In May, Dolly Parton returned from promoting her new album, Blue Smoke, to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, for the celebration she hosts every year: the Dollywood Homecoming Parade. Thousands gathered along the stretch of U.S. Route 441 known as Dolly Parton Parkway, from stoplight number six to stoplight number three. The devoted sat in strategically placed lawn chairs; the less eager watched from roadside hotel balconies. My boyfriend and I stood in the median of the parkway, opposite a spiraling bumper-car attraction, and watched as the first few floats passed: veterans, students, and an official contingent from the City of Pigeon Forge. A marching band played “9 to 5” and then [...]
Dolly Parton does it all in only two hundred and two words. Eighty-four fewer than the Gettysburg Address; one hundred and thirty-six more than the Lord’s Prayer. Two hundred and two words, one of which is repeated thirty-one times: Jolene. Parton wails her name like a banshee. Five times Jolene; once Jolene, Jolene; six times Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene. Parton says the name Jolene thirty-one times in less than three minutes. It’s a story song, and the story is as familiar as they come. Where there was happiness, now there is heartache. A woman loves a man, but that man loves Jolene; the woman confronts Jolene and pleads with [...]
He'd butchered hogs on his family's farm as a kid, so after becoming a country music star, he knew how to set himself up for life after showbiz: a sausage company, established in 1969 right in his hometown of Plainview, Texas. It was a hugely successful venture, growing to be valued at $75 million, and inspiring a passionate devotion among fans who sometimes, very famously, could literally not get enough of the delicious spiced meat. Jimmy Dean died Sunday at the age of 81.
The Statler Brothers were a gospel band most famous for the years they spent as Johnny Cash's backup singers and opening act. In 1979, they released a song called "How to Be a Country Star." "There's questions," it began, "we're always hearing everywhere we go: like how do I cut a record or get on a country show?"
Their comical answer was a rambling list of what today we'd call shout outs: "learn to sing like Waylon or pick like Jerry Reed," "put a cry in your voice like Haggard," and "get a hip band like Willie." On and on the song goes, naming more names than a teacher [...]
"He played with a real bright, animated sound with lots of picking, but he could take off into blues licks at the same time. Nobody every played quite like he did, and after that it became known as 'the Mooney sound.'" —Ralph Mooney, who played pedal steel guitar behind Buck Owens, Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings died of cancer last week. His style was an important component of the Californian "Bakersfield sound," as well as the "outlaw" country music that thrived in the '70s. In 1956, he co-wrote the song "Crazy Arms," a no. 1 hit for Ray Price, that would become a standard of the genre. [...]
Loretta Lynn wrote and recorded “The Pill” in 1972. Her label didn’t release it until 1975, but three years wasn’t long enough to cool the controversy stoked by Lynn, one of the biggest names in country music, singing the praises of oral contraception to an audience of “unliberated, work-worn American females.” The Associated Press’s lede about the song in February of that year read, “To some, Loretta Lynn’s new song ‘The Pill’ might be too bitter to swallow. But to the country music star it has the sweet taste of success,” selling some 25,000 copies a day. The New York Times even gave it a [...]