The Descent of SNL, Austin City Limits, & The Rolling Stone (A rant)

So on Saturday night, I get a phone call from a friend who knows I like pop country about as much as getting a splintered board shoved up my ass, telling me that the perfume peddling Timberly McGraw is the host of Saturday Night Live. So I tune into the last half of the show to see SNL’s talentless cast trying to shoehorn a talentless musician into boring skits.

Timberly was not the musical guest, that was T. Pain & Ludacris, your generic hip-hoppers catering their music to teenage suburban yuppie offspring who wish they were brothers from the hizzood.

And this got me to thinking about SNL, another Saturday night staple for years Austin City Limits , and Rolling Stone Magazine.

All three of these once great institutions used to be all about supporting REAL music, whether it was popular or not. They used to be about promoting acts that were not necessarily getting the pub they deserved from other media outlets. SNL has never been about country music. In fact when Garth Brooks hosted the show, his emo pop alter ego Chris Gaines was booked as the musical guest. But during its early years they really tried to promote lesser-known, but really talented musicians.

The Rolling Stone started out by covering bands in the late 60’s San Francisco music scene, and helped propel that scene to a national level. When The Outlaws were taking over country music in the 70’s, Rolling Stone covered the Austin scene and Chet Flippo was dispatched to Nashville to cover Waylon Jennings and the ‘Hillbilly Central’ crowd at Tompall Glaser’s studios.

Austin City Limits was formed solely to cover the Austin country rock scene that exploded in the 70’s, and was inspired by Jan Reed’s GREAT book, The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. As the years went by, they also covered some national acts, but they always stayed true to covering Austin music and country music as a whole.

But nowadays, all three of these outlets seem to only be interested in whatever ‘Johnny Come Lately’ is hot at the time, and usually that Johnny Come Lately is some sort of version of ‘hip-hop.’ And forget trying to promote regional acts or culture. All three of these promote the same damn thing.

In other words, back in the day, but on the same week The Rolling Stone would write a story about ‘The Grateful Dead,’ Austin City Limits would show a performance by ‘Willie Nelson,’ and SNL would show ‘Simon & Garfunkel’ or ‘Patti Smith.’ But nowadays The Rolling Stone runs a story about Gnarls Barkley, Austin City Limits shows a performance by Gnarls Barkley, and Gnarls Barkley plays on SNL. And our music culture continues to become more homogenized and less regionalized, and is controlled more and more by big record label corporations trying to make as much money as possible at the expense of good music.

Austin City Limits’ first season in 1975 was a who’s-who in the Austin music scene. This year they had performances by Gnarls Barkley, Coldplay, and REM. Even if you like these bands, why do any of them need exposure? Who needs exposure is Wayne ‘The Train’ Hancock, Dale Watson, and other legacy members of the Austin country music scene. And Dale and Wayne aren’t just bar acts, but people who have national followings and influence other people’s music.

I know that in the last issue of Rolling Stone they had an interview with Hank III and I don’t want to take anything away from that. I commend them for that and for helping get the word out for Reinstate Hank, but they also screwed up his review of Straight to Hell that you can read about by clicking here. And for every REAL musician they cover, there’s 20 Taylor Swifts or Timberly McGraw stories. At this point Rolling Stone is not much more than a teenie-bopper fashion magazine in my opinion, that only has glimpses of good content.

And Rolling Stone just changed it’s magazine print format because they said they are loosing money. Austin City Limits will tell you they have to have pop acts to keep ratings up. But what they don’t understand is that if they stayed true to their roots, they wouldn’t have any financial trouble. They should stick with what made them good instead of trying to scrape for every last dollar. Austin City Limits is on pubic (purposely misspelled-save the emails) television which not supposed to worry about making money anyway. I’d rather see Austin City Limits ride into the sunset than have a one hit wonder like Gnarls Barkley shame it’s stage.

But shit, what do I know?

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