How “Saving Country Music” Got Its Name

Similar to the famous last name of a second or third generation country music performer, the name of this particular website is both one of its strongest assets, and one of its most significant burdens. The name tends to immediately evoke strong opinions from people before they ever read a single word, whether that’s in the positive for the mission being undertaken, a hearty cackle at the stupidity of the whole idea, and some people think with a name like Saving Country Music, this site should be something significantly different than what it is, whatever that might happen to be their mind’s eye.

In the end though, it’s just a name. There’s a popular website covering the indie rock world called Brooklyn Vegan that has little to do with either Brooklyn or being vegan these days. There was once a popular band called Diarrhea Planet. In fact you could read about Diarrhea Planet on Brooklyn Vegan. Point being, a name is just that—something to call something that hopefully has some tangential tie to whatever it’s all about, or it doesn’t.

Some assume that with a name like Saving Country Music, I, Trigger must think that I’m the one doing the saving—that I’m country music’s savior. But of course it’s not me, but the bands and artists highlighted here that are doing the saving, along with addressing the important issues that affect the music from a business and community standpoint. And of course it’s a mission that will never be truly accomplished. It’s the effort that’s important, as is caring about something that is bigger and more important than any of us, and God willing, will outlive us all and carry a strong legacy well into the future.

Some over the years have insisted that Saving Country Music should or must change its name since it’s so out-of-bounds of what they think it should be. But with the nature of search results, web addresses, trademarks and copyrights, that has never been a legitimate option. It’s like starting from scratch. The name is what it is at this point, which again is fine because it’s just a name.

But how did Saving Country Music get its name specifically? Well, as long-time readers know, this site began as an organization called Free Hank III in April of 2008. Hank Williams III was having issues with his label Curb Records, and was contractually bound to not speak about them. But we could, and we did, rattling Curb’s cage until Hank3 had successfully fulfilled his contract and was rid of the label.

Along with handling Curb, from the beginning there was also the effort to highlight many of the underground country bands and artists that were receiving little or no media coverage at the time. Back in 2008, it was Myspace that ruled the social media realm. At some point when surfing around on MySpace, I happened upon a picture of Waylon Jennings walking down the street holding a guitar case in his hand (see above). Under the picture, someone left the caption, “Let’s go save country music!”

There was something about the attitude of the caption along with the photo—the energy and enthusiasm, and how it came across like a call to action. After vanquishing Curb Records (or at least the Hank3 issue), it seemed like a worthy charge to roll the network and community that had formed around Free Hank III into.

That photo I had seen on MySpace (and yes I know I’m dating myself each time I mention MySpace), it originally appeared on the back of the second album from Waylon Jennings called Leaving Town released in 1966. But it was only a small sliver of the photo rendered in black and white. The photo would appear in its entirety and in color on future compilation albums, most notably the 12 song Original Outlaw that covered the early recordings of Waylon’s career. It was taken on Gallatin Pike in Madison, Tennessee, just north of Nashville.

Depicting a young Waylon Jennings fresh from his first major stomping ground in Arizona, and destined to revolutionize country music and his era, it all seems so emblematic of what the effort to save country music was all about.

So there you go, and now you know. I don’t remember who posted the Waylon photo on MySpace, or who lent it the important caption, or who took the original photo. But I owe them either a debt of gratitude, or a good cussing for having spent the last thirteen years and counting encumbered by this pursuit.

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P.S. – What reminded me of this was looking at the cover of the new Charley Crockett album Music City USA to be released in September 2021, whose cover is reminiscent of the front cover of Waylon’s Leaving Town.

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