3/28/21 1939-42 Billboard’s Hillbilly Hits

On Jan. 8, 1944, Billboard published its first version of a country songs chart according to the provided Billboard link.

Before that, though, Billboard did publish a monthly rundown of hillbilly hits from 1939-1942. Here’s a link to some of those publications at Archive.org. In addition to “Hillbilly Recordings,” there were lists of “International Recordings” and “Foreign Recordings.” Polka showed up in all categories, including hillbilly.

There are some familiar country names like Roy Acuff, Gene Autry, Patsy Montana, Jimmie Davis, Lulu Belle and Scotty, Cliff Bruner, Shelton Brothers, Light Crust Doughboys, Al Dexter, Bob Wills, Hank Penny, Buddy Jones, Louise Massey, Sally Foster, Floyd Tillman, Carlisle Brothers, Jimmy Wakely, Ted Daffan, Ernest Tubb, Delmore Brothers, and on and on, but it’s also worth mentioning the inclusion of polka (Romy Gosz, etc), jazz (Mezz Mezzrow, Clyde McCoy, Milt Herth,etc), and R&B (Four Clefs) artists on the “hillbilly recordings” list. Zany acts like the Hoosier Hotshots, Freddie Schnickelfritz, and Spike Jones and his City Slickers all show up.

This era of country music gets mostly overlooked. There are many artists who were popular at the time who are little known today. Since even Billboard itself looks at 1944 as the starting point for what became the Billboard country chart, a lot of the people who were popular from a few years earlier got lost in the shuffle.

I made a new playlist of Hillbilly Hits, 1939-1942. All of the songs on my playlist were on the Billboard hillbilly recordings list. I looked through the entire list, but a number of songs weren’t up on YouTube. This is a time capsule from this mostly forgotten era of country music, and a companion to my playlist of 1944-1949 Number One Country Hits.

If you’re interested in this era of music, I also suggest the History of Country Music site on Instagram , which is currently featuring songs from 1939.

3/27/21 Aerobic Country

There have been many, many fads in country music over the decades. Most are quickly tossed aside after the fad has expired, and the history is rewritten to pretend that country music in the good ole days was “pure.” Some of us remember the “forgotten” trends, though.

In the early 80s, there was a workout music fad, and as with every other pop trend, country tried to get in on it.

Let’s take a look at just a few of these efforts:

From 1982, here’s Dorian Dammer’s 20 Aerobic Country Hits

Irlene Mandrell’s “Texercise” (1983) doesn’t appear to be on YouTube in its entirety, but here’s a five-minute clip.

How about Chet Atkins ? Yes, even Chet Atkins released a country exercise album in 1983, “Work It Out With Chet Atkins CGP.” The “CGP” is for “certified guitar picker.” Chet Atkins is who certified himself and a few others with this very pretentious title.

Jon Devlin’s “Country Aerobic Dancercise” was released in 1981, but it doesn’t appear to be on YouTube. JD Feelgood and the Nashville All Stars released “Aerobics Country Style” in 1982. Discogs has a couple more aerobic country albums from 1982 that I couldn’t find on YouTube.

Olivia Newton-John was on the country charts in the 1970s, but in 1981, she released the pop video “Physical.”

Of course, country workout music is still around in various forms, but you don’t see a lot of albums made specifically for that purpose like in the early eighties.

Bob Couch released the country workout video Pump Iron in 1985.

Diane Horner made many country workout tapes on VHS tape, especially in the early 90s. Some of her work is on YouTube. Her 1994 effort “Country Hip Hop” is noteworthy.

March 25, 2021 New Music This Week

The Green Line Travelers released a new album today, so that’s a great starting point. I saw this Swedish act perform in Memphis a few years ago at Ameripolitan. This album makes a nice addition to my Swedish Country Music playlist.

Carrie Underwood’s gospel album is out tomorrow.

The Alex Leach Band has a new bluegrass album, as does Amanda Cook. Ray Stevens even has a new bluegrass album. This is the second album Ray has released in a series of four albums.

Tayla Lynn is releasing an album tomorrow of Tayla singing her grandmother Loretta’s songs. The release will be part of the Heart of Texas music festival.

Chevel Shepherd from “The Voice” will release her debut EP tomorrow. I don’t understand releasing a 7-song EP here, rather than adding three or four songs for a full-length album ?

More new albums tomorrow:

Mickey Lamantia, Hannah Hokit, Emily Moment, Sara Watkins, David Olney & Anana Kaye, Ervin Stellar, Jason Ringenberg, Fretland, Jackson Scribner, 3hattrio, and The Armadillo Paradox.

3/23/21 Country Fuzz

Although “fuzz guitar” is often associated with rock music today, the history of the fuzz effect is rooted in country music and Grady Martin on a Marty Robbins recording in 1960.

WFMU and others have written about country fuzz in detail, so I won’t attempt to rediscover the wheel here. I’ll just get right to the music.

Here’s my new playlist: Country Fuzz

3/22/21 Current Thoughts

If I counted correctly, I’ve now created 242 YouTube playlists, plus dozens more lists on other platforms such as Spotify. Here’s the huge list of playlist links. My 2021 Country Videos list is up to 31 artists. I haven’t discussed the new stuff a lot, but the list keeps growing. Since I’m limiting this year’s list to just videos, that does mean I “miss” some good material that’s presented as just audio files.

Morgan Wallen’s album has now topped the all-genre chart for ten weeks. This is the fourth-longest streak atop the all-genre chart by a country album in history. Chew on that, Maren.

One bit I noticed in the liner notes of Loretta Lynn’s new album is that Randy Scruggs played guitar on some of the tracks. He passed away in 2018. It’s unclear when Loretta recorded the various songs on this album, because she has been banking up songs at the Cash Cabin for well over a decade.

My cousin Bill has a new band in Tuscaloosa/Northport, Alabama called Bounds & Determined. They mostly play gospel and bluegrass, but they’ve branched out to country, rock, etc. They’re good people who have played music for decades, so I’ll give them a shout out here. Bill usually plays banjo, but sometimes guitar or dobro or other instruments.

When I think about 2021 albums that stand out to me, Ohama’s electronic country album is one that I haven’t seen covered by many country sites. There probably aren’t many of us out here who like both classic country and synthesizers, but if you do, check this out.

3/18/21 New Music This Week

There are new albums out tomorrow from Loretta Lynn, Midland, The Golden Roses, Morgan Wade, Terry McBride, Steve Gulley & Tim Stafford, Mike Barnett, Mason Lively, Austin Meade, Corb Lund (autocorrect changed his name to “Corn” for some reason), Nashville Keys, and Raul Malo. Hank and Ella released an album earlier this week.

In other news, I have a new playlist for App Music/Virtual Instruments. I made several of the short entries myself with free phone apps. There are some sophisticated and premium computer virtual instrument packages out there, but my primary goal for this list is to showcase the free and easy.

3/13/21 Live Music Returning

CMA Fest and a lot of other high profile music festivals and events have cancelled or postponed, but there are also some events that are still on track. Nashville announced yesterday that the city’s annual Independence Day celebration will be live and in person, with music and fireworks. So, CMA Fest, which was scheduled for June, was cancelled entirely, yet the city itself is sponsoring live music July 4th.

There are lots of shows happening in Texas and elsewhere.

The 32nd Heart of Texas Music Festival in Brady is coming up very soon, March 19th-27th.

Let’s take a look at the lineup and schedule of events.

Heart of Texas specializes in traditional country, and there are some older performers who appear at Heart of Texas events who no longer tour regularly.

When’s the last time you saw Pretty Miss Norma Jean or Jeannie C Riley on a festival schedule elsewhere ?

Also in Texas, the Whitewater Music Amphitheater has many shows scheduled, beginning with Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser on March 18th.

The Academy of Western Artists was one of the few awards shows that was able to tough it out and have their event in person last year. This year’s AWA Awards will be an internet event on March 30th.

3/12/21 Well, It’s Friday

I usually write about the week’s new albums, but there’s just not much going on.

I did find something cool, though: Christopher Ameruoso YouTube Channel . He plays his guitar (often classic country songs) for all sorts of animals, most recently a donkey and a bear. That’s certainly a whole lot cooler, more interesting, and more country than what the CMA, ACM,CMT, and Grammys are currently pushing.

I also made a playlist for Country Marimba, Xylophone, and Glockenspiel. I know that Hank Williams, Jr also had some marimba, but I haven’t gone back through his albums to find specific examples. I did find some marimba on Freddy Fender albums. I found an Elton Britt song from 1934 with a bit of xylophone. John Anderson’s most recent album had some glockenspiel. As a quick rule, the glockenspiel is metal, while the xylophone and marimba are wood. Marimba is usually much larger than a xylophone and with resonators, and a lot of “toy xylophones” are actually glockenspiels. I have a separate playlist for vibraphone, which is rather like a metal marimba with a motorized vibrato.

3/10/21 Early Opry Women

The other day, when discussing the hammered dulcimer, I mentioned that Kitty Cora Cline was the first solo female artist to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1928. As a follow up, let’s take a look at some of the other early Opry women:

In 1925, Alcyone Bate became the first woman to sing on the Grand Ole Opry. She played ukulele and piano in her father Humphrey Bate’s band. She retired from performing at the Opry in 1977. Here’s a Fayfare article about Alcyone Bate Beasley

In 1926, the Pickard Family became Opry members. They kept performing for a long time. Here’s a brief clip from 1949. As a fun fact, the Pickard Family recorded the best known early version of the song “Kitty Wells,” and that was the inspiration for Ellen Muriel Deason to adopt that stage name

Theron Hale and his daughters became Opry members in 1926. Theron played fiddle and banjo, Elizabeth played piano, and Mamie Ruth played fiddle and mandolin. Here’s a pair of songs they recorded in 1928

In 1935, the sister comedy team of Sarie and Sally became Opry members. Comedy acts were a huge part of the Opry for so much of the Opry’s history.

In 1937, a group called the Lakeland Sisters became Opry members, but there is very little information about them online, other than that they stayed Opry members for just 18 months.

In 1940, Minnie Pearl became an Opry member, and she’s the only one in today’s post who also became a member of the CMHOF.

The DeZurik Sisters became Opry members in 1944. Nicknamed the “Cackle Sisters,” they were one of my all-time favorite yodeling acts.

The Poe Sisters also became Opry members in 1944. Here’s the best article I’ve found about them : Bluegrass Unlimited

I’ll cut it off with the forties, since there were numerous high-profile female Opry members added in the 1950s. Most of these early ones receive little to no coverage, even from the country hall of fame and the Opry itself. I’ll also mention La Croix sisters, who were in Roy Acuff’s band in 1949. Members of that group were repackaged as the LaDell Sisters and became Opry members in the 50s.

My playlist Early Country Girl Groups features many, many acts from the 1920s-50s.

In other news, here’s my new playlist: Balloon Music. Yes, it is music with balloons, including people altering their voices with helium or sulfur hexafluoride.