November 29, 2021 Direct TV Marketing

When I was young, television ads for all types of music were very common, but especially country music. Everyone from Slim Whitman to Conway Twitty to Floyd Cramer advertised this way. So did Cristy Lane, Boxcar Willie, Anne Murray, John Denver,and countless others. Nobody can forget Zamfir and his pan flute. Zamfir still performs, too !

Here’s a 2017 Neatorama article: “Art, Commerce, and Zamfir: Selling Music on TV”

The article goes into detail about companies like Heartland Music and how they found success with direct marketing strategies.

Here’s a 2013 Mental Floss article: “11 Mellow Artists Who Sold Millions Through Commercials.”

Here are some links to assorted ads:

Yes, even George Strait made one of these commercials in the eighties.

K-Tel Records: “The Best of George Jones” commercial

Loretta Lynn gospel album commercial in the nineties

Here’s a large playlist of Heartland Music commercials. You’ll find Barbara Mandrell, Tammy Wynette, The Forester Sisters, and many other country names on the list.

November 27, 2021 Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite family holidays. It’s also when a lot of people start shopping for Christmas. I find much more satisfaction playing a variety of inexpensive instruments however badly at home than I do listening to most of today’s popular music.

Let’s take a look at some musical gift ideas. I am not affiliated with any of these companies, but for this very American holiday, I want to highlight some musical instruments made in the USA.

CB Gitty specializes in cigar box guitars and other instrument kits. You might not hear a lot of cigar box guitars and canjos on the radio, but there are many people who enjoy these instruments.

Kazoobie Kazoos makes kazoos and operates a kazoo museum. Even the most expensive kazoos are inexpensive compared to most other kinds of instruments.

The Original American Kazoo Company also makes kazoos and operates a kazoo museum.

Columbus Washboard Company makes washboards. Most often associated with jug bands, jazz, and zydeco, washboards occasionally show up in country and polka and every other style.

Still Made In The USA is a directory of American-made musical instruments.

There are many dulcimer makers in the US. Much like the cigar box guitar scene, there are many, many hobbyists who love these instruments.

Of course, there’s a whole world of musical instruments out there. The majority of instruments I own are from Asia. No matter what kind of music you enjoy, it’s fun to at least tinker with some instruments.

November 23, 2021 Flaco Y Los Texmaniacs

Yesterday, Texas State University presented a show by conjunto greats Los Texmaniacs and Flaco Jiménez. Grammy winners Los Texmaniacs put on a two-hour show, with the six-time Grammy winning legend Flaco Jiménez joining them during the middle of the set. Three Texas State University music students also played with the group.

Los Texmaniacs are led by bajo sexto player Max Baca. His nephew Josh Baca is the accordion player and they were backed by a drummer and an electric bass player. This is a pretty typical arrangement for a conjunto or Norteño group. The Texas conjunto groups tend to include bits of other American styles like country, rock, and even Cajun music, moreso than Mexican Norteño groups. Polka music is a huge influence on conjunto and Norteño music.

The terms “Tejano” and “Tex-Mex” are very broad terms that cover many styles. Conjunto acts are included in that, but those broader terms also cover other styles.

I heard several classic country songs in yesterday’s set, like “Oh Lonesome Me,” “Together Again,” “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights,” and “Jambalaya.”

Flaco Jiménez is 82 and one of the most famous Texas accordion legends. San Antonio announced plans to build a ten-foot bronze statue of him. He has collaborated with pretty much everyone in every kind of music. He was in the Texas Tornados, and you’ve probably heard his collaboration with Buck Owens and Dwight Yoakam on “Streets of Bakersfield.” He also recorded other songs with them.

Max Baca mentioned that he was seven years old when he first met Flaco Jiménez. The Texmaniacs are one of the best known conjunto bands now. Josh Baca also has his group called “Josh Baca and the Hot Tamales,” which combines conjunto with zydeco music.

There are lots of conjunto and other Tex-Mex bands in the part of Texas where I live, and as with the German polka bands at Wurstfest, most include some classic country songs.

November 21, 2021 Ricky Skaggs at Gruene Hall

I saw Ricky Skaggs at a great bluegrass festival last month and I’ve seen him a couple times at the Grand Ole Opry and at CMA Fest, but last night, I saw Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder play a full two-hour set at Gruene Hall.

Gruene Hall isn’t a huge venue, but there’s so much history and character that it draws many top acts. Some of the big acts they have scheduled for the next couple of months are Wynonna Judd, LeAnn Rimes, Colter Wall, and Lyle Lovett.

Tony Kamel was the opening act last night. He performed a solo set with banjo and guitar. He’s best known for the bluegrass group Wood and Wire, but he released a solo album earlier this year that’s more in the singer-songwriter Americana lane. He’s from Houston, but his wailing vocals would fit alongside many of today’s Appalachian artists. For his closing song, he played the banjo like a drum with his hand. It reminded me a bit of Irish bodhrán music.

Ricky Skaggs put on a full two-hour show. The main difference I noticed from his set last month at the bluegrass festival is that the longer set had room for more instrumentals. When you have seven great pickers on stage at once, you let those horses run. Every member of Kentucky Thunder was given a chance to shine.

Every era of Ricky Skaggs’ lengthy career was well represented. For his encore, he chose an acapella quartet version of “Down To The River To Pray,” followed by an energetic instrumental. The people in front of me moved before the encore, so I had a nice, clear view of the stage and took a quick phone video of the closing instrumental: YouTube link

November 20, 2021 Western Update

The International Western Music Association awards were presented a few days ago and here is the full list of winners and nominees.

The Academy of Western Artists has a large list of nominees for their next awards.

There are many quality artists recognized by these organizations who aren’t widely known by country fans.

Texas rodeos have begun announcing 2022 music headliners: San Antonio , Fort Worth , Houston. Houston usually has the biggest music headliners.

The Calgary Stampede announced that Blake Shelton will be one of the music headliners for the July 2022 event. The Calgary Stampede is called “The Greatest Outdoor Show On Earth.”

Cheyenne Frontier Days is Wyoming’s huge annual summer event and CFD is currently taking nominations for the next CFD hall of fame class. “Nominations are open to the public (you don’t have to be a member of the CFD Old West Museum to nominate) and are limited to past and present Cheyenne Frontier Days™ contestants, contract personnel, entertainers, livestock, families, organizations, and volunteers.”

The annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Nevada was scheduled for January 2022, but the event is cancelled.

November 18, 2021 Current Observations (Chris Stapleton edition)

It’s just over a week since the CMA awards, so we can see which of the performances actually made a significant impact. As usual, the correct answer is Chris Stapleton. Fans of lesser artists harass and belittle him all over the internet, but time after time, he greatly outperforms the others. Apparently, I’m not on an island with my opinion, either. Look at the number of views of the CMA awards performances on YouTube. “Cold” has the most, followed the Jennifer Hudson performance, which also included Chris Stapleton. A few months ago, his performance at the CMT awards drew the most views of any of the CMT awards performances. “Cold” isn’t even a radio single, but after the CMA awards performance, “Cold” spiked to number one on iTunes all-genre. His album “Starting Over” did the same.

Hits Daily Double posted a “Rumor Mill” article about the numbers for Taylor Swift’s album. Whatever you think of Taylor Swift’s music, it’s eye-opening to see the record-setting numbers she continues to generate. Time will tell whether her single (with Chris Stapleton on backing vocals) will stick at country radio. Note that the Stapleton “Traveller” album from May 2015 is still impacting the all-genre chart. Since today’s post turned into a Chris Stapleton edition, I’ll also mention his duet tomorrow with Adele. This is Adele’s first attempt at country radio. I have no idea whether it will get anywhere, but it’s a curiosity that an Adele song featuring Chris Stapleton will be at country radio at the same time as a Taylor Swift song featuring Chris Stapleton, while Chris’ own single “You Should Probably Leave” is still slowly rising on the country chart. Oh, and if all that isn’t enough, Chris Stapleton opened for George Strait a few days ago and Chris and George sang a cover of “Waymore’s Blues.”

When I began making today’s post, I planned to get around to a variety of topics, but all the major news kept circling back to this one artist, who had an absolute monster of a week.

November 15, 2021 Return to Wurstfest

The sixtieth annual Wurstfest in New Braunfels, Texas is in the books. The weather was perfect this year, so I attended four days of the ten-day event. There was music on five stages. Attendance during the middle of the week was free and the tickets on weekends were very affordable.

I’ve mentioned previously that polka bands often include some country music in their sets. I heard at least three acts play Orange Blossom Special, at least three play Hank Williams, Sr songs, at least three play Johnny Cash songs, and at least three play the Ernest Tubb hit “Waltz Across Texas.” I heard fiddle and banjo and one act even featured pedal steel.

I’m especially glad to finally see the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra. The Grammy awards had a polka category for just 24 years and Jimmy Sturr won 18 times. He is a great American success story. Polka music is usually associated with central and eastern Europe, but Jimmy Sturr is an American of Irish descent. Jimmy Sturr has collaborated with many country legends over the years. He had a television show in Nashville at one point and played the Grand Ole Opry with the full brass section. He mentioned touring with Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, and Floyd Cramer. Willie Nelson, whose career began in a polka band, has appeared on five Jimmy Sturr albums. Some other stars who recorded with Jimmy Sturr are Charlie Daniels, Ray Price, Mel Tillis, The Oak Ridge Boys, Whispering Bill Anderson, Brenda Lee, Béla Fleck, and Rhonda Vincent. George Jones, Alan Jackson, and Dwight Yoakam shared the stage with the Jimmy Sturr Orchestra. Jimmy Sturr’s set Sunday morning at Wurstfest included some country songs with a fiddle. His closing number was a cover of “Devil Went Down To Georgia.”

Texas Sound Check is a great name for a Czech polka band, but this act also stood out because of the steel guitar. They did traditional polkas and waltzes, but also a nice cover of “Amarillo By Morning,” followed by “Friends In Low Places.” They even worked in “Ein Prosit der Gemütlichkeit” in the middle of that one.

The All Mixed Up Band, as you might guess from the name, plays different types of music: polka, rock and roll, classic pop, classic country, etc. Their country selections included Hank Sr and Johnny Cash.

Rennie Guenther and the Happy Travelers mentioned that Bill Whitbeck wrote the song “There’s Only One S In New Braunfels.” Although Alex Meixner Band is best known for their version of the song, Guenther played it years earlier. I saw Whitbeck earlier this year in a bluegrass band called The Grassmen. Whitbeck is also in Robert Earl Keen’s band.

The Chardon Polka Band of Ohio is mostly polka, but they do a bit of everything, even Hank Williams. “Red Wing Polka” has an interesting history. The Tin Pan Alley song “Red Wing” from 1907 set lyrics to Robert Schumann’s 1848 tune “Frölicher Landmann” (“The Happy Farmer”). Most who play the tune play it as an instrumental, but the name “Red Wing” stuck. You’ll find this very catchy tune in “old time fiddle” and bluegrass and western swing and polka.

Auf Geht’s is a group based in Houston. I saw them in Tomball, Texas earlier this year. They put on a very good show, with yodeling and tuba and trumpet and accordion and banjo. They covered Earl Scruggs’ “Polka On A Banjo.” The drummer played a number of “specialty” instruments, such as hölzernes g’lachter (four-row xylophone), saw, and cowbells.

Terry Cavanagh and the Alpine Express were supposed to play an hour set, but they were having some unknown issue with the sound that took up half their set. They had a bit of everything from tuba to fiddle to alpine yodeling. They had an alphorn and a saw on stage before their set, but moved them off beforehand, presumably because their set was so short from whatever problem they were having with the sound. Current Nashville country artist Catie Offerman used to be in Terry Cavanagh’s band.

The Seven Dutchmen Orchestra is based in New Braunfels and has played Wurstfest 45 times. Some country bits in their set were “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” They also served as the house band for the polka dance contest.

Die Schlauberger is from New York. One of the things that stands out immediately about this band is the keytar. Those who remember the 80s will remember that instrument. For the country fans, I’ll note that keytar appears in music videos for the Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffett song “Five O’Clock Somewhere” and Lonestar’s “Good News.”

The Euro Express Band from Chicago is new to Wurstfest this year. This three-piece band played songs they learned in Munich, but also Tom T. Hall’s “I Like Beer.” They fit right in.

The Joe Rogers Big Band is a fourteen-member group based in New Braunfels. The late Joe Rogers was once the band director at the local high school, in addition to being involved with Wurstfest. They played polkas, big band classics by Glenn Miller, a few Frank Sinatra hits, etc. The drummer David Smith, who was the spokesman of the group, also performs in The Oompahs. David Smith’s mother had a group for over forty years called Oma and the Oompahs. She is 92 now and retired from performing, but was in the audience for some shows this week.

November 11, 2021 New This Week

There are new albums out tomorrow from Jason Aldean, Cody Jinks, Caroline Jones, Taylor Swift, Sam Outlaw, Josh Grider, Sharna Burcher, and Ronnie Milsap (Christmas).

The CMA awards were last night. I taped it to watch later, so that I could speed through commercials and stuff to get to any nuggets of actual country music. Congratulations to those who did win awards. Luke Combs won entertainer. He has had the most radio number ones of any country artist the last few years, as every single he has released has rocketed to number one. I recall seeing him at the 2017 CMA fest doing an acoustic set at a small stage inside fan fair. Carly Pearce won female vocalist. She was the first act we saw the week of 2017 CMA fest, playing at a little stage outside Bridgestone Arena (followed by Runaway June) a couple of days before the official CMA fest. Chris Stapleton won male vocalist, album, and song. Since my name also happens to be Stapleton, I have followed his career pretty closely the last several years and it’s great to see the success he has achieved. Jimmie Allen won new artist. I’m trying to recall if it was 2018 or 2019 that I saw him at CMA fest. As a fun fact, Jimmie Allen was a contestant on American Idol in 2011, the same year as Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina. I honestly have no clue how the eligibility for “new artist” works. Jimmie won new artist this year from both ACM and CMA after being nominated in a previous year by each.

The 59th annual ASCAP country music awards were also this week. These awards don’t get a lot of press like the CMA awards, but it doesn’t take long to look through the list of winners.

Yesterday evening, we went back to Wurstfest in New Braunfels, Texas to hear some more polka bands. We saw the Johnny Koenig Band from Pittsburgh (four-piece band with a set of traditional waltzes and polkas), which had a bit of banjo. The Mountain Top Polka Band is a six-member band from Asheville, which had a tuba, glockenspiel, and alpenglocken (tuned cowbells). The Lederhosen Junkies are 19 year olds from New Braunfels. Jake Kouwe from the Chardon Polka Band of Ohio made a guest appearance during their set. Mollie B and Squeezebox were next. We also saw them Sunday, but the Wednesday set was mostly different songs. Mollie B mentioned that her former students in the group “Girl Named Tom” are doing well on The Voice. The Seven Dutchmen Orchestra played the grand Wursthalle. Their closing number was “I’ll Be All Smiles Tonight.” Wurstfest delivered a great time once again. The weather couldn’t be much more perfect than this week.

November 8, 2021 Wurstfest

Since 1961, Wurstfest has been a major event in New Braunfels, Texas. The festival features music on five stages and goes in for ten days! The weather was perfect and the crowds were large, but very well behaved. Yesterday was my first time to attend Wurstfest and my brother and I had a great time. We heard music at four of the five stages.

To start the day, we checked out a solo set by Kerry Christensen. The yodeling great has performed around the world for decades. He said he knows over five hundred songs, so he took many audience requests. He even covered Slim Whitman.

Next, we saw a New Braunfels group called The Oompahs. The four-person group featured a sousaphone player, an accordion player who sings in eight languages, a keyboard and xylophone player who sang lead on a few of the songs, and a drummer who was the wisecracking host of the set.

We then moved to another of the stages to check it out. The Alpine Village Band mostly covered sing-along types of pop songs in a somewhat “polkafied” form. They did everything from “Sweet Caroline” to “Time After Time.”

Next up was Mollie B and Squeezebox, currently based in Wisconsin. The dynamic Mollie B played at least fourteen instruments during an hour set. She released a fine album of classic country covers last year that you should definitely check out. Yes, she is polka first, but she does quite a good job with the country songs, too. Her set included “Silver Threads and Golden Needles” and “Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” complete with yodeling.

Alex Meixner is currently based in Florida, but he is a Wurstfest legend to such a degree that a New Braunfels brewery has a beer named after him. The frantic accordion player has a song about the city called “There’s Only One S In New Braunfels.” A recent addition to Meixner’s band is Nashville-based Rory Hoffman, who drew a big crowd reaction with a cover of the Buck Owens hit “Act Naturally.”

We then moved on to yet another stage, just in time for Chris Rybak. Rybak spent a good bit of his set off the stage and among the audience. His set included some country, too, from Johnny Cash to Brooks and Dunn. “Neon Moon” works just fine as a polka.

Next on stage was AlpenMusikanten. Most of their set was in German, including a cover of “Ghost Riders In The Sky.” I happened to record this one with a cell phone, so you can find it on my YouTube channel. They did a good bit of yodeling.

We then moved back to the first tent. We’ve seen Das Ist Lustig before, but they put on a fun show, complete with saw, hölzernes g’lachter, and teufelsgeige. They covered Tom T. Hall’s “I Like Beer,” so there’s yet another example of country-polka fusion.

The Walburg Boys are also based in Texas. They covered a wide range of styles, everything from Merle Haggard to Lynyrd Skynyrd to Four Non Blondes, but also German yodel songs. “Battle of New Orleans” with alpine yodeling was pretty cool.

We closed out the day at the grandest of the stages, Wursthalle, for the Cloverleaf Orchestra. The sousaphone player from The Oompahs was also in this group. The old Wursthalle building burned to the ground a couple of years ago, so this is a very new building. The group mostly played polkas, though they did work in a classic country medley.

If you’re a country fan, then be sure to check out polka bands, too. You’ll find that a lot of them know some classic country music, too.

November 5, 2021 New Music

Okay, friends, let’s see what we can find in this week’s batch of new music.

There are new albums from Charles Wesley Godwin, Legendary Shack Shakers, Deana Carter, Mala Oreen, Margo Cilker, The Steel Wheels, David Nail, Tim Kelly, Chase Wright, Daryl Mosley, Matt Ward, and Stars Go Dim.

There’s also a Christmas compilation from George Strait. George Strait also started a page for Weight Of The Badge, asking people to share their photos and videos of first responders. Thank you, George Strait, for honoring the many great people who carry the weight of the badge.

For this week’s random pick, I found an accordion instrumental from Weird Al Yankovic: This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us.” No, it’s not “country,” but it is an enjoyable bit of musicianship. The world needs more accordion.