The story of a little independent record label in Texas becoming “a force” in the Nashville country music industry brings an outsider’s perspective to the anatomy of a machine. Going from backwoods honky tonks and roadhouse jukeboxes to stretch limos and private planes takes a lot of crooked deals and shameless hustle. When confronted by a powerful enemy, you’ll do whatever it takes to survive the turbulent rock and roll. When the whole world acquires a taste for your strain of Kentucky bluegrass, you’ll rake in the green. When they get their ears on for truckin’ songs, you’ll put the hammer down and stand on it. But don’t let the stars get in your eyes, because this story only ever ends one way.read more
What if the first serious books about country music contained a few massive errors which were then repeated by nearly everyone who’s since used those books as a source? How long do you think it would take for society to build a fundamentally flawed history of an entire genre on top of such a foundation? Fifty years? Well, that’s exactly what happened…
Owen Bradley’s name means nothing to many country music fans. Some recognize it from the album credits of a few of their favorite country artists. Others manage to cast him as an enemy of country music. But anyone who hears the name Owen Bradley and thinks anything less than “he’s the single most important producer in the history of Nashville, who made some of the greatest and most influential records of all time in any genre” simply has not been given enough information about the man or the music. That changes today.read more
Now that we’ve established Owen Bradley as the single most important producer in the history of Nashville, let’s take it further and acknowledge he’s one of the most important figures in the history of all recorded music, even if for no other reason than assembling the first group of musicians to become known as the Nashville A-Team. Were we to erase their work from existence, every book about pop, rock or country music in the second half of the 20th century would need to be entirely rewritten. Just ask Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, 3 out of 4 Beatles, The Everly Brothers, Patsy Cline, Ray Price, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Roger Miller, Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, etc. And those are just the people who can speak from first-hand experience. If you want to start talking about the influence of the records, well, strap in.read more
In North Carolina, way back in the hills, there’s a centuries-old tradition of cooking illegal liquor. Whether you feel that’s right or wrong, good or bad, may be determined by any number of factors but the objective truth is moonshine whiskey greatly impacted the course of United States culture on several occasions. Ever wonder why so many people will never trust the government or politicians? Press play. Ever wonder if the “moonshine” you can now buy in liquor stores is really moonshine? Press play. “White Lightning” was George Jones’ first #1 country record, sure, but it’s also the cork in a jug of profoundly strong history.read more
There are some personalities who would embrace being called The Greatest Country Singer Ever or, at least, settle into the role once it became clear the brand was eternal. George Jones did not have one of those personalities. The fame and fortune generated by his talent made him want to run away, so he spent decades running… toward something even worse than what he was trying to escape.
Was there ever a chance of this story playing out any differently? Probably not, no. But what in the hell even happened here? Our search for answers takes us back to Texas for one Singing Marine’s perspective on what it was like when lightning started flashing and thunder started clashing as he took the country music world by storm.read more