This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
IN: AMi1.Ri€AN LIFE
4Nhe(#nd' ofih.i~ book.
of b(/o~s1jn"theseries appears
Country". Music ~. and the Southern 'Working Class Bill ,C'.Malone
9F ILLINOIS. PRESS
Ou, CDeuttry Boy"
In the late 19808, when that son of Yale and the eastern aristocracy, President George Herbert Walker Bush, announced that country music was his music of preference, no one any longer needed to be reminded that the music had become a commanding presence in the nation's popular culture. Having emerged as an industry with products consumed around the world, it had become a social force significant enough to warrant the embrace of national politicians. Mypersonal introduction to the music, however, came in a local context untol!¢hei1 by power, status, or wealth. The sounds of country music suffused the world into which 1 was bom in 1934. on our little cotton tens arm 00 me-western edge of Smith. County in East Texas. Although we would not have described it as such _. at the time, the first "country music" I heard included the lonesome 01-4 sentimental tunes sung by my mother about maidens who died of ume~' .:. quired love,_long-suffering mothers whose love for their wandering b9TS . never wavered, Little orphans whose deaths on the bitterly cold-streee were but a prelude to a joyous reconciliation with Mother in Heaven, and eastbound trains that carried penniless little children to reunions with their poor blind fathers in prison. These songs may have meant nothing more than a temporary dive.tsion from the isolation of farm life, but when my mother sang them, she may ha ve recalled her own orphan childhood in the little community of Prim- rose, where her paternal grandparents raised her from the time she was born. The songs very likely mirrored my mother's longings for her own mother, who died only three weeks -after giving birth, and the love-hate
Introduction relationship with her father. the railroad man who vittuallyabandoned hisrlny daughter after his wife died. These tender songs made permanent imprints On my impressionableyoung mind, but none of them had as dramatic an impact as did thegospel songs my mother sang, r was too young to comprehend either the loneliness, the private anguish and frustration, and the failed dreams that underlay much of her singing or the iovousnessrhae she often conveyed when she sang of her Redeemer or her long-promised home in Heaven. But when she sang "He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone;" while going about her domestic chores, her conviction was 5.0 powerful that it insinuated.itself into my consciousness along with the wards and melody of the song. These early songs, of course, represented only one side of country music" and they reflected only one facet of the rural experience. Asa child I wasgenerally insulated from the songs that spoke about the bawdy or explicitly erotic side oflife, but we loved to sing .about such badmenas Je.sse James and Sam Bass and about free and rambling spirits like Black: Jack David. I wasn't quite sure what David's secret was, or how be could entice a young woman away from bel' husband; baby; and 'warm feather bed, but the lure of theopen road was romanticallyappealing even to a child like me. It must have been even more compelling to people like my parents whose lives were circumscribed by poverty and the bounds of tenantry. My mother never ceased to thrill to the sight and sounds of a train, nor did she ever tire of relling srories about her father, the engineer whose job on the Cotton Belt Railroad took him an over the Southwest. She may have been thinking of him, and about his many rumored.affairs and marriages, when she listened with delight to Bill Callahan's version of "Rattlesnaking Daddy, >" one of the few rowdy items mat she. admitted into her pantheon of favorite songs, Although types of songsmight remain unknown to me, 1 could not: he sheltered from the seamy side ~f existence. We heard gossip about the "sorry" girls in OUI community, and about the occasional illegitimate birth" and we knew that neigh bars sometimes broke the law and that violence was often.the outcome of arguments or disputes. Scarcely a year :after my birth the neighbor who lived across the pasture was shot to death in his backyard by a brother-in-law whose daughter had been sexually exploited by the victim. Nostories were more enthralling to me thanthose that told about such local murders or accounts of violent family retribution. or about the:glisiy and shameful lynchings of blacks an the courthouse square at the county seat, My little rural world had no dearth of both Jove and hate, nor of virrueand hypocrisy. It was a society which, at its best) was capable ofwarmautpquti:ijg$ gf,~p~~l$,~ :~W:~~l): and, at its worst, grim manifestations of bigot;ry.:.ancl1n~~ .. ~ '·;"'1' As a child I could not have known that my littie COrn.tnLUUIT Galena, .of whichrested almost on the border between: Smith and Va.-ll)andt count ties abouttwenty miles west of Tyler, was a folk commWlitY, a little outpost of that common folk culture that" extended throughout: the rural South. Kinship,migration patterns, cotton cultivation, evangelical religion, cultural preferences, and a belief in white.supremacy linked it to the older South. We shareda history of povertystruggle, and defeat with our fellow Southerners to the east, and too often diverted our frustrationand impotence onto our black neighbors, not realizing how much we all had in common. Most important, I could not have known that our way of life was almost over-s-both beneficiaryand victim of technological change and wartime prosperity-and that the stability, that anchored my young life was a fragile one. And although I could see them played out in the dayto-day experiences of my family, I did not understand the tensions and contradictions that lay at the heart of our seemingly placid society. A scene that recurred during my childhood provides vivid images of the two worlds occupied by my mother.and father; One particular memory recalls a hot.summer night, sometime in 1939, at a revival or "protracted meeting" at the Tin TopPentecostal Church, just across the VanZandr County line. The flickering glow of coal oil lamps illuminated the little one-room meetinghouse. The communiry could Dot afford a regular minister, but services were conducted b an itinerant preacher who alternately preached and led the small cor g&egacioo in song as he strummed his guitar: "AS'! travel through tJ:'ie .nd, singing ·as 19o, painting souls to Cal· vary, through the crimson flow." I sat next to my mother, enthralled ,by her singing but frightened by the emotion so nakedly .00. display all a['(,l,unQ i, . me-the shouting, weeping, praying,speaking. in tongues. MY'IJl~)t;n,et\:i~ participated enthusiastically in these church services, ,for't.hey ;prQ:ii;I!~g her rare opportunities to commune with her women fri'en •• t>Q;" e.~·t;fJl~ herself freely-in the joyous rapture of prayer, testimoU-Yt- nd '4."," ." .... 1":;; a to gain release from the .isolaeion, pain, and larg~y t~ life as wife and mother on a luckless cotton tenant farm. , Outside, i~ the darkened yard that surrounded the chu:cch, ,dr€$sed' in overalls and workshirts Leaned against their wagons and . gossip and tall tales as they passed around a bottle. My daddy wM..9p1t of them, and this was as dose as he ever got to the inside o~ ach1.lI'cli. He sometimes accompanied my mother to religious affairs, particularlj' if they were outdoors brush arbor meetings, but almost always he stayed
OD -the fringe of the ga,theling, tjJllq~:g with QthID='f<tl\lllet,8, Pl£~~fflS~; His resistance to organirz,t;d~ religion 'alwa ~s deeply, trQ,cr...bl~4;ty,tnother, n as did his occasional ,fits-of temper, Iafrequeut bouts of c~rQus~~g> aiid general insensitivity to her emotional needs; thus, he appeared often in her prayers. Daddy's a voidance of formal church attendance did Dot arise from lack of belief. He was unregenerate, Dot atheistic. Life as a tenant farmer on the worn-out cotton fields of East Texas, working on someone else's land and under someone else's terms, did not permit much in the way of self-assertion. He was not prepared to surrender the little bit of freedom he still possessed to the discipline of church doctrine, just as he was reluctant to move to town to accept the kind of regimentation that accompanied wage earning. Like most southern rural men, he found his most comfortable'communio .ith other men-at work, hunting and .fishing, gambling, drinking, r simply lounging around. Such gatherings were always marked by the t.ougb exchange of opinions and humor. Ido not know what theytalked about on this particular night. Most likely, however, the talk concentrated on local matters, the ingredients of a traditional rural sociery-ernules, the weather, boll weevils, cotton prices, a favorite bird dog, or bunting or fishing. lfthey talked of politics, it 'Was probablyabout President Franklin Roosevelt or about the coming of war in Europe. Few could have known in those balmy summer days of I939 that their own sons would soon be fighting in that war, or that the conflict would permanently transform their lives and bring to an end that seemingly changeless, cotton-dependent society that they took for granted. The two scenes enacted in-and outside that little country church, and the tension represented by my parents' opposing spiritual and social needs, have.not only endured in my memory but have also become part of me. The-religion both attracted and repelled. I was both skeptical and accepting. Pari: of me was drawn by the emotion and even by the doctrine. But, mostly, I longed to be apart from it, to be free of the guilt-ridden pressure that lay so heavily upon the "sinners" who remained inside and to be part of the lounging crowd outside the church, to share their stories, jokes, and tall tales. As it turned out, I joined neither world, although I'm sure that much of those conflicting influences, both sacred and profane, remain embedded within me. Almost nothing now remains of Galena, that little community where I was born and spent my earliest years. Weeds and underbrush now cover the sites of the cotton gin and the little country store at the old crossroads where I caught the bus to. rhe consolidated school in Van. A half mile to the north no evidence remains of the two-room Elm G,cove schoolhouse,
··':and-b'ven~· j~~i~'.tkt¥sd1iit~~D1li,)~yeM~~imA ~
,Ii'Jew <scafier-ed houseskad
Ym Top eharcb-stseeembed 10Ilf:i'ago;-a vit::tim;of_fesrless imrOOlU:fll .. Not one- stalk 'Of cotton grows-in thisregion where the fiber was
and most of the farms have been converted to pasture by the af,SeiJ.tee bankers and oilmen who now own the land. The most dramatic m'lihifesration of change, Interstate 2.0, runs anly a lew- dozen yards north of the Galena crossroads, taking people to Dallas, Shreveport, and distant points ( beyond. Salesmen, commuters, and shoppers now routinely make one-day return trips to. those cities. During my childhood we felt fortunate if wei, reached Dallas once during the year. As a matter of fact) virtually up to i l 'the time of my birth, a wagon trip to Tyler, only twenty miles away, took half a day to complete and required a night'S lodging in the Wagon Yard near the courthouse square. The rumble of interstate traffic is a constant reminder of the social and technological forces that have transformed rural America and lured its sons and daughters to cities throughout the nation. Nevertheless) when I return to East Texas for a visit, or for the family; reunion each May, a flood of remembered impressions swirls through tny\ imagination. Music is the fondest of these memories. Music provides my one enduring link to that now-vanished time and place; and it is the musical moments that return often to my mind. Like biscuits and ribbon cane syrup, music was a staple in our househotd. <Before I939 when we obtained our first bartery-powered Philco radio, my mother's repertoire consisted of songs or fragments of songs from her childhood. After the radio became the cultural ceneerpiece of the Malone household, we encountered a much larger range of musical options. 1 'cannot now remember the precise origins of many of the songs that we learned and loved, because most of those that my mother san~ were also in the repertoires of the radio hillbillies. Her versions of "The East Bound Train ,""Little Rosewood Casket" ,. and «Letter Edged in Black)" to cite only a few examples, may have been learned from friends or relatives who had access to radio broadcasts or phonograph recordings, or they may have come from vaudeville or tent show performances, or from sheet mUsic or other printed matter. Like many rural people who loved to sing old songs, she copied lyrics in school tablets and clipped items from magazines or newspapers that sometimes printed old and requested songs. She faithfully pasted items from the "Young People's Page" of the Dallas Semi-Weekly Farm News on to the pages of an old grammar book. Daddy WIlS not a very nostalgic person, and the only survivor from this
cherished collection when. we moved to town Was a y-etlowed and'brirrie clipping of "Little Joe the "Wrangfet.'" Now it roo has disappeared.
The origin of these songs concerned us not at all. Our only criterion for acceptance was thatwe likedthem. We similarly did not trouble ourselves much with tbe questions of musical definition or categorization. We thought mainly in terms of "old" and "new" songs, or, as my mother would have described certain material, of "sacred" or "Worldly" songs. ~here was "nigger" music, of course, and we liked a good bit of it, espeCta~y when performed by someone like the Mills Brothers, the Ink Spots, or SIster Rosetta Tharpe. Only much later would I realize just how strongly "country" and "white gospel" music were indebted to black music. "Pop" music was acceptable as anvs it was mellow and melodious, or not too "fancy. " "HIgh-class" 'music was our term for any kind of music that connoted snobbery r'-putting on airs, and that could include anything from Artie Shaw to ,opera. ' , . Our favorite forms of music (apart from religious) were "cowboy" and "hillbilly." All varieties Of white grassroots music, though, tended to become subsumed in our minds under the "hillbilly" label. Musicians might make distinctions, but We seldom discriminated between stylists with widely differing approaches. Consequently, our pantheon of favorires included everyone from such deep-dyed rural performers as Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, and the Bailes Brothers to such smooth entertainers as Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, jimmie Davis, Bob Wills, and the Sons of the Pioneers. Rigid categorization did not come to the country field until the late fifties when threats from rock-and-roll and pop music homogenization impelled purists to a search for "real" country music and a consequent labeling of those styles that either did or did not fittheir definition. By that.time, though, most of the "traditional" performers had been driven fromthe country mainstream, or had sought ~efuge in the newly developing bluegrass idiom. Th~se mem?ries of my musical coming of age, from roughly I9,9 to the middle fifties, are too many to catalogue, but they are experiences that many people have shared. I would not pretend to argue, however. that everyone who grew up in the rural South responded to similar experiencesas I did. After all, there are people of my age and background who detest or at least.remain indifferent to country music, and still others who admitted their affection only after the music became chic in the decades after the sixties. My romance with country music, which began virtually from birth, was undisguised, ardent.and everlasting. The Liet1ebattery radio did more than link me to the hillbilly and gospel programs in Fort
Wichita FaJh;,· H()ustol'l!·'·-Tti:is~ 1);hj;~~,'.
NashviH:e, arid the Mexican border, it also tr3ft8p'Ofte~~:r~,. . .,.,. beyond reality, to a land inhabited by singing'cow\}oy,s, iSQh1~~ti.r taineers, hobo balladeers, and close-knit fa.rniJy'singets. Cowb .ry.l5ibn Rinehart, Tex Ritter, Gene Autry, the Carter Family, the CaUahanlttQth~. ers, the Herrington Sisters, the Cb:uck Wagon Gang, the St.a.rnp~·Quartet, Roy Acuff, and a host of others had no real personality for me beyond what I heard on their broadcasts or recordings,saw in their picture-songbooks or occasional personal appearances, or pictured in. my active imagination. Iknew tbarthese performers gathered around microphones and periodically gave public concerts throughout America, and; I imagined that their lives were romantic and exciting. Their performances, however, linked me to another world that was remote, enchant~ ing, and moral. When Gene Autry sang "Empty Cot in the Bunkhouse," I pictured not only a successful Hollywood cowboy but also a g,roup of Lonesome cowboys, sittingaround a campfire and recalling a heroic panner who had died. There was excitement just in the thought of the Carter Family singing over the powerful Mexican border station, XERF, but when they sang "Longing for Old Virginia," I actually did "long" for that \ historic old state j ust as I was sure they did. The hillbilly entertainers sang often of death and violence, of estrangement and unfulfilled love, of braken families and abandoned firesides, and even of rowdy or illicit behavior. But in.my youthful fantasies the moral blemishes or improprieties that pockmarked Galena seldom. intruded into that pristine and largely pastoral world inhabited by musicians. The performers were very close to me; almost like members of the family, and I projected onto them the same high moral code that I thought I saw reflected in my parents' and brothers' lives. Only as childhood innocence gave way to the confusions of adolescence did 1. become more conscious of the imperfections, and therefore the humanity, of my heroes, within and beyond our family circle. Time and scholarship have made me aware of the enormous gap that sometimes separates image from reality in the Lifeof a performer, and that a hint of wildness or rowdiness can actually be commercially profitable in an entertainer's career; the country music public bas shown a receptivitY to both "good boys" and "bad boys" (but not often to bad girls). In my years as a student of country music, I hive often stressed the music's "realism" and the ways in which it accurately portrays the experiences of plain people. But fantasy and escapism have always been basic ingredients of country music, just as they have been part of the " reality" that defines the lives and culture of the music's audience. Living in Smith
County, Texas, during the Great Depression, and struggling to scratch a living from our cotton farm, was all the realism our family needed. Therefore, we seldom sought realism in our music but instead relished and cherished its capacity for deliverance. The Great Depression reaffirmed for us one dramatic reality, that hard times had always been part of our lives. Therefore, when wartime prosperity began to open up new jobs around the state of Texas, my father went off for a short time to the chemical plants of Velasco, and by 1944 had relocated the family in Tyler, where he worked in a small plant that built prisms for bomb sights. By this time my older brother had volunteered for military service in the Navy Seabees, and cousins and other relatives by the score had gone into the army or navy orhad found jobs in the defense plants and shipyards of Texas. Very few of them ever returned to the farm, although most of them exhibited the marks of their rural upbringing for the rest of their lives. In retrospect, it seems remarkable that a way of life that had seemed so changeless, and so deeply rooted in tradition, could be abandoned so rapidly. Industrialization, of course, had been reshaping the South for a long time before we made our move to town, and we intuitively recognized its great power for social transformation in the many songs of tribute to the railroad that we took into our hearts. Even more tangible manifestations of the industrial power that would one day revolutionize the South were the oil derricks and working oil pumps that moved rhythmically on the playgrounds of my school at Van. Some people gained employment in the oil fields, either there at Van or farther to the west in Kilgore and Gladewater. Few remained untouched by petroleum's great power, but only a tiny minority won much wealth from it. In the years before World War II, most southern industrial workers toiled in settings that were distinctly rural even as they maintained residence in small towns or farming communities. Neither oil drilling, textile work, coal mining, or railroad employment really displaced the profoundly rural nature of southern folk culture. Southerners remained rural even as the processes of industrial change altered the ways they made their living. Since World War II the southern plain folk have moved dramatically away from the world of their ancestors and have entered the world of the urban working class in both residence and occupation. While many have followed the lure of their economic dreams to far-off Detroit, Chicago, or Akron, or even a continent away to the West Coast, most have gone no farther than Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, or other cities relatively close to their places of birth. Some have
enthusiastically embraced the change; others 'have never fully come to terms with life in the city. I'm sure that my father was merely jesting when he occasionally declared his intentions to buy another team of mules and move back down on the farm, but the remark did suggest the dissatisfaction that sometimes stole into his thoughts. My mother's response, while also exaggerated, was equally revealing: "If you do, you'll go without me." Town life to her meant greater ease and comfort, access to regular church participation, and an escape from the deadening isolation of the farm. Country music remained an integral facet of our lives. It spoke nostalgically and reverentially of the rural life we had abandoned and "documented" the new society that we had entered. Those years from 1944 to 1954, or from the time of our move to town until I enrolled at the University of Texas in Austin, will always remain for me the golden years of country music history. These were the years of Roy, Eddy, Slim, Red, Marty, Rose, Kitty, the various Hanks, Webb, and Bill, Lester, and Earl, all of whom could be identified as soon as the instrumental introductions of their recordings began. I feel particularly blessed because I actually saw two of the legendary acts of country music when they appeared in TylerUncle Dave Macon in a tent show hosted by Curley Fox, and Hank Williams, who appeared one night with the cast of the Louisiana Hayride on the stage of the Tyler High School Auditorium. When I ventured off to the University ~f Texas in 1954, through the grace of a $35 per semester tuition and the considerable sacrifice of my parents, country music seemed not only popular but safely distinctivean art form that still reflected the rural South as I had lived or imagined it in Smith County. If I thought the music would remain that way forever, my illusions were rudely shattered one night in 1955 at a Hank Snow concert at the old coliseum in Austin. It was bad enough to see my hero's performance shortened in order to accommodate the huge crowd that was waiting outside to attend a hastily scheduled second show. But it seemed downright repulsive to watch the antics of the other entertainer that most of the audience had come to see, Elvis Presley, and still worse to realize that those "antics"-the pelvis grinding and the sensual leerwere major reasons for his popularity. I now understand Presley'S appeal much better than I did then, and in fact recognize that he and the other rockabillies were not simply rebelling against the music of their culture but were actually fusing the crucial elements of southern music--country, blues, gospel-in creating their own vital styles. The good-natured hedonism and swaggering machismo of the rockabillies were deeply root-
ed in southern working-class culture, not hastily donned pretensions. The city, with its burgeoning popular culture, provided new outlets for the expression of aggressive masculinity, and the appropriation of black music, or its rough approximation, gave young white men a forum to strut their stuff and display their sexual energy. Thus, the "hillbilly cat." In the immediate aftermath of Elvis's upstaging of Hank Snow, I was not nearly so "wise" about the implications of his music as I am now. And feeling that the barbarians had entered the gates of country music, I tried to do my part to preserve and popularize the kind of styles that I grew up with. That meant scanning the radio dials for any stray recording of Webb or Kitty, retreating to bluegrass, which had become a haven for tradition-minded co~ntry fans, and entertaining at any party or gathering that wanted to hear me sing numbers like "The Knoxville Girl" or "Mary Dear." Singing inevitably led to friendship with other country partisans, and by 1960 a small group of us had begun gathering once or twice a week at Threadgill's Bar in North Austin, where we sat around the big round tables performing old-time country music and blues, and accompanying Kenneth Threadgill himself when he sang and yodeled the songs of Jimmie Rodgers. Stan Alexander, Willie Benson, Ed Mellon, and I were the first students from the University of Texas to perform regularly at Threadgill's, and we were still there a few years later when Janis Joplin first came to the bar, strumming an autoharp, and performing with a trio of young musicians called the Waller Creek Boys. My evolution as a scholar of country music was directly affected by those cherished experiences at Threadgill's Bar, and by the fortuitous presence in the history department of Professor Joe B. Frantz, who recognized my love for the music and suggested that I write a dissertation on the subject. On one hand, my dissertation, which was eventually published as Country Music, USA, was delayed by the inordinate amount of time I spent picking and singing at Threadgill's, but on the other hand I like to think that my horizons were broadened by the wide variety of music that I heard during those years in Austin. After all, these years fell during the peak of the folk revival when young singers were reaching in many directions for old and interesting material, and when a handful of collectors and scholars such as Archie Green, Ed Kahn, D. K. Wilgus, and John Greenway were beginning to show the. links between commercial country music and older folk styles. But as profoundly influential as these experiences may have been in shaping the slant and tone of my scholarship, no influence from those Austin years can compare with the thrilling childhood memories of waking up each morning to the broadcast of
a local hillbilly band, or of hearing the sound of Bashful Brother Oswald's dobro seeping through the crackling static of WSM on Saturday night, or of hearing my mother pour out her soul through the words of the old gospel song, "Farther Along." Since the inception of my formal research in 1961, I have tried to tell the story of country music as objectively and comprehensively as I possibly could. For better or worse, the mark of those Smith County years still permeates my scholarship, defining my perspective in certain respects but also deepening my understanding in ways that another kind of apprenticeship could not have provided. Because I equated this commercial music culture with my own family's culture, and identified personally with the musicians, they seemed no different from my own brothers and cousinswe weren't even sure that they could sing better than we could. If I carried cultural baggage that could not easily be sloughed off, so did the music. From the beginnings of its commercial history, country music has profited and suffered from a cluster of public perceptions that have long surrounded the South, rural life, folk music, and working people. The musicians and their audience have been justifiably resistant to stereotypes about ignorant rednecks who sing through their noses (the word "twang" is still widely used to characterize the music), but other myths and half-truths have been embraced by musicians and audience alike in order to lend respectability or romance to their repertoires and performances. Terms like Anglo-Saxon, Elizabethan, or, more recently, Celtic-each suggesting antiquity and ethnic purity-have appeared repeatedly as descriptions of the music, while visions of singing cowboys and musical mountaineers have been exploited by musicians, promoters, and publicists to evoke an aura of romance. The durability of the romantic stereotypes that surround southern music was evident in the summer of 1994 when I was asked to present a program at Tulane University as part of the Summer Shakespeare Festival. The festival organizers were convinced that Appalachian folk culture was Elizabethan, and that the old mountain ballads and love songs were survivals from the days of Shakespeare. This romantic leap of faith was innocent enough, but my program was soon thereafter advertised in a local weekly newspaper with the question, "The Bard with a Gunrack?" The writer of the article went on to combine allusions to Shakespeare, "the moors of Scotland," "the hills of Appalachia," and "Elizabethan poetry" under a caption that suggested that the people I discussed were gun-loving rednecks. Appalachian culture, of course, has never been Elizabethan, although elements of that age of British history certainly moved into the southern hills along with
traits from other English eras, and from Scotland; Northern Ireland, and Wales. My Tulane audience did not seem displeased when reminded of Appalachia's long and eclectic history, nor disheartened to hear that Shakespeare did not write for the Grand Ole Opry, While many cultures contributed to the making of southern folk music, it was the people of the South who fashioned it into forms that reflected their own experiences and styles of expression. As one of the greatest commercial manifestations of the South's musical culture. country music has long served as a barometer of the change that has taken place in the lives of the region's working people. The entertainers of country music have communicated easily with working folk, in both the ~outh and elsewhere, because they and their audience share a common language and a common reservoir of assumptions. No t of fantasizing about the freedom and romance of cowboy life, ner the identification with some remote Elizabethan or Celtic origin(,~;m hide the central fact that country musicians have been people from undistinguished working-class backgrounds who have tried to make their way as entertainers in a society that has little respect for the working class. Understandably confused about their own identities and ambivalent about the culture that gave them birth, country musicians have created a body of music that shares the uncertainties and contradictions of its creators. In so doing, these musicians now reach out to increasingly receptive audiences around the world who recognize the universality of its themes and who find in it affirmation of their own imperfect lives.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue listening from where you left off, or restart the preview.