The Death of Country Music

Hee HawNobody saw him running from sixteenth avenue
They never found the fingerprint or the weapon that was used
But someone killed country music, cut out its heart and soul
They got away with murder down on music row

The almighty dollar and the lust for worldwide fame
Slowly killed tradition and for that someone should hang
They all say not guilty, but the evidence will show
That murder was committed down on music row

For the steel guitars no longer cry and fiddles barely play
But drums and rock ‘n’ roll guitars are mixed up in your face
Old Hank wouldn’t have a chance on today’s radio
Since they committed murder, down on music row

They thought no one would miss it, once it was dead and gone
They said no one would buy them old drinking and cheating songs
Well I’ll still buy ’em
Well there ain’t no justice in it and the hard facts are cold
Murder’s been committed, down on music row

Oh, the steel guitars no longer cry and you can’t hear fiddles play
With drums and rock ‘n roll guitars mixed right up in your face
Why, the hag, he wouldn’t have a chance on today’s radio
Since they committed murder down on music row
Why, they even tell the posse to pack up and go back home
There’s been an awful murder down on music row

“Murder on Music Row”. George Strait/Alan Jackson, 2000

On this Saturday Morning, right across  Stateline Road, from the home of Elvis Presley,Memphis, Tennessee in Northwest Mississippi, I sit here reflecting on Saturday nights, growing up with my Mother and Daddy.

Every family, to this day, have rituals that they observe like clockwork.

Our Saturday Night Ritual was to eat homemade hamburgers, spaghetti, or crockpot beans off of TV trays and watch Hee Haw, the syndicated country music variety show, out of Nashville, which starred Buck Owens, Roy Clark, and a “cast of thousands”.

The snotty folks up in the Northeast Corridor never could figure out what made that “hick show”, that lasted 25 years,  so popular.

After all, it was about traditional American Values, love of God and Country, respecting our American Musical Heritage, and featuring talented performers who wrote songs, sang, played their own instruments, loved and appreciated their fans, and actually behaved like average Americans.

Plus, they had the good grace and common sense to keep their private lives, private.

This week foxnews.com reported that…

The country star opens up about his past, present and future in an interview with Entertainment Tonight’s Nischelle Turner that rivals ABC’s country soap “Nashville” with its real-life drama. Herndon discussed everything from his former drug use, his failed marriages and his current relationship.

“I have an awesome relationship that I’ve been in for a good number of years,” Herndon tells ET in a new sit-down airing Thursday. “[I] love him very much and he loves me.”

Married twice before, Herndon reveals that both of his ex-wives were “absolutely” aware of his sexuality.

“I had a lot of people around me that I trusted at a time and I was like,’Hey, you know this about me but the world doesn’t. So I’m gonna need to call on your services for a little while,'” he confessed. “It was unfortunate that I had to do that, but I felt that’s what I had to do to have my career. Standing on some pretty solid legs today, so I get to tell my truth today.”

The news brings new meaning to the singer’s latest album, “Lies I Told Myself,” which was released in 2013. Today, Herndon reveals that the biggest lie he told himself is “that I couldn’t be gay in country music.”

“I’ve dreamed about being in country music since I was 6 years old,” he said. “It’s my life, it’s what I do, it’s who I am, and I went to great lengths to cover up that fact to be to be a country star.”

Rumors surrounding Herndon’s sexuality first surfaced back in 1995, when an undercover male police officer alleged that the star exposed himself in a park.

“I wish I had really great recall or memory about that,” Herndon said of the allegation. “I think I had been up for like 6 days doing drugs the night and the day was really a huge blur for me.”

Now fully clean and sober, Herndon is looking forward to a future with his partner of five years, joking with ET that he hoped a proposal might follow his big reveal. “God, I’m hoping he asks me right after this interview!” he said.

“I do want children one day, you know,” he added. “I do want to be married one day.”

But for now, Herndon says he’s thrilled to be seeing increasing levels of acceptance in Nashville.

“Traditionally in country music, we don’t see a lot of support for the LGBT community, but that’s changing so much,” he said. “Nashville is changing so much. I mean my goodness… Kacey Musgraves won Song of the Year for [the lyrics] ‘follow your arrow, wherever it points’ and two amazing songwriters that happened to be gay wrote that song.”

Herndon continued, “It gives me a lot of hope that that Nashville is ready for this. I get to be free today. I’m born again today, and I feel like I’m not gonna have any trouble sleeping tonight.”

Herndon’s story inspired fellow country singer Billy Gilman to come out as well.

“It was in that moment that I knew that I’d rather it be from me, than you reading it from somewhere else,” Gilman said in a YouTube video Thursday.

Actually, boys, y’all could have kept your lust for hairy-legged gents to yourselves. America ain’t New York City.

What is happening to country music reflects a lot about the culture we live in.   Artists who actually lived what they sung about like Loretta Lynn, George Jones, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette, The Statlers, Jim Ed Brown, Porter Waggoner, Bocephus, Randy Travis, Jeannie C. Riley, and Elvis Presley have been replaced by fashion model wannabes and burned-out rock stars.

Please don’t get me wrong.  There is still a lot of great talent in country music.  Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, the Zac Brown Band, Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, Martina McBride, Clint Black, Carrie Underwood, and Rascal Flatts, among others, are very talented performers.

However, in our culture of fast lives, fast food, and instant gratification, superficiality sells.  That’s how we got stuck with Barack Hussein Obama (mm mmm mmmm).

It is easier and more profitable for a record company to sell someone who looks good and can sing a little, or release a country music album made by a fading rock star, than it is for them to market someone who is unbelievably talented and writes their own songs, but resembles your next door neighbor.

Remember the Kid Rock, Bruce Springsteen, and Van Morrison country music CD fiascos?  No?  I don’t blame you.  I wouldn’t admit it, either.

Can you imagine Hank Williams, Sr., Patsy Cline, or Buck Owens trying to get a record deal today?

I’m sorry Mr. Williams.  Your vocalization is way too twangy and you drink way too much.  “I Saw The Light”?  What kind of song is that?  A song about redemption?  Get real.  “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”?  Who Cares?  You’re just not marketable.

Miss Cline, we can’t use you.  You look like somebody’s next door neighbor.

Mr. Owens, what is the “Bakersfield Sound” that you’re talking about?  That won’t get any airtime in New York City.   “Act Naturally”?  That’s a song?  Next thing you know, you’ll tell me that the Beatles will want to record it.

Now you know why Toby Keith formed his own record label. 

The big recording companies like RCA Nashville and Arista are run like any other business.  Executives are transferred from other cities and other divisions within the company and are judged to be successful by the amount of revenue they generate.  The decision was made several years ago to turn country music into pop music.  Country music started the transition from Kitty Wells to Miranda Lambert and from George Jones to Kid Rock in an effort to claim a bigger share of the CD-buying public.  The disconnect arises when you take a genre that has traditionally sung  about God, America, family, and heartache and try to make it about fashionistas, MTV, and shallow people with situational morality and ethics. 

That dog don’t hunt.

Allow me to close with this video from Alan Jackson and George Strait, of the song featured at the beginning of today’s blog.  As you read earlier, they expressed the situation much more eloquently than I can.

[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgiILl_F7O8]

Until He Comes,

KJ

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2 Responses to “The Death of Country Music”

  1. Foxfier Says:

    *shrug* They destroyed the rest of music so much that they had to move on to various country forms, because that’s where the folks who like music instead of performers went. Just like when a place gets Californicated, they move in because they “just love” an aspect… and set about making it identical to what they left. Then get upset because it’s not what they fell in love with before they started “fixing” it.

    Luckily, we’ve got not only Toby Keith style “make your own company” folks– Chris LeDoux style “everyone in this subculture knows and loves that guy” recording is much, much easier.

    Some of the new stuff drives me nuts, but it’s easy to tell the “still has some country soul” stuff from the “pop music with a guitar” ones.

  2. backwoods conservative Says:

    I’m just an old dinosaur.

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