Watching the 2nd episode of Country Music, the documentary from Ken Burns, gave a real sense of how “Hillbilly Music” took off in the 1930’s. Highlighted was the growing tensions in the Carter family, the success of Gene Autry, first in music and then in movies and after serving in the military in WW!! Autry came home and became a very successful businessman. The music of Bob Wills attracted an even larger audience.
All of this happened during the Great Depression. You could listen to the music for free on the radio (amazingly you can still do that today despite all of the streaming possibilities). It was shown how many radio stations there were in the 1930’s with their own Saturday night Barn Dance shows and through those programs, the artists went on the road the other nights of the week to perform.
What is a common theme in this program is how the artists appealed to so many people. Southern Americans and later all Americans connected with the music that made them feel welcomed. Some thought of the country music fans then is that they were hayseeds and not very intelligent.
These same people were the backbone of this nation at a time they were needed to save democracy and freedom for them and future generations. There were no pinkies out in Country music, no elitists. And another theme is all new artists had a musical connection to past artists. Looking forward to episode three Tuesday night.