 80's.

One other major shot in the arm country got was the "outlaws." the outlaws, led by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, were artists who were more like Hank Williams and Elvis than they were like George Jones and Porter Wagoner, and the "clean cut" traditional reputation they promoted. The outlaws melded with rock and roll and gave country exposure to southern rock fans, who were willing to listen to these new country artists that wore long hair and partied like them than they were willing to embrace the traditional rural lifestyle values that dominated the Nashville mainstream.

By the 90's, something wierd happened with country. Garth Brooks, on one hand, took country from the honkey tonk and into the Arena. Garth began drawing crowds unheard of in country music, and showed Nashville just how big country could be. On the other hand, some feel country lost it's soul in chasing those dollars. It seemed Nashville was breeding a new crop of artists no longer singin about pick up trucks, mom and hard times on the farm, but singing songs that reflected bubblegum pop music more than that of Bill Monroe and Hank Williams.

But for awhile, at least, Country kept that trend dominating country airwaves and sales with slickly produced albums put out by Nashville But it also was infused and taken to a new level by rock producer Mutt Lange. Mutt had "discovered" a young lounge singer in Vancouver and decided to make her the next big country star. She is now known around the world as Shania Twain. Mutt worked his super producer magic to turn the typical lounge singer into country music's new diva. After witnessing her success, Nashville followed by flooding the market with every gal with a sweet voice who could effectively pack a tight pair of blue jeans. They mimiced on the male side too with guys like Billy Ray Cirrus's "Achy Breaky Heart"and the selling of George Strait as "the next Hank Williams."

The 90's also brought about another subtle change in music. At the same time that more "pop" oriented artists were coming out of Nashville, another genre, the "easy listening" or "adult contemporary" market was fading. Country responded by embracing these fans, that for the 1st time, weren't centered in America's south or even rural areas. "New" country, as it was called, appealed to suburban women, big city women and females in general much more than in the past. By the end of the decade, country featured a line-up that not only included Garth and Shania, but featured "women" friendly artists like Faith Hill, Joe Dee Messina and Lee Ann Rimes amongst others. These girls still sang about cheating men and how much they loved their daddy, like their heroines like, Patsy Cline and Tammy Wynette. But these gals put things in more modern context and the music behind them wasn't as "twangy" as most of country's past. Furthermore, for the 1st time in country's history, women were dominating not only the country charts, but were crossing over in ways the men didn't.

Of course, when a style evolves beyond it's roots, eventually, there is a "backlash." But in country, there wasn't so much of one. What happened in country was that some artists began "going back to their roots" and new "roots" artists emerged, but enabled more modern recording and post - production techniques so their stuff no longer sounded like it was made in 1962. Guys like Alan Jackson and Toby Keith, who had tried to "make it" by embracing the more "pop" side of country began putting out more traditional sounding records, and found a larger than ever audience ready to listen and buy. New acts like the Dixie Chicks and Brad Paisley gave listeners who had never really heard much traditional country, except in comedic parody, found a genre full of stories, intrigue and a high level of musicianship.

The "new" country, which had enveloped the easy listening audience marched along, as it does today. Some see this as a "watering down" of country, and it may well be. But I think, more importantly, it enabled the more traditional side of country, in all it's beauty and glory, to be brought into a new light. Country finally got "big" enough to split into more "factions" or sub-genres. Country, by the beginning of the 21st century, was rivaling the chart positions that were usually reserved for pop and rock artists exclusively.

Today, country is more popular than ever. But unlike hip-hop, it's ascension has been slower and steadier. Country audiences are more diverse today. At any given concert, it is as common to be sitting next to a 60 year old couple as it is a couple of teenagers. Men and women usually come out in fairly even numbers for most acts. City folk and country folk cheer along side by side. And country, while still a white dominated genre, is slowly appealing to more and more people of color. But calling country a "big tent" where that is concerned is about as truthful as calling the GOP a really diverse big tent. Fact is, while minority participation is increasing, it is still a long way from being truly diverse in it's fan base or artist line up.

With it's slow and steady ascension, I expect country to thrive for years to come. Indeed, it is a growing genre. Every year practically, country artists sell more albums, concert tickets and get more airplay on more pop oriented stations than the past year. And unlike some other genres, these artists have done what they have done with more hardwork than marketing dollars. Even with it's growing popularity, Nashville's budgets for making records and promoting concerts still pales in comparison with the money that pop, rock and hip hop labels can and are willing to throw out there.



Comments
on Dec 13, 2006

Some time around 7 to 10 years ago, Garth Brooks did a concert in central park New York City, I remember watching it on HBO and was awed at all the New Yorkers that came to the concert.

I never would have imagined so many people from the countries most populated city that came and went wild over his performance.

Country just ain't for country folk anymore.

Good article on some history of music.

on Dec 13, 2006
thanks mm,,,i'm guessing you are a fan?

who do you like out there?
on Dec 13, 2006
Garth Brooks

everytime i think of Garth Brooks, i think of the skit on SNL many years back, when he hosted....

the scene was a campfire with REAL cowboys talkin bout "cowboy stuff" and giving examples (like ropin cattle and riding horses) of such things.

each time it came around to garth, he would add examples like "laser light shows" and "flying over thousands of cheering fans" ...and end it with "you know, cowboy stuff!" causing the others to increasingly shake their heads and question his "realness." it was kind of like a country version of monty python's "lumberjack song" if you are familiar.
on Dec 13, 2006
thanks mm,,,I'm guessing you are a fan?

who do you like out there?


Sean Connery, a.k.a. SConn1December 13, 2006 15:01:51


tim Mcgraw, brooks and Dunn, Faith hill, trace Adkins, Garth brooks of course {ropin the wind} might be the best country album of all times IMO>

Willie nelson,Kenny Rodgers {sp?} patsy.. scruggs and Flatt. Shania Twain {yummy}

I like country,it is American as mom,country and apple pie.
Mostly though these days I am into Celtic.. from there to old headbanging music.

I listen to a real diverse and wide variety of music.
on Dec 13, 2006
then you'll enjoy my nexxt piece on metal, i'm sure
on Dec 13, 2006
I come from the same area as loretta lynn, dwight yoakam, ricky scaggs, and a host of others. I spent my childhood listening to country, ending up on the bus afterward, hearing the arguments about who is what and when they become it. I have a hard time with articles like this, because honestly you can't really trace the genre this way. "Country" is about as descriptive in terms of the musical art as "Pop".

Even so, I don't think you really have anything akin to reality here, as you skip the real origins of country music and the most formative years. Country music was very popular before Hank Williams, and honestly his impact was fairly limited compared to a lot of people you omit. Bluegrass developed *alongside* texas swing, honky tonk, and other strains that all were considered country, disliking one another more often than not. The Carter Family came from Appalacia, but they are just one branch among many, and hardly as influential in terms of modern country music as the more 'pop' members.

No Jimmy Rogers? No Uncle Dave? No Earnest Tubb? No Carter family or Bob Wills or Lefty Frizell? No mention of Texas Swing, Cowboy music? No Bakersfied country? No offense, but this isn't what I'd expect from even a brief synopsis of country music history. This is what I would expect from someone who didn't know much about country music.
on Dec 13, 2006
That sounded harsh, sorry. I just can't really imagine an article about the history of country music that gives a whole paragraph to mutt lange and doesn't even mention jimmy "the father of country music" rogers, lol. If I were you I'd scrap this and start all over.

This kind of reminds me of that David Allen Coe song, "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" where he talks about steve goodman having to write that extra verse to make it the perfect country song. I think you need a few extra verses here, sconn1.
on Dec 13, 2006
baker,,,did you read the article, or just read to find things you could fight over?

this is a very brief synopsis,,,it wasn't intended to be anything more. i will be talking about many other people in country and some of the genres you mentioned. if ya wanna be all high and mighty, i could have gone into things like folk and woody and bob and so forth. i could have talked about southern rock, rockabilly, elvis, and a whole host of other things. i could of mentioned things about european influences on country, and all kinds of things that neither you or i mentioned. but i'm not there yet. this is all 1st draft stuff. please don't get into a musical pissing contest with me. you seem to have totally missed what i am going for here and only want to argue...this isn't politics, back off.

i made no claim that no one had any success before hank williams, but no one crossed over before him like he did. and no artist in country gets refferred to more by more people as an "influence" than him. i didn't make that last claim in the article, all i said that he was country's 1st big star, and he was. everyone who came before him was minor.

No offense, but this isn't what I'd expect from even a brief synopsis of country music history

ok, how brief would it be if i did paragraphs on each of the sub genres and artists you mentioned? cmon...and please don't try to act like becasue i didn't cover them i am ignorant of them. that's b*&lsh*t!!!!

baker, for the 1st time ever on JU, or anywhere i have written, i am considering deleting your comments just because they are just so obvious an attack and totally against the spirit in which i am writing this. if you would have brought up some of the people or sub genres you mentioned as maybe a "hey, what do you think of jimmy rogers or earnest tubb?" or "how do you think people like buck owens and dwight yokum and the whole bakersfield sound impacted country overall?" or even if you wanted to "test" me and ask me if i thought what i wrote was complete, i would be glad to discuss it. but you decided that you would attack like this was politics...for shame.

have a nice day:)
on Dec 13, 2006
That sounded harsh, sorry. I just can't really imagine an article about the history of country music that gives a whole paragraph to mutt lange and doesn't even mention jimmy "the father of country music" rogers, lol. If I were you I'd scrap this and start all over.This kind of reminds me of that David Allen Coe song, "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" where he talks about steve goodman having to write that extra verse to make it the perfect country song. I think you need a few extra verses here, sconn1.


lol...i think you dropped this while i ws responding....i think we're closer to being on the same page now...and yes, there will be more verses, part of which will be shaped by the discussions here.

take care:)
on Dec 13, 2006
Sub-genre? LMAO. Seriously, come on...

It's like writing a history of computers and skipping from charles babbage to the 1990's, or forgetting to mention Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin in US history. It's said that all country music can either be traced back to the Carter Family or Jimmy Rogers. You skip both.

Hank Williams wasn't country's first big star. The whole idea is a joke. Country was very popular nation-wide before Hank Williams even showed up on the Opry. He's noteworthy because you don't seem to know much about the era before him. Cover it up with outrage now if you want, but this is both incomplete and inaccurate.

For shame? Who deserves more shame, the person who misrepresents the object of their lesson or the person who points out that they aren't being accurate? You don't write an article about WW2, leave out Hitler, and then claim you didn't want to get that in-depth. Writing an article about country and leaving out Jimmy Rogers, the Carter Family, etc., is like leaving Hitler out of WW2.

I figure you'll just blacklist me for this, but its the truth, and you know it. If you do I guess I'll just have to write my own. It could be a third as long and ten times as accurate. If you delete these comments there will still be rebuttal, so maybe you'd rather have it buried in the comments.
on Dec 13, 2006
let me try bein nice one more time...there will be more verses and additions and subtractions....
on Dec 14, 2006
I was drunk the day my mama got out of prison. *tips mug to Baker*
on Dec 19, 2006
sorry for the delayed response,,,i've been away...

baker, i think what i didn't make clear here was that some of this is looking at different styles and genres in relation to music as a whole and on the business / marketing side of things. and yes, it is very incomplete. in looking back, i think why i didn't get into people like jimmie rodgers and some other early poineers by name was that they really didn't have the popularity outside of people who were already hooked on country as williams did. it's just my opinion, but i think hank did more, back then, but even moreso after his death to bring in new fans and expand the audience and so forth. i'm sure you will disagree with that, and you would have a point as well. but hopefully, if i ever get more finished with this project, you will see where i'm goin with it. and i probably won't brush over his era so much. i was too vague and factually incorrect in blankly declaring hank "the 1st star" and i will probably correct it with more appropriate wording when i get a shot.

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