The Country Music Story: A Picture History of Country and Western Music

Discussion in 'Talk of Books' started by suncityjack, Aug 30, 2013.

  1. suncityjack

    suncityjack Active Member

    Robert Shelton's and Burt Goldblatt's The Country Music Story: A Picture History of Country and Western Music. (Bobbs- Merrill, Indianapolis: 1966)
    A fascinating book, but of course limited in scope since it was published in 1966, but great look at those earlier years.
    The editorial speculations make for a pleasant conversational tone, and combines C & W history with that of world history as well. For ex., on page 79, the author speculates, “Was there a United States Army barracks anywhere around the world that didn’t at one point ring to the sounds of Acuff’s ‘Great Speckled Bird,’ ‘Wabash Cannon Ball,’ or the mournful, moralizing dirge by Dorsey Dixon, ‘Wreck on the Highway’?” and then re: Acuff, “His first great hit was with the sacred song ‘The Great Speckled Bird,’ which has been his trade-mark since. The title is a symbol of the Bible, and is mentioned in the twelfth chapter of Jeremiah.”

    I enjoyed learning about people like Jimmie Rodgers and also have all the more reason to like Woody Guthrie, who was quoted on page 85: “I hate a song that makes you think that you’re not any good. I hate a song that makes you think that you are just born to lose. Bound to lose. No good to nobody. No good for nothing. Because you are either too old or too young or too fat or too thin or too ugly or too this or too that. Songs that run you down or songs that poke fun at you on account of your bad luck or your hard traveling. I am out to fight those kinds of songs to my very last breath of air and my last drop of blood.

    I am out to sing songs that will prove to you that this is your world and that if it has hit you pretty hard and knocked you for a dozen loops, no matter how hard it’s run you down and rolled over you, no matter what color, what size you are, how you are built, I am out to sing the songs that make you take pride in yourself and in your work. And the songs I sing are made up for the most part by all sorts of folks just about like you.”

    Book mentioned a “Zeke Clements explaining how to skin a cat to get a banjo skin,” (23) yikes--and lots of other really backwoods bits, but I also learned of the ways the performers often capitalized on a hillbilly image and would engage in a sort of self-burlesque, like “Pappy McMichen’s bow sliding across his 1723 Italian violin which he has to call a fiddle” (23).

    Really liked this quote by Archie Green: “Out of the long process of American urbanization-industrialization there has evolved a joint pattern of rejection as well as sentimentalization of rural mores. We flee the eroded land with its rotting cabin; at the same time we cover it in the rose vines of memory….” (207). Very true.

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