The fight for country radio to actually represent the people it is supposed to serve is an eternal one, and nothing illustrates this more than a recently-unearthed interview with George Jones taped backstage at the Grand Ole Opry dating back to February 21st, 1998.
Think about it: This was 17 years ago, but every point George Jones makes is a poignant one, and one that is still patently relevant today. It’s unfortunate that you have to revert back to a 17-year-old tape and someone that passed on over two years ago to find an artist with the guts to say it, but George Jones says it as good as anyone.
It’s also interesting to ponder the recent idea of splitting the country music radio format in two when reading or listening to George Jones’ words. “There’s hundreds of thousands of them out there that are being neglected after standing by country music for so many, many many years,” George says. As studies from Edison Research and others have shown, country music is making a grave mistake by ignoring a huge segment of their listening population through their obsession with youth, and splitting the country format between Top 40 country and a mix of older and newer country may be the only way to save the format in the long-term.
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“Well, I’m not the happiest person with it. What I really hate about the format of country music today I guess is mainly there’s so many people out there that still love to hear the good, old-fashioned traditional country music, and there is room for it,” George Jones says in the interview. “They can’t tell me there’s not room for it. But they will definitely not play any of it at all anymore. Because of that, it’s not me they’re pushing out and doing harm to. What they’re doing is harming the people that have stood by traditional country music for so many years. They want to still hear it. They can’t hear it. There’s hundreds of thousands of them out there that are being neglected after standing by country music for so many, many many years. And there is room for it, and it’s a shame they can’t open that door back up, and give a little bit of it back to them that has made them be able to be where they are today.”
When asked if he’s ever been told his music’s “too country,” George Jones responds:
“Oh that makes me sick. I’ve heard that for so long. My God, what do they thing country is? They get on the radio and they say, ‘Your #1 country station in this area!’ Then the play ‘am-diddy-biddy-boddie’ and all that stuff. What do they call country music you know? My goodness. What we’re taking about is traditional country music, what started this whole thing to start with. And the people are still out there in their homes and riding around in their cars, and they’re still love to hear it….They don’t know what country radio is anymore. They’re told what to play. They’re told what to play, by your so-called consultants. If you’re told what to do, you don’t have no choice, do you?”