Monday, June 15, 2015

Excuse Me While I Gloat

Category:  News/Opinion

Back in February Sony Nashville's CEO Gary Overton made a bold proclamation about country musicians: "If you're not on country radio, you don't exist."  He lost his job ("mutual agreement" resignation, officially) a month later after the uproar over a remark that was ostensibly designed to make commercial country radio stations feel far more important than they are.  (I say that because 99% of music [not just country music] recorded in America is never played on the radio, and yet all those artists are selling albums and concert tickets.  Robbie Fulks wrote in his "Career Day" essay in the book A Guitar and a Pen that his wife commented that musicians can have a devoted following and make a living wage "without ever gaining an ounce of celebrity."  Those who are part of that 99% are out there making music will never play a concert in the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, but they're doing just fine, thank you, with plenty of happy and loyal fans.)

And now what has happened to further rub salt in Overton's wound?  The #1 album on the Billboard country charts this week is Django and Jimmie by Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.  

Neither man has been played on commercial mainstream country radio in at least 25 years, maybe longer.  So they "don't exist," but they debuted at the top spot on the country album chart.

Excuse me while I gloat.

It's short-lived, of course.  They won't get radio airplay because you can't play two country legends after Florida-Georgia Line without a lot of people realizing that one of the two of them is not country music.  But oh, does it feel good today.

Congratulations, Willie & Merle.  And thanks.


bigCman said...

Is there some underground rule that states "that there shall be absolutely no classic country music stations allowed?" People pay big bucks for Sirius radio just to get Willies Road House and Prime Country. Look how well the "Country Family Reunion" shows do on RFD. There is still a huge market for it, and it is something that will expand as people discover it.

Why does the current product have our music's name? Why is it located in our music's cd bins? Why is it taking up our musics spots on the charts? We were here first.

And I get tired of people, even our classic country heroes, saying It's just the evolution of our music. If it doesn't evolve, it will die. It has happened all throughout history, first Lefty and Hank came along and replaced Roy Acuff and Ernest Tubb and Red Foley. Then Don Gibson and Jim Reeves replaced Lefty and Hank and Webb Pierce. Then George Jones and Freddie Hart replaced Don Gibson, Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold. Then Mickey Gilley, Alabama and Kenny Rogers came along and so on and so on and so on."

Well the above assumption is incorrect. At no time during that "evolution cycle" was any of the previous artists "removed" from radio, or "removed" from the charts, or "removed" from award shows. They were front and center on TV for their Hall of Fame Inductions, they remained on their record labels for 20 or 30 years and they were still vital on the landscape until they retired or died.

Playing Jason Aldean on WSM, having Luke Bryan on the CMA awards and finding Florida Georgia Line in the Country cd bins at Best Buy, to me, is the equilivant of having Guns and Roses, Lionel Richie and Metallica invading our lives.

Raizor's Edge said...

You're absolutely correct. Over the past 10-15 years or so we've seen what they call "country music" act like "Mission Impossible": they disavow any knowledge of the actions of the first 70 years of country music. I remember hearing Hank Williams, who died 23 days after my parents got married, on the same stations that played Lefty and Buck and Glen Campbell. Country music used to acknowledge its history. They can't anymore, because if someone hears "Act Naturally" after Bryan or F-GL then they will immediately realize that one of the two of them is lying about what kind of music they're doing. The CMA doesn't even show the Country Music Hall of Fame inductions on TV anymore!! Anyone with half a mind has to ask what's up with THAT.

In 1989 Charlie Louvin said in an interview, "I don't know why I'm forced to be called 'traditional' or 'old-timey' when I'm still just country. If they want a different name, let them put it on their music." In the rock and roll world, they have come up with new names for dramatically different sounds ranging from punk to disco to alternative to new wave to heavy metal. Why, as Louvin said, does "country music" have to be used as a catch-all for any Tom, Dick, or Harry (or Bret Michaels) who wants to slap a cowboy hat on his head and say, "Hey, look at me, I'm country now"? As you said, the Louvins (and the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers and Hank and Lefty and George) were here first.

Thanks for your excellent comments.