The War Years, Honky Tonks,
and Hank Williams
- Texas economics in the Depression
- Because of the oil boom, large numbers of rural Texans had disposable
income during the depression.
- Although nominally illegal during the Prohibition, taverns and dance
halls served the poulation. They were typically on the edge of town
or (later) near the lines between "wet" and "dry" counties.
- After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, the taverns were able to
operate openly, and they became important social institutions for the
- Music was an integral part of the honky tonk experience.
- Live music was a feature of some dance halls; in others, the jukebox
provided the entertainment.
- Both on record and in live performance, the music was forced to adapt
to the new environment.
- Lyrics - song topics reflected the concerns and social status of
blue-collar worker. Religious and moral references survived mainly
as a contrast to the honky tonk lifestyle.
- Instrumentation - the noise level in the dance halls created a need
for music that was louder and whose pulse was more easily discernable.
The string bass, piano, and occasionally drums were being added, and
by the end of the 1930s electric guitars could be found.
- Performance style - guitarists used more percussive chording techniques.
Tubb - described by writer Chet Flippo as "honky-tonk music personified."
- early years
- Born in Crisp, Texas February 9, 1914
- Jimmie Rodgers was his boyhood hero; he bought a guitar at the age
of 19 and tried to copy Rodger's style. After having his tonsils removed
in 1939, he was no longer able to yodel; this forced him to develop
his own style
- After modest success at KONO in San Antonio, he contacted Rodger's
widow. She helped arrange for his first RCA recording session and even
loaned him one of Jimmie's guitars for the session.
- "Walking the Floor Over You" [# 23 from the Smithsonian
Collection Vol. 1] was released in the fall of 1941. It became
- Within the next two years Tubb appeared in two Hollywood films, signed
with J.L. Frank as manager and agent, and made his first appearance
on the Grand Ole Opry. He became a member in 1943.
- In 1947, he opened the first of his now famous Ernest Tubb Record
Shops and began broadcasting Midnight Jamboree after the Opry
on WSM, advertising the shop and showcasing the talents of up and coming
- The War Years
- The industrialization that accompanied the US entrance into WWII created
greater prosperity for workers, encouraged migration to industrial centers,
and "accentuated social tensions" (Malone, p. 177).
- Country music was expanding from a regional to a national market. Conflicts
within the music industry helped country music's growth.
- ASCAP vs. BMI
- After negotiations broke down between the American Society of Composers
And Performers and the National Association of Broadcasters (a contact
expired on December 31, 1940), broadcasters refused to program any music
licensed by ASCAP. They had established Broadcast Music, Inc. in anticipation
of the conflict, but BMI's catalogue was small. After Edward B. Marks,
a major publishing company, signed with BMI in July 1940, others such
as Peer's Southern Music and M. M. Cole in Chicago followed. Since few
country artists were represented by ASCAP, this provided new opportunities
for airplay. By the time the dispute was resolved, BMI had gained a
- The AFM strike and the recording ban - arguing that the new jukeboxs
were putting live musicians out of work, James C. Petrillo of the American
Federation of Musicians declared a ban on recording. The AFM went on
strike on August 1, 1942 in an attempt to get record companies to establish
a fund for unemployed musicians. Most of the smaller and independent
companies signed new contracts almost immediately; Decca signed a contract
in September 1943, and the other major labels followed suit in November
1944. Most of the country artists, however, had been recording for the
smaller labels, and their records gained popularity during the ban.
- The "Camel Caravan" - sponsored by the R. J. Reynolds Co., the Grand
Ole Opry organized a traveling unit of 20 performers in 1941. Personnel
included Minnie Pearl, Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys, and Eddy
Arnold. The Camel Caravan visited many of the stateside military bases,
entertaining the troops with free music and packs of Camel cigarettes.
It was through The Caravan that many northerners and midwesterners got
their first taste of country and the music's popular appeal rose accordingly.
- Expansion of the Grand Ole Opry
- The Country Music Hall of Fame website - 1925-1943
Acuff - "Great Speckled Bird" [# 14 from the
Smithsonian Collection Vol. 1]
- Hank Williams
Music Hall of Fame
- Hank Williams' legacy - Peterson argues that the fan response following
William's demise provided a clear answer to the question asked by the
music industry, "What do the people want?"
- Like many other artists, Williams' success came from his particular
integration of existing elements and in the intensity of feeling he
gave to the music.
- Williams' association with Fred Rose helped demonstrate the value
of long-term, mutually beneficial business relationships.
- Williams was "uniquely able to convincingly evoke in a single performance
the dialectic in the epic struggle between good and evil" (Peterson
p. 177). Like the heroes of Shakespearean tragedies, Williams' protagonists
are ruined by their own faults or desires.
- After Williams' death, many in the industry were uncomfortable with
his image; by the end of 1953, however, Hank Williams had become for
fans the personification of country music authenticity.
- Musical examples
- "Lovesick Blues" [# 17 from the Smithsonian
Collection Vol. 2]
- "Your Cheatin' Heart" [# 18 from the Smithsonian
Collection Vol. 2]
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