There used to be a time when country music was music. It was an era when women named Patsy, Kitty, Loretta, Dolly, or June strummed guitars and broke your heart.
Tassels hung from sleeves, rhinestones adorned three-piece Nudie Cohn suits, boots were shiny, and cowboys didn’t wear latex pants.
Times have changed. Today, on my truck radio I heard a song on the country station entitled “Red SOLO Cup.”
The song goes:
“…a red SOLO cup is the best receptacle,
For barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals,
You sir, do not have a pair of (male body parts),
If you prefer drinking from a GLASS…”
This is what passes for country music? At the EXACT moment this song played—and this is the truth, so help me Hank—I was drinking iced tea from a glass jelly jar.
I come from a long line of men who drank almost exclusively from Mason jars. In fact, my uncle Tater would not drink from anything else. He drank tea, water, milk, corn, you name it. Always a glass jar.
Even if Uncle Tater would’ve dined at a five-star restaurant, he would’ve asked the waiter to pour his Château Margaux in a jelly jar, then he would’ve asked for ice cubes.
My uncle loved country music—the old kind. If he would’ve heard a song like the one I just told you about, he’d be kicking in his grave.
He wore coveralls and liked music with twin-fiddle intros, crooned by men with old-world names like: Merle, Lefty, Buck, Roy, Johnny, Ernest, and Hank.
He would’ve never trusted singers with modern names like: Keith, Jordan, Dustin, or Eric. In fact, he didn’t even like my name.
We were musical people. We sang, yodled, waltzed, clapped, and knew all the words to “I’ll Fly Away,” or “Will the Circle be Unbroken?” And if you ever heard my grandfather sing “I’m so Lonesome I Could Cry,” you dang sure would.
My uncle’s friend Bucky sang high-tenor, and when Mister Jubal Rucker got going on the banjo, Uncle Tater was liable to get up and buck dance.
By that time in the evening, everyone’s Mason jars were empty.
Anyway, my radio played a few other songs from the modern country vein. One was entitled: “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.”
“…ooh shut my mouth, SLAP YOUR GRANDMA,
There oughta be a law, get the sheriff on the phone,
…How’d she get them britches on,
With that honky tonk badonkadonk…”
First off, if anyone so much as contemplated sassing my granny, she would’ve used a hairbrush to send them six counties closer to Canada. But slapping her? You would’ve woken up with paramedics around you.
I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be running down modern music. Some people love it, and that’s their prerogative. The truth is, I wouldn’t have brought up the subject if it weren’t for a 15-year-old named Amy.
Amy wrote me. She said she felt very degraded when her boyfriend was listening to a country-pop song, entitled: “Hot-dam-alama.”
A few lyrics:
“She got them sho nuffs…
Panama City, wet T-shirt, Miss Banana Boats,
Front to back, Jack, [she’s a] picture perfect panorama,
Can I get a ‘WOO WOO?’”
Another song Amy’s boyfriend enjoys is a chart-topper with a title I won’t reprint—let’s just say the title rhymes with “Witches.”
It’s aimed at women. And, as the proud Southern son of a strong single mother, I don’t believe this mess of lyrics is fit for a sweathog.
After the affronts of such music, my granny would have completely forgiven Elvis.
So Amy, I don’t blame you for feeling uncomfortable with what you hear on the radio. You deserve to be respected.
All I can say is, we used to have heroes. Men who tipped their hats to ladies passing by. Women who sang with conviction.
When George Jones sang about love, you felt love. When Hank sang about pain, you felt pain. Ronnie Milsap brought the house down. Willie was a poet. And Bob Wills, Lord have mercy.
I once saw Charlie Pride sing “Kaw-Liga,” in Branson. My uncle was seated next to me during the concert. After Charlie finished, a woman took center stage. She wore a long white gown and sang “Tennessee Waltz.”
My uncle was crying. He wiped his face and with a clogged nose he said, “Don’t it just tear your heart out?”
Don’t it just.
Then the woman sang “Amazing Grace,” and two thousand of us sang with her, by God. The sound of all those voices made you wonder if you were in the clouds.
Not once during the performance did anyone sing about cut-off shorts or human appendages. Nobody shook their badonkadonks or tried to slap their grandmothers with wet T-shirts. There were no cuss words, no latex pants, no red SOLO cups.
I know these songs are popular on modern radio, but Amy, I feel obliged to speak for Uncle Tater when I say:
Whatever that mess is, it ain’t country music.