Reigning CMA male vocalist of the year Blake Shelton seems to be on a quest to see just how far the old adage, "There is no such thing as bad publicity," can go. The 36-year-old singer has, over the past year, generated considerable controversy with tweets in which he implied he deliberately swerved into the emergency lane in Oklahoma to run over a turtle (finally "soothing" the issue by telling his detractors, "Get a life! Get a job! Get laid! For once!") and spoofing Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine" in such a way that it was interpreted as advocating violence against homosexuals ("Any man that tries touching my behind, he's gonna be a beaten, bleedin', heavin' kind of guy"). He's generated so much heat that his new year's resolution, according to Us magazine, was to be a "less controversial tweeter."
To one end he has kept that promise, for his latest controversy comes from an interview, not a tweet. In an episode of the GAC network's series Backstory, Shelton took dead aim at the history of country music and the genre's fans, long recognized as the most loyal of all. He said:
If I am "Male Vocalist of the Year," that must mean that I'm one of those people now that gets to decide if it moves forward, and if it moves on. Country music has to evolve in order to survive. Nobody wants to listen to their grandpa's music. And I don't care how many of these old farts around Nashville going, "My god, that ain't country!" Well, that's because you don't buy records anymore, jackass. The kids do, and they don't want to buy the music you were buying.
Needless to say, there are a few unhappy campers. Chief (by his own admission) among them, Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Price, who just turned 87. He replied via the Sirius/XM Willie's Roadhouse Facebook page:
It's a shame that I have spent 63 years in this business trying to introduce music to a larger audience and make it easier for the younger artists who are coming behind me. Every now and then some young artist will record a rock and roll-type song, have a hit first time out with kids only. That's why you see stars come with a few hits only and then just fade away believing they are God's answer to the world. This guy sounds like in his own mind that his head is so large no hat ever made will fit him. Stupidity reigns supreme! Ray Price (CHIEF "OLD FART & JACKASS") P.S.: You should be so lucky as us old-timers. Check back in 63 years (the year 2075) and let us know how your name and music will be remembered.
Shelton was shocked that he had offended his "all-time favorite," and many of his fans have rushed to his defense, pointing out that Shelton prides himself as being a country music historian and claiming what he said was misinterpreted.
Oh, where to start on this one....
I must admit that I find it difficult, if not impossible, to misinterpret what Shelton said. I also must admit that I am more offended by his arrogant implication that he is now lord and master of deciding what happens in country music universe because he won an award (it is funny how Mr. Country Music Historian cannot show anyone an instance of Eddy Arnold -- the only person to ever win the CMA Entertainer of the Year award after being inducted into the Hall of Fame -- making such a claim for himself, and please let it be noted that Eddy Arnold ranks #1 in Joel Whitburn's book of Billboard charted country songs) than his "old farts" remark. I think Ray Price hit the nail on the (oversized) head with his comment about Shelton's ego. It isn't just this comment, either: in the brouhaha over the turtle Shelton tweeted, "I solely have raised over a million dollars in animal rescue/conservation alone....how much have you raised? Oh, ok. Next."
And ol' Blake's a "country music historian?" Yeah, right. NOBODY (in fact, I'll go a little further and say no three people COMBINED) knows more about country music history than Eddie Stubbs, and you don't EVER hear such nonsense spewing out of Eddie's mouth.
My friend at the Fayfare's Opry Blog has opined that Shelton needs to be fired from the Opry. I could not agree more. With all those old farts like Jimmy Dickens, Del McCoury, Stonewall Jackson, Mel Tillis, Bill Anderson, Jan Howard, et. al., hanging around, why would Shelton even want to be a member to begin with?
A 2012 article in Verve said that the average American spends only $17 a year on music. That's about the price of two downloads. "Old fart" "jackasses," on the other hand, gleefully spend hundreds of dollars on Bear Family box sets to obtain the entire recorded output of people like Hank Locklin, the Louvin Brothers, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and oh, yes, Ray Price. Maybe Shelton should've done his homework on the money spent (and those "old farts" with all their disposable income to spend) before he trashed them.
In 2009 I drove to Nashville to see Ray Price headline a tribute to Don Helms, the last of the Drifting Cowboys. In my review I mentioned my absolute amazement at the ability of an octogenarian to walk out onto a stage, sit down on a stool, and absolutely control the audience. When Blake Shelton can do that, then he can decide the future of country music. I won't be holding my breath.