Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Roots of Country Music - Appalachia to Nashville


Most people probably have little understanding of the roots of country music in America because it has always been taken for granted that country is one of the core genres we have always had around. It is known as the heartbeat and soul of America and been around about as long as the Europeans have been here.

Over the years we may have heard country music we liked, some even crossed over to pop and rock charts, and many stars in other genres either started as country music singers or became famous and then cut a country song or album. But do we really know from whence it came?

When English speaking America was first being colonized in the 1600's the coastal areas were settled first, Virginia, Massachusetts and Maryland, all by 1634 and it did not take long for the European immigrants to make their way to the Appalachian Mountains, the Southern Appalachians that is, which included the Blue Ridge Mountain range and Cumberland Plateau. Western Virginia and Eastern Kentucky and Tennessee territories along with pieces of the Carolinas and Georgia made up the region which served as a barrier to westward expansion.

Immigrants came to the area because the coastal regions were already populated and with them came the Old World musical instruments were brought together in barn dances and celebrations by these hardy people settling the region. This was in the days before electricity, before electric guitars and synthesizers

The Irish fiddle, German dulcimer, Italian mandolin, Spanish guitar and African banjo were brought to these celebrations and played together in hillbilly jam sessions far from the operas and symphonies of the cities on the east coast. This came to be known as "Old Time" music.

In the 19th century some immigrant groups moved to the Texas area to settle and further integrated the hillbilly sound with Spanish, Mexican and Native American music and large dancehalls were built where the locals could gather and dance to the sounds. This was the final step in the evolution of the roots of Country Music.

Then came the 20th century with cars and roads and radio which brought down the barriers of communication and people from throughout the nation could hear this unique American creation. The first country recording was in 1921 and throughout the 1920's as radio expanded so did the country music.

Country musicians were great innovators ever since mixing the instruments from five counties up in the Appalachians and electricity, recording and touring gave them more and more opportunities to do this. Hillbilly music grew in popularity driven by the Carter Family and Jimmy Rodgers and in 1925 WSM-AM radio in Nashville started the first country music broadcast, on November 28, 1925, when the WSM Barn Dance was first broadcast. In time it would become the Grand Ole Opry under the guidance of people like Roy Acuff.

By the 1930's and Great Depression people were poor and the radio became the primary source of news and entertainment. Soon a fledgling movie industry introduced the Singing cowboys while radio was expanding the barn dances with legendary country shows being broadcast from Chicago to Texas to California. In the 1940's these shows introduced singers like Roy Acuff, Bill Haley, Eddie Arnold and singing cowboys like Gene Autry and Roy Rogers.

Bob Wills and his legendary Texas Playboys was among the innovators of country music when in 1935 he introduced drums to the band, a first, then became the first group with the electric guitar in 1938. Yet it was not until the early 1960's that the steel guitar and drums were fixtures in country bands.

Hillbilly music spawned Hillbilly Boogie by 1939 and a new country genre called Bluegrass emerged with the sound of Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs at the end World War II. By this time country music included Hillbilly, Boogie, Blues, Honky Tonk, Gospel and Rockabilly.

To the rest of the world country music was called Hillbilly until 1944 when the name was changed to Folk and Blues music. By 1949 it was labeled Country or Country Western, the latter referring to the singing cowboys of movies and then television. Honky Tonk saw the rise of Ernest Tubb, Floyd Tillman, the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Lefty Frizell and Hank Williams.

Along came the 1950's and country music changed again as Rockabilly dominated with Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins leading the way. From 1955-1960 ABC-TV became the first network with a nationwide country show called the Ozark Jubilee that showcased country stars to the nation. Elvis helped drive the cross-over between Rockabilly and Rock 'n Roll.

Late in the '50's came the Lubbock Sound of Buddy Holly and then there was a country backlash as the industry felt rock 'n roll was to dominate. Ray Price, Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton began to shift the music back to traditional country.

In the early 1960's the Nashville sound became dominant with producers like Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley and Billy Sherrill reviving the genre with legendary singers Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold. Ray Charles introduced Country Soul in 1962 with his release of I Can't Stop Loving You. A new sound in Nashville called Countrypolitan was created featuring the sounds of Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich. But soon the Nashville sound became stale.

Out west Honky Tonk and Western Swing were merged by Bob Wills and Lefty Frizell to form the Bakersfield Sound. It would encompass the diversity of different styles from Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Tommy Collins and Wynn Stewart.

In other places like Lubbock, Tulsa and Austin the disappointment with the Nashville Sound and control of the record labels was causing an Outlaw movement. Inspired by the success of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Rolling Stones in demanding creative control of their music and control of their songs, the Outlaws gravitated to Austin where Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson became the leaders.

Not only did their music change but their image as well. Gone were the clean cut, clean shaven cowboys of old and in were the long haired radical Outlaws of the future. Jessie Colter, wife of Waylon, was one of the female pioneers while Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard soon joined forces.

With The Beatles astounding success blending rock and pop music Nashville was hungry to tap into the crossover sound needed to reach the mainstream markets. Others, seeking a return to the "old values" of rock 'n roll, created a new genre called Country Rock.

The Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Allman Brothers, Marshall Tucker Band, Poco, Buffalo Springfield and Eagles exploded onto the music scene as Southern Rock and Heartland became new subgenre spin offs. Ever since there has been a tug of war between traditional country and country rock or country pop as stars like Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash, Linda Ronstadt, Juice Newton, Alabama, Hank Williams, Jr., Brooks and Dunn, Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakum, Shania Twain, Faith Hill, and Keith Urban helped move country towards rock over the years.

By the mid 1970's Olivia Newton John and John Denver captured the Country Pop crossover market and powered their way to CMA and Grammy Awards with multi million selling hits. Soon a whole new group of country performers would take up the mantle.

George Straight, Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Toby Keith, Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney, Alison Krauss, Vince Gill and Tim McGraw among others perform the Classic Country style today while the pop crossover comes from new artists like Carrie Underwood from American Idol fame and newest sensation Taylor Swift who have breathed new life into the country music industry.

What is next? Who knows. Still, those who understand that country music is an ever-changing genre that morphs into a variety of styles depending on the needs of the people and the innovation of the artists, must feel good as a broad range of artists currently dominate the radio airwaves and rule the concert circuit.

As the major record labels collapse, the radio stations strangle on their own automated programming and the formula music once again becomes stale we know it is the time when country music always rediscovers itself. Nashville will be a lot better as a result, all country artists will benefit, the public will reap the rewards of new and innovative country music and history will once again record that the American country sound once again became relevant in a time of need and a time of truth.

Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show - The Real Story - September 9, 1956

On September 9, 1956 Elvis Presley made his national television debut on the Ed Sullivan Show before a record 72 million people.  Here is the Man and the real story.  While estate restrictions prohibit playing the Ed Sullivan appearance, here is live footage from his return to Tupelo after the Sullivan national broadcast made Elvs a star.  Double click video for full screen.

The Real Story - Elvis on Ed Sullivan Show September 9, 1956

by Christine Gibson, former editor at American Heritage magazine.

Given that many fans think Elvis is still alive despite his death certificate, highly publicized funeral, and gravestone, it’s no surprise that misunderstandings abound about his career. Among those events surrounded by fallacies—perhaps because it strongly affected popular culture as well as Elvis’s work—is his legendary first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, 49 years ago today, on September 9, 1956.

Books and periodicals mentioning the show, which broke ratings records for the young medium and was one of the first to bring rock ’n’ roll to a mass audience, have erroneously reported that Elvis was shown only from the waist up, a triumph of censorship and evidence of the continued prudery of the 1950s. Others, aware of the hoopla surrounding the program, remember it as Elvis’s first performance on TV. The truth, as usual, is a little more complicated—and more interesting.

Presley, who had released his first three number-one hits by the time of the show, was already a TV veteran. He had appeared six times on the Dorsey brothers’ Stage Show between January and March 1956 and then on The Milton Berle Show on April 3, to increasing, if not yet fevered, press attention. But after his second Berle show, on June 5, members of the press expressed sudden revulsion at what the New York Journal-American called his “primitive physical movement difficult to describe in terms suitable to a family newspaper.” The New York Daily News reported that Elvis “gave an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos,” while the San Francisco Chronicle deemed it “in appalling taste.”

The reaction was enough to make Steve Allen, who had booked Elvis for his show before the backlash, briefly consider reneging, but in the end, Elvis did appear on his show on July 1, although in strangely tame form. Allen, going comically overboard to avoid scandal, dressed him in top hat, tails, and white gloves. Elvis soldiered on gamely, singing “Hound Dog” to a top-hatand bow-tie-clad basset hound.

Sullivan, never a fan of controversy, had already refused an offer to hire Elvis for $5,000. The famously prickly host had been burned before by rock ’n’ roll stars: He vowed to drum Bo Diddley out of television after his 1955 act on the show, when he sang his own hit “Bo Diddley” instead of Sullivan’s request, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s “Sixteen Tons.” But Elvis’s ratings—his stint on the Allen show had trounced Sullivan—changed his mind. Even as he professed to the press that Elvis was “not my cup of tea,” Ed Sullivan had already begun negotiations with Elvis’s agent, Colonel Tom Parker. His hesitation cost him heavily, however. He would end up agreeing to shell out $50,000 for three appearances, an unprecedented sum.

Elvis made his Sullivan debut on the show’s season premiere, but on the big night neither Sullivan nor Elvis was in the New York studio. Elvis was in Hollywood, filming his first movie, and he sang from the CBS studio there. Sullivan was recovering from an August head-on car collision, and Charles Laughton, the star of Mutiny on the Bounty, filled in for the host, hailing his guest by saying, “Away to Hollywood to meet Elvis Presley.”

Elvis, wearing a loud plaid jacket, greeted the audience from a set decorated with stylized guitar shapes. He announced that the show was “probably the greatest honor I have ever had in my life,” and then launched into “Don’t Be Cruel.” The camera stayed above his waist for now, sometimes closing in on his face, sometimes turning to show his backup singers, but something Elvis was doing out of lens range was causing unexplained screams from the audience. After the number was over, he acknowledged the vocal segment of the crowd, saying, “Thank you, ladies.” To finish the first segment, he played the title song to his new movie, “Love Me Tender,” introducing it as ”completely different from anything we’ve ever done.” Nationwide, disk jockeys taped the performance and played the song, which had yet to be released, on their radio shows, increasing pre-release orders to almost a million and pushing forward the single’s release date.

Viewers got to see the full Elvis—legs, hips, and all—during the second segment, when he performed the up-tempo Little Richard song “Ready Teddy” and two verses of “Hound Dog.” Young rock fans today would doubtless have a hard time understanding what all the scandal was about, as his frenetic swivels and shuffles look chaste compared to the gyrations common on MTV. But Elvis on that night (and his rock star peers in general around the same time) arguably set in motion a trend that continues today.

The press was quick to note that the cameras switched to close-up shots whenever he started dancing, in effect censoring him, but the TV audience got to see plenty, and besides, the girls screamed when he grunted, moved his tongue, crossed his eyes, or even stood perfectly still. With Elvis, censorship began to seem irrelevant. As Laughton noted at the end of the hour, ”Well, what did someone say? Music hath charms to soothe the savage breast?”

The viewing audience certainly wasn’t so offended that it changed the channel. The September 9 Sullivan show reached 82.6 percent of the TV audience, and Steve Allen hadn’t even seen fit to offer an alternative; NBC had showed a movie instead. Censorship did enjoy one last gasp during Elvis’s third appearance, on January 6, 1957, when Sullivan—or, as some historians believe, a publicity-hungry Parker—did indeed instruct the camera operator to show him only from the waist up, even when he sang the gospel tune “Peace in the Valley.” It was the last song he would ever perform on the show. Parker was now demanding $300,000 for future TV engagements, stipulating that a network must also commit to two guest spots and an hour-long special.

Even as he priced his client out of its range, Parker credited the program with the success of “Love Me Tender” and earning Elvis the esteem of American adults for the first time. Historians assert that Elvis’s three nights on the Sullivan show helped bridge the gap between the first rock ’n’ roll generation and their parents. Whether at the same time his behavior on those shows ultimately caused today’s generation gap—that is, whether MTV’s rump-shakers should look to Elvis as their earliest role model and parents can blame him for Britney Spears—is still up for debate.

CPT Spirits in the Sky - Elvis Presley - The King of Rock and Roll

Elvis Aaron Presley
January 8, 1935 - August 16, 1977

August 16 is the 40th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley, husband of Priscilla Presley, father of Lisa Marie Presley and one time father-in-law to Michael Jackson. As I have written before, four decades after his death Elvis continues to make far more money than he ever did during his 42 years of life, topping $55 million in 2015.

In his early years the only way we could hear Elvis records in the Bible belt was when friends in the military were stationed in the south and would bring back Elvis recordings. Over time I got to see him twice in concert including during his last tour in 1977. It was June 19 in Omaha, Nebraska and RCA was recording the concert for a new Elvis project. One week later, June 26, he performed his last concert in Indianapolis and died three weeks later.

This much I can tell you. His voice was as powerful as ever that June in 1977 though he appeared to be physically exhausted. There was a certain melancholy in his voice as if he wanted one last time to give his fans what they expected. When he performed his ballets and gospel songs like My Way and The Impossible Dream there was not a dry eye in the auditorium.

Presley almost single-handedly created the genre of rockabilly and rock and roll and he was the first white person to merge the Black blues and gospel with country rock. In 1973 Elvis performed the first global concert via satellite and 1.5 billion people tuned in making it the most watched broadcast by an individual entertainer in history, including to this day.

Jailhouse Rock
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The dance sequence from his movie Jailhouse Rock has been considered one of the best motion picture dance sequences ever recorded which he choreographed himself and I hope you will take a look at the number on the YouTube video I added. This is the Elvis we will always remember, the shy kid from Tupelo, Mississippi who grew up to become King of the world.

Here are some other facts about the King of Rock and Roll.

Elvis Aaron Presley was born in Tupelo, Mississippi on January 8, 1935. He married Priscilla Beaulieu in 1967 after a long courtship. Lisa Marie is their only child, and she was born in 1968. Elvis and Priscilla divorced in 1973 and he never married again. Presley died on August 16, 1977 in Memphis, Tennessee at Graceland. He was 42-years-old at the time of his death.

The total net worth of the Elvis Presley estate is reported to be approximately $300 million. The singer rose to fame in 1954 after signing a deal with Sun Records. The recording company sold Elvis’ contract to RCA in 1955, and he began recording for them in 1956. RCA paid $5.4 million for the contract and Elvis and the Colonel split the money. His most popular recordings include Jailhouse Rock, Heartbreak Hotel and Don’t be Cruel. Estimates for his record sales are over the one billion mark.

Thousands of people still visit the home every year to see where the “King” lived. Special celebrations help draw even larger crowds, such as the 60 Years of Rock ‘n’ Roll celebration that is being held at Graceland. It is only appropriate considering Elvis is credited with starting the rock and roll era.

Random Facts:

So you thought you knew everything about “The King” huh? Here’s 11 random facts that will challenge that theory!

1. Elvis’ hair wasn’t even naturally black! He started dying it in high school. His natural hair color was actually a dirty blonde!

2. His breakout hit, Heartbreak Hotel, was inspired by a local suicide in 1956.

3. Elvis’ Mom bought him his first guitar at age 12 for his birthday. Elvis tried to convince his Mom to get him a rifle, but that wasn’t happening. She insisted a guitar would be a better option.

4. Elvis recorded over 600 songs! BUT, he didn’t write any of them!

5. When Elvis and Priscilla met, he was 24 and she was 14…. kind of creepy!

6. In Florida, Elvis was called a “Savage” and forbidden from shaking his body… So he waggled his finger in rebellion instead. Elvis you savage!

7. It took him 31 consecutive takes to record “Hound Dog.”

8. Elvis’ entourage was called the “Memphis Mafia” and were known for wearing gold and diamond rings with the letters “TCB” on them, which stands for “Taking Care of Businesses.”

9. He made 31 movies in his lifetime!

10. Elvis would let groups of “good looking girls” who waited at the gates of Graceland in to party late at night. The biggest group was said to be 152 women in one night!

11. Oddly enough, Elvis was related to Presidents Abraham Lincoln AND Jimmy Carter!
Do you know more facts about Elvis? Comment below!

How much is Elvis Presley’s Net Worth? $300 Million!

Friday, August 04, 2017

Goodbye Norma Jean - Marilyn Monroe is Back - The Most Beautiful Woman in the World

Marilyn Monroe was murdered 54 years ago, August 5, 1962.

Perhaps the greatest American Icon of all time, Marilyn Monroe was America's sweetheart, poster girl, cheerleader, pin up queen, singer, movie star, the object of lust, devotion, miles of newspaper and magazine print and the most imitated person of all time.

But that does not even begin to describe this blonde bombshell who dominates the world even today, five decades after her death.  You see, one of these days some smart prosecutor will reopen the Marilyn Monroe death case and the truth will finally come out and don't be surprised to hear the mafia, politicians, the Hollywood Rat Pack, President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and who knows who else dominating the news.

Yet this time it will be different.  Before her enemies, those who killed her, controlled the media and film industry and made certain only their side of the story was heard.  Thanks to the Internet and Marilyn's astounding popularity with Baby Boomers and their kids (the Millennia generation) when her tragic death is relived there will be overwhelming interest on the worldwide social media through the Internet.

Mainstream media, Hollywood, Madison Avenue nor politicians control the Internet this time and they sure as Hell don't control the Baby Boomers and their heirs.  You see, Marilyn is alive and well in the minds of the youth and Baby Boomers of the world who grew up with her or adopted her as the role model for modern women and girls.

Don't believe me, just look at the hundreds and thousands of Marilyn products flooding the market.  Most of the world was not aware that Marilyn and her image and persona have been the subject of bitter court fights that lasted until a Federal Appeals Court finally settled the issue in 2012 by stating what Marilyn stated in life, she belonged to no one but the public she tried so hard to  please.

It took 50 years for the federal courts to rule on her "image and persona," and now her story can finally be told.

Still, she has always remained with us because of her unique American story.  A mother who was sent to a mental health institution while her daughter was sent to foster homes and an orphanage.  She never knew who was her father.  She created an alter ego to help her through the loneliness.

Her alter ego would one day become a star and Marilyn spent her entire life preparing for the moment.  She created the most rigid workout program and diet in existence while a teenager to prepare her physically.  But through it all shone the innocence of Norma Jean who loved children, loved animals and loved to make people happy.

In time she went to work in a defense plant during World War II and was accidently discovered by a photographer working on the assembly lines.  He was trying to generate interest in the war effort by finding a poster girl and did he ever succeed.  Marilyn has been America's poster girl through World War IIKoreaViet NamIraq and Afghanistan during the last 50 year and no one has knocked her off her pedestal.

Look at the continuing interest in Marilyn.  Her last dress sold at auction two years ago for $5.54 million breaking the previous record from 1999 of $1.26 million paid for another Marilyn dress which was more than four times higher than the previous record.  Marilyn doesn't just break records, she smashes them into oblivion.

After her discovery as a pin up model she quickly established herself in the movies and every major male star at the time wanted to be paired with her including Robert Mitchum, Clark Gable, Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Jack Lemon to mention just a few.

From being a homeless orphan to world famous movie starlet Marilyn was the perfect American success story.  But waiting for America's Sweetheart were the predators of Hollywood and the strange combination of mafia and politicians who coveted her.  She married America's favorite Yankees baseball hero but immediately realized their careers made marriage impossible yet Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn remained best friends and were planning to remarry just a couple of weeks after her death.

Two people in life befriended her, Joe DiMaggio and Milton Greene, her favorite photographer and business partner as she became the first woman in Hollywood to own her own movie production company with Milton.

Hollywood, the mafia and powerful politicians used enormous power and prestige to entrap Marilyn and failing to succeed, they killed her because she knew too much.  That story is yet to surface but the time is finally right to tell Marilyn's real story, identify those who took her life to save their careers, and make her far more famous than she is already.

Can you believe someone should become so dominate in the world enduring for over 50 years and the best hasn't even been told yet?  And can you believe Marilyn was just 36 years old when she was killed?

Bigger in death than life?  Hardly?  She had only just begun in life.  Now it is time we heard her story rather than versions of all those whose agenda was not protecting Marilyn but those who made her a victim.  Justice has yet to be dispensed.  Then Norma Jean can finally rest.

America's number one sweetheart, movie icon and innocent victim will be coming back to finish what she started.  As Norma Jean said, Marilyn Monroe belongs to no one but the people.

Marilyn Monroe - When Norma Jean grew up - Singing and Her Last Interview just Days Before her Death


Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend
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Published on Nov 26, 2013
1992 Documentary about Marilyn's last interview in July 1962 for Life magazine. With rare audio of Marilyn's interview and rare footage. Marilyn's words had been edited together for this show.
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I Wanna Be Loved By You
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