Saturday, 18 January 2014

Back in the Saddle Again with Black Country Singers

Back in the Saddle Again...

First, I'm glad to be blogging again. What better way than having a little country/western music thanks to Gene Autry (above) and a bit more on the history of a multi-billion dollar industry?

Country music is rooted in folk music from around the world, brought together by immigrants to North America. They brought easy to transport string instruments with them, like the Irish fiddle, Spanish guitars, African banjos, and German dulcimers, and English mandolins.  Musicologists agree that the main pot where all these traditions mixed were in the American South in Appalachian Mountains, hence hte name calling of country as Hill-Billy music.

Blind+Lemon+Jefferson+PNG+version.pngDespite much of its reputation as a Whites Only musical form, early country was influenced heavily by Blacks, such as Rufus 'Tee-Tot' Payne who taught Hank Williams. My personal favourite is Blind Lemon Jefferson, who played honky-tonk country and blues from the early 1900s till his death in 1929. How can you not love a guy named Blind Lemon?

One Black Country musician whose regained his rightful place among the legends of Country music is DeFord Bailey. From the 1920s to the 1940s, he was a well know country musician. Born in Tennessee, He was one of the first performers and members of the Grand Ole Opry. His instrument of choice was the mouth harp.

Bailey was pretty much forgotten until the 2003 documentary on him by PBS "DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost", and his entrance into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

What kind of ticks me off a bit is the whole "country music is only for white people" perception. So many great Black musicians were at the beginning, and such a lack of respect for their own history that's not white. I'd like to explore it more in the future and think about other non-white performers, like many First Nations people who play country music. As my mom, who loved country music, said, "Who cares where they are from as long as they can sing and play and make a story from the air."

Further References on the Web:

Roughstock's History of Country Music - a a great site that deals with all forms of country, from the original sounds of Jimmy Rogers, to Western Swing, and onto the Outlaw and current pop formations.

Country Music Hall of Fame - a good primer with lots of good links to artist then and now.


Bill C Malone and Jocelyn R Neil. Country Music USA. (University of Texas Press; 3 Revised edition, 2010)

David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe. DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991)

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