Cocaine & Rhinestones is the best!

Uh, you know, the podcast… not the real things!

I know I’m really late to the party here, like a couple years late, but I only discovered this podcast withing the last couple months. I know, I know, but I’ve already got a pretty full plate when it comes to podcasts… where by “pretty full plate” I mean, of course, that I already subscribe to more podcasts than I can possibly listen to in a week… But, I heard about the C&R podcast from an episode of Penn Jillette’s Penn’s Sunday School podcast, where someone (Michael Goudeau, I think? Maybe Matt Donnelly?) mentioned it almost in passing. I recall that Penn immediately commented about Tyler Mahan Coe, “Yeah, he’s David Allan Coe’s son.” That caught my attention, and I thought I’d check it out. So, I’ve been listening as I’m able, and it is a wonderful–riveting, in fact–podcast.

Well, I just fired up CR009, “Harper Valley PTA, Part 3: Tom T. Hall”, and what I heard just really struck a chord (pun intended), which is to say, really resonated (pun intended), with me:

What is this “real country music”? Can anyone define what it sounds like?

I’m sure many of you remember in the ’90s, older country artists talked a lot of trash about what was being played on the radio. Waylon Jennings may never have really used that extremely vulgar simile to describe Garth Brooks’ music but he did say very critical things about Garth Brooks. Now, you go listen to the trash Luke Bryan puts out and tell me that doesn’t make Garth Brooks sound like Buck Owens.

Well, that’s not what a lot of fans of “real country” thought in the ’90s when Garth Brooks “ruined country radio.” (plays an excerpt from “Not Counting You” by Garth Brooks) Or, in the ’80s, when Urban Cowboy “ruined country radio.” (plays an excerpt from “Lookin’ for Love” by Johnny Lee) Or, in the ’70s when Olivia Newton-John won a CMA award for Most Promising Female Vocalist of the Year and a bunch of traditional country acts, like Porter Wagoner and Conway Twitty, all got together at George Jones’ and Tammy Wynette’s house to form the Association of Country Entertainers to protest smooth pop “ruining country radio.” (plays an excerpt from “Let Me Be There” by Olivia Newton-John) But, in the ’60s, the Nashville Sound had already “ruined country radio.” (plays an excerpt from “This is It” by Jim Reeves) And that started in the ’50s because Elvis Presley “ruined country radio.” (plays an excerpt from “I Forgot to Remember to Forget” by Elvis Presley) When drums started showing up on more country records in the ’40s, well, it flat out “ruined country radio.” (plays an excerpt from “Tennessee Polka” by Pee Wee King and His Golden West Cowboys) And that only happened because in the 1930s people like Bob Wills couldn’t settle the hell down and play some nice, pure country music, like Jimmie Rodgers or The Carter Family. (plays an excerpt from “Keep on the Sunny Side” by The Carter Family)

I’m not sure there’s ever been a time that country radio wasn’t hated by the fans of the previous generations’ country music. Ask a fan from any point in history to define the sound of country music and they’re likely to say something along the lines of, ”Well, it’s sure not what they’re playing on the radio these days!”

– Tyler Mahan Coe, Cocaine and Rhinestones: The History of Country Music podcast, S1E9 “Harper Valley PTA, Part 3: Tom T. Hall” at 1:04.

Nice. Now on with the episode…

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