That Ain’t Your Momma’s Country Music

The trivia question for this week is, Which famous country singer began as a rock and roller and as such did a song about country legend Merle Haggard?

On Wednesday, August 3, I watched a rock music festival vaguely disguised as a country music festival. They did cover their bases by saying it was country’s night to rock, and before I go any further, I will add that I mostly enjoyed the show. I also realize that what was shown on TV was but a small segment of many days and many stages of music and events. If I had been there, I could have rambled from place to place, stage to stage, but I was home nursing a torn ACL and meniscus, so I stayed up watching it on TV, waiting to see what Steven Tyler would do. What he did was Steven Tyler at his best, but it wasn’t country. One of the items on his bucket list of things to do before he hits 70 was to do a solo album and do country, which he did, and it’s called “We’re All Somebody From Somewhere.” He sang the title track from that, and it was good. I would like to hear the entire CD.

For many years in the 1980’s, I was a country music DJ at a radio station that thankfully did not lean too heavily on the George Jones–Tammy Wynette type of country. It was for its time very progressive and crossover-oriented, and I could move from a great Willie Nelson ballad like “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” to Little Feat and “New Delhi Freight Train,” and then segue into a rockin’ Waylon Jennings tune, and wrap up the set with Bob Seger’s “Shame On the Moon.” Fortunately, I also had a program director who realized I had no idea I was supposed to follow a format (actually I knew that. I just really didn’t want to do that nor did he really want me to). I remember one night when I was still doing the graveyard shift, he called me up laughing and said, “Dan, have you seen the format lately?” I said, “Yes, I moved it. It was blocking my view.”

I remember in those days many people said we were not a country station, that so-and-so or such-a-song was not a country song. But compared to what sells as country music today, we were as twangy as Hank Williams and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.” So I guess in a way I’ve completed the circle from being told I wasn’t playing country to saying, “That’s not country.” My wife was a country DJ in New York, and she did it because she loved the music. Her show was called “Jennifer Country,” and she liked to say she was known by her first name in seven states. I would always come back with, “Big deal. I was known by seven names in one city.”

August 4 would have been Jennifer’s birthday. She really liked the old country stuff by Donna Fargo, George Jones, Ferlin Husky, and Gentlemen Jim Reeves. Watching the CMA Music Festival, I wondered what she would think about today’s country. A guy I had never heard of before, Cole Swindell, hit a hurt in me with one of the most country-sounding songs of the night called “You Should Be Here,” and I have feeling that if Jennifer were here she would say, “That ain’t your momma’s country music.”

There are more thoughts on country music, a smattering of politics, and the answer to the trivia question all in the podcast. I hope you’ll join me on the shores of Rambling Harbor.

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