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Malone

Malone

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Published by Ryan Anderson

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Published by: Ryan Anderson on Aug 19, 2011
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MUSIC
IN:
AMi1.Ri€AN
LIFE
:A,
l1st
of
b(/o~s1jn"theseriesappears
4Nhe(#nd'
ofih.i~book.
I
,
~
~,
Country".
Music
~.
andthe
Southern
'WorkingClass
Bill
,C'.Malone
Ul'll~RSITY9F
ILLINOIS.PRESS
U:r;ban,aandt;hica:go
308:574
 
I
I
I
InErDducti.olf/:
((I'~
AI
p~
Ou,CDeuttryBoy"
Inthelate
19808,
whenthatsonofYaleandtheeasternaristocracy,Pres-identGeorgeHerbertWalkerBush,announcedthatcountrymusicwashis
musicof
preference,
nooneany
longerneededtobereminded
that
themusichadbecomeacommandingpresence
in
thenation'spopularculture.Havingemergedasanindustry
with
productsconsumedaroundtheworld,ithadbecomeasocialforcesignificantenoughtowarranttheembraceofnationalpoliticians.
Mypersonal
introductionto
the
music,however,came
in
alocal
context
untol!¢hei1by
power,
status,orwealth.
The
soundsofcountrymusicsuffusedtheworldintowhich1wasbom
in
1934.
on
ourlittlecotton
tens
arm
00
me-westernedgeof
Smith.
County
in
EastTexas.Althoughwewouldnothave
describedit
assuch_.atthetime,the
first
"country
music"
I
heard
includedthelonesome
01-4
sentimental
tunessungbymymotheraboutmaidenswhodiedofume~'.:.quiredlove,_long-sufferingmotherswhoselovefortheirwanderingb9TS.neverwavered,Littleorphanswhosedeaths
on
the
bitterly
cold-streee
werebutapreludetoajoyousreconciliation
with
MotherinHeaven,and
eastboundtrainsthatcarriedpennilesslittlechildrentoreunions
with
theirpoorblindfathers
in
prison.Thesesongsmayhavemeantnothingmore
than
atemporarydive.tsionfromtheisolationoffarmlife,butwhenmymothersangthem,shemayhave
recalled
herownorphanchildhoodinthe
littlecommunity
ofPrim--rose,whereherpaternalgrandparentsraisedherfromthetimeshewasborn.Thesongsvery
likely
mirroredmymother'slongingsforherownmother,whodiedonlythreeweeks-aftergivingbirth,andthelove-hate
 
Introduction
relationshipwithherfather.therailroadmanwhovittuallyabandoned
hisrlny
daughter
after
his
wife
died.Thesetendersongsmadepermanent
imprintsOnmyimpressionableyoungmind,butnoneofthemhadas
dramatic
animpactasdid
thegospel
songs
my
mothersang,
r
wastoo
youngto
comprehendeithertheloneliness,theprivateanguishand
frus-
tration,andthefaileddreamsthatunderlaymuchofhersingingorthe
iovousnessrhae
sheoften
conveyed
when
shesangofherRedeemerorher
long-promised
home
in
Heaven.
Butwhen
shesang
"He
promisednevertoleaveme,nevertoleavemealone;"whilegoingaboutherdo-mesticchores,her
conviction
was
5.0
powerful
that
it
insinuated.itself
intomyconsciousnessalongwiththewardsandmelodyofthesong.
These
early
songs,
of
course,representedonlyonesideof
country
music"
andtheyreflectedonlyonefacetoftheruralexperience.AsachildIwasgenerallyinsulatedfromthesongsthatspokeaboutthe
bawdy
orexplicitlyeroticside
oflife,
butwelovedtosing
.about
such
badmenas
Je.sseJamesandSamBassandaboutfreeandramblingspiritslikeBlack:JackDavid.Iwasn'tquitesurewhatDavid'ssecretwas,orhowbe
could
enticeayoungwomanawayfrombel'husband;baby;and'warmfeatherbed,
but
thelureoftheopenroadwasromanticallyappealingeventoachildlikeme.Itmusthavebeenevenmorecompellingtopeoplelike
my
parents
whose
lives
werecircumscribed
by
poverty
and
the
bounds
oftenantry.
My
motherneverceasedtothrill
to
thesightandsoundsofa
train,
nordidsheevertireofrellingsroriesaboutherfather,theengineerwhosejobontheCottonBeltRailroadtookhim
an
overtheSouthwest.She
may
havebeenthinkingofhim,and
about
hismanyrumored.affairsandmarriages,whenshelistened
with
delighttoBillCallahan'sversionof"RattlesnakingDaddy,
>"
oneofthefewrowdyitems
mat
she.admit-tedinto
her
pantheonoffavorite
songs,
Although
certain
typesofsongsmightremainunknowntome,1couldnot:heshelteredfromtheseamyside
~f
existence.Weheardgossipaboutthe"sorry"girls
in
OUI
community,andabouttheoccasionalillegitimatebirth"andweknewthatneighbarssometimesbrokethelawandthat
violencewasoften.the
outcomeofargumentsordisputes.Scarcelyayear:after
my
birththeneighborwholivedacrossthe
pasture
wasshot
todeath
in
hisbackyard
by
abrother-in-lawwhosedaughterhadbeensexuallyexploited
by
thevictim.Nostoriesweremoreenthrallingtomethanthosethattoldaboutsuchlocalmurdersoraccountsofviolentfamilyretribu-tion.oraboutthe:glisiyandshamefullynchingsofblacksanthecourt-housesquareatthecounty
seat,
My
littleruralworldhadnodearthof
bothJove
and
hate,
norof
virrueandhypocrisy.
Itwasasociety
which,
"'I,
atitsbest)wascapableofwarmautpquti:ijg$
gf,~p~~l$,~
:~W:~~l):
and,atitsworst,grimmanifestationsofbigot;ry.:.ancl1n~~..~
'·;"'1'
AsachildIcouldnot
have
knownthatmylittieCOrn.tnLUUIT
of
Galena,whichrestedalmostontheborderbetween:Smith
and
Va.-ll)
andt
coun-tiesabouttwentymileswestof
Tyler,
wasafolkcommWlitY,alittleout-postofthatcommonfolkculture
that"
extendedthroughout:theruralSouth.Kinship,migrationpatterns,cottoncultivation,evangelicalreligion,
cultural
preferences,
anda
beliefin
white.supremacy
linked
ittotheold-erSouth.
Weshareda
historyof
povertystruggle,anddefeat
with
ourfellowSouthernerstotheeast,andtoooftendivertedourfrustrationandimpotenceontoourblackneighbors,notrealizinghowmuchweallhad
in
common.Mostimportant,Icouldnothaveknownthatour
way
oflifewasalmostover-s-bothbeneficiaryandvictimoftechnologicalchangeandwartimeprosperity-andthatthestability,thatanchoredmyyounglifewasafragileone.AndalthoughIcouldseethemplayedoutintheday-
to-day
experiences
ofmyfamily,
I
idnotunderstandthetensions
and
contradictionsthatlayattheheartofourseeminglyplacidsociety.Ascenethatrecurredduring
my
childhoodprovidesvivid
images
ofthetwoworldsoccupied
by
mymother.and
father;
Oneparticularmemoryrecallsahot.summer
night,
sometime
in
1939,
atarevivalor"protract-edmeeting"attheTinTopPentecostalChurch,justacrosstheVanZandrCountyline.Theflickeringglowofcoaloillamps
illuminated
thelittleone-roommeetinghouse.Thecommuniry
could
Dot
affordaregularmin-ister,butserviceswereconductedbanitinerantpreacherwhoalternatelypreachedandled
thesmallcor
g&egacioo
in
songas
he
strummedhis
gui-
tar:"AS'!travelthrough
tJ:'ie
.nd,singing·as19o,paintingsoulstoCal·
vary,
throughthecrimson
flow."
Isatnexttomymother,enthralled
,by
hersingingbutfrightened
by
the
emotionsonakedly
.00.
display
all
a['(,l,unQ
i,.
me-the
shouting,
weeping,
praying,speaking.
in
tongues.
MY'IJl~)t;n,et\:i~participatedenthusiastically
in
thesechurchservices,,for't.hey
;prQ:ii;I!~g
herrareopportunitiestocommune
with
herwomenfri'en••
t>Q;"
e
.~·t;fJl~
herselffreely-inthejoyous
raptureofprayer,
testimoU-Yt-
and
'4.","."....
1":;;
togainreleasefromthe.isolaeion,pain,andlarg~y
t~
life
aswifeandmotheronalucklesscottontenantfarm.,Outside,
i~
thedarkenedyardthatsurroundedthechu:cch,
,dr€$sed'
in
overallsandworkshirtsLeanedagainsttheirwagonsand.gossipandtalltalesas
they
passedaroundabottle.
Mydaddy
wM..9p1t
of
them,
andthiswasasdoseasheevergottotheinsideo~ach1.lI'cli.Hesometimesaccompaniedmymothertoreligiousaffairs,particularlj'
if
theywereoutdoorsbrusharbormeetings,butalmostalwayshestayed

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