No other genre of American music has an ongoing debate about what it is and what it isn’t like country does, because no other genre has such long-established ties to tradition that so many fans and artists feel must be respected. In their time, artists we consider the very definition of country were accused of being pop, artists like Patsy Cline, and yes, even the great Waylon Jennings.
Waylon Jennings has been a long time gone, passing away on February 13th, 2002, but his wisdom is still as relevant as the music that he made. While being interviewed on Prim Time Country on TNN in 1999 shortly after the Columbine High School massacre, Waylon was asked what he would do about the issue of gun control and school shootings.
Anti-Nashville, anti-Music Row, and anti-pop country songs have a long and proud tradition in country music that stretches almost all the way back to the beginning of the genre. As long as there’s been country music, there’s been folks arguing about how to define it, what it should sound like, and speaking out when they think it’s going in the wrong direction.
David Letterman whose locked in a ratings tussle with Leno and the recently-rescheduled Jimmy Kimmel decides to supplant booking a musical guest the American public already knows for one they damn well should. “Mother Blues” is about the perfect song for Hubbard to play on Letterman because it is both specifically autobiographical and generally badass.
It was 60 years ago today that the legendary Hank Williams passed away in the back seat of his powder blue Cadillac in Oak Hill, West Virginia en route to a performance in Charleston, W. Va. Hank died of heart failure thought to be brought on by the combination of alcohol, pills, and morphine administered for an ailing back, but the death continues to be shrouded in some mystery to this day.
The year was 1974, and a two-story stucco office building / studio located two blocks from Nashville’s infamous Music Row at 916 19th Avenue South got christened “Hillbilly Central” by a New York-based music writer. Hillbilly Central was the brain child of Tompall Glaser, a member of the Glaser Brothers, who took the the money he earned from some success in the country music business to revolutionize it.
Billy Joe Shaver, Captain Midnight, Chet Atkins, Hazel Smith, Hillbilly Central, Jack Clement, Jimmy Buffet, John Hartford, Kinky Friedman, Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, pictures, Shel Silverstein, Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings
The fight for the purity of country music is almost as old as the genre itself. The conflict between pop and traditionalism, and the fight for creative control for artists runs like a thread throughout country music’s history, defining it as much as the twang of a Telecaster, or the moan of a steel guitar. Here are some of the most iconic images of country music revolution, and the stories behind them.
Andy Gibson, Bill Monroe, Billy Joe Shaver, Buck Owens, burning envelope, Charlie Rich, Dripping Springs Reunion, Earl Scruggs, flipping the bird, Hank3, Hillbilly Central, Joe Buck, John Denver, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, middle finger, Reinstate Hank, Roger Miller, The Grand Ole Opry, Tompall Glaser, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson
Buddy Holly’s father had kept the motorcycle until 1970, when he sold it to someone in Austin, TX. Then in 1979 for Waylon’s 42nd birthday, the two remaining Crickets Joe B. and J.I. tracked down the 1959 Ariel Cyclone, bought it back, and had it hand delivered to north Texas where Waylon found it sitting there in the middle of his hotel room after walking off stage that night.
Waylon Jennings was never awarded a traditional legacy era. Passing 10 years ago from complications with diabetes at 64, Waylon never had a chance to fulfill that elder statesman role in country music in a similar way his fellow Highwayman Johnny Cash did with the re-emergence of his career in the mid-90’s, or as another Highwayman Willie Nelson does today.
One of the reasons the the Country Music Hall of Fame is one of the most revered and respected Halls in all the land and specifically in music is because it is so hard to get into. It is always better that you look at a list of Hall inductees and wonder why certain names are not in, instead of looking and wondering why certain names are.
Buck Owens, Country Music Hall of Fame, David Allan Coe, Don Rich, Emmylou Harris, Garth Brooks, Gram Parsons, Hank Garland, Hank Williams Jr., Jerry Reed, John Hartford, Johnny Gimble, Johnny Paycheck, June Carter Cash, Kenny Rodgers, Marty Stuart, Merle Haggard, Ralph Mooney, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, Ronnie Milsap, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Rolling Stones, Wynn Stewart
Townes Van Zandt’s story is one of hope, for all of music and musicians, and artists of all kinds. As much as he struggled commercially, socially, and with his own demons, somehow over time the cream still found a way to rise to the top. It is a shame that some of the greatest have such a hard time relating to life, and that Townes Van Zandt found his greatest success after death. But he found it.
If you haven’t heard by now, legendary musician, songwriter, producer, and country music Outlaw “Cowboy” Jack Clement’s famous home/studio suffered major fire damage Saturday afternoon. Jack Clement is a national treasure. His whimsy and lightheartedness that is illustrated in these pictures is his key to easing the stress of the recording process, and creating albums such as Waylon’s Dreaming My Dreams, or Prine’s Pink Cadillac.
Hubbard was as important as anybody in the formation of the Austin music scene, but he was unfortunate enough to record his marquee release in Nashville. In a classic story involving Music Row, once MCA was done adding their over-produced elements to Ray Wylie Hubbard & The Cowboy Twinkies, Ray and The Twinkies wanted nothing to do with it.
A few days ago I found myself driving from Taos, New Mexico to Austin, TX; a junket I dubbed the “Waylon Jennings Historic Tour”. As I drove in on Farm to Market road 54, I noticed the name change to “Waylon Jennings Blvd”, and when I reached the heart of town, at the corner of Waylon Jennings and Hall Ave., I found what I was looking for in the form of “Waymore’s”.
Willie’s Place was built about three years ago. Though it wasn’t very old, it was the last of a dying breed of unique places that America can boast, where commerce happens, but not at the expense of regional taste and local appeal. What it didn’t have was a well-recognized company logo out front, like 98% of the gas stations and truck stops in America do. It had a hand-painted sign.
On February 22, 1956, Elvis Presley played a concert at the City Auditorium in Waycross, GA. Opening for Elvis that night were two brothers, Charlie and Ira, a gospel duo called The Louvin Brothers. In the crowd was a 9-year-old boy, a native of Georgia, born and raised in Waycross. How that boy felt about Elvis that night is uncertain, but The Louvin Brothers left an indelible mark on him that he would carry for the rest of his life.
When “Dandy” Don Meredith died on Sunday, he was remembered as many things: Dallas Cowboys football player, commentator for Monday Night Football, actor in dozens of movies and TV shows. But one element you may not hear much about is his involvement with country music, and specifically, good Texas Outlaw country.
Like JD Wiles of Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers said in part 2 of this series, the revitalization of lower Broadway started in the mid 90’s, but it was in the late 90’s when it really became “special.” Part of the reason for that was undoubtedly the presence of hillbilly royalty, from the bloodline of the man who helped build those buildings.
As lower Broadway became a hoping place in the mid 90’s drawing talent from all around the country, competition for choice time slots at the best bars became fierce, and if you didn’t keep the patrons entertained, there was no money in the tip jar. With so much talent and so few bars and dollars to go around, competition became hyper. In this environment, talent and originality were pushed to their limits and it created some of the most dynamic frontmen in any genre of music at any time.
Exit In, Hatch Show Print, Hillbilly Casino, Jason and the Scorchers, JD Wilkes, Jello Biafra, Joe Buck, lower broadway, Nashville, Robert Plant, Robert's Western World, The Bluegrass Inn, The Grand Ole Opry, The Legendary Shack Shakers, The Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman is what lower Broadway revolves around, and it is easy to think that however it goes, so goes lower Broadway. When The Ryman was virtually shuttered in 1974 and The Grand Ole Opry moved to the Opry House, that is when the seeds of the lower Broadway decline were sowed.
Frequent readers here already know that what makes a country music Outlaw is not image, quite the contrary. It is an independent spirit that is unwilling to bend to popular trends or Nashville’s money-centric methods. However recently I spied a trend, a fashion trend if you insist, that spans the time line of the Outlaws that I think is interesting to note.
Last week when I posted a link to Johnny Cash’s American Recordings Outtakes I posted a sign of Johnny shooting the bird. Not the first time I’ve posted that picture, but after some inquires and a few conversations over it, it’s come to my attention that maybe the story behind Johnny Cash’s middle finger is […]
Today is the 4th of July: the birthday of The United States. It is also arguably the birthday of the Outlaw movement in country music. Nailing down an exact date when the Outlaw movement started depends on who you talk to, but a popular one is when Willie Nelson’s legendary 4th of July Picnics started […]
4th of July, Acuff-Rose, Bobby Bare, Chet Atkins, David Allan Coe, Eric Church, Gretchen Wilson, Hillbilly Central, Honky Tonk Heroes, Johnny Cash, Johnny Paycheck, Josh Thompson, Kris Kristofferson, Neil Reshen, Outlaw, Streets of Baltimore, Studio B, Sunday Morning Coming Down, Tompall Glaser, Wanted The Outlaws, Waylon Jenniongs, Willie Nelson
I’d love to tell you that I know a lot about Larry Jon Wilson, who died Monday at 69 from a stroke, but truth is I only know him through the bits of his music that have passed under my nose over the years, and from his appearance in the documentary Heartworn Highways. There isn’t […]