Country and Western Music

March 18-19, 2006

After blogging about country music this weekend I receive lots of email from fans who love it as much as I do. I want to thank everyone who wrote and shared their stories linked to the song 'Crazy' and country music in general.

I grew up with country and western music all around me, as it was my father's favorite. In time I really grew to love it and still do. I still remember the old records and album covers that stood in a wire metal rack near the wooden phonograph in the living room. A favorite song for readers is ...

The column I posted with that song, 11 years ago, was about people who study metaphysical subjects being told by others that they are crazy! The world is a crazy place ... always has been!

We have come a long way baby!

Maybe some of those people were crazy, moving into the healing grid for answers, but look how our thinking has evolved in 'time'.

Where were you 11 years ago?!

Were you starting to pay attention to numeric, and other encoded signs from the grid program, such as 11:11, and wondering what they meant?

Did prophecies catch your attention making you wonder if the world would end in 1999?

Were you beginning to realize that the synchronicities in your life had greater meaning for you than once believed, especially after author James Redfield published, "The Celestine Prophecy"? Synchronicity for that timeline?

The program was shifting harmonics very quickly, accelerating exponentially until it reaches Zero [ZED] Point. Were you remembering that you had a place in something important, the 'mission feeling', if you will?

Had your journey into awareness begun, guided by your soul, guides, the program, as 3D came to make less and less sense each day, driving you 'crazy', making you feel compelled to discover your personal truths.

Were you working with psychics, channelers, healers, or coaches to find answers?

Were you developing your psychic abilities? If you read this column, you are clairvoyant, clairaudient, and more.

Did you realize that 'travel' is a key for many in unfolding who they are? Many people meet soul mates on metaphysical journeys.

Did you come to realize your dreams and meditation symbols had greater meaning than once recognized?

Did you own a personal computer or conceptualize how the Age of Technology would impact on the human experience/experiment?

Are you thinking out of the box yet and seeing the patterns of reality or, are you still stuck in the 'issues with tissues' grid? "Get with the program!" the Wizard.

An epiphany a day, keeps the doctor away!

An Apple a day, keeps the doctor away!    Is that a Mac joke?

Email from Texas ...

Email from Oklahoma ...

Email from Australia ...

Helen sends us this nature photo as spring approaches in the northern hemisphere.

The Old Trees Of Melbourne

Click Here to meditate with other music as
you stroll in the energies and magic of this image. Remember that
Australia has reversed seasons, but the energies are strong now, no
matter where you are, many of us detached from the physical plane
as all will soon reverse!

Here are 2 other images to welcome the spring for
those who like to cross bridges while meditating.

This allows the mind to move through infinite
realities from water below, to light above.

Country Music

Country music, also called country and western music or country-western, is an amalgam of popular musical forms developed in the Southern United States, with roots in traditional folk music, Celtic Music, Blues, Gospel music, and Old-time music.

However, country music is actually a catch-all category that embraces several different genres of music: Nashville sound (the pop-like music very popular in the 1960s); bluegrass, a fast mandolin, banjo and fiddle-based music popularized by Bill Monroe and by the Foggy Mountain Boys; Western which encompasses traditional Western ballads and Hollywood Cowboy Music, Western swing, a sophisticated dance music popularized by Bob Wills; Bakersfield sound (popularized by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard); Outlaw country; Cajun; Zydeco; gospel; oldtime (generally pre-1930 folk music); honky tonk; Appalachian; rockabilly; neotraditional country and jug band.

Statistics show that people who listen to country Music are usually quieter and less likely to have violent outrages.

Willie Nelson

Each style is unique in its execution, its use of rhythms, and its chord structures, though many songs have been adapted to the different country styles. One example is the tune Milk Cow Blues, an early blues tune by Kokomo Arnold that has been performed in a wide variety of country styles by everyone from Aerosmith to Bob Wills to Willie Nelson, George Strait to Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley.

Vernon Dalhart was the first country singer to have a nationwide hit (May 1924, with "The Wreck of Old '97") (see External Links below). Other important early recording artists were Riley Puckett, Don Richardson, Fiddling John Carson, Ernest Stoneman, Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers, and The Skillet Lickers.

Some trace the origins of modern country music to two seminal influences and a remarkable coincidence. Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family are widely considered to be the founders of country music, and their songs were first captured at an historic recording session in Bristol, Tennessee on August 1, 1927, where Ralph Peer was the talent scout and sound recordist.

It is possible to categorize many country singers as being either from the Jimmie Rodgers strand or the Carter Family strand of country music.

Jimmie Rodgers' influence

Jimmie Rodgers' gift to country music was country folk. Building on the traditional ballads and musical influences of the South, Jimmie wrote and sang songs that ordinary people could relate to. He took the experiences of his own life in the Meridian, Mississippi, area and those of the people he met on the railroad, in bars and on the streets to create his lyrics. He used the musical influences of the traditional ballads and the folk to create his tunes. An annual festival has been held in Meridian for over 30 years.

Pathos, humor, women, whiskey, murder, death, disease and destitution are all present in his lyrics and these themes have been carried forward and developed by his followers.

Hank Williams

People like Hank Williams, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Townes van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash have also suffered, and shared their suffering, bringing added dimensions to those themes. It would be fair to say that Jimmie Rodgers sang about life and death from a male perspective, and this viewpoint has dominated some areas of country music. It would also be fair to credit his influence for the development of honky tonk, rockabilly and the Bakersfield sound.

Jimmie Rodgers is a major foundation stone in the structure of country music, but the most influential artist from the Jimmie Rodgers strand is undoubtedly Hank Williams, Sr. In his short career (he was only 29 when he died), he dominated the country scene and his songs have been covered by practically every other country artist, male and female. Some have even included him in their compositions (for example, Waylon Jennings and Alan Jackson). Hank had two personas: as Hank Williams he was a singer-songwriter and entertainer; as "Luke the Drifter", he was a songwriting crusader. The complexity of his character was reflected in the introspective songs he wrote about heartbreak, happiness and love (e.g., "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry"), and the more upbeat numbers about Cajun food ("Jambalaya") or cigar store Indians ("Kaw-Liga"). He took the music to a different level and a wider audience.

Both Hank Williams, Jr. and his son Hank Williams III have been innovators within country music as well, Hank Jr. leading towards rock fusion and "outlaw country", and Hank III going much further in reaching out to death metal and psychobilly soul.

The Carter Family's Influence

The other Ralph Peer discovery, the Carter family, consisted of A.P. Carter, his wife Sara and their sister-in-law Maybelle. They built a long recording career based on the sonorous bass of A.P., the beautiful singing of Sara and the unique guitar playing of Maybelle. A.P.'s main contribution was the collection of songs and ballads that he picked up in his expeditions into the hill country around their home in Maces Springs, Virginia. In addition, being a man, he made it possible for Sara and Maybelle to perform without stigma at that time. These two women were the musical talent. They arranged the songs that A.P. collected and wrote their own songs. They were the precursors of a line of talented female country singers like Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Skeeter Davis, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and June Carter Cash, the daughter of Maybelle and the wife of Johnny Cash.


Bill Monroe

Bluegrass carries on the tradition of the old String Band Music and was invented, in its pure form, by Bill Monroe. The name "Bluegrass" was simply taken from Monroe's band, the "Blue Grass Boys". The first recording in the classic line-up was made in 1945: Bill Monroe on mandolin and vocals, Lester Flatt on guitar and vocals, Earl Scruggs on 5-String banjo, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Cedric Rainwater on upright bass. This band set the standard for all bluegrass bands to follow, most of the famous early Bluegrass musicians were one-time band members of the Bluegrass Boys, like Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Jimmy Martin and Del McCoury, or played with Monroe occasionally, like Sonny Osborne, The Stanley Brothers and Don Reno. Monroe also influenced people like Ricky Skaggs, Alison Krauss and Rhonda Vincent, who carry on the folk and ballad tradition in the bluegrass style.

Other influences

Charley Pride

Country music has had only a handful of Black stars Charley Pride and Deford Bailey being the most notable. Pride endured much open racism early in his career with some radio programmers refusing to play a "nigger". Many TV audiences were shocked to realize that the songs they enjoyed were performed by a black man. Pride became the second black member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1993 (he had declined an invitation to join in 1968). He is considered a major influence on traditionalists today. Country music has also influenced the work of many black musicians such as Ray Charles, Keb' Mo' and Cowboy Troy.

The Nashville Sound

During the 1960s, country music became a multimillion-dollar industry centered on Nashville, Tennessee. Under the direction of producers such as Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, and later Billy Sherrill, the Nashville sound brought country music to a diverse audience. This sound was notable for borrowing from 1950s pop stylings: a prominent and 'smooth' vocal, backed by an string section and vocal chorus. Instrumental soloing was de-emphasized in favor of trademark 'licks'.

Leading artists in this genre included Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and later Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich. Although country music has great stylistic diversity, some critics say this diversity was strangled by the formulaic approach of the Nashville Sound producers. Others point to the commercial need to re-invent country in the face of the dominance of '50s rock'n'roll and subsequent British Invasion. Even today the variety of country music is not usually well reflected in commercial radio airplay and the popular perception of country music is fraught with stereotypes of Hillbilly's and maudlin ballads.

Reaction to the Nashville Sound

The supposedly "vanilla"-flavored sounds that emanated from Nashville led to a reaction among musicians outside Nashville, who saw that there was more to the genre than "the same old tunes, fiddle and guitar..." (Waylon Jennings).

California produced the Bakersfield sound, promoted by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard and based on the work of the legendary Maddox Brothers and Rose, whose wild eclectic mix of old time country, hillbilly swing and gospel in the 1940s and 1950s was a feature of honky-tonks and dance halls in the state.

Texas produced rebels like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jerry Jeff Walker and others who bucked the Nashville system and created outlaw country.

Within Nashville in the 1980s, Randy Travis, Ricky Skaggs and others brought a return to the traditional values. Their musicianship, songwriting and producing skills helped to revive the genre momentarily. However, even they, and such long-time greats as Jones, Cash, and Haggard, fell from popularity as the record companies again imposed their formulas and refused to promote established artists. Capitol Records made an almost wholesale clearance of their country artists in the 1960s.

Country Music Developments

The two strands of country music have continued to develop since 1990s. The Jimmie Rodgers influence can be seen in a pronounced "working man" image promoted by singers like Brooks & Dunn and Garth Brooks. On the Carter Family side, singers like Iris Dement and Nanci Griffith have written on more traditional "folk" themes, albeit with a contemporary point of view.

In the 1990s a new form of country music emerged, called by some alternative country, neotraditional, or "insurgent country". Performed by generally younger musicians and inspired by traditional country performers and the country reactionaries, it shunned the Nashville-dominated sound of mainstream country and borrowed more from punk and rock groups than the watered-down, pop-oriented sound of Nashville.