Oklahoma

No, not the musical.

The state of Oklahoma is very important to country music. Not everyone who showed up in California during the Great Depression and got branded an “okie” really was from Oklahoma but a lot of them were. They showed up with Western Swing, which had been invented in the Texas/Oklahoma area and introduced to the world via Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys’ radio broadcasts from Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa.

Woody Guthrie also has to be mentioned here. A folk singer, yes. Controversial politics, yes. But Johnny Cash wasn’t afraid to name him as an influence.

The following episodes are either partially set in Oklahoma or feature characters from the state.

Merle Haggard

CR005 Breaking Down Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee

1200 630 Cocaine & Rhinestones

The song was just what so many Americans needed at the time, in 1969. Conservatives needed someone to stand up and defend small town, traditional values. Politicians needed someone to justify America’s continuing involvement in the Vietnam War. Oklahomans needed someone to redeem the meaning of the word “okie,” a hateful slur that arose from The Great Depression.

The only thing is, Merle Haggard wasn’t doing any of those things when he wrote the song.

Then what the exact hell was he doing, you ask?

Maybe things will become a little bit more clear once you know what Merle Haggard knew about Herbert Hoover, The Great Depression, The Dust Bowl, okies and satire. Maybe.

This episode is also recommended if you like: Gram Parsons, Ray Wylie Hubbard and the Revisionist History podcast.

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Spade Cooley

CR003 The Murder Ballad of Spade Cooley

1200 630 Cocaine & Rhinestones

Spade Cooley came to California in the early 1930s, as poor as everyone else who did the exact same thing at the exact same time. Only, Spade became a millionaire. And all he needed to accomplish that was a fiddle, a smile and a strong work ethic. If it sounds like the American Dream, stick around to hear how it became an American nightmare of substance abuse, mental illness and, eventually, sadistic torture and murder.

If this episode doesn’t screw you up, you’re already screwed up.

Recommended if you like: Western Swing, murder ballads, My Favorite Murder, True Crime Garage (or any other “true crime” or “murder” podcasts, really), Tex Williams, Bob Wills, fiddles and having nightmares.

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