In 1981 Barbara Mandrell introduced a song entitled “I was country when country wasn’t cool“. This song chronicled a shift in the American culture. Before then,m Country or Country and Western music wasn’t listened to by most and it was difficult to find Country music on the radio dial in many parts of the United States. As a teen age boy I, along with most, spent my time listening to Rock and Roll, switching back and forth between WCPO (AM 1230) and WSAI (AM 1360). Eventually those stations were not doing the trick for me and I found myself tuning the old Zenith Royal 50 up the dial to WCKY (AM 1530). Although it did not feature country music 24 hours a day, it did have some spots that featured country music. Most memorable to me was an evening spot hosted by Wayne Rainey. I remember that the opening theme song to that show was the “Steel Guitar Rag“, and I love that tune to this day.
What Barbara sang of was regarding a shift in the culture where country music was suddenly popular in the mainstream. One was not considered a “hick” if they enjoyed country music. Boots and jeans became popular and Americans were finding themselves at clubs on Friday nights doing country line dances. Country music fans were everywhere, country music was found on the radio dial, both AM and FM, and country stars were coming to perform concerts. Suddenly being country was cool. Of course,it was a matter of perspective. Those locally who considered fans of the genre as hicks perhaps did not realize that some of the East Cost Elitist considered everybody from our area as hicks. It was all a matter of perspective as the country acts were not only playing in arenas in the Midwest but were also booking concerts in major arenas such as Carnegie Hall. I should mention a major influence in introducing Country music to the mainstream was a TV showed called “Hee-Haw” that aired in 1969. Although this show introduced some of the greats such as Buck Owens, Roy Clark, Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones, it also gave a very unflattering image of rural folks and their ways.
I have love country music for many years now. I like a few of todays stars, but basically I am a purist when it comes to country music. I love to listen to “Country Classic” which includes such greats as Hank Williams, Faron Young, Ernest Tubb, Stonewall Jackson and more. The list goes on and on, most of them have cone on as well. This blog article would not be complete without making mention of one of the greats who just passed away, George Jones. To be honest, I think his passing is what put me into this mindset to write an article about country music in the first place. I have always been a fan of George Jones. The King of Broken Hearts could croon with the best of them. He epitomizes an era in Country music that will soon only be remembered in the Country Music Hall of Fame. I would much rather hear the plaintive sounds of how “He Stopped Loving Her Today“, than to hear another worship a “Red Solo Cup” Don’t get me wrong, I like to tune “Red Solo Cup”, but it isn’t Classic Country. So here is to the “Possum“. May he rest in peace. And hey George, give our best to Tammy!
Those are my thoughts, what are yours?