"COUNTRY MUSIC IS DEAD!
By J.C. High Eagle June 17
That's what an A&R person told
me on my cell phone while travelling to a studio
recording session in Nashville. He said pure country
music doesn't make a buck and won't sell. It all
borders on what you mean and define as 'country'
music. But before I go any further, and for the sake
of being accused of being too narrrowed in my taste
of music, I want to say up front that music to me is
a way of life!
Before anyone gets bent out of shape and down on me,
let me quickly say right up front: I enjoy ALL the
genres of music and the artists that perform them. I
have nothing against the current trends in music,
nor am I out to offend anyone. I just think there is
a place also for pure country music without the rock
mixture and influences. If that's the direction
things are headed, great and that's fine. Change is
wonderful, but PLEASE DON'T CALL IT COUNTRY MUSIC!
And please don't think real country music is dead .
. . IT'S NOT! It's probably more popular
internationally than it is here in the U.S. today.
So it's no secret that i LOVE my country music, BUT
i grew up on this stuff since my Mom was a big fan,
and to me real country is when we talk about people
like, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Lyn
Anderson, Johnny Cash, The Highway Men, Hank
Williams.. Ya know those kinda people. All I see on
TV now are dudes with slick moders haircuts, and
very young singer songwriter chicks and the music I
hear has absolutely nothing to do with country, or
bluegrass or nothing like that.
I mean rock is there, but rock is not country for
god sake, it's pop rock... and everything else I see
and hear so far has been pop or pop rock as well. My
point is I think it's a shame not to honor such an
amazing genre more when it comes our country music
heritage, cuz there is so much great country out
there still . . .and not get contaminated by the
attitudes and actions of a few people only
interested in 'selling', and not entertaining.
There are a lot of the old school types still
touring & being true to their roots. Not that I am
against innovation. There are plenty of younger
entertainers that are old school, Gretchen Wilson is
one of my favorites. There's a lot of great stuff
out there, but they seem to choose what goes along
with mainstream the best. There's a few good artists
in country music that's still trying to 'keep it
country', hey really shine next to those pop artists
who sound and look like they should be on an MTV
award show. It's not that I mind their success, but
i mind that they call themselves country.
What's happened?? Well, a few years ago they decided
that they needed to broaden the market. They have
tried to do this a couple of ways. Awhile back, they
actually had the CMA's in New York. Now I have to
admit, it was pretty damned cool sitting in Madison
Square Gardens during the CMA's and having your name
called, let me tell you. But New York City? They
don't even have a country station in Manhatten! So
that plan didn't work out so well. The next plan
seems to have caught on...youth. The young, blond,
and gorgeous... Country has just started catching up
to Pop in the fact that looks drive the industry.
The trend of branching the genre into "New" Country
and Classic Country will just continue and
intensify. But friends, there is ONLY country music,
not new country. The traditional acts still do very
very well. Loretta Lynn, George Jones, George
Strait, Alan Jackson still pack in the crowds.
The thing that made me happy is the fact that George
Straight won for--what was it?--Album of the Year!
Thank you, Mr. Strait, and Mr. Jackson, for refusing
to compromise or be compromised. But the award shows
are always going to be youth-oriented (It's why
Englebert doesn't show up a whole lot at the
American Music Awards).
I write . . . from the heart. And that's country
music. It's about life and all the things we as
humans encounter. I really see country music heading
in the direction of losing traditional, pure country
music and part of our nation's heritage along with
it. I've even had other so called country musicians
tell me "Im not playin all that tear jerkin crap."
Well, What's wrong with tear jerkin' stuff?? REAL
MEN CRY! The biggest compliments to me on my music
are, "It made me cry" or "It made me think". How
powerful is that? Things like that make it all worth
while. THATS COUNTRY MUSIC!
This pseudo country music you hear these days is
something that comes and goes quickly. It's hard to
learn the words if you can even remember them! Lots
of folks like to dance, especially two steppers. But
try to dance to the latest 'country' music. You
might as well stay home.
Nobody wants to touch peoples hearts and lives
anymore. They just want a good "HOOK" that will sale
albums. It doesn't matter if the song says anything
or not. Some of the old classic country artists like
Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, just to
mention a few, would be tossed out on their ears
today and never be considered for a record deal or
publishing by the current trends in country music
among major labels.
Hmmmm . . . I guess WE share part of the problem
when we as writers and entertainers stop writing and
singing/playing good country music! Seems the
writers have sold their souls to the record
companies and trying to appease them, have given up
and sacrifice our nation's heritage.
To me, the record companies are run by people who
don't know or care about pure country music--it's
background or historical developments. They may be
too young to have ever grown up with real country
music, and are the ones controlling the music
industry. They seem to cater to the very young and
others who also don't know pure country music.
Hopefully, one day will find it again and think they
discovered something new!
I remember listening to the radio at the kitchen
table with my grandmother on the weekends when I
went to stay with her. We heard all the good songs.
Not so much any more. Although the other day, I
heard a familiar country song so I tuned in. . . I
thought it was pretty damn cool that some station
had the balls to play bluegrass/classic country
instead of the new country that everyone is playing
The business is sucking the beauty out of it...just
like it does with everything, it seems. They just
want to bring in the non-country fans otherwise
country--or what passes for country these
days--wouldn't be doing as well as it's doing right
now. The only thing that makes most of these acts
country is the fact that there's fiddle player in
the band and/orthe singer has a Southern accent. The
rest are Southern Rock, not country. They do
sometimes have a fiddle player in the band; I guess
that makes them a country act??
As Southern Rock bands, they are pretty damn good,
though. But if they put themselves out there as a
Southern Rock band rock radio wouldn't touch them.
So they put themselves out there as country bands.
There have always been country-pop though. But it
was always still country music.
I think the independent companies may rule the day
over the major labels. Independent artists may be
the ones in the driver's seat, not them. As I said,
there are many who want pure country music to
return. Everyone I have talked to says the same
things: rock and country don't mix! Like water and
oil don't mix. Many folks are unhappy with what they
hear on the TV, radio and music awards. One can
probably testify to the fact due to a slack seen in
CD sales. What makes people think you have to have
dazzling light shows, dancing around on stage and
yelling at the top of your lungs into the mike for
music to be popular? George Strait and George Jones
never had to do that, and look at their continued
popularity over the years!
Real Country. . . I'm talkin "Meat and taters for
supper" type of country is considered a bad thing
now days among producers. I try to keep up with the
times but when it comes to my country roots and
country music, I want to stay true to myself and
those before me who really lived that life.
People still want to hear and enjoy music that can
take people back to there childhood through music.
Sittin on the front porch at Grandma and Grandpa's
listening to friends makin' music. But its so hard
to find people who are willing to listen and
appreciate it for what it is: our national Heritage
and also our legacy. There's got to be a way to make
record label realize that there are still pure
country music lovers out there. But I'm afraid
there's not enough of us to be profitable for them,
or at least, that's what companies think.
So very many people have expressed the concern of
keeping country and rock separated. I still know
what the heart of country music is all about--music
that's timeless and at the same time takes us back
through the years to the day when the country greats
ruled the radio and the grand ol' opry. It was
really nice to hear, and still is . . .
I have actually been told several times that I was
too "COUNTRY" to be marketable but to keep up the
good work. What they should tell singers like us is
that we're not writing enough rock-n-roll for
country music. Well, in my opinion, country should
be country and rock should be rock and so on.
In short, I believe there is room for both: old
country and new country (or better still, country
rock but don't confuse others by calling it country,
it's not!). If we could somehow catch the right ear
of those who believe as I do, pure country music can
still bring in lots of people who are sick of this
new pretend country. It could be amazing. All of us
believers and keepers of the country music tradition
are separate individuals. Can we return to the
original country format we were bred on, but have
lost over the years? Is it possible to turn around
Nashville's current focus on pseudo-country music?
We can . . . if writers, artists and producers let
Does Nashville need a change? Definitely. But looks
like the traditional country music vigilantes, the
pure country renegade classic country artists and
fans need to ride into Nashville town and take over
the reigns before the beauty, passion, and part of
this nation's heritage is forever lost in the annals
and pages of time and the facades of marketing
techniques that promote sales--not good country
--J.C. High Eagle