The last few days has seen a small flurry of news concerning the movement to Reinstate Hank Williams to the Grand Ole Opry. The online petition is about to crest 40,000 signatures (or it might already have by the time you read this), which was a goal of the Reinstaters to reach by the end of the month.
But I wanted to give you my opinion about a viewpoint held by some about the Reinstate Hank movement. And these people aren’t pop country posers or Opry apologists. These are Hank Williams fans, and people that think what has happened to the Opry in recent years is a joke. In other words, they are good country music fans, they just don’t see the point in fighting the Reinstate Hank fight. Here is a great example from Jake of the Lonesome Drifters:
“It seems a lot of people are interested in trying to get Hank Williams Sr. reinstated back into the Grand Ole Opry. And while he definitely belongs in this group, I don’t think if he were alive today he would care at all. The Opry has turned into a joke in the last few years, and is inducting people as soon as they have a few popular radio songs. Why would Hank want to be in a group that accepts just about anyone? He doesn’t need to be a member of the Grand Ole Opry to be a badass. He already is. I talked to Wayne Hancock about this, and he feels the same way about the cause. Hank is the king of Country Music, and if the Opry doesn’t want him, then screw em, he doesn’t need them.”
First off I want to point out that Wayne Hancock has officially signed the petition. When I spoke to him in Colorado last month, we talked about Reinstate Hank off mic, and I have also talked to a few other big named underground country artists about it as well.
If you want to know why I think Hank Williams should be reinstated to the Opry, you can watch the video below, but I want to respond to this viewpoint because I am very aware and understanding of it. Why? Because when I started writing about the underground country movement, when I started Free Hank III, I believed it. I had NOT signed the petition. That’s right, The Triggerman had no desire to put his John Hancock on anything. “Screw the Grand Ole Opry” is what I thought. Why even act like we care what they do with that outmoded institution that has been overrun with money whores and marketeers?
But the more I thought about it, and specifically thought about country music in general, the more I understood why this movement was so important. Country music isn’t just a genre of music, it is a culture. Think about it like this: to people who are Jewish, being Jewish is not just their religion, it is their culture as well. The are Jewish people who are atheists. The same can be said in country music: it defines a culture AND a genre of music. Furthermore, the country genre has always been about preserving traditions; it is found in the style of the music and the themes of the lyrics. Rock music for example is all about breaking down traditions. This is not a knock on rock, just an observation. Rock breaks down traditions and inhibitions, and country preserves them.
Like a lot of underground/insurgent country fans, I am a fan of punk music as well. The punk philosophy embodies tearing down institutions and traditions. Again, that is fine, but you can’t take this same approach to country. It is a different world. All we have in country music is our institutions and traditions, especially now since the music itself has been hijacked by huge corporations and pop performers. My problem is not with the Opry, I love the Opry. My problem is with Gaylord Entertainment, who currently runs the Opry, and is running it into the ground.
I know these ramblings may not convince anybody. I understand that Reinstating Hank to the Opry is completely symbolic, and even if it is done that won’t mean that country music has been saved. But it is a battle in a war, an important hill to take, a way to keep Gaylord Entertainment’s feet to the fire.
And when they are writing the country history books about this dark period in country music, they will be able to mention that there was a contingent of die hard REAL country music fans that did what they could to preserve the music, and I am glad and proud to count myself within those ranks.