Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Back to the Country: Country Music Pet Sounds

Howdy Friends, I'm sure most of y'all are familiar with the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" and Pink Floyd's "Several Species of Small Furry Animals...," but I'm here to remind you that country musicians have also been incorporating animal sound effects into their recordings for nearly 100 years.

Tomorrow morning I'll be hosting Back to the Country once again and the theme this week is Country Music Pet Sounds--not just songs about animals, but three full hours of tunes that incorporate zany animal sound effects! Who would do that, you ask? Well, for starters, Hank Williams, Uncle Dave Macon, Lefty Frizzell, Johnny Horton, Elvis Presley, Loretta Lynn, Jerry Reed, Link Wray, Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Betty Amos w/ Judy & Jean, Kenny Roberts, Frankie Miller, and like, a gazillion more! And it should come as no surprise that several modern traditional country acts are also making stellar animal noises these days.

I've got lots of my favorite tunes in the queue; Showtime is tomorrow (5/11) morning from 9am-noon CST on WORT 89.9FM in Southern Wisconsin or streaming at www.wortfm.org and via the WORT app. It's gonna be goofy and it's gonna be great!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Back to the Country: The Trumpet In Country Music

Howdy Friends, I'll be back on the air tomorrow (Wednesday) morning hosting Back to the Country on WORT 89.9 FM from 9am-noon (CST).

Tomorrow's theme is the history of the trumpet in country music and I'll be covering a chronological retrospective of amazing trumpet playing from 1930-present. For sure, there'll be some western swing, some spaghetti western, some Tex-Mex, some rockabilly, some cowboy songs, some country soul, and a whole lot more.

As a trumpet player myself, I consider this show to be my manifesto for the trumpet as the quintessential country music instrument. I'm guessing Hank Penny, Al Dexter, Merle Travis, Tom T. Hall, and Danny Davis already agree with me, but if you need further convincing, please tune in! 89.9 FM in Southern Wisconsin or www.wortfm.org to stream!

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

FinnFest USA Presentation this Saturday on Fin-A-Billy: American Roots Music and Rebellion in Finland

Howdy Friends, I will be giving a virtual talk about my research in Finland for FinnFest USA's Folk Arts Series this Saturday and I welcome any and all interested friends to attend. The title of the presentation is "Fin-A-Billy: American Roots Music and Rebellion in Finland."

If you've ever thought to yourself that you would like to hear me read selections from my dissertation--interspersed with eye-catching visuals, toe-tapping audio samples, and witty asides--all from the comfort of your favorite mid-century ball chair, well you are finally in luck!!

The presentation is this Saturday from 11-noon CST, followed by a half hour Q&A. The event is FREE, but one must register for the event to get the log-in info. Registration deets in the link below: https://folklife.wisc.edu/event/finnish-american-folk-arts-series-fin-a-billy-american-roots-music-and-rebellion-in-finland-with-nathan-gibson/

During the 1970s, there was an enormous American roots music boom in Finland, spawning hundreds of Fin-A-Billy (Finnish rockabilly, country, bluegrass, blues, and related genres) bands with thousands of fans. Folklorist and ethnomusicologist Nathan Gibson will share his research and musical samples of the ways many Finns have connected with American culture through American roots music over the last 60 years.

Please register for this free virtual event here.

Co-sponsored by Finn Fest USA and the Nordic Folklife project at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, the folk arts series features artists, community members, culture workers, and scholars—all experts in various forms of Finnish folk arts. Links to the virtual program will be sent to your registered email address one day in advance of the event.

Although this event is free and open to anyone who can and wants to take part, we do hope you will consider donating to the Finn Fest USA organization, whose hard work and dedication makes events like this possible. If you have the ability to donate any amount of money to Finn Fest to support future programming, please visit their donation page here. Thank you for your generosity.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Capitol for Capital: The WORT Winter Pledge Drive Show

Howdy Friends, I'll be back on the air tomorrow morning from 9-noon CST hosting Back to the Country on WORT 89.9fm. This week is the final week of our Winter Pledge Drive, so I'll be laying down some serious Capitol in hopes of raising some serious capital for WORT.

It'll be a morning full of '50s Capitol country 45s by Jimmy Bryant, Merle Travis, Joe Maphis, Speedy West and many more, and I'll also have a few "special guests" with me along the journey. You can stream the show and make a donation via wortfm.org or you could donate by calling 608-256-2001 ext. 1. Every donation gets its own yodel! Hope you can join the extravaganza.

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Starday Studio Is Being Demolished. My Response...

There was a recent article in the Madisonian about the Starday Studio getting demolished soon and many of my friends have been messaging me about it. This is my response:

Tommy Hill (controls) and Junior Huskey (bass) in the Starday Studio ca. early '60s.

The Starday Studio was immensely important, but I'm somewhat confused by all the reports that claim this as "James Brown's studio" or the site where Jimi Hendrix recorded… Or even that we need to do something now to preserve the “Starday-King legacy.” I understand that the other studios Jimi recorded while in Nashville are now gone, but Jimi's guitar was cut out of the one session he made here. And yes, James Brown did record “Sex Machine” during one or two sessions here, but this is far from the primary reason I think this studio was important. And the Starday-King merger lasted only about two years of this studio’s 44-year operation and should not (in my opinion) be the focus of restoration efforts.

The Starday Studio was built outside of Nashville in Madison and opened in May of 1960, because Starday was the Nashville-based anti-Nashville label. Starday president Don Pierce recorded all the acts the other Nashville labels wouldn't, marketed them in ways the other labels couldn’t, and he intentionally did all of this from the outskirts of town. Away from Music Row, Pierce revived the careers of Cowboy Copas, Red Sovine, and Johnny Bond with recordings made in his studio and pressed full-color LPs (when others wouldn’t even record the cheaper singles) by many of the Opry acts who could have otherwise not been recorded (Stringbean, Lew Childre, Sam & Kirk McGee, the Crook Brothers, Curly Fox & Texas Ruby, Robert Lunn, Bashful Brother Oswald, Lulu Belle & Scotty, Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith, and more). He then distributed these releases throughout grocery stores, department stores, and all around the globe. From a country music preservation standpoint, these recordings are immensely important.

This was also a place where session musicians and backing bands got their own releases. Nearly everybody in Roy Acuff’s group had their own release on Starday, Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys, Dean Manuel and Jim Reeves’ band, Shot Jackson & Buddy Emmons, Joe Maphis, Jackie Phelps, Little Roy Wiggins, Pete Drake, Jerry Rivers, and so many more recorded solo projects here. Starday also built the largest country gospel catalog in the ‘60s and this studio was the site of many of those great gospel recordings by the Oak Ridge Boys, the Sunshine Boys, the Lewis Family, and more.

The studio also played a significant role in Starday building the largest bluegrass empire in the country and acts like The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Hylo Brown, New Grass Revival, the Stonemans, Carl Story, Jimmy Gately and Harold Morrison, Delmer Sexton and the Rone County Boys, Bill Luttrell and the Ozark Playboys, Jim Greer and the Mac-O-Chee Valley Folks, Lowell Varney, The Justice Brothers w/ the Cumberland Mt. Play Boys, Hoyt Scoggins, Donald Earl and Joe Monroe, Robert White and the Candy Mt Boys, and many more were all recorded here. This studio also became the primary outlet for country comedy albums in the ‘60s and the live, party-like atmospheres during stand-up recordings by Minnie Pearl, Archie Campell, Lonnie ‘Pap’ Wilson, Gene Martin, Johnny Bond, the Duke of Paducah, and others became the stuff of legend.

The Starday Studio also became a popular demo studio for major label artists like Patsy Cline, Carl Smith, Jim Reeves (the percussion from the Reeves demo "Distant Drums" recorded here was used in the hit version), and others when the major label studios were booked. Tommy Hill was also a big fan of the “fuzz country” sound and as a producer he championed the use of fuzz guitar on country recordings by the Willis Brothers, Cowboy Copas, Betty Amos w/ Judy & Jean, Johnny Nace, Pete Drake, Margie Lee, Tommy Belger, Jim Kandy, George Riddle, Clyde Moody, Moon Mullican, Red Sovine, and his own recordings long before Hendrix ever recorded with a fuzz pedal. In the late ‘60s, Hoss Allen had an office in the building for his Rogana Productions company and many of the great ‘60s Nashville soul recordings on the Hollywood subsidiary were produced here. It’s also where Country Music Hall of Famer Dottie West made her first recordings.

And all of this happened BEFORE the brief Starday-King merger in the early ‘70s (which resulted in James Brown's visit). It’s also where Red Sovine recorded “Teddy Bear” in the mid ‘70s, the success of which enabled Moe Lytle to purchase the studio and--many years later--let it fall into disrepair.

It’s strange to me to see people calling for this studio to be restored now, much as it was strange for me to see five or so years ago. I believe Moe finally did sell the studio to someone he hoped would demolish it. And it’s nice that the new owners want to incorporate some of the Starday history into their new apartment complex. But this site was never intended to be a tourist attraction and it wouldn’t succeed as one now. Music tourism sites like Twitty City, the House of Cash, and others have all struggled if they are not part of the immediate downtown Nashville area. Even George Jones, the most famous artist on Starday (but who did not record at this studio), had his downtown museum (which included a large Starday section) permanently closed last year.

And even if the new building never becomes a tourist site, I’ve read that some think it should be restored as a studio. Yet this studio was far too dilapidated (even five years ago) to be restored as a recording site–not to mention the already large number of struggling studios in Nashville.

I have made this argument elsewhere before, but if people really want to remember and celebrate Starday, then I suggest celebrating and supporting the artists who made records pressed by Starday and who are still with us (and in several cases, still performing)–Margie Singleton, Little Roy Lewis, Judy Lee, Jesse McReynolds, Darnell Miller, June Stearns, Bill Clifton, Willie Nelson, Ann Raye, Larry Sparks, Donna and Roni Stoneman, Dall Raney, Mayf Nutter, Karen Wheeler, Darrell McCall, to name just a few. Go to record stores and dig for Starday records (there are still lots of recordings to be discovered). And keep singing/performing the Starday songs you love so much and keeping the music in circulation (even if the catalog is long overdue for reissue). And keep recounting your favorite Starday stories to your friends.

Below: Photos from the Nashville Musical History Tour Facebook post about the studio...

Thursday, January 20, 2022

Back to the Country - Country Music Doctors

This week I had a lot of fun putting together a 3-hour country music (broadly defined) radio program entirely by musicians with PhDs. It consists of friends, mentors, colleagues, and heroes and some really, really good music! The Back to the Country show originally aired yesterday (1/19/22) on WORT 89.9FM but will be available for the next two weeks on the Audio Archives page (archive.wortfm.org). 

And just in case you heard something you liked and want to dig a little further into an artist or a song, below is a digital bibliography for the show!

Show: Back to the Country - Country Music Doctors

Air Date: 1/19/22

Host: Nate Gibson

Radio Station: WORT 89.9 FM and wortfm.org

Audio Archive: https://archive.wortfm.org/ [episode available through 2/2/22]

Spinitron playlist: https://spinitron.com/WORT/pl/15118893/Back-to-the-Country-Country-Music-Doctors

Music and Artist LINKS

Cliff Murphy - "Another Good Man Gone Bad"

Bio: https://www.arts.gov/about/leadership-staff/clifford-murphy


Say Zuzu -  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Say_Zuzu

Hog Mawl - https://bit.ly/3rzWMG7

Bay State Lullaby - https://bit.ly/3tHGWw6

Jeff Todd Titon - "Old-Time Fire On the Mountain" 

Bio: https://vivo.brown.edu/display/jtiton

Web: https://sustainablemusic.blogspot.com

Music: Fiddle Tunes for Slack Key Guitar - https://bit.ly/3AeK9V4

David Evans - "Railroad Blues"

Bio: https://www.memphis.edu/music/fac-staff/evans.php

Music: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAC2iDtd4sTXziv20ZjbY_w

Timon Kaple & Dead Columns - "Sugar" [feat Mississppi Bill Peden]

Bio: https://www.linkedin.com/in/timonkaple/

Music: https://soundcloud.com/deadcolumns

Daniel Ellsworth & the Great Lakes - https://bit.ly/3FNvUaJ

Mike Lee & The Double Double Digits - "The Saguaro Speaks"

Web: https://www.tallandsmallphotography.com/

Music: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm1wpmLhyH77HHa8PoxLlgQ

Omnimodern - https://www.youtube.com/user/omnimodern

Carrie Hertz & Thomas Grant Richardson - "You Are Not Alone" 

Web: https://www.carriehertz.com/about

Web: TGR on LOC https://bit.ly/3tHW38Q 

Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRGtDJD1vHI

Podcast: https://soundcloud.com/tgrantrichardson

Rich Walter - "Stardust Medley"

Bio: https://mim.org/leadership/richard-d-walter-phd/

Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z38i8xSQOqU

Ruth and the Stones - "Upset Apples"

Bio: https://bit.ly/3FJKSPl 

Web: http://www.kellybosworth.com/ruth-the-stones

Music: https://bit.ly/3IjfmJp

Note: Big congrats to Jennie Williams who was just formally introduced as the new State Folklorist of West Virginia!]

Jon Kay - "October Dulcimer" 

Bio: https://traditionalarts.indiana.edu/About/Staff%20Page%20Content/Jon%20Kay.html

Web: https://www.youtube.com/user/folktraditions/videos

Music: https://bit.ly/3GLLyEX

Sarah Dees [cello and vocals w/ Mary Okie] - "Sister Witch"

Bio: https://www.philrs.iastate.edu/directory/sarah-dees/ 

Music: https://maryokie.bandcamp.com/album/verily

Kysona Armstrong [w/ Christina Harrison] - "Riverside"

Web: www.kyshona.com 

Music: https://kyshona.bandcamp.com

And this!: https://www.facebook.com/kyshona/videos/1706068926106634/

Jess Waggoner - "Diners and Queer Bars" 

Bio: https://gws.wisc.edu/staff/waggoner-jess/

Music: https://queermadisonmixtape.bandcamp.com/track/diners-and-queer-bars

Jim James and the Damn Shames - "Fast Freightrain"

Bio: https://www.irp.wisc.edu/staff/spartz-james-t/

Music: https://www.facebook.com/damnshames


Charles Hughes - "Miss Mollys’ Reel"

Bio: https://www.rhodes.edu/bio/charles-hughes

Kori Graves and Blixie - "Ancisters" 

Bio: https://www.albany.edu/history/faculty/kori-graves

Music: https://myspace.com/blixiemusic/music/songs

Earl Speilman and the Bluegrass Hoppers - "Bluegrass Breakdown"

Web: https://www.spielmanlegal.com/ 

Music: https://bit.ly/3tFKfnm

Rod Moag - "Fool Over You"

Bio: https://sites.utexas.edu/malayalam/biography-rodney-moag/

Web: http://www.rodmoag.com/

Music: http://www.rodmoag.com/discography.html

Jim Leary [songwriter] & Emil - "River Road Friday"

Bio: https://gns.wisc.edu/person/james-p-leary/

Music [Emil]: https://bit.ly/3qHKa0v

Phil Nusbaum - "The Dark Before the Storm"

Web: http://philnusbaum.com/

Music: https://www.facebook.com/Phil-Nusbaum-Music-291040003443/


LeRoy Larson - "Hoe-Down Medley"

Bio: https://folklife.wisc.edu/leroy-larson/

Music: https://www.library.wisc.edu/music/2021/01/11/remembering-leroy-larson/

Bill + Bobbie Malone - "Gathering Shells from the Seashore"

Bio [Bill]: https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/country-music/bill-c-malone-biography/

Bio [Bobbie]: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/Records/Article/CS3652

Web: https://www.facebook.com/Bill-C-Malone-239745532725337/

Music: http://www.rodmoag.com/discography.html

Lee Bidgood - "Bluegrass Tennessee"

Bio: https://www.etsu.edu/cas/das/bluegrass/facstaff/leebidgood.php

Web: https://leebidgood.net/home

Music and Film: http://www.banjoromantika.com/about-the-film.html

Holly Riley in The Adventures of Annabelle Lyn - "If Luck Be Your Lady (Live)"

Bio: http://dhc.umt.edu/about/staff/default.php?ID=7130

Web: https://www.hollyrileymusic.com/
Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV-1CsL8mLw

And also https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oS9K_BJGFsM

Greg Reish - "She Belongs To Me"

Bio: https://www.mtsu.edu/faculty/gregory-reish

Web: https://www.springfedrecords.com/whoweare

Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_h_5-26bjPE 

And https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJ8tX7GJ5IJU7tKpcNRPFNw

Nadine Hubbs - "Queer Jolene"

Bio: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/nhubbs/

Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MQLx_AVjuU

Travis Stimeling & Chris Haddox - "The Line" 

Bio: https://www.music.wvu.edu/faculty/travis-stimeling

Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7_wUzCkgEo

Note: Many congrats to Travis on his recent 2021 Belmont Book Award [Country Music Book of the Year] for Nashville Cats: Record Production in Music City [Oxford University Press]!

The Jeremiahs [feat Chris Wilson] - "Don’t Know That For Sure"

Mark Dillon - "Lost Highway"

Bio: http://www.avidblogs.com/mark-dillon-pro-tools/

Web: https://markdillonmusic.com/

Music: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCe2Yz-LurcQcXG3Z7ObvT9Q

Jim Clark - "Dark Hollow"

Bio: www.barton.edu/tag/dr-james-a-clark-professor-emeritus-of-english-at-barton-college

Music and Poetry: https://bit.ly/3AimJhI

Neil Rosenberg - "Foggy Flats Blues"

Bio: https://www.mun.ca/folklore/people/dr-neil-rosenberg/

Web: https://www.bluegrasshall.org/inductees/neil-vandraegen-rosenberg/

Music: Homegas w/ Peter Aceves Narváez and Richard Blaustein https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-midSuSpHm0

And Crooked Stovepipe w/ Ted Rowe: https://bit.ly/3fHilPA

Tom Adler - "Cat’s Eye / Prairie Dog Town" 

Bio: https://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/?id=p078101

Web: https://www.mandolincafe.com/news/publish/mandolins_001347.shtml

Music: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBfCbdhSTYLbinl0jlgAp_A

East Texas String Ensemble [Stan Alexander, Ab Abernathy, Tom Nall, and Charles Gardner] - "Remember Me"

Web: https://www.discogs.com/artist/4918905-The-East-Texas-String-Ensemble

Music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3IGiNmG8wM

Pete “Dr Banjo” Wernick - "Beatin’ My Time"

Web: https://drbanjo.com/

Music: https://www.youtube.com/user/PeteWernick

Aaron A. Fox - "Live Forever"

Bio: https://music.columbia.edu/bios/aaron-a-fox

Music: https://www.youtube.com/user/EcoMusicology

Lucy Kaplanski - "Return of the Grievous Angels" 

Web: https://lucykaplansky.com/

Music: https://lucykaplansky.com/videos

Kristina Jacobsen - "Gone Gone Gone"

Bio: https://music.unm.edu/faculty/kristina-m-jacobsen/

Web: http://kristina-jacobsen.com/

Music: https://soundcloud.com/kristinajacobsenmusic

Craig Morrison and his Bluegrass Buddies - "Your Old Standby"

Web: https://www.craigmorrison.com/

Tom & Ngaire Waeltz - "Little Miss Lilliana"

Web: https://www.sharecare.com/doctor/thomas-waeltz-xymtf42

The Happy Trailsters [feat Jocelyn Neal] - "Happy Trails" (edited by Carl Eddy)

Bio [Jocelyn Neal]: https://music.unc.edu/people/musicfaculty/jocelyn-neal/

Web [ICMC]: https://www.internationalcountrymusic.org/

Music [Carl Eddy]: https://www.reverbnation.com/musician/carleddy4


Craig Maki and the Country Music Doctors [Nate Gibson, Greg Reish, and Lee Bidgood] - Slow Down [Studio B Recording]

Web [Craig Maki]: http://www.jumpingfrom6to6.com/itv_bones_maki.htm

Web [Nate Gibson]: nathandgibson.com

Music: https://bit.ly/3qHG9Jx

Anti-Education References in Introduction:

Aaron Tippin - “Workin’ Man’s PhD” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2t7ECnE43QE

Josh Martin - “Country Boy PhD” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xdY_kcG90hc

Alabama Big Earl - “PhD in Skanky” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYZgCUOGv-A

Roland Whitt - “PhD in Country” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PV_2wCI3r2I

Kenny Chesney - “Rich and Miserable” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zCdJyZUKJyM

Harlan Howard - “Mister Professor” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGXYh_ZEq8w