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.