I don’t know of much new music today. Devin Dawson has a new EP. My 2021 Country Videos list has eight entries so far. For anyone who missed it previously, this year’s new music list includes only entries with a visual component.
Morgan Wallen’s album last week is apparently putting up huge streaming numbers. I’m an old guy, so not the target audience for today’s streaming whatever, but it’s good to see anyone in the country category putting up numbers these days, no matter who it is.
Ricky Skaggs and Toby Keith were awarded National Medal of the Arts. Congratulations to them on this high honor. It is despicable to see the brainless, classless leftist mob attacking these artists simply because the mob dislikes the man who gave them the awards.
Tomorrow is Ronnie Milsap’s 78th birthday. He was one of the very biggest stars when I was growing up. He ranks number four all-time for most number one hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, behind just George Strait, Conway Twitty, and Merle Haggard. He also had significant crossover appeal to other genres. His videos even played on MTV. He tends to get overlooked today compared to his peers, as he doesn’t fit with either the “typical traditionalists” or with “today’s country.”
As someone who grew up in the 70s-80s, I find it perplexing that some of the very biggest stars have been largely cast aside, while others have been magnified and elevated. I shouldn’t keep picking on the PBS country documentary, because it did some things very well, but one could easily get the mistaken impression from that series that Conway Twitty, Eddy Arnold, and Ronnie Milsap were barely footnotes in country music history, when the reality is that they’re among the all-time country chart toppers.
Muzikgirl67 has YouTube lists of top 40 country hits from each year.
Now that it’s 2021, let’s look back at a quarter century ago: 1996 Country Classics: The Top Country Hits
Let’s try half a century ago: 1971 Classic Country Top 40 Hits
I couldn’t find a list specifically for 1946 country music, but here’s Muzikgirl67’s list for 1944-1949
Here’s my own list for 1920-1922 Country Roots
Elton Britt recorded “Chime Bells” in 1934, and it has been one of the most popular yodel songs ever since, covered by everyone from Slim Whitman to Jewel.
Matt Keefe recorded this as “Mountain High” in 1914: Mountain High
Matt Keefe passed away in 1920, so he predated the semi-official “country music timeline.” Here’s a great article about Matt Keefe: America’s Greatest Yodeler Hails From Hannibal, MO
One of the real gems in this article is a 1913 interview with Matt Keefe in the San Francisco Call. The minstrel shows were apparently falling out of favor by that time.
“Matt’s memory goes back far enough as a showman to anchor itself and its owner’s career in the epoch of minstrelsy when some of the greatest of the present day entertainers were doing parades and giving darktown imitations in the ‘oprey houses’ of a now minstrel-deserted and otherwise darkened country.”
Hold on a second. “Oprey houses” in 1913 ? Keep in mind that the Grand Ole Opry didn’t receive its name until 1927.
I also recall that Cal Stewart’s rural character “Uncle Josh” pronounced opera as “opry” in a very early skit.
I wonder how many other early examples of “opry/oprey” one might find with some digging ?
In 1897, Matt Keefe recorded with Billy Murray, who became a superstar of the acoustic era. Unfortunately, nobody has found this early recording: Billy Murray biography.
I often share my own playlists, but I also share lists created by others. The Thrift Store Vinyl YouTube channel has a lot of good ones, but today, let’s check out their list Country Cream – 1950s/60s/70s/80s Obscure Country Music
If you enjoy classic country, but want to hear something other than just the biggest stars with the biggest hits, this list is for you.
Check out their other lists, too. They have a lot of cool and different stuff.
The Mellotron in the sixties was developed from the Chamberlin, which became commercially available in the fifties after development in the late forties. Planet Mellotron has an extensive list of Mellotron, Chamberlin, and Birotron appearances in recorded music.
My new playlist Mellotron, Chamberlin, Optigan, Birotron, Etc covers the optical disc instruments (Optigan and its competitors and derivatives) and the magnetic tape instruments (Chamberlin and its derivatives and competitors).
The short story is that the Mellotron was the one that made the biggest commercial splash. The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” is perhaps the single best-known example. These instruments came into prominence in the mid-late sixties, but by the late seventies, they were mostly considered obsolete.
Like a lot of “retro” things, the limitations and imperfections that rendered the items largely obsolete are the same bits that gave these instruments distinct character and endear them to nerds of today. In the last few years, there has been a renewed interest in these quirky old things.
Since the primary use of these early “samplers” is to mimic other instruments, it can be difficult to pick out when the instrument was used. Liner note junkies and Americana fans might care to check out Dave Cobb’s projects the last few years. Several of the albums he produced list Mellotron, though I can’t figure out where it is on the “Traveller” album.
Mellotron Variations is an interesting project, exploring all the sounds these crazy instruments are really capable of producing.
There’s also a bit of renewed interest in the Optigan and related optical disc instruments: Optigan YouTube Channel
Great article at 5Mag.net about the history of the Chamberlin and more
In 2015-2020, my new country lists featured a mix of audio and video. My current plan is for my 2021 Country Videos list to include only videos. This should cut the list down to a more reasonable size than previous years’ efforts. I’ll probably keep the “one per artist” approach of recent years.
Although I’ll consider “back catalog” material, my priority for the new country lists is to feature new releases. For example, Loretta Lynn released a “recitation” video for “Coal Miner’s Daughter” a few days ago. Rather than place that on my “new country” list, I added it to my Talking Blues and Country Narrations list.
Barry Gibb’s remake of “Jive Talkin'” with Miranda Lambert is now on my Country Disco list.
David Bedford’s book “The Country Of Liverpool: Nashville Of The North” was published last month, and the web site has a good bit of information about the country music scene there and the influence of country music on The Beatles: Website Link
The strong connections between country music and rock and roll have been downplayed in recent generations, but all of the greatest rock and roll legends had some country influences. My Rockin’ Country Roots playlist features a lot of early interaction between country and rock.
The Doge Records YouTube Channel has a playlist of Colorizations , adding color to black and white music clips from the 1920s-50s. So far, there’s little or no “country music” on this particular list, but obviously, the same can be done for country bits.
Gerben’s Backingtracks used DeOldify to colorize the famous Jimmie Rodgers film from over ninety years ago, when the country music industry was still in its infancy.
Here’s a brief history and colorization by picsandportraits.
Jack and Misty made music since the sixties, achieving their greatest prominence in 1970. Misty passed away a couple of days ago: Noise 11 article
They created unique music: Jack and Misty YouTube Channel. They topped the country chart over half a century ago with the novelty song “Tennessee Bird Walk,” and they made good use of keyboard instruments long before most.
This is exactly the type of act I enjoy showcasing here – people who bring something different and interesting to the table, who don’t necessarily “fit” any of the “scenes” or cliques promoted elsewhere.
Let’s kick off the new year in style with a violin circus, complete with acrobats, tightrope walkers, jugglers, contortionists, unicyclists, clowns, stilts and sway poles, aerial acts, balancing acts, skaters, trampolines, pogo sticks, and trick fiddling:
The Amazing Fiddle Circus
I couldn’t find a video of Roy Acuff balancing a fiddle on his chin and playing a yo-yo, but you can probably find a still photo or two. In the 1940s, the Grand Ole Opry had traveling tent shows, in addition to the “regular” Opry. Uncle Dave Macon did all sorts of tricks with his banjo, and there were various comedians and novelty acts.
This list shows that there are still many people doing neat things with the violin. We don’t often see novelty acts in country music anymore, but there are lots of novelty acts out there doing their own thing outside of any genre.