Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Introduction

In an age when country music seems to be shooting off in a dozen different directions, it is important to remind ourselves that there was once, and still is, a broad mainstream that genuinely defined the genre. It was not called “power country” or “alt country” or “retro country” or “country rock” or “cowboy country,” but just “country.” It was the home of a large number of performers who shared a range of values and beliefs about the music, and who shared a common body of tradition and history. This great unifying, nourishing stream runs through the history of country music, from the pioneer Appalachian harmonies of the Original Carter Family through the varied vocal styles of Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, Kitty Wells, Martha Carson, the Statler Brothers, and dozens of others. Some have taken to calling this broad mainstream tradition “Classic Country,” in the same manner that we speak of “classic” rock or “classic” jazz. This book is a collection of some fifty profiles of musicians, past and present, who were part of this great stream.

Though the subjects seen here range from pioneers of the 1920s—the first generation of professional country musicians—to stars of the present, they all have certain things in common. First and foremost is that each artist has serious ties to country music’s past, and to the country music tradition. It is true that most of these stars have created their own distinct style and image, and this has made them unique and worthy of interest; but most have accomplished this by building on older, earlier traditions. And many of them are willing and even anxious to pay homage to their teachers. Roy Acuff could not get out of his head the sound of the old mountain ballad singer in eastern Tennessee; Lefty Frizzell stuck his head inside the old Victrola to try to better hear the archetypal recordings of Jimmie Rodgers; fiddler Tommy Magness was obsessed with the old fiddle tune he learned growing up in the north Georgia hills that people later came to call “Black Mountain Rag.” Bill

-vii-

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Classic Country: Legends of Country Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Part I - From the Hall of Fame 1
  • The Carter Family 2
  • Roy Acuff 19
  • Lefty Frizzell 27
  • Grandpa Jones 33
  • Pee Wee King 38
  • Bill Monroe 44
  • Hank Snow 50
  • Kitty Wells 56
  • Part II - From the Victrola 63
  • Fiddlin’ John Carson 64
  • Vernon Dalhart 70
  • Riley Puckett 76
  • Charlie Poole 82
  • The Georgia Yellow Hammers 85
  • Darby and Tarlton 89
  • Part III - From the Airwaves 93
  • Lew Childre 94
  • The Blue Sky Boys 97
  • Brown’s Ferry Four 103
  • Cousin Emmy 106
  • The Monroe Brothers 109
  • Wayne Raney 114
  • Karl and Harty 117
  • Bradley Kincaid 125
  • Part IV - From the Shadows: Unsung Heroes 129
  • Tommy Magness 130
  • Arthur Q. Smith 143
  • Zeke and Zeb Turner 146
  • Johnny Barfield 152
  • The Rouse Brothers 155
  • Seven Foot Dilly 165
  • The Jordanaires 175
  • Deford Bailey 178
  • Emmett Miller 182
  • Tommy Jackson 185
  • Jimmie Riddle 188
  • Part V - From the Stage: Classic Country 193
  • Curly Fox and Texas Ruby 194
  • The Delmore Brothers 197
  • Don Gibson 203
  • The Louvin Brothers 215
  • The Statler Brothers 221
  • Martha Carson 236
  • The Carlisles 239
  • Albert E. Brumley 243
  • Stringbean 247
  • Part VI - From the West 257
  • Girls of the Golden West 258
  • Billie Maxwell 261
  • Red River Dave 265
  • Skeets Mcdonald 268
  • Part VII - New Fogies 273
  • Hazel and Alice 274
  • Doc Watson 279
  • Roy Harper 285
  • The Freight Hoppers 294
  • Acknowledgments 300
  • Index 301
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