Country Music

He wore coveralls, and liked music with twin-fiddle intros, crooned by men with old-world names like: Merel, Lefty, Buck, Roy, Ernest, and Hank.

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…”

Do what?

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.”

Lyrics:

“…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,
Motor-boating, man…
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.

70 comments

  1. Janet Mary Lee - March 8, 2019 6:45 am

    Oh for the good ole days…Don’t you forget Don Williams now!!! This post makes me love you even more!!

    Reply
    • Elizabeth Edens - March 8, 2019 11:05 am

      Amanda!

      Reply
      • BARBARA LYNCH - March 8, 2019 8:59 pm

        Light of my life!

        Reply
  2. Connie Havard Ryland - March 8, 2019 6:57 am

    Amen! I pay for SiriusXM so I don’t have to listen to what passes for country music these days. While there are a few real singers left (Chris Stapleton, Jamie Johnson, Zac Brown) and some of the best are still around (George Strait, Alan Jackson maybe a couple more) the best music is on Willie Nelson’s channel on SiriusXM. You will hear Hank, Patsy, Loretta, Dolly, Tammy, Conway, Tom T…all the greats. I grew up listening to that music. My dad and all my uncles and several cousins and a couple of brothers played and sang, and my childhood was full of music. I know there’s an audience for all of it. But give me Willie and Kris any day.

    Reply
  3. Estelle Sexton Davis - March 8, 2019 7:21 am

    Don’t forget Patsy Kline, Roy Acuff, Hank Snow, Little Jimmy Dickens,Johnny Cash, Porter Wagner, Vern Gosdon,Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson Nd more of that generation. Of recent times George Strait, Randy Travis, Ronnie Milsap,Glen Campbell and more. Oh and don’t forget Eddie Arnold. Radio station WSM Nashville still plays real country music. They even play Bob Willis and Jimmy Rodgers. This is country. What is played is like old time rock and roll.
    Thanks for the memories.

    Reply
  4. Jeanne Butler - March 8, 2019 7:22 am

    I like country music of the 70’s, Charlie Pride, Alabama, Oak Rudge Boys, Reba, Dolly, Don Williams and many others. I do not like country music much today. But I do love Toby Keith and Red Solo Cup. At one time I had it as my phone ring. Love you Sean

    Reply
  5. Van - March 8, 2019 7:56 am

    Give me Merle and Bocephus……and we’ll be just fine….

    Reply
  6. Kelly - March 8, 2019 10:50 am

    Exactly what I say every time I hear a new “country” song. Thankful everyday for my Apple Music subscription so I can choose my own – Dolly, Patsy, Ronny Milsap, Willie and Alabama are just a few of the real country artists in my mix. Have to say I do love Chris Stapleton and Zac Brown as well.

    Reply
  7. Agnes Spurlock - March 8, 2019 11:06 am

    It seems that all of the music I listen to, country or otherwise, classifies as old music. I just can’t listen or watch to any of the new “so called stars” of any genre. I want to hear music that is fit to listen to. I want to be able to understand the words. I want the people singing it to be able to carry a tune. I want the girls to have on all of their clothes. Don’t want to see any spandex on girls or guys. Don’t want to see any body parts hanging out. Can’t we bring back decency? Music should be about the music, shouldn’t it?

    Reply
  8. Gary - March 8, 2019 11:09 am

    These new “country” songs and “singers” just ain’t country . I miss the real country . Thank goodness for old time radio .

    Reply
  9. Sharon - March 8, 2019 11:40 am

    Amen! My thoughts exactly. Classic Country – the best!

    Reply
  10. Toni Tucker Locke - March 8, 2019 11:48 am

    Amen. Bless your heart, son. You have been raised right!

    Reply
  11. Cathi - March 8, 2019 11:58 am

    I’m an late comer to country music (1980s) but nothing can make me change the channel faster than anything by Florida-Georgia Line.

    Reply
  12. Ginger Hubbard - March 8, 2019 12:25 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  13. Thomas Bole - March 8, 2019 12:42 pm

    Gotta like a man who writes his convictions, takes a strong position, in spite of risking attack from those who are being chastised. Rightly enough, I would add. There’s an “Amen” in there somewhere…

    Reply
  14. Maria - March 8, 2019 12:47 pm

    Amen! Than the Lord someone has the body parts to say it!

    Reply
  15. Steve Scott - March 8, 2019 1:12 pm

    And the choir said “Amen and Amen!”

    Reply
  16. Jess in Athens, GA - March 8, 2019 1:27 pm

    Sean, I haven’t listened to a country music station in some time now…guess I haven’t missed much of anything. Many years ago my wife and I attended a Waylon Jennings/Johnny Cash concert. Ol’ Waylon came out and told us “…to sit back and enjoy the show because we already have your money.” The place erupted with laughter as one might expect. Then he said he wanted to sing his latest recording: “Take Your Tongue Outta My Mouth Cuz I’m Kissing You Goodbye.” That set the mood for some great singing by two real country stars. You would have enjoyed the show, Sean. It was a great show. I don’t believe I’ve been to any other country concerts since then. It’d be hard for anyone to top ol’ Waylon’s song……

    Reply
  17. Joyce Bacon - March 8, 2019 1:37 pm

    I only have one word to say…AMEN!

    Reply
  18. Marilyn - March 8, 2019 1:40 pm

    Well said Sean. I don’t even listen to that trash anymore! I would start a list of folks that sing that junkie music but I don’t have time. A few do immediately come to mind though…Taylor, Luke, Eric, Jason, and many more.

    Reply
  19. Beki Denison - March 8, 2019 1:42 pm

    And all the church said AMEN!!!!
    I’m a forty something year old and even I don’t like this new country.

    Reply
  20. Amy - March 8, 2019 1:51 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  21. robert - March 8, 2019 1:51 pm

    Yes, I remember the Country Boy Eddie show during the late 1970’s on WBRC in Birmingham. My favorite singer was “Sam the Cabbage Man.” Great memories. I enjoyed bands with a touch of country to them which were labeled “Southern Rock”, like Lynyrd Skynrd, the Marshall Tucker Band, and the Allman Brothers.

    Reply
  22. Steven P Bailey - March 8, 2019 1:58 pm

    I’m with ya Brother!!!

    Reply
  23. Jack Darnell - March 8, 2019 2:00 pm

    Ain’t that the gospel? There are some advantages to being deaf in the present world!
    Thanks Sean,
    Sherry & jack

    Reply
  24. Karen - March 8, 2019 2:01 pm

    I love all the old country music. My favorite artist is Emmy Lou Harris. I listen to her station & Willie Nelson’s station on Pandora, and hear all the old greats. George Jones can tear my heart out.
    There is a current musical artist that is truly amazing. I don’t know if he would be categorized as country. He is John Paul White. I have no words to describe what his music does to me. You must hear him in person. Your heart will fly away. Trust me on this.
    Thank you, Sean, for another great column.

    Reply
  25. Teresa Tindle - March 8, 2019 2:06 pm

    You said a mouthful! Dang, i thought I was the only one left who don’t Carew for the modern country music. Ain’t nothing like, Hank, Willie, Merl, Bob Wills, Waylon. I could go on and on. Meanwhile I’m gonna turn up my old country music and enjoy the heck out of it.

    Reply
  26. Catherine in Augusta - March 8, 2019 2:11 pm

    It IS a shame what country music has become.
    BTW your drawing is exceptionally fine today. Beautiful!

    Reply
  27. DE - March 8, 2019 2:12 pm

    Willie Nelson IS a poet! He woke up still not dead yet again today. 😉

    Reply
  28. Dee Fritzie - March 8, 2019 2:18 pm

    I must totally agree. I come from a long line of country people and once a month aunts, uncles, cousins and other assorted friends would gather in someone’s back yard and entertained the whole neighborhood. My age dictates that Patsy Cline and Hank Williams were the ” headliners” but we had lots of clean fun. And yes, it usually ended with Amazing Grace .

    Reply
  29. Edna B. - March 8, 2019 2:20 pm

    Sean, I agree. Today’s so called country music is really country pop. It’s just not country music. I bought Sirius XM so that I can listen to the real country music. I loved this post. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

    Reply
  30. H. Fuqua - March 8, 2019 2:30 pm

    Hard to believe that Jamey Johnson co-wrote Honky Tonk Badonadonk. He wrote In Color and High Cost of Livin…guess he gets that mailbox money though

    Reply
  31. Penn Wells - March 8, 2019 2:39 pm

    “He Stopped Loving Her Today” – arguably the greatest song ever written, country or otherwise – I can still see Alan and George Strait singing it together after we lost Mr Jones.

    “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?”

    Reply
  32. John Paschall - March 8, 2019 2:40 pm

    Amen, Sean!!!

    Reply
  33. paula jones - March 8, 2019 2:43 pm

    YESYESYESYESYES!!! God only knows we need more WIllie Nelsons these days.

    Reply
  34. Karen - March 8, 2019 2:57 pm

    Oh, and thank you for acknowledging Bob Wills. He is the King of Western swing.

    Reply
  35. Caleb Halstead - March 8, 2019 3:13 pm

    I love this. One of the best EVER! Amen, Sean, and Amen.

    Reply
  36. Mary - March 8, 2019 3:36 pm

    You are totally right! Politically correct has given way to anything disgusting is okay — just don’t talk about Jesus!

    Reply
  37. Ol' Retired Geezer - March 8, 2019 3:40 pm

    Man, oh, man! You struck a nerve today, Sean! I was a country music DJ in the late 70’s. Even then, country music was still pretty much country music. I had grown up on the very artists you mentioned, plus a jillion more. Don’t know when or how, but the recycled 1970’s and 80’s Top 40 that tries to pass as country music today is what you find on the bottom of a bird cage. Great column! Keep up the great work. An ol’ retired geezer from Montgomery, Alabama

    Reply
  38. Courtney Roberts - March 8, 2019 3:45 pm

    CHEERS to Bocephus! and you…..

    Reply
  39. Jennifer Whisenant - March 8, 2019 3:49 pm

    You said it with a little more grace than I have said lately. Country has been hijacked because no one was listening to the rest. Now they have hijacked country!!!

    Reply
  40. Connie - March 8, 2019 3:54 pm

    Agree! Call it fake country 😊

    Reply
  41. Judy - March 8, 2019 3:59 pm

    …and Amy needs to find a new boyfriend. She doesn’t need to settle for someone that “enjoys” music that makes her uncomfortable. Just sayin’…

    Reply
  42. Kaye Cutchen Hall - March 8, 2019 4:12 pm

    Sean, I agree that country music isn’t what it used to be, but thank goodness you are keeping it alive. We certainly enjoyed seeing you last night in Eufaula. As I told you then, don’t let anyone make you change the way you write! Old English teachers like me enjoy reading what you write because we know it comes from the heart! Keep it up!

    Reply
  43. Shelton A. - March 8, 2019 4:14 pm

    Modern country is just pop music with a fiddle and a slight twang in their voice. Give me Hank, Merle, Johnny, Hank Jr., and Willie any ol’ day. What the heck is a red SOLO cup good for-outdoor concerts/picnics, that’s it.

    Reply
  44. Sharen - March 8, 2019 4:33 pm

    Thank you. Well said !

    Reply
  45. Betty F. - March 8, 2019 5:17 pm

    Amen!

    Reply
  46. Bobby - March 8, 2019 5:27 pm

    “the silence of a falling star lights up the purple sky
    and as I wonder where you are I’m so lonesome I could cry “

    Modern country just doesn’t have lyrics like that.

    Reply
  47. Terri C Boykin - March 8, 2019 5:44 pm

    I enjoyed country music in the 1970’s, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson, the early days of Hank Jr. I don’t recognize country stations from pop any longer. However, Chris Stapleton sings like an old timer, I believe he’s the real thing. So disappointed in the talent that chooses to sing songs based on the $$$ of playing on so called country and pop stations.

    Reply
  48. Carolyn - March 8, 2019 5:52 pm

    Thank you for being a voice for many of us.

    Reply
  49. Bill F - March 8, 2019 7:23 pm

    You are so correct about this subject. Some things are called music that really are not.

    Reply
  50. Carol - March 8, 2019 7:56 pm

    Agree 💯%

    Reply
  51. Carol - March 8, 2019 7:57 pm

    PS!
    Love ya!

    Reply
  52. Linda Moon - March 8, 2019 8:30 pm

    I’m proud the be the city-raised daughter of a strong, single, Southern mother. After the raising, I met and married my country-raised boy. He introduced me to Loretta, Kitty, Hank, George, Willie, and The Opry. They’ve never been replaced by that mess that ain’t country music. The music and the marriage lives on! Thank God he was a country boy.

    Reply
  53. Terry Taylor - March 8, 2019 8:43 pm

    I agree with you, Sean though there are a few songs that grab your heart and sometimes almost go beyond country to gospel. I’m thinking of Sugarland’s “The Very Last Country Song” and “ I Want to Be the One.” Love your writing.

    Reply
  54. Bill from Florida - March 8, 2019 9:26 pm

    Can’t stand “Modern” country music. I go back to AM radio: WSM’s Grand Ol Opry, WLW Cincinnati Ohio, WWL, New Orleans. I had a little Silvertone radio and an antenna strung down thru the woods behind the house. At night the radio was wonderful (remember no TV back then and no FM). Wanted a Wayne Rainey Genuine Brass Harmonica with easy to learn instructions. Real country music must have a steel guitar and no drums or just a snare with a brush. I’m old you see……..PS: my maternal grandparents are from the mountains of North Georgia so Bluegrass came naturally

    Reply
  55. Darrell Dame - March 8, 2019 10:26 pm

    You nailed it. Shows what folks will do for money.

    Reply
  56. Minnie Tate Bourque - March 9, 2019 2:52 am

    AMEN!!

    Reply
  57. Dru - March 9, 2019 2:54 am

    Thank you! When did the concept of TACKY die? Picture all our grandparents’ reaction to this trash. Religion might come back in style!

    Reply
  58. Karen - March 9, 2019 3:42 am

    At the risk of being nailed to a cross, I must admit to being the lone dissenter here.I like many modern country songs and artists (except the sexist and violent ones). I don’t like the old country twang. I’d go so far as to say it hurts my ears. But that’s just my opinion. It doesn’t make me or my music “trash.” It just means that we can all have different viewpoints. Oh, and BTW, your reader should drop ANY guy that uses the “witches” term in anything other than a compliment. 😉

    Reply
  59. Charaleen Wright - March 9, 2019 4:49 am

    Reply
  60. Val - March 9, 2019 5:23 am

    In my opinion there is very little that qualifies as country music in today’s world. Most of the songs don’t even have a tune you can sing to. I was totally lost when trying to watch a recent country music awards show. “I was so lonesome I could cry.”

    Reply
  61. Lana Jones Barbaree - March 9, 2019 7:48 pm

    That ain’t country.

    Reply
  62. Melanie - March 9, 2019 11:36 pm

    And amen to that ❤️

    Reply
  63. Susannah Robey - March 10, 2019 2:23 am

    Oh, what a delightful story!!! I watched a video of you singing, Sean. You have a wonderful voice. It reminded me of one of my all time favorites: Jerry Jeff Walker. My favorite album is A MAN MUST CARRY ON, dedicated to Hondo Crouch. Have you heard it? Keep up the fine job you do. Your sweet heart is full of love and wonderment!

    Reply
  64. Stuart - March 10, 2019 5:31 am

    It’s trash.
    Redneck rap.
    Hear a little bit of it while changing stations, but haven’t been able to listen to “country” stations in over 20 years.

    Reply
  65. Allie - March 20, 2019 2:16 pm

    Sean, we’re about the same age. I grew up on Southern Rock & 80s music, but peppered in there were Cash, Willie, Bocephus, and Coe (don’t judge – fishheads). I also remember really loving Randy Travis’s voice when I was small (still do).

    When I started hanging out with Baby, he introduced me to bluegrass and outlaw country, “the only real music that’s coming out of Nashville these days.” He has a much bigger catalog of classic country than I do and I enjoy it. He hates crowds, but took me to see Stapleton on my birthday when I was deathly ill – wasn’t selling those tickets and wasn’t missing Stapleton. Marty Stuart guested and Baby said that made it all worth it.

    There are a droves of fine musicians in Nashville, of course. I’ve seen Zac twice, and ZBB’s musicianship is unbelievable. Even seeing Gretchen Wilson while back in Biloxi on a whim – now lemme tell ya, that girl has an incredible set of pipes – her band was what made the show.

    Say hello to them bayous for me. I miss mine (Joe’s).

    Y’all be good now.

    Reply
  66. Donna Funck - April 5, 2019 11:56 am

    Sean, your writing made me smile as I conjured up a picture of my daddy, buck dancing, singing “Hank” karaoke, and playing the spoons at the Lookout Lounge in Mexico Beach. The Lookout was a hurricane casualty, but Jep, (aka Paw Paw) is still kicking. Thank you for your stories and the feelings they evoke.

    Reply

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