chevy rhymes with levy...no kidding...
Dear Kenny Chesney,
Welcome to my town. I hate you because you're destroying Country Music. But don't take my word for it.
When Johnny Cash said these words to Nicholas Dawidoff:
To see the music now so homogenized still has Johnny Cash a little shaken. "I think a lot of it's sex," he says. "These guys wear these tight jeans. They work out with a trainer three times a week. I can't see a lot of good country songs coming out of it. Individuality's missing. But it's working for them. It's like rivers and politics, you know. Bad stuff sometimes floats to the top. But I don't care. I'm still doing it my way. I just don't spend any time on Music Row, Nashville."--From In the Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music, by Nicholas Dawidoff
...he was talking about YOU.
When Waylon Jennings said these words:
This music they're pushing now is not country. It's regurgitated rock 'n' roll. They've got some great ones still in there — Travis Tritt's wonderful, Mark Chesnutt is one of the best, a natural. But the people at Epic told me I was over with. I'm trying to cut an album and this guy says, "This is wonderful, wonderful, but I hear an Eric Clapton guitar here." I said, "Well put it on and we'll see." He didn't know what he was talking about. Then they finally told me that radio was not going to play me, they don't like my kind of music any more, that I was over with. In other words, why don't you go crawl into a hole somewhere and die? A friend of mine over there at Epic said, "If you have someone under 40 and Waylon Jennings, who do you sign? The person under 40." I thought, "Well maybe that's true, maybe I've had a good run." I wasn't bitter. I probably had a little pity party for a day or two. But then I thought, "It's not a matter of eating or not eating. I'll keep playing, but I don't have to record." And that's when I realized that radio controls the charts, not the audience. And the people still come [to shows], they still remember. I haven't had a hit song in 10 years, but the other day in Albuquerque, New Mexico, they had about 20,000 people at a rodeo, and I was the only one out of some of the young bucks that they've had there in 4 years that sold the place out. They were so excited. Here was this radio station talking to me and they said, "You sold it out, this is the best thing." I said, "You don't play me, do you?" And they said, "No, but we have a sister station that does." I said "What has age got to do with music? I know a lot of those little bitty kids love me. You know it shows you something — I sold out your place here and the ones you're playing couldn't sell it out. I might blow up your radio tower or I might hit your radio station with a class action suit. That's discrimination."
There's 400 stations out there that control what's played. In the mid-'80s country music became big business like rock 'n' roll did in the '60s, to where that's all it's amounted to. There's payola, and what's sold is what's crammed down people's throats. John Cash was over at the house the other night and I said, "I think I know what it is: the people who are in control of radio don't know who we are. They have no emotional ties to us, what we've done."--Waylon Jennings
...he was talking about YOU.
When Merle Haggard said these words:
Oh, its a lot different than what I call country. I really don't think that's what it is. Its sort of country without the grit, you know? Pretty generic and pretty smooth. I enjoy the videos with the sound off, where you can look at the belly buttons and everything. Really some pretty girls, but I don't know about the music.--Merle Haggard
...he was talking about YOU.
When EmmyLou Harris said these words:
I find it pretty vapid and bloodless. You listen to Bill Monroe and he sings about the dark side of life. There's an inherent adultness and grabbing the mettle of the other side of life that is kind of not there in country music right now, in what's being heard on country radio. I listen to Lucinda Williams' new record, and that girl has some soul. But you're not going to hear her on commercial country radio except via performances by Patty Loveless, who I think has done some great stuff, and Mary Chapin, who is great. There are a couple of exceptions to the rule, because it can't all be as bad as it appears. You turn on the radio and it's very greeting-card. Very generic. Very cookie-cutter. And sometimes I feel like there's one male singer and one female singer out there cutting all the records with the same band. And yet I know there's good stuff out there. But it's not being heard, and I think at some point this mass popularity of country is going to explode, that it's going to eat itself. But maybe not.--Emmylou Harris
...she was talking about YOU.
"The truth is that some of the brightest and best musicians are guys who are playing at a Ramada Inn on Friday and Saturday nights," he continues. "And recording artists are people who barely know what makes up a D chord."--Jim Heath, aka Rev Horton Heat
...yep, still talking about YOU.
"Country's being held in check by what I call the gatekeepers in Nashville," he said. "You go to a Garth Brooks concert, all the smoke, the lights flashing . . . he's going to have a pointed bra out there next." "What they're calling country on radio now is very much this stuff, this marmalade," he said. "Homogenized, Big Mac music." Professor Gerald Haslam, Author of "Workin' Man Blues," Sonoma State University
...sigh...it's all about YOU, Kenny. Hell, you've probably met some of these people, shook their hands, told them you loved their music. The BEST part of it...the real shits and giggles part of it...is that they probably responded in kind. In fact, let me guess here...
...your producer, Buddy, played bass for Mel Tillis...after you begged and pleaded, he got you in one night to meet Merle...not because Merle wanted to meet you...not because of your immense talent, not because he wanted to trade songwriting ideas with you...no, because you were "rich" and a "big star," you finally got to be in the presence of a man who in many ways has changed a part of America...whereas people will be wiping their asses with the liner notes of your "work" in ten years...but I digress...
...but, you know what happened after you shook their hands and left the room? They shook their heads and laughed. They laughed, because A) they don't consider you country, and B) don't consider you talented. You're not their peer, a continuation of their art form, or anyone that they really want to be associated with. Stings, don't it? I mean, you know Jack Sparks can't stand you, but he's just a shit heel with a blog in an urban arts rag. Johnny Cash couldn't stand you, Waylon Jennings couldn't stand you, Merle Haggard can't stand you and EmmyLou Harris can't stand you. If your only validity is record sales, and arenas full of a fraudulently co-opted demographic, it's a very hollow victory indeed my boy.
And while we're at it, Waylon couldn't stand your buddies at K102 either. Read what he said again...PAYOLA...I live for quotations like that. So while you're all backstage at the Xcel this weekend, eating catered chicken with mixed vegetables, patting yourselves on the back for your "Country Success," realize that the price of your success is an absolute and documented lack of validity with all of the strongest, wisest, and most authoritative persons in the genre.
Know this, as you pull into our town on your floating whorehouse tour bus...Garrison Keillor is having Brad Paisley on "A Prairie Home Companion" this same weekend. Why? Because he can really play his guitar, and every now and then writes his own songs. Where was your invite?
Have fun play-humping your guitar player tonight you fucking clown, I'll be watching the Goddamned Gleam.
P.S.--this is just the kind of bullshit I'm always complaining about:
Not every country newcomer can play clubs. Rookies typically start by playing for free at radio-sponsored concerts or for small fees at county and state fairs.
"Radio [airplay] is the first and foremost way to break acts," Phyllis Stark, Nashville bureau chief for Billboard magazine says. "But an artist needs three radio hits before it can headline a club tour. That's why opening for a star is such a crucial step."
Opening slots often fall to acts sharing a business relationship with the headliner -- the same record company, for example, or same booking agent. Toby Keith is touring with three unknowns signed to his fledgling label.
Just lask week, First Avenue was asshole to elbow with people to see Neko Case. It'll be that way in the next town she goes to too. She's never gotten any airplay on Mainstream stations. Bream should have put his pom-pom's down for a minute at this point in his conversation with Stark and said, "you mean a major label, cookie-cutter act can't headline a club tour until they get 3 hits, much like a pimp only prizes a whore when she's bringing in money, or a drug dealer trusts a runner with more routes and various aspects of his business after he's proven himself violently loyal." But this is just another puff piece on Nashville out of this paper. It's hard sometimes, for me to believe that Riemenschneider and Bream work in the same building. There are groups and singers all over the place that headline club tours without any Mainstream airplay and they pack clubs like First Avenue, the Cabooze, and the Quest, no problem. Phyllis Stark makes her statement because she materially gains from the bullshit idea that airplay and the charts are what matters; if she admits, talks about, or even casually discusses independent acts and clubs at afternoon tea, she undercuts her whole act, and she would probably get fired.
Fuck these people.
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