Country Boys and Redneck Women: New Essays in Gender and Country Music 9781496804921, 1496804929, 9781496804952, 1496804953

Essays that overthrow stereotypes and demonstrate the genre's power and mystique.

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Country Boys and Redneck Women: New Essays in Gender and Country Music
 9781496804921, 1496804929, 9781496804952, 1496804953

Table of contents :
Why "Ladies love country boys" : gender, class, and economics in contemporary country music / Jocelyn R. Neal --
"Hey! If I should grab ya" : "college country" and the ruralization of Urban Brazil / Alexander S. Dent --
Act naturally : Charley Pride, autobiography, and the "accidental career" / Matthew D. Sutton --
Holding on to country : musical moorings for desired masculinities in Aboriginal Australia / êAse Ottosson --
Taylor Swift's "pitch problem" and the place of adolescent girls in country music / Travis Stimeling --
Gender and the Nashville songwriter : three songs by Victoria Banks / Chris Wilson --
As if they were going places : class and gender portrayals through country music in the Texas State Prison, 1938-1944 / Caroline Gnagy --
Negotiating gender, race, and class in post-civil rights country music : how Linda Martell and Jeannie C. Riley stormed the plantation / Diane Pecknold --
Remarkable women and ordinary gals : performance of identity in songs by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton / Kate Heidemann --
"Backwoods Barbie" : Dolly Parton's gender performance / Leigh H. Edwards --
Kitty Wells, queen of denial / Georgia Christgau --
Gender deviance and class rebellion in "Redneck woman" / Nadine Hubbs.

Citation preview

Country Boys and redneCk Women

American Made Music Series Advisory Board David Evans, General Editor Barry Jean Ancelet Edward A. Berlin Joyce J. Bolden Rob Bowman Susan C. Cook Curtis Ellison William Ferris John Edward Hasse Kip Lornell Bill Malone Eddie S. Meadows Manuel H. Peña Wayne D. Shirley Robert Walser

Country Boys and redneCk Women New Essays in Gender and Country Music

Edited by Diane Pecknold and Kristine M. McCusker University Press of Mississippi / Jackson

www.upress.state.ms.us The University Press of Mississippi is a member of the Association of American University Presses. “Gender Deviance and Class Rebellion in ‘Redneck Woman,’” by Nadine Hubbs, was originally published in Southern Cultures 17, no. 4 (Winter 2011), and is reprinted here with permission. www.southerncultures.org. Selected lyrics and music from “Fist City” by Loretta Lynn reprinted with permission by Wilburn Family at Sure Fire Music Company, Inc. “Jolene” written by Dolly Parton. Velvet Apple Music (BMI). All rights reserved. Used by permission. Portions from the lyrics of “Remember That,” “Come On Over,” and “Some Men Don’t Cheat” are reprinted by permission of Victoria Banks. Copyright © 2016 by University Press of Mississippi All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America First printing 2016 ∞ Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Country boys and redneck women : new essays in gender and country music / edited by Diane Pecknold and Kristine M. McCusker. pages cm. — (American made music series) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-4968-0491-4 (cloth : alk. paper) — ISBN 978-1-4968-0492-1 (ebook) 1. Country music—History and criticism. 2. Country musicians— United States. 3. Women country musicians—United States. 4. Sex role in music. I. Pecknold, Diane. II. McCusker, Kristine M. ML3524.C615 2016 781.642081—dc23 2015023700 British Library Cataloging-in-Publication Data available

Contents vii

Introduction DiAne PecknolD AnD kriStine M. MccuSker

3

Why “Ladies Love Country Boys”: Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music Jocelyn r. neAl

26

“Hey! If I Should Grab Ya”: “College Country” and the Ruralization of Urban Brazil AlexAnDer S. Dent

44

Act Naturally: Charley Pride, Autobiography, and the “Accidental Career” MAtthew D. Sutton

64

Holding On to Country: Musical Moorings for Desired Masculinities in Aboriginal Australia ÅSe ottoSSon

84

Taylor Swift’s “Pitch Problem” and the Place of Adolescent Girls in Country Music trAviS StiMeling

102

Gender and the Nashville Songwriter: Three Songs by Victoria Banks chriS wilSon

126

As if They Were Going Places: Class and Gender Portrayals through Country Music in the Texas State Prison, 1938–1944 cAroline gnAgy

146

Negotiating Gender, Race, and Class in Post–Civil Rights Country Music: How Linda Martell and Jeannie C. Riley Stormed the Plantation DiAne PecknolD

166

Remarkable Women and Ordinary Gals: Performance of Identity in Songs by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton kAte heiDeMAnn

189

“Backwoods Barbie”: Dolly Parton’s Gender Performance leigh h. eDwArDS

Contents 211

Kitty Wells, Queen of Denial georgiA chriStgAu

231

Gender Deviance and Class Rebellion in “Redneck Woman” nADine hubbS

255

Selected Bibliography

267

Notes on Contributors

271

Index

vi

Introduction DiAne PecknolD AnD kriStine M. MccuSker

In 2004 we published A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music in an effort to redress what we considered a major gap in the field of country music studies. At the time, there existed a substantial body of literature that sought to restore to memory women’s contributions to country music history, but little of it explored how gender as a social construct had affected the genre’s development.1 Our aim was to demonstrate that country music had served as an important arena for negotiating gender within American culture, and that ideas about masculinity and femininity had helped define the generic boundaries of country, had played a significant role in its commercial development, and had shaped the ways that audiences listened to and identified with it. Ten years later, we are pleased to know that the original A Boy Named Sue was part of a larger trend in country music historiography that posited gender as more than just a “useful category of analysis,” to quote Joan Wallach Scott, but rather as an essential way of understanding the past, including the history of country music.2 Several essays in the collection were themselves forerunners of longer works that expanded on country’s complex gender politics. Kristine McCusker’s work on Linda Parker, one of the first “girl singers” on barn dance radio stages, became part of Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels, which argued that women’s images and performances, rooted in an imagined preindustrial South and West, helped define the tone and content of early country music.3 Peter La Chapelle’s Proud to Be an Okie extended the argument he presented in his essay on the early Los Angeles country scene, emphasizing both the gendered dynamics of the popular culture image of the Okie and the democratic gender relations that characterized the migrants’ musical subculture.4 In The Selling Sound, Diane Pecknold’s exploration of breadwinner masculinity as a sign of class respectability in the developing country music industry became a starting point for understanding how gender emerged as a key fault line in debates over the genre’s commercialism during the Nashville Sound era.5 But the contributors to A Boy Named Sue were not alone in recognizing that country’s constructions of authenticity, race, and class were accomplished in large part through the symbolic domain of gender. Collectively, this work called for reexamination of country’s central themes, from its status as “the white man’s vii

Introduction

blues” to its formulations of American identity, and in doing so it revitalized the field of country music scholarship. The same year A Boy Named Sue appeared, Aaron Fox’s Real Country extended Barbara Ching’s argument in Wrong’s What I Do Best that the traditional working-class image of country music is constructed in part through its contrast with an implicitly feminized middle- or upper-class ideal, showing how that dialectic was embodied in everyday social practices surrounding country music and how such constructions had begun to shift as the global mobility of manufacturing jobs undermined the security of the American working class.6 In Natural Acts, Pamela Fox demonstrated that gender is a symbolic mode through which artists and audiences have navigated class and racial identities, from barn dance radio to honky-tonk to alt.country.7 In Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity, Leigh H. Edwards contended that Cash became an icon in both country music and American culture in large part because of the way he both embodied and questioned the “hard-bodied masculinity” of the working-class country music patriarch.8 Travis Stimeling’s body of work compellingly argued that the authenticity of the progressive country movement of the 1970s was firmly rooted in its conception of Texan exceptionalism, colonial privilege, and rugged masculinity, even as Outlaw artists such as Waylon Jennings used the style to explore shifting and contradictory expectations of masculinity in the age of women’s liberation.9 And in Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Nadine Hubbs demonstrated that class resistance in country music is articulated in part through expression of working-class gender and sexual forms considered deviant or queer according to dominant middle-class norms.10 Given the dramatic maturation of gender studies within country music scholarship, and its increasing centrality to the field as whole, it seems time to present a new set of essays that take stock of and build upon this proliferation of research. In part, this collection updates the original simply by addressing significant developments that have taken place in the gender discourse of country music since A Boy Named Sue appeared. More than half of the essays here examine country music of the past decade, a much more recent chronological focus than in the first volume. For that reason, we imagine the current collection as complementing rather than superseding the first, and hope they will be read together. While the historical scope has narrowed somewhat, however, the methodological range has notably expanded. Over the past decade, country music has become an accepted subject of scholarship not only in history and literary studies, where it first gained legitimacy, but also in fields such as anthropology, ethnomusicology, and music theory. This collection therefore brings together a more diverse set of disciplinary approaches and organizes their contributions thematically rather than historically to account for the intellectual reorganization of the field itself. Greater interdisciplinarity has also led viii

Introduction

to the emergence of new organizing questions and themes, encouraging scholars to attend to country music as a global phenomenon, for instance, or to more thoroughly explore its constructions of race and sexuality in relation to earlier analyses of class and gender. The collection reflects these shifts as well. One notable shift has been the dramatic expansion of masculinity studies in country music scholarship, as in cultural studies more generally. Although one of our central goals in the first A Boy Named Sue was to argue that “gender” should not be treated merely as a stand-in for women or femininity, the collection reflected the relatively more advanced state of women’s studies as compared to masculinity studies at that time, and the majority of the essays explored how femininity was constructed and performed in the genre. Ten years later, the construction of masculinity has arguably become the dominant object of gender analysis in country music scholarship.11 This work has immeasurably deepened our understanding of the ways country music serves to mediate identity and structure social relations, but it has tended to focus on a singular form of masculinity: that of white, working-class (and implicitly straight and cisgender) men in the United States.12 As a result, it runs the risk of solidifying and naturalizing a particular form of masculinity that also brings together race, class, region, and nationality in historically contingent ways. We thus open the collection with an inquiry into the ways specific historical contexts shape expressions of masculinity in country music. Musicologist Jocelyn R. Neal argues that the emergence of a strikingly cohesive set of gender narratives on country radio in the late 2000s and early 2010s can be linked to the impact of globalization and economic crisis during those years. In “redneckblueblood” anthems such as “Remind Me” and “Wrong Side,” the country boy wins over the wealthy, cosmopolitan woman despite her material success and his limited economic and social prospects. This popular narrative extends the long-standing tradition described by Barbara Ching and Aaron Fox, in which down-home country masculinity is defined partly through its relationship to the character of the upwardly mobile woman who has moved from workingclass to middle- or upper-class status. But whereas Ching and Fox view country culture as articulating a form of working-class male abjection or degradation, Neal suggests that “redneck-blueblood” songs also provided a narrative of success that directly reclaimed the value of working-class masculinity. This narrative, she argues, resonated with audiences confronting intensely threatening economic and social dislocation in the global economy. Alexander S. Dent suggests that this negotiation of masculinity in an age of economic instability is not unique to US country music. Building on his book River of Tears, he revisits Brazilian música sertaneja of the 1990s and compares it with more recent sertaneja universitária (or “college country”).13 Despite their differences, he argues, both are crucially underpinned by a performance ix

Introduction

of masculinity that is tough and deeply flawed at the same time. The cultural intimacy and shame surrounding this “split male subject” provide generic continuity and allow artists and fans to participate in a global cosmopolitan rural culture that imagines the “country”—in Brazil, the United States, or elsewhere— not as a geographic location but as a potentially universal emotional state of loss resulting from the effects of neoliberal economic policies around the world. Putting the white, working-class masculinity that dominates country music (and country music scholarship) in global context is one way of denaturalizing its complex synthesis of race, class, and region, but the interconnection of social identities that defines authentic country masculinity in the United States can also be deconstructed from within.14 As a number of scholars have noted, country music masculinity has always been deeply racialized—from the radio barn dance traditions of blackface and rube comedy to Blake Shelton’s recent video for “Boys ’Round Here”—and has been fashioned in part through its juxtaposition with stereotypes of black masculinity.15 In his analysis of the autobiographical persona of Charley Pride, American studies scholar Matthew Sutton explores how Pride managed to successfully negotiate the intersections of gender, race, and class in country’s narratives of masculine authenticity. Sutton maintains that Pride was able to contain his potentially troubling transgression of country’s color line and maintain an authentic persona in part by simultaneously portraying his career as a curious accident (in a manner consistent with the structure of country autobiographies penned by female stars) while also drawing on notions of rugged masculine individualism to validate his identity as a “natural” man whose hard work, independence, and stoicism conferred comfortable membership in the Nashville fraternity. Through this literary device, Pride’s autobiography both secures his own authenticity and throws into stark relief the boundaries set out by country’s conventions of race and gender. Anthropologist Åse Ottosson extends this autobiographical approach to her study of country music production among Aboriginal men in central Australia, arguing that country music’s constructions of masculinity have become a vital process through which these men make sense of their roles in distinctively local indigenous contexts. The musicians whose reflections she presents envision “real” country not as a cultural borrowing, but as a fundamentally indigenous form that connects men with their land, history, and community in ways that sustain and transform traditional Aboriginal values regarding masculinity. In this context, the generous, unselfish style of country performance becomes a means of attaining and valuing Aboriginal “oldfella” ideals of respected manhood. Like Dent, Ottosson demonstrates how the varied forms of masculinity constructed through country music circulate as part of a transnationally mediated culture that links concrete daily experience with abstract concepts of self, history, and social location in sites as divergent as urban Brazil and rural Australia. x

Introduction

Read together, these four essays challenge the limitations of country’s traditional constructions of authentic masculinity and at the same time remind us of the profoundly gendered nature of authenticity itself.16 As Neal points out, the songs that dominated contemporary country radio in the United States in the late 2000s presented their male characters as embodiments “of truth, reality, [and] authenticity.” Pamela Fox has traced this masculinization of country to the honky-tonk era, when male artists “mourned not for the loss of the past itself . . . but the loss of women as the embodiment of that mythologized ‘home’ place,” a device that effectively placed women outside of country’s dominant subject position.17 Fox, McCusker, and others have detailed how that exclusion has historically limited the ways female artists can lay claim to country authenticity, and in this volume musicologist Travis Stimeling offers a compelling contemporary example of this dynamic in his analysis of Taylor Swift’s authorial and singing voices.18 Responding to popular and critical discourse that positions Swift’s “pitch problem” as proof that contemporary country music is artificial and manufactured, Stimeling argues instead that the limited vocal range and repetitive motifs characteristic of Swift’s songs seek to establish a specifically adolescent female form of musical authenticity that has generally been marginalized in country, as in other genres.19 Notions of authenticity structure the gender positions available to both women and men in country music, but the essays here also contribute to the literature suggesting that the reverse is equally true: gender structures the processes through which country’s authenticity is renegotiated and revitalized over time. In his germinal articulation of the hard-core/soft-shell dialectic, which he viewed as a critical mechanism driving the reproduction of authenticity, Richard Peterson noted the gender imbalance between the two expressions, with men dominating in “hard-core” and women in “soft-shell.”20 As we observed in the introduction to the first volume, this dialectic is too often rendered—as in the discourse surrounding Taylor Swift—simply as a tension between masculinized authenticity and feminized commercialism. Here, ethnomusicologist Chris Wilson joins Ching, Fox, and McCusker in suggesting that we should instead see gender as a generative part of the creative process on both sides of the dialectic. Expanding the scope of this assertion beyond performance conventions, Wilson’s analysis of Victoria Banks’s career shows how face-to-face negotiations of gender within the industrial and social worlds of Nashville’s songwriting community produce the kinds of tension over difference through which country’s core meanings are challenged and revised. These processes of opposition and reclamation, he argues, help explain “how and why country music as an entity maintains its relevance through so many generations.” Wilson reminds us that attending to voices marginalized, obscured, or forgotten in country’s official narratives and normative identities often provides an xi

Introduction

opportunity to better understand how the genre’s normative imagery is naturalized and taken for granted. In their essays, journalist Caroline Gnagy and historian Diane Pecknold examine how women who were excluded from idealized forms of femininity expressed alternative versions through country music, and how they thereby exposed or resisted dominant gender norms in American culture and in their own lives. Gnagy shows how the members of the Goree All-Girl String Band, all of them inmates in the Texas state prison system, used country’s gender iconography in their struggle for greater autonomy and ultimately freedom in the 1930s and 1940s. Their incarceration and past violations of the norms of feminine passivity and virtuousness placed them beyond the pale of country’s prevailing image of valued femininity: the sentimental mother, who embodied home, domesticity, and a lost rural past. But through the alternative roles of dutiful daughter and cowboy’s sweetheart, they performed their way to rehabilitation, both symbolically (as women who had returned to their proper place) and literally (as convicts who had served their time or gained clemency).21 Though largely forgotten today, the Goree Girls’ popularity during their broadcasting years demonstrates that, while country audiences may have venerated the sentimental mother, they also identified with and embraced women whose relationship to dominant gender ideals was fraught with complications. Pecknold examines how Linda Martell and Jeannie C. Riley confounded the class- and race-based constructions of traditional southern womanhood that had underwritten the Jim Crow social order, even as the legacies of that system profoundly limited both of their careers. Although each woman’s deviation from idealized femininity was commodified for entertainment value, the juxtaposition of Riley’s trashy persona and Martell’s demure reserve inverted supremacist discourse that had identified white women as embodiments of purity and black women as sexually licentious. Their paired images highlighted the parallels between marginalizations based on racial and class difference. Attention to voices previously obscured in country music historiography provides us with a more nuanced understanding of the genre’s multiple femininities, but the existence of a vastly expanded body of literature on well-known stars also allows for deeper discussion of those figures. Outlining and responding to what is now a range of conflicting interpretations of Dolly Parton’s gender performance, American studies scholar Leigh H. Edwards argues for Parton’s truly transgressive gender politics, which recuperate the abject “tramp” by putting her in tension with the pure mountain girl. Parton not only enacts gender ambiguity, Edwards argues, but also expressly politicizes that performance in ways that allow her to resist its commodification and recontainment. Musicologist Kate Heidemann, meanwhile, complicates the focus on lyrical, biographical, and visual tropes with a comparative musical analysis of Parton’s “Jolene” and Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City,” suggesting that at the level of vocal approach and xii

Introduction

composition, Parton might be read as aspiring to, rather than countering, normative white, middle-class femininity. Read together, the two essays demonstrate that, after two decades of accumulated scholarship, we have clearly moved beyond the need to add gender to the story, and can instead explore the significance of different interpretive approaches to what we already recognize to be an inherently gendered musical world. While figures such as Parton have attracted a great deal of attention for their gender play, other legendary artists have garnered little academic analysis, perhaps because they seem simply to reinforce the well-worn conservative gender politics that are so often attributed to country music. Yet even ostensibly pat representations of accepted gender roles offer insight into the unique ways gender is performed in country music as compared to other genres. Revisiting the career of Kitty Wells, music critic and journalist Georgia Christgau argues that although Wells has often been portrayed simply as the embodiment of archetypical country femininity—demure, pious, and domestic—she also gave full voice to women who failed or refused to live according to post–World War II gender expectations. In her life and in her honky-tonk girl singing persona, Wells held the traditional and the transgressive in tension in a way that paid due regard to the power of both. From the personae of stars like Wells and Parton to the gender performance of largely overlooked musicians such as prison bands and Linda Martell, the essays here suggest that even country’s enactment of traditional gender norms contains subversive potential, not only through the techniques of parody or excess common to genres such as pop, but through the simultaneous and ambiguous embrace of apparently conflicting identities.22 While the majority of the collection is structured to reveal the instabilities within country’s dominant constructions of masculinity and femininity, we conclude with an effort to draw more explicit attention to the ways the genre can foster potentially queer crossings between those constructs. That potential is, as Edwards notes, obvious in Dolly Parton’s engagement with drag and her deployment of country authenticity in the service of gay, lesbian, and transgender rights advocacy. Though less obvious or politicized, Alexander S. Dent’s description of cross-gender performances of femininity and intimacy between men in Brazilian brother duplas invites similarly queer readings. And as Erich Nunn has argued elsewhere, same-sex intimacy is also a central component of the Outlaw aesthetic. Moreover, he asserts, that style positions its idealized cowboy as a figure “defined by contradictions and deviation from social norms” in ways that might be read as allegorizing the marginal position of masculine, working-class bisexual and gay men in both country music and dominant gay culture.23 Such work challenges claims that country is a cultural world in which “[g]uys are guys, gals are gals, and anything queer is entirely exscripted [or written out].”24 xiii

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Musicologist and gender-sexuality scholar Nadine Hubbs furthers the discussion of country’s queer potential in her analysis of Gretchen Wilson’s redneck woman persona. As Hubbs notes, rural, working-class white women, even when overtly heterosexual, have long been represented as excessively masculine.25 Wilson, however, transforms this gender-crossed virility from an object of puzzlement and scorn into a style of cool with tangible cultural and economic value, and at the same time mounts a critique of bourgeois culture that unites working-class men and women. As Hubbs argues at greater length in her book Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, Wilson’s persona points to the ways country music lends visibility to specifically white-working-class forms of gender and queerness.26 The work assembled here represents some of the critical developments in country music scholarship on gender: the use of global contexts and marginalized perspectives to interrogate the genre’s construction of white, working-class masculinity; a reconsideration of the gendered dynamics of authenticity and sincerity; more diverse approaches to the performance of multiple and conflicting forms of femininity, supported by what is now a rich, sometimes even contentious historiography; and new attention to the ways country music can foster class- and race-specific articulations of queer identity. Given the constraints imposed by the length of a single volume, other advances and avenues of inquiry are regrettably absent. Several recent works have challenged the masculinist bias in popular and academic representations of musical genres closely related to country, for example. Jewly Hight’s insightful account of the ways Americana’s female artists develop authentic senses of self and artistic personae as they negotiate their personal, familial, and musical roots suggests a need to reconcile that experience with earlier scholarly assertions that the genre perpetuates a form of patriarchal nostalgia.27 Murphy Henry’s impressive recovery of women’s long-standing participation in bluegrass has similarly opened up opportunities for reimagining the place of gender in what has consistently been described as being among the most male-centered of country styles.28 And while this volume, like the first, focuses heavily on the post–World War II period, the work of McCusker and Fox has shown that there is yet much to be learned by applying its methodologies and animating questions to earlier country music. What might we discover about gender in country music by closely examining women’s vocal styles on barn dance radio transcriptions and early old-time studio recordings? What would we see if we looked at pre-war country through the lens of working-class gender deviance? How were gender, race, and class connected in the construction and crossing of country’s musical color line, not only in barn dance blackface and rube comedy, but in song, performance personae, and the music itself? We hope that the work presented here will encourage exploration of such questions. xiv

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With respect to gender analysis, the developments in country music scholarship since the publication of the first A Boy Named Sue have been tremendously rewarding, but we observe one significant change with great sadness. Many of the writers who established country and popular music as meaningful fields of study have passed away in the decade since the original volume appeared. Among them are David Sanjek and Charles Wolfe, two eminent scholars who graciously agreed to contribute to the first A Boy Named Sue despite the fact that the book’s editors were all but unknown. In doing so, they not only enriched the collection but also legitimized the need for gender analysis. Though the present volume is surely poorer for the loss of their insight, we have tried—in gathering contributions from a wide array of disciplines, from journalists as well as academics, from new colleagues as well as established ones—to maintain the same spirit of openness they so generously modeled. We dedicate this to Dave and Charles with deepest gratitude for their pioneering work and in the hope that it pays tribute to their legacy.

Notes 1. The authoritative history of women in country music remains Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann, Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800–2000 (Nashville: Country Music Foundation and Vanderbilt University Press, 2003). Exceptions to the observation that few scholars prior to 2004 had approached gender as a category of analysis that might explain more than just women’s experience include Barbara Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), which examined constructions of masculinity in that subgenre; Norm Cohen and Anne Cohen, “Folk and Hillbilly Music: Further Thoughts on Their Relation,” JEMF Quarterly 13 (Summer 1977): 50–57, which noted the gendered dynamics of differing traditions in early country music; Pamela Fox, “Recycled ‘Trash’: Gender and Authenticity in Country Music Autobiography,” American Quarterly 50 (June 1998): 234–66, which explored country autobiography as a mode of gender performance through which women could overcome their marginal status in the genre; Richard Leppert and George Lipsitz, “‘Everybody’s Lonesome for Somebody’: Age, the Body, and Experience in the Music of Hank Williams,” Popular Music 9:3 (October 1990): 259–74, which examined the interplay between masculinity and femininity in Hank Williams’s performance; David Sanjek, “Can a Fujiyama Mama Be the Female Elvis? The Wild, Wild Women of Rockabilly,” in Shelia Whiteley, ed., Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender (New York: Routledge, 1997), 137–69, which emphasized the role gender played in shaping the genre expectations of rockabilly; and Pamela Wilson, “Mountains of Contradictions: Gender, Class, and Region in the Star Image of Dolly Parton,” in Cecelia Tichi, ed., Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky Tonk Bars (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 98–120, which analyzed the ways Parton mediated conflicting gendered, classed, and regional social identities. 2. Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988), 31.

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Introduction 3. Kristine M. McCusker, Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008). 4. Peter La Chapelle, Proud to be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007). 5. Diane Pecknold, The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007). 6. Aaron Fox, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004). 7. Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009). 8. Leigh H. Edwards, Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 65–89. 9. Travis Stimeling, Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive Country Music Scene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 26; Travis Stimeling, “Narrative, Vocal Staging, and Masculinity in the ‘Outlaw’ Country Music of Waylon Jennings,” Popular Music 32:3 (2013): 343–58. 10. Nadine Hubbs, Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014). 11. In addition to the already-cited works by Aaron Fox, Pamela Fox, Leigh H. Edwards, and Travis Stimeling, all of which emphasize constructions of masculinity, see Adam Gussow, “Playing Chicken with the Train: Cowboy Troy’s Hick-Hop and the Transracial Country West,” Southern Cultures 16:4 (Winter 2010): 41–70; Kelly Jensen, “‘Back in My Day, Son’: Dialogical Constructions of the Cowboy Code of Justice,” Journal of Popular Culture 42:1 (February 2009): 90–102; Alexander Sebastian Dent, “Country Brothers: Kinship and Chronotrope in Brazilian Rural Public Culture,” Anthropological Quarterly 80:2 (Spring 2007): 455–95; Åse Ottosson, “The Intercultural Crafting of Real Aboriginal Country and Manhood in Central Australia,” Australian Journal of Anthropology 23:2 (August 2012): 179–96. 12. Cisgender refers to people whose gender identity is consistent with their assigned sex. We use the term here to highlight the distinction between sexual orientation and gender identity that we recognize may be lost in our later use of the word “queer” to discuss gender ambiguity, same-sex erotic attraction, and transgender identity under a single umbrella. 13. Alexander Sebastian Dent, River of Tears: Country Music, Memory, and Modernity in Brazil (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). 14. Interestingly, the literature on global femininities in country is far more limited than that on masculinities. We can only speculate about the causes of this imbalance: a reluctance to imagine women as actors in a global public sphere, the fact that the rise of masculinity studies and global approaches occurred nearly simultaneously, or the possibility that country authenticity is itself so strongly gendered masculine that its articulations of femininity do not circulate globally to the same extent. 15. Fox, Natural Acts, 17–62; Michael T. Bertrand, “Race and Rural Identity,” in Chad Berry, ed., The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 130–52; Neal, “Why ‘Ladies Love Country Boys,’” herein. For further discussion of the racialization of country music, see also Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, ed. Diane Pecknold (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013); Erich

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Introduction Nunn, “Sounding the Color Line: Race, Music, and American Modernism” (PhD diss., University of Virginia, 2009); and J. Lester Feder, “‘Song of the South’: Country Music, Race, Region, and the Politics of Culture, 1920–1974” (PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2006). 16. See Judith Halberstam, Female Masculinity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 234–36. 17. Fox, Natural Acts, 13. 18. Fox, Natural Acts, 113–44; McCusker, Lonesome Cowgirls. 19. For a parallel exploration of a teen girl voice in country music of an earlier era, see Robynn J. Stillwell, “Vocal Decorum: Voice, Body, and Knowledge in the Prodigious Singer, Brenda Lee,” in Laurie Stras, ed., She’s So Fine: Reflections on Whiteness, Femininity, Adolescence, and Class in 1960s Music (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), 57–88. 20. Richard Peterson, “The Dialectic of Hard-Core and Soft-Shell Country Music,” in Cecelia Tichi, ed., Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 234–55. Ironically, though, Peterson later reinforced the way the dialectic naturalized gender difference by describing hard-core expression as an outgrowth of the male-dominated, public “assembly” tradition and soft-shell as the inheritor of a female-dominated, private “domestic” tradition. See Richard Peterson, Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 138. 21. Significantly, this image dovetailed perfectly with contemporaneous constructions of women’s criminality in American culture, which were dominated by the figure of the “wayward girl,” whose crimes were imagined to be the result of corrupting environmental factors and who could be rehabilitated by being “led back to asexual, childlike domesticity.” Benjamin J. Harbert, “Editor’s Introduction,” American Music: Special Issue on Women’s Prison Music 31:2 (Summer 2013): 129. 22. On parody and excess as central strategies for denaturalizing gender norms in pop music, see Helene A. Shugart and Catherine Egley Waggoner, “A Bit Much: Spectacle as Discursive Resistance,” Feminist Media Studies 5 (March 2005): 65–81. For a nuanced discussion of the importance of paradox as a performative mode in country music, see Edwards, Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity. 23. Erich Nunn, “He Ain’t Wrong, He’s Just Different: Willie Nelson’s Queer Outlaws,” Studies in American Culture 34:1 (October 2011): 94. The embrace of country music in gay and bisexual men’s bear subculture and the parallels between the aesthetics of working-class masculinity in country and in the bear community also supports Nunn’s assertion. See Lars Rains, “The Bear Essentials of Country Music,” in Les K. Wright, ed., The Bear Book: Readings in the History and Evolution of a Gay Male Subculture (Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 1997), 191–98. 24. Martha Mockus, “Queer Thoughts on Country Music and k.d. lang,” in Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology, ed. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas (New York: Routledge, 2006), 259. 25. Though Mockus herself sees country music as “decidedly antiqueer,” she nonetheless quotes B. Ruby Rich’s account of the ease with which lesbian androgyny fit into country bar culture in the 1970s, partly because it accorded so well with straight women’s gender style in that milieu: “women could always go [to those honky-tonk joints] in flannel shirts and jeans and no makeup, raise no eyebrows, even dance with a girlfriend alongside all the straight country gals doing the same.” Mockus, “Queer Thoughts,” 259.

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Introduction 26. Hubbs, Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music. For earlier explorations of specifically gay and lesbian engagements with country music, see Teresa Ortega, “‘My name is Sue! How do you do?’: Johnny Cash as Lesbian Icon,” South Atlantic Quarterly 94 (Winter 1995): 259–72; Chris Dickinson, “Country Undetectable: Gay Country Artists,” Journal of Country Music 21, no. 1 (1999): 28–39; Amy R. Corin, “Queer Country, Line Dance Nazis, and a Hollywood Barndance: Country Music and the Struggle for Identity in Los Angeles, California,” in Country Music Annual 2000, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000), 141–50. 27. Jewly Hight, Right by Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs (Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011). Hight’s exploration sheds new light on Barbara Ching’s analysis of the gender dynamics of alt.country and Pamela Fox’s discussion of alt.country women’s performances of the past. See Barbara Ching, “Going Back to the Old Mainstream: No Depression and the Construction of Alt.country,” in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004), 78–95; and Fox, Natural Acts, 173–99. 28. Murphy Henry, Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013).

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Country Boys and redneCk Women

Why “Ladies Love Country Boys”: Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music Jocelyn r. neAl

“Red-red-red-red-red-red-red-red-redneck!” The speakers blare that chant as Blake Shelton cruises down the street in his jacked-up, tricked-out, bright red monster truck, unabashedly owning the moniker in the music video for his fourteenth #1 Billboard country hit, “Boys ’Round Here,” released in 2013. The boys—significantly, the lyrics use that term instead of men or guys—drink their beer ice cold, chew tobacco, and kick up a little dust on a dirt road. To avoid any risk of genre ambiguity, the video includes a cameo appearance by a pig, a chicken, and a celebrity cow, which gets petted by the crowd on the porch. This is country music. More accurately, this is representative of a large swath of mainstream commercial country music that was popular during the halfdecade from 2008 to 2013, a product of the Nashville music industry identified by the genre label “country” on radio, on the Internet, and in the minds of millions of devoted fans. And in this musical landscape, the good ol’ boy character, personified in this instance by Blake Shelton, was a pervasive figure, his redneck nature loudly and proudly holding sway over the genre.1 Starting around 2008, the good ol’ boy, boastful of his stereotypical redneck persona, invaded and nearly took over country music. Journalists, critics, and fans alike voiced their puzzlement over the trend in many different forums, wondering what it meant. Was it all just drivel, an ultimately shallow fad that undermined the social significance of country music? Or was there something deeper in those songs that revealed the pulse of the country music audience of a particular time and circumstance? I suggest that the dominant trends in country music, most notably the spate of good ol’ boy songs about trucks and dirt roads were, in fact, part of a larger process of cultural expression, an outcry of sociopolitical and economic commentary from a large, diverse, and heterogeneous country audience. To understand this perspective, we must consider not only the good ol’ boy songs, but also the accompanying dearth of female artists on the top of the charts, the demographics of country’s audiences, and the socioeconomic context in which those audiences found themselves at a particular moment in history. More 3

Jocelyn R. Neal

specifically, a significant subset of these good ol’ boy songs employs a stock narrative—a single story that shows up over and over—that draws on heavily gendered roles and offers a focused point of interpretation for the general trend in country music. Analysis of this narrative reveals how country music culture is intrinsically performed through the identity of working-class masculinity, and how the music expresses a perceived power differential between the country music audience and the mainstream population in recent years. This essay first explores the pervasive presence of the good ol’ boy character in country songs and the resultant musical landscape in which female soloists are almost completely absent from country radio. It then follows the good ol’ boy into a common song narrative, identified as the redneck-blueblood narrative, that brings one particular stock female character into the lyrics through a romance between a good ol’ boy and a sophisticated woman. It considers the ways that the narrative metaphorically relates to the performers’ expression of identity, their audiences’ reception of the music, and ultimately, the listeners’ perspectives on their own lives. This narrative is situated in the economic context of a particular time and place—the financial crisis and subsequent recession that emerged in 2008—and shaped by the economic downturn that disproportionately affected the people, both male and female, represented by the good ol’ boy character. Through this reading, the songs’ deeper meaning emerges as an expressive and defiant response to those circumstances. Finally, a close analysis of Justin Moore’s “Bait a Hook” recording and accompanying music video tests the limits of this interpretation but ultimately reinforces it.

Dirt Roads, Fishin’ Songs, and Missing Women Renowned journalist Chet Flippo commented on the near saturation of country music with the good ol’ boy character—and the correlating dearth of women on country radio—in a Nashville Skyline essay in 2011, in which he described the state of country music at that time. Let’s look at that recent Top 30 song lineup. It reads like a series of mini-scripts for manly TV commercials about pickup trucks and drinking beer and driving back road dirt streets looking for fishing holes. It’s mainly a bunch of songs about boys acting up. It is, in the main, nostalgia for suburban wannabe country boys who have never seen and never will see a dusty back road or a bucolic fishing hole. It’s a boys’ club, with a race to out-macho the next guy. If you’re country, then I’m 10 times as country as you. Oh, yeah? Well, I’ll kick your ass.2

4

Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music Table 1.1 A brief sampler of songs that emphasized a male, good ol’ boy persona and themes of drinking, fishing, dirt roads, and related topics. ARTIST

SONG

DATE

Lost Trailers

“Holler Back”

2008

Currington, Billy

“That’s How Country Boys Roll”

2009

Moore, Justin

“Backwoods”

2010

Shelton, Blake

“Kiss My Country Ass”

2010

Shelton, Blake, with Trace Adkins

“Hillbilly Bone”

2010

Aldean, Jason

“Dirt Road Anthem”

2011

Atkins, Rodney

“Take a Back Road”

2011

Bryan, Luke

“Country Girl (Shake It for Me)”

2011

Campbell, Craig

“Fish”

2011

Owen, Jake

“Barefoot Blue Jean Night”

2011

Abbott, Josh

“I’ll Sing About Mine”

2012

Aldean, Jason, with Luke Bryan and Eric Church

“The Only Way I Know”

2012

Bentley, Dierks

“Tip It On Back”

2012

Bryan, Luke

“Drunk on You”

2012

In the years leading up to Flippo’s outburst, country radio was indeed overrun with such songs (see Table 1.1). The topics and images that Flippo enumerated were nothing new to country music—they consist mainly of stock country music references, present in some form or other since the earliest days of the genre. Over the years their usage has risen and fallen in cycles, sometimes nearly disappearing, but only occasionally dominating the genre. Flippo’s observations pertained not to the images or topics, but rather to their pervasive presence at the expense of most other themes and topics. A corollary to this phenomenon, and the observation that first prompted Chet Flippo to write his essay, was the media’s apparently sudden realization in 2011 that, for a brief period, there were no female solo artists on the Billboard Top 30 country chart. Like so many other characteristics of country music, the near absence of female artists on country radio was, in fact, neither new nor temporary.3 Flippo ventured an explanation for the gender disparity: “Radio and record labels essentially have little place for women and never have—except as customers. It’s not been so long ago that female country artists were called ‘girl singers’ and were treated as girls, not as women.”4 Indeed, women have never had an equal presence on the country charts as artists, and, as with the

5

Jocelyn R. Neal

popularity of various themes and topics for songs, the number of women has cycled up and down over the years, the obvious low being none to an occasional high of around 25 percent.5 These statistics often catch fans off guard because the few female artists who defy those odds—notably Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, and Taylor Swift during the era in question—have an enormous media presence and wield tremendous star power. But the gender disparity is most striking not among the few voices of the superstars, but rather in the ranks of moderately successful singers with a few records and a handful of hits, where the men outpace the women in staggering numbers.6 In other words, the dominant voice of commercial country music as a whole is unarguably male, and during the half-decade in question, it was even more so than usual. In spite of the rarity of female singers on the charts, female characters were not absent from the stories told in the songs. One particular female character who appeared regularly in lyrics of the last five years stands out, both for showing up with surprising frequency and for the way she relates in the stories to the male characters: she is a high-class, sophisticated woman who wants to be with the country boy, is the central focus of his fantasies, and is the prize that he hopes to obtain. In what I identify as the redneck-blueblood narrative, a good ol’ boy sings about a “lady,” a female character who transcends the limitations of class and region, yet who turns to a down-home, grounded, country boy for romantic satisfaction. The narrative underpins songs such as Trace Adkins’s “Ladies Love Country Boys,” Phil Vassar’s “Carlene,” and Billy Currington’s “Good Directions,” to name just a few examples. And at the same time that the dirt-roads-and-fishin’ songs dominated the airwaves, this particular narrative, with its set of stock characters, took hold tenaciously in song after song. How and why this narrative and these strongly gendered characters took over much of country music from 2008 to 2013 speaks to the meaning of country music in the larger social, economic, and political climate. Issues of class, gender, and race—albeit implicitly in these particular instances—come together in a compelling story in which country music’s entire cultural identity is embedded in and expressed through a stereotypically masculine good ol’ boy character. In this interpretation, the song narrative in which the sophisticated woman finds satisfaction with the good ol’ boy functions as a cultural metaphor for the relationship between society at large—specifically the urban and cosmopolitan world that is noticeably distinct from country music culture—and country music’s home base, a predominantly (although not exclusively) middleand working-class, white, heterosexual, young-to-middle-aged slice of Middle America. In a time of increasing globalization, technological innovation, and an economic context that had pummeled middle- and working-class men disproportionately to the rest of society, this interpretation suggests that the songs have much to tell us about the people with whom they resonate, their fans. 6

Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music

The narrative’s relevance was directly related to the immediate historical context and the larger social and economic worldview from which country fans heard those songs. A widespread financial crisis struck in the United States in 2008, sparked in part by mortgage lending practices. It affected financial markets around the globe and ballooned into a recession whose effects lingered for about five years. In the midst of it, a journalist with the British Broadcasting Corporation called me and asked if country music was addressing the “current economic climate,” using a phrase that had turned into a cliché almost as soon as the crisis hit. In the subsequent interview, we touched on songs that addressed high unemployment and the transfer of manufacturing jobs beyond national borders—including Ronnie Dunn’s “Cost of Livin’” and John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”—and expanded to include songs with a political endorsement of “Made in America” manufacturing policies. We spoke of other songs that addressed lost work opportunities and the crushing weight of unpaid bills, including the Pistol Annies’ “Housewife’s Prayer,” Craig Campbell’s “Family Man,” Justin Moore’s “Good Ole American Way,” and Dierks Bentley’s video for “Tip It On Back.” But the question that loomed largest was about the rest of current commercial country music, those very songs that Chet Flippo had been lambasting: were all these fishin’ and back roads songs, in the words of so many critics, just “drivel”?7 The answer, I suggest, is an emphatic no: far from drivel, these songs, most significantly the subset of them that employ the redneck-blueblood narrative, can readily be interpreted as pointed sociopolitical and economic commentary from a large, diverse, and heterogeneous country music community. That interpretation draws together the gender and class elements of the narrative, the performance of the narrative in country culture, and the historical role of both the South and country music culture within the fabric of American society.

Gender and Class Differentiation: Redneck-Blueblood Love Stories Not too long ago, I looked down while standing in a mash of bodies in a Raleigh honky-tonk and saw, repeated many times over, dusty, road-worn boots, next to strappy, high-heeled designer sandals. The boots were, in most cases, on the feet of a bona fide country boy (or at least a fan embodying that role in that particular venue), the sandals on the feet of a glamorous and, by appearances, sophisticated woman who projected few, if any, visual markers of country culture, even while standing in its space. They danced together in a duet that spoke volumes: that scene, enacted night after night in honky-tonks and music venues, replicated what was happening during the years in question in song lyrics, music videos, and even the way commercial country stars presented themselves publicly (see Figure 1.1). 7

Jocelyn R. Neal

Figure 1.1 Dusty boots and designer sandals worn respectively by Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood in the music video for “Remind Me” (Deaton-Flanigen Productions, 2011).

These boots and designer sandals extend metaphorically into the gender and class roles in the redneck-blueblood narrative, in which we encounter a romance between a working-class male character and a female character who has obtained a higher social status. Most commonly, the female character is a country girl who has transcended the limitations of her socio-cultural roots, but occasionally she is a “lady” (the term often employed in the song lyrics) from outside country culture who is drawn to it. The narrative involves upward class mobility for women, and yet even while the female characters defy the class-imposed limitations of the stereotypical country identity, they retain a grounded connection to country music and country identity, usually through a relationship with a man. In these songs, the male character—still squarely residing in country music culture—represents in some abstraction the values of truth, reality, authenticity, and an oldfashioned American way, all of which are entangled within his identity. In other words, even as the female characters move up and away, such that they have the chance to inhabit a social space far from country’s roots, they keep coming back to the country and their country boys, the designer sandals in the video for “Remind Me” walking across the parched lake bed of time and space toward those dusty boots. In the songs’ lyrics, the male characters make these women offers such as, “I can see you’re used to champagne, but I’ll buy you a beer,” or, would you like to go “bouncin’ around in a beat-up truck?”8 The female characters in the song lyrics inevitably answer yes. In search of happiness, the women in these songs drive back to the country in their Mercedes and limousines to find satisfaction or perhaps even true love in the arms of a pickup truck–driving, selfproclaimed good ol’ country boy or redneck.9 The theme of choice is significant in these narratives: “country” affiliation is something the woman embraces willingly and actively, not a limiting and 8

Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music Table 1.2

Material indications of social class in Nic Cowan’s “Wrong Side” (2011) He

She

Drives:

“broke-down” Buick LeSabre

brand-new Mercedes

Travels to:

(nowhere mentioned)

Spain, China

Wears:

Wal-mart V-neck tees

Prada heels

Dines on:

paper plates

fine china

Earned:

a “Ph.D. in Corona”

a straight-A college diploma

disempowering constraint imposed upon her by birth or subsuming her by circumstance. As recounted in various songs, this female character variously wears pearls and designer fashions, has a college education, a PhD or a law degree, drives a luxury or sports car, and has traveled internationally. And yet in the song lyrics, she appears in the performative act of being a country fan: riding shotgun in the pickup truck or staying out late to dance and sing along to Charlie Daniels songs. The narrative thrives both on and off country radio, in commercial hits and in the tangential indie singer-songwriter scene. One particularly striking instance that illustrates the full scope of the narrative comes from Nic Cowan, a singer-songwriter who straddles the roots-rock and country worlds, co-writes with members of the Zac Brown Band, and has opened for them in concert. In “Wrong Side,” he juxtaposes the material manifestations of class in his descriptions of himself—summarized as happily residing in a double-wide trailer in the “bad part of town” and embracing a working-class existence—and his lover, a woman from the better side of the tracks who is magnetically drawn to Cowan (see Table 1.2). He confidently announces that if anyone is looking for the woman, she “keeps on comin’ around,” and “she ain’t never gone too long ’til she ride on back.”10 There is no small hint of swagger in the telling of the tale. Another compelling example of this narrative, Trace Adkins’s hit song “Ladies Love Country Boys,” highlights both the gendered differentiation between the characters’ maturity levels and the role of the performer. One of the most significant points of Adkins’s performance is found in the song’s title, which juxtaposes the terms “boys” and “ladies.” Songs employing this narrative frequently invoke the term “boys” to add a devil-may-care, reckless, and youthful element to the male characters, while the female characters are described with a term that indicates adult status and maturity, and simultaneously hints at a slightly archaic or stilted quality. The men have not grown up yet, still residing in a country boy’s playground; the women have worldly insight and wisdom but packaged in a term that suggests aloofness, all of which makes their choice to come back to the country boy even more significant. 9

Jocelyn R. Neal

Adkins’s performance of the song is a key part of the expression of the narrative as well. The song’s lyrics are cast in the third person, with Adkins serving as narrator who recounts a tale about two other unnamed people, one of them a “princess [who] falls for some camouflage britches and a southern-boy drawl.” The main characters’ identities are reinforced by a video that shows a cosmopolitan, suit-wearing attorney flying south and jumping into the arms of a good ol’ boy driving a beat-up truck. The complete music video, however, denies the song’s characters the most prominent roles in the story: instead, Adkins himself steals the spotlight and relegates the attorney and truck owner to cameo roles. Adkins, sporting a cowboy hat and broken-in but well-shined boots, emerges dramatically from a Chevy truck with a closeup of his boot, a synecdoche for his whole being. He announces in a voice-over that “this is for all you sophisticated ladies out there,” then struts down an urban street as eye-candy, singing with a Louisiana twang in his deep, rolling baritone voice. His presence draws a crowd of cosmopolitan women who, upon catching sight of Adkins, drop whatever they are doing, squeal, and chase him.11 By the time the song is over, Adkins himself has literally become the character in the song, a pied piper country icon trailed by a bevy of cosmopolitan sophisticates. While the overt invitation to watch and desire Adkins is extended to female viewers (his voice-over comment at the start of the video makes this explicit), male viewers are enticed not only to identify with Adkins but also to admire him. The piecemeal presentation of him via his truck, then boot, with subsequent closeups of his jewelry, ponytail, and hat, mirror the way that photography of female fashion is explicitly designed to appeal to the opposite sex, but even more importantly to the same sex: female viewers gaze at the model and not only desire to be that model but also desire the model.12 In this instance, Adkins’s hypermasculinity and country-boy status appeal to the video’s straight male viewers in a way that very subtly invites a similar gaze of desire, even in a culture where anything more overt would be explicitly forbidden by societal norms. In other words, the viewers both project themselves onto Adkins’s character in the video and fantasize about him: for the male viewer, this readily takes the form of the suburban country-boy wannabe (to return to the critics’ choice of vocabulary) laying claim to being a good ol’ boy country hero. Indeed, the redneck-blueblood narrative relies heavily on masculine, testosterone-fueled performances, where the male voice of the singer fuses with the good ol’ boy character of the protagonist and creates the persona with whom the audience obsessively identifies. The country good ol’ boy character is elaborated in the lyrics, the performance, and the visual elements and, ultimately, becomes all-consuming of the song itself. Similar instances of this narrative thrive in the performances of a host of male artists, past and present: Conway Twitty’s “Tight Fittin’ Jeans,” Travis Tritt’s “Country Club,” Billy Currington’s “Good Directions,” 10

Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music

Phil Vassar’s “Carlene,” Ricochet’s “Daddy’s Money,” and Randy Houser’s video for “How Country Feels.” Women occasionally chime in with the redneck-blueblood narrative, and have been doing so for decades. In song lyrics, they trade in their satin sheets, diamonds, new Mercedes, and “rich man’s gold” for a good night’s country loving.13 These female performances, however, are not as common as those by men, and there are slight differences in the way the story tends to be told when women sing versions of it. In many of the female artists’ performances, the lyrics remind the listener explicitly that the women have earned their money and social status through hard work and ambition, even if it is through the so-called oldest profession, as heard in Bobby Gentry’s “Fancy,” covered to great success by Reba McEntire, or the similarly themed “Hell on Heels” from the Pistol Annies. More common still is the woman expressing disappointment or disillusionment with the high-class lifestyle for its emotional vacancy, as in McEntire’s “Little Rock.” Running throughout these songs are elements of independence and the theme of choice: women in the songs select from among their options based on their own desires. Despite their differences, in both the male-delivered songs and the female-delivered ones, the basic narrative and its corresponding expression of value for the country lifestyle remain intact. Yet, of particular relevance to our analysis here, female artists’ renderings of this narrative have not shown the same sharp rise in occurrence in recent years that male artists’ have. As this discussion has suggested, cultural ownership of the voice heard in these songs is a complicated matter that requires sensitive interpretation and acknowledgment. Although fans readily associate songs with the artists who make them famous, in many instances the songs were written by someone else, sometimes someone with a very different personal profile in terms of gender, politics, and musical interpretation. Nonetheless, a strong connection and easy transferal of identity exists between the performer and the characters in the song’s lyrics. Given the nature of contemporary fan culture, a major portion of its audiences perceives a mainstream country hit as coming from the body and voice of the performer, with the songwriter invisible to the audience, even though sources and origins of expression and meaning are never that simple. The basic story of women transcending class and economic boundaries is also embodied in the stars’ careers and public selves within the country genre. For instance, Carrie Underwood, Lady Antebellum’s Hilary Scott, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill, and, in the extreme case, Taylor Swift, all personify the narrative: they have achieved success in a pop-crossover world that transcends the limitations of the country genre and establishes them as stars in the bourgeois middleAmerican pop scene. They appear bedecked in the trappings of elegance and femininity; fame and fortune, respectability, global audiences, and power are in their ready grasp. Consider the relative ease with which country audiences allow 11

Jocelyn R. Neal

these female stars some measure of crossover success while still accepting them as country singers, a career opportunity for expanded audiences often denied to male performers. Yet from the vantage point of their crossover careers, these female stars proudly assert their country identity, proclaiming, as Taylor Swift did on stage at the Video Music Awards show in 2009, “I sing country music!” And to come home to “the country,” they sing a homecoming narrative. In songs such as Carrie Underwood’s “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore,” Lady Antebellum’s “American Honey,” or Faith Hill’s “Mississippi Girl,” the singer chooses to return to the metaphoric country and declares a musical rootedness in the genre, its lifestyle, and the identity associated with it.

The Roots of the Story The fundamental conflict in this narrative originates with an individual who crosses boundaries of social status for purposes of romance, an act of social transgression at the heart of well-known stories and ballads for literally thousands of years. In his provocative book Country: The Biggest Music in America, author Nick Tosches traces the roots of the storyline (albeit not identified as such) all the way to Plato’s fourth-century Bce account of Orpheus attempting to rescue his wife.14 While the lines of connection that far back get a little thin, Tosches finds a more compelling instance of this narrative in centuries-old Celtic myths, and even stronger ties to a seventeenth-century ballad with strong echoes of the myths, in which a noble woman runs away with a gypsy. That ballad, published in 1737 as “Johny Faa, the Gypsie Laddie,” contained the fundamental elements of the narrative: an upper-class woman crosses lines of class and social propriety because she desires a man whose societal role is marginalized. In its musical and literary context, the tale evolved under several different names including “The Gypsy Laddie,” “The Raggle, Taggle Gypsies,” and the title known best in country music circles, “Black Jack Davy [David],” which Cliff Carlisle and the Carter Family recorded in 1939 and 1940 respectively. Whether one traces this redneck-blueblood narrative back only to the early decades of country recordings, to the ballads of a few centuries ago, or to the myths and legends of a few millennia ago, the conclusions reinforce the old adage that there are only a handful of basic plots in stories of human relationships, and there are not really any new ballads, only reworkings of older ones. Country fans know well that songs about romance across lines of social class were common fare in the early decades of the recorded genre, such as the Carter Family’s recording of “My Heart’s Tonight in Texas” (1934) or Hank Williams’s “A Mansion on the Hill” (1948), to name just two by major stars. But while the general presence of the narrative is readily traced back hundreds of years in the 12

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ballad tradition and to the earliest days of commercial country music in recordings, there are significant differences in the way this narrative has been deployed in the era of Trace Adkins, Blake Shelton, and Nic Cowan that make this trend unique. One of the most notable differences is the connection drawn between the audience’s identity, the performer’s identity, and the male character. In “Black Jack Davy” the lady is seduced by a gypsy, but in the context of the ballad’s folk performances and early country recordings derived from that tale, neither the performer of the ballad nor the listeners generally considered themselves gypsies. Similarly, when the Carter Family did the tune as “Black Jack David,” their version failed to identify the character as a gypsy and instead painted him as an adventurer, or perhaps scalawag and scoundrel, who promises the lady a life of plenty (“you shall never want for money,” he declares) but can deliver only cold, hard ground for a bed. As appealing as the tale and recording are, its text is set in the third person so that the audience is not readily encouraged to project themselves or the singer into that character. The second notable difference in those early recordings and traditional ballads is a pervasive tone of doom: the “rich man’s daughter” in “My Heart’s Tonight in Texas” regretfully and miserably marries the British earl her father has chosen, rather than escape with her beloved Texan lad, and Hank Williams pines away alone in his cabin, longing for the woman who chose a rich but loveless life in her mansion instead of him. In the same vein, plenty of versions of “Black Jack Davy” end with the lady’s husband taking revenge on the lady, her lover, and often the rest of the band of gypsies in a dark and tragic ending. In contrast, renditions of the redneck-blueblood narrative from the 1960s onward, most especially the more recent ones under consideration here, are generally upbeat, self-congratulatory, and positive in their accounts of the outcomes of romance across lines of wealth and class. Thus, while the roots of this narrative run far into the past, its contemporary deployments are distinct.

Fixed Gender Roles: Redneck Women and Redneck Men In this exploration of strongly gendered characters in the redneck-blueblood narrative, one might readily wonder if the genders are interchangeable within the narrative. In other words, can an upper-class male character return to a working-class, country-identified female character to find grounded satisfaction in rural values and romance? This version of the narrative shows up in countless tales, ballads, and film versions, such as Hollywood’s Pretty Woman (1990), for instance. But these tales of working-class girls instead of boys and high-society men instead of women generally do not resonate with their audiences as “country” in their genre associations, and the conclusions generally 13

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depict the female character rising into the male character’s social space, not the reverse. By contrast, tales that follow the gendered characterizations of the redneck-blueblood narrative, such as the movie Sweet Home Alabama (2002), thrive as part of the larger country genre within pop culture.15 The time period in question also yielded a renewed interest in a female character within country music who is, on the surface, antithetical to this storyline: the so-called redneck woman. In 2004 Gretchen Wilson ushered a workingclass, gutsy, outspoken female character back into the spotlight of country music with a smash single, “Redneck Woman.”16 Wilson brought the character to life through her own public persona, portraying the homegrown, backwoods, boots-wearing, God-fearing country girl who seemed resolutely proud of her limited formal education and outlook on life. That same female character later took up residence in country music as the focus of songs such as Jason Aldean’s “She’s Country” (2008). Miranda Lambert built her career on a gun-toting, cigarette-smoking redneck woman heroine, and other artists have adopted her in their songs as well; critics raved about Kellie Pickler’s hard-country leanings on her third album, 100 Proof (2012), for instance. The relationship between this redneck woman character and the blueblood cosmopolitan character (even if she rose from original country roots) in our narrative is complex, but ultimately reinforces the larger meaning of country music within popular culture. As scholar Nadine Hubbs has convincingly shown, the character of the redneck woman crosses gender lines and appropriates aspects of masculinity in order to reject the norms of middle-class femininity.17 In other words, the redneck woman employs traits generally known as “country boy” to define her own brand of working-class femininity. Gretchen Wilson’s sexiness, for instance, is projected by her mud-splattered jeans and tank tops as she sits astride her four-wheeler. In other words, she is perceived as sexy precisely because she is one of the guys, and being one of the guys makes her an intrinsic part of country music culture, which is so heavily centered on expressions of working-class masculinity. Songs about the redneck woman are plentiful, and have become more prevalent in recent years. One striking instance is Miranda Lambert’s recording of “Mama’s Broken Heart” (2012), in which the singer not only refuses to adhere to the guidelines for proper ladylike decorum but flaunts her “bad” behavior, as measured by the norms of middle-class, mid-twentieth-century femininity articulated through the voice of her mama. By refusing to act like a conventional “lady,” Lambert’s character implicitly becomes the redneck woman, rejecting mainstream femininity in the process. The element of social class is explicitly raised when Lambert contrasts her response to a broken heart with the Kennedys’ “Camelot,” leaving Lambert as the hard-drinking, revenge-seeking,

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rough-around-the-edges, working-class redneck character against the foil of so-called American royalty. Within the country world, the redneck woman is a comfortable co-inhabitant with the good ol’ boy in a very real and unchallenged way: in song lyrics and in real life, country boys love this woman, marry her, cheat on her, grow old with her, and sometimes even get shot by her, particularly in Miranda Lambert’s songs. But, throughout it all, they fantasize and brag about her more sophisticated, cosmopolitan, pearl-wearing cousin who has gone uptown, so to speak. As desirable as that sophisticate may be, even she cannot pull listeners’ focus from the male character who, in these contexts, represents the whole of country music culture. Thus, at the heart of contemporary instances of the redneck-blueblood narrative, we find not the female character, who is in motion across space, class, and genre, but rather the male character, fixed in space and time, who is grounded in the white, Southern masculinity of the country boy, the subject of much recent scholarship.18 This country boy has a “boys will be boys” attitude toward misbehavior. He is often a patriotic redneck who, in the words of scholar Trent Watts, is “contemptuous of restraint or outside interference.”19 He expresses a workingclass identity whether or not it reflects his own socioeconomic position—what scholars and journalists have inelegantly termed the “blue-collar wannabe” who accounts for the large swaths of the country music audience who are themselves educated and employed above the stereotypical constraints of a country identity, yet with whom that identity still resonates powerfully. And he asserts the historically cultivated and culturally sanctioned importance of his manhood and contribution to society at large. He is an iconic figure deserving of admiration and inspiring primal desire within country culture, manifest in the sweaty, rock-hard muscles that are the product of manual labor and celebrated in songs such as Sara Evans’s “Coalmine” or Rodney Atkins’s “Farmer’s Daughter.” And during the key years on which we are focusing, he was dominating the musical landscape in his boots and truck and dirt road tales.

Take What Job and Shove It? In the wake of the economic crisis that reared its head in 2008, widespread blame for the situation fell on the shoulders of businesspeople and the corporate and financial infrastructures that represent the antithesis of country identity. Political campaign soundbites wore out the comparison between “Wall Street” as bad and “Main Street,” which evoked small-town associations that rang with country elements, as good. The language of the problems—derivatives, sub-prime mortgages,

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Figure 1.2 Comparison of men’s (top line) and women’s (bottom line) unemployment rates 2000–2014. Data sets used are LNS14000025 and LNS14000026.

Figure 1.3 Comparison of unemployment for high-school educated (top line) and collegeeducated (bottom line) people over the age of 25, 2000–2014; notice that the gap between these two unemployment rates essentially doubled during the time-period in question (as indicated by the vertical arrow). Data sets used are LNU04027660 and LNU04027662.

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Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music

and credit-default swaps—suggested layers of abstraction and obfuscation that contrasted radically with the themes of transparency and simplicity underlying working with one’s hands for hourly wages, roots, home, land, and fishing. But beyond rhetoric and association, the consequences of the recession and ongoing economic woes fell disproportionately on working-class men, a blow that appeared to devalue and even discard much of the central identity of the Southern, white working man within the broader mainstream American culture. The statistics on employment, labor, and earnings confirmed that the stereotypical male character in the spate of good ol’ boy country songs was in dire straits. His role in the economic and social fabric had shrunk dramatically. The Bureau of Labor Statistics data confirms that during the five years in question, the unemployment gap between men and women rose to the highest level it had ever reached in the post–World War II era, as jobs in sectors such as construction, with a male-dominated work force, disappeared in higher numbers than jobs in female-dominated sectors, including nursing and teaching (see Fig. 1.2).20 To compound that, approximately 69 percent of the adult country music audience does not hold a four-year degree, and the economic situation for this group was even more grim (see Fig. 1.3).21 Unemployment hit the country fan base personally: consider that in 2009, 20 percent of the country radio audience reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job.22 In other words, the real-life counterparts to the male, working-class good ol’ boys in the songs suffered tremendous economic and cultural setbacks during those years. The character celebrated so widely in the popular country music of that time period, in actuality, lacked competitive economic opportunities, had been emasculated, and was stuck, stagnant, in a global economic flow that largely passed him by. This context situates dirt-road, truck-driving songs and the good ol’ boys in their narratives as defenders of a new type of Lost Cause, to borrow a term from southern history.23 Here, however, the lost cause is the character, lifestyle, and economic models on which southern white male working-class identity has long relied. The male character so celebrated in the country narrative—the working-class, high school graduate good ol’ boy who eschewed cosmopolitan education and trumpeted the wage-labor job that he can “shove,” come five o’clock—is simply out of luck. And the situation is heavily gendered, in and beyond country culture. The male character in these songs cannot compete for the same job that the upwardly mobile female character in the same narrative can, courtesy of her “straight-A” college education, “law degree,” and international experience, an even more telling situation when current statistics show that women with a college degree outnumber men by 1.6 million and earn a growing majority of new degrees.24 Given the full scope of the situation, it is little wonder that country music would have something to say about the matter. 17

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The Meaning of the Narrative In this context, the redneck-blueblood narrative provided through its storyline, in words that are a hundred and fifty years old, “vindication of [the country boy’s] manhood” at the very time when such vindication was desperately needed.25 In the song lyrics, the high-society female character’s choice of this male character is a metaphoric endorsement of his fundamental value: he ends up with the girl who has been freed from any class moorings and, presumably, has her choice of any man, in any situation, anywhere. That she still wants to be ridin’ around in his beat-up, country pickup truck is the equivalent, in a musical narrative’s form, of a locker-room high-five and swagger: he still matters, and he still has “it,” whatever “it” may be. In the wake of the economic downturn and its subsequent impact on working-class men, the perspectives vaunted in these good ol’ boy songs, especially by the sophisticated woman’s endorsement, assert that the country boy lifestyle and, by extension, identity was inherently superior to the uptown banker’s lifestyle, and they simultaneously reinforced, validated, and celebrated a working-class identity when the corresponding real-life persona was confronting self-doubt and resentment over unemployment, loss of opportunities, and the inability to provide for his family in a way that has long been tied to the core of white, southern masculinity. It was also a defensive retrenchment into a position that desperately reminded everyone how fun it is to be a good ol’ boy. But however big the trucks, dusty the roads, and defiant the country boys, it was ultimately a weakly anodyne message in the face of the economic realities. The interpretation of this narrative goes further, however, in that the male characters in the songs do not merely represent the men in the core country fan base. Southern white identity in general has long been presented through a masculinized lens, as suggested by the gendered exploration of the redneck woman character above. This perspective has long historical roots, notably covered by journalists and scholars in the 1970s when, as circa 2008, the working-class male character faced increasing irrelevance within American popular culture as a result of the confluence of increasing women’s employment, technological advances that eliminated some need for traditional skilled and manual labor, and increasing globalization that decentralized and denationalized the workforce. It was also a decade in which the South as a region piqued the interest of the nation as a conflicted site of apparently boundless potential, hampered by the burdens and weight of its past. And gendered interpretations of the South as masculine were never far below the surface of the discourse. In the 1970s, authors Peter Applebome and Jack Temple Kirby wrote at length about the rise of the South, but with a tone that scholar Alex Macaulay surmised ought to have a “gender distinction as well, since the numerous tributes to Southern culture 18

Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music

promoted a decidedly masculine version of the region’s supposedly glorious present.”26 In 1976 New York Times columnist Roy Reed wrote that the “Southern countryside and small towns and even the suburbs and good-ole-boys preserves that sit in the very shadows of the Southern Skyscrapers are inhabited and given their dominant tone by men—and women who acquiesce in this matter.”27 If we map southern culture onto country music culture, a correspondence that is not without exceptions but that is nonetheless defensible, we arrive at a perspective in which country music’s core base and cultural identity is metaphorically embodied by the male good ol’ boy character in the songs. Within this interpretation, the redneck-blueblood narrative takes on even greater significance. One reason why male voices literally dominate country music is that the identity of country culture is, for the most part, intrinsically performed as masculine, a situation that holds true in terms of country music artists and in terms of the characters and narratives in the songs. In the narrative we are examining, the male character signifies the southern, white working-class fan base confronting the larger socioeconomic question of whether mainstream society values them, and the female character signifies the gaze of mainstream culture from the perspective of the country audience.28 The songs become self-affirmations of the worth of country culture, the narratives claiming that obviously the sophisticated, globally connected world returns to the country as a site of value. This interpretation flows easily in country music culture, where the genre has, since its earliest days, been defined in opposition to mainstream culture, sometimes mocked and always “othered” for its distinguishing features. And when the core country audience was facing a forecast of terrible socioeconomic realities, the redneck-blueblood narrative’s pervasive popularity should come as no surprise.

Counterperspectives In spite of the airwaves’ saturation with male-dominated songs trumpeting the values of trucks, fishin’, and good ol’ country life, a few voices—largely female— emerged to challenge this nostalgic retrenchment of small-town country life that not only celebrates but mythologizes it. The bleak realities of opportunity and economics faced by a large segment of the country audience surface in those songs as a subversive counterpoint to the dominant sound of country music, and speak instead of the trapped stagnation of small-town America, where the buses no longer even bother to stop, and one stoplight blinks on and off in a monotony that suggests no one is going anywhere. Kacey Musgraves’s recording “Merry Go ’Round” (2012) sparked commentary from the mainstream media with just such a perspective: her lyrics offer a scathing and abject condemnation 19

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of life in a small town devoid of dreams or a future, a stark rebuttal to the mostly male songs trying to out-country each other. Yet, as with most country narratives, neither this theme nor its role in tension with other prominent themes is new. Two decades before Musgraves’s song, Garth Brooks’s eponymous debut album included the track “Nobody Gets Off in This Town” (1989), which lamented the complete dearth of opportunities— even for a cold beer—in this “square old merry-go-round” where the “cars and their dreams are starting to rust,” the similarity in both rhetoric and images to Musgraves’s song readily apparent. In 1965 Roger Miller sang, “If you ever want to get depressed, just come to this town,” declaring “I’m bound to catch the next Greyhound leaving” in his song “This Town,” a matter-of-fact condemnation of the bleak future for anyone stuck in small-town USA. In other words, throughout the history of country music, a counterperspective has persisted, challenging the usually laudatory characterization of a stereotypical country existence. These songs, most relevantly the current crop headed by Kacey Musgraves, reveal a vulnerability in the usually impenetrable façade of country-boy confidence, but also represent an essential tension that helps define the genre. In the same 1976 article in which he articulated the masculine characterization of the white, working-class South, Roy Reed wrote: “The main [tension] that binds and afflicts the Southern mind is the tension found so often in the writing of the region—roots versus possibility. It is in large part the old story of home against the world. But in the Southerner it seems to roil deeper, maybe because the Southerner has both deep roots and a deep temptation to escape.”29 As global conditions threaten those roots, the country music instinct to defend home and burrow in manifests, as Chet Flippo wrote, in “mini-scripts for manly TV commercials about pickup trucks and drinking beer and driving back road dirt streets looking for fishing holes,” while a few countering voices scream for the possibilities those roots deny.

Testing the Theory: Does the Country Boy Win? Justin Moore’s recording “Bait a Hook” (2011), which Moore co-wrote with Rhett Akins and Jeremy Stover, offers a deployment of the redneck-blueblood narrative that deserves a final close reading within this analysis. In the lyrics, Moore portrays a good ol’ boy country singer whose attractive, well-dressed woman has taken up with some other guy. Moore sings the song as a second-person address to the woman, clearly positioning himself as both singer and protagonist directly involved in the action. In spite of the fact that the woman has left him, he sounds boldly self-confident. In the song’s lyrics, Moore throws down a list of traits that, in the context of a country song, surely affirm the superiority 20

Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music

of the singer’s country manhood and desirability over the alternatives. He is not about to worry, he sings, because his nemesis can’t bait a hook, skin a buck, drive a truck, make out in a hay field, treat his mama right, drink, or sing a decent country song—a litany of country bona fides. The other guy’s vulnerable points include his choice of a Toyota Prius for transportation, his taste for sushi, and— if one includes the music video as well as the lyrics in the analysis—his tailored suits and a lifestyle that apparently involves formal conferences, cocktail parties, and well-manicured hands. The tone of the video and song imply that no woman could possibly prefer that to the country charm of Justin Moore with his hat and well-worn boots, his fishin’ boat, his worn-out ball cap, his guitar, and his ability to sing a decent country song. The expectations of a country listener who is well-versed in country traditions are that Justin Moore—the personification of an authentic country boy—will unquestionably triumph in the end over any man so thoroughly lacking in the core country identity. Yet, in an instance that threatens to dismantle the longstanding narrative in which the country boy wins the sophisticated woman, the song concludes with the woman still in the arms of the other guy. The charming country singer is found lacking by the woman, his defiant confidence appears unjustified, and he sits hugging his dog, bruised by the rejection, and sullenly nursing his wounded pride while muttering about the woman’s “Gucci shoes” (as the symbolic importance of designer sandals resurfaces). For a moment, this conclusion appears to reveal a vulnerable underbelly to the country boy’s southern brand of masculinity, a thread by which the whole narrative begins to unravel. The music video complicates the story, however. Just as viewers start to sense the appeal of the other guy, the video begins to contradict the lyrics: although viewers have not yet gotten a good look at the other guy, in the video, he takes the woman for a ride in his car, and it feels powerful and exciting.30 Astute viewers—in this case, those who are quick to recognize cars by brand and model— immediately recognize that the car is not a foreign hybrid-electric hatchback but rather a Ford Mustang, suggesting more all-American masculinity and a hint of good ol’ boy character. The twist in the story occurs a few seconds later with a revelation that simultaneously validates the full superiority of country identity, affirms the integrity of the underlying narrative, and rewards the viewer who is a fully vested cultural insider.31 Moore’s nemesis appears in a full-face shot, and is none other than Carl Edwards, a Missouri native, NASCAR superstar, driver of the #99 Fastenall car, with country bona fides in spades. Indeed, within contemporary country culture, the one career that trumps country music singers at their own identity politics and authenticity games is arguably NASCAR. With Edwards’s identity revealed, the video falls in line with the traditional narrative in which the biggest, most famous good ol’ country boy gets the woman after all. 21

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Of course, the full impact of Edwards’s presence in the video would only be recognized by a viewer familiar with NASCAR in the first place; in other words, the full content of the message can only be understood by cultural insiders. To the outsider who either skips the video or does not recognize Edwards, Moore’s country boy appears to lose, but the insider, savvy to the cultural references that form a code of communication within the country community, knows better. The last few minutes of the video show Edwards catching a bigger fish and driving a much bigger truck than Moore; country pride appears fully vindicated. As a coda to this analysis, consider that I could not locate any published credits revealing the name of the female, brunette actor, wearer of the high-heeled shoes, who portrayed the woman in the video. As the woman in the story, her public anonymity is strong punctuation for this analysis of the country narrative, which is—and has always been—about the male characters’ self-reflection and projected value and the assertion of country culture’s social status within mainstream America.

Country Entertainment To conclude, let us return for a moment to Blake Shelton and the celebrity cow in his video for “Boys ’Round Here.” I watched the video with a writer and editor of impeccable academic pedigree who is not a country fan. “Really? You’ve got to be kidding!” she exclaimed. “People take this stuff seriously?” I watched it with a high-ranking marketing executive, also not a country fan, who was utterly dismayed to see Blake Shelton in that context. “But he’s a mainstream star,” the executive countered, “on the television show The Voice and everything! Singing about being a redneck?” The deployment of stereotypes, stock characters (including the cow!), and archetypal narratives in this video and similar ones happens in a liminal space, with the video hinting at but narrowly avoiding parody, while at the same time occasionally allowing just enough of a crack in the presentation’s façade to acknowledge—and play with—the constructed nature of the image. “This is Hollywood for you,” Blake confessed in a behind-the-scenes video for fan club members only, “Because we’re actually, uh, not in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, which is where I pictured the boys that are in ‘The Boys ’Round Here.’ We are at the famous Walt Disney Ranch.”32 Walt Disney and Hollywood sets, directors, stylists, and celebrity animal cameos are all the ingredients of fictional worlds of fantasy and escape, fully in tension with the rhetoric of authenticity and working-class reality that form the bedrock foundation for the country genre. That cognitive dissonance opens up the possibilities for meaning that have been

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explored in this essay, where country music is simultaneously a projected reality and an escapist fantasy for its audiences. Country music’s role as popular entertainment informs how we can interpret the redneck-blueblood narrative and the masculine posturing that characterize these performances. As art and entertainment, these songs and videos amplify and exaggerate aspects of the audience’s world and the artist’s perspective. If Blake Shelton is sincere in how he relates to his fans, as all indicators suggest he is, then his video renders themes, ideas, and images that matter legitimately to his fans. But Shelton’s own expression of self-awareness hints that, for both him and his audience, this is predominantly entertainment, as he toys with images and concepts with an ironic layer of artifice and a tone that implies both artistry at work (the juxtaposition of the Pistol Annies’ riverside footage in the video, dressed in vintage wear) and cultural criticism, laced with humor and darkened by brazen racial cultural appropriations.33 Thus, the stock characters and their gendered natures, along with the recurring narratives, invite metaphoric interpretations and further probing for what they can tell us about country music’s meaning at the intersection of class, gender, and race. The “boys” depicted in Shelton’s song, who are the main characters in that collection of dirt-roadstrucks-and-fishin’ songs from around 2008–2013 and who caught the attention of so many critics, have much to tell us about the concerns, fears, pride, and self-perceptions of the core country fan base. Far from drivel, these songs invite listeners into a tightly knit and long-standing discourse about the otherness of country music and its place in contemporary society, just as a good ol’ boy seduces the mainstream sophisticate, feminine-gendered “pop world.” Blake Shelton drops a quote in the middle of his song, weaving together the ultimate declaration of resilience and a reference to Hank Williams Jr., which in turn invokes implicit engagement with Hank Sr. and thereby the full pedigree of country music. Four short words sum up the genre’s identity, the character’s masculinity, his relative youth, his assured confidence, and his defiance of any outside threat: “Country boy can survive!” Is the declaration a manifesto? Or just pure musical entertainment drawing on exaggerated stereotypes and invoking a legendary star? The answer, of course, is both. After all, this is country music, where walking the line between sincerity and parody is all in a day’s work. Notes 1. This essay’s primary focus is an analysis of gender and meaning, but the video for “Boys ’Round Here” engages in an appropriation of hip hop culture in a way that demands we also acknowledge the inherently racially charged power dynamics represented in the video, from the opening footage where Blake Shelton’s huge truck dominates over the car driven by African

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Jocelyn R. Neal American actors portraying hip hop stars, to the lyrics that dismiss certain hip hop–derived dance moves even while the footage shows actors doing those same moves. A full analysis of the song’s problematic racial engagement—which is part of a larger trend toward hip hop appropriations in commercial country music—is beyond the scope of this article, but readers and viewers are invited to contemplate it. 2. Chet Flippo, “If Miranda Lambert Can Make It, Why Can’t You?: Country Music’s Dirty Little Secret About Women,” Nashville Skyline, August 4, 2011; www.cmt.com/news/nashville -skyline/1668497/nashville-skyline-if-miranda-lambert-can-make-it-why-cant-you. jhtml, accessed November 5, 2013. 3. To add to this context, on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list for September 21, 2013, the only female artists to appear in the top 20 were the Pistol Annies, featured guests on Blake Shelton’s “Boys ’Round Here,” at #20; in other words, no female solo artists or groups appeared in the top 20, and no female artists at all were in the top 19. 4. Chet Flippo, “If Miranda Lambert Can Make It, Why Can’t You?” 5. This is discussed in more detail and context in Jocelyn R. Neal, Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 472. 6. For the era in question, Reba McEntire and the mixed-gender group Lady Antebellum also had a significant presence on the charts. 7. See http://countrymusicreview.net/tag/luke-bryan/ for one example. The term “drivel” shows up with almost reckless abandon in Internet reviews of contemporary country music. 8. Lyrics sung by Conway Twitty in “Tight Fittin’ Jeans” (1981), by Michael Huffman, and Travis Tritt in “Country Club” (1989), by Catesby Jones and Dennis Lord. 9. Nic Cowan cites a Mercedes in “Wrong Side” (2011), by Cowan, and Tritt mentions a limousine in “Country Club.” Reba McEntire also mentions a Mercedes in “Little Rock” (1986), by Pat McManus, Bob DiPiero, and Gerry House, an instance of this narrative sung by a woman as discussed below. 10. Nic Cowan, “Wrong Side,” Hard Headed (Southern Ground Artists, released on iTunes and Amazon as MP3 downloads, 2011). 11. Trace Adkins, “Ladies Love Country Boys” (2006), written by Jamey Johnson, George Teren, and Rivers Rutherford; music video directed by Michael Salomon. 12. This concept is presented in Diane Fuss, “Fashion and the Homospectatorial Look,” in Critical Inquiry 18:4 (Summer 1992): 713–37. 13. Jeanne Pruett, “Satin Sheets”; Reba McEntire, “Little Rock”; and Patsy Cline, “A Poor Man’s Roses (Or a Rich Man’s Gold).” 14. Tosches’s book, originally published in 1977 by Stein and Day (New York), has been issued and reissued under three different titles, including Country: Living Legends and Dying Metaphors in America’s Biggest Music and Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock and Roll. Chapter 2, “Orpheus, Gypsies, and Redneck Rock ’n’ Roll,” is an extended discussion of the roots of the “Black Jack Davy” ballad, which contains the essence of the redneck-blueblood narrative. 15. Hope Floats (1998) similarly works along this narrative’s lines; it is worth noting that the movie’s theme song was a recording by country megastar Garth Brooks. 16. Co-written by Wilson and John Rich. 17. Hubbs’s analysis appears in “‘Redneck Woman’ and the Gendered Poetics of Class Rebellion,” Southern Cultures 17:4 (Winter 2011): 44–70, reprinted in this book.

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Gender, Class, and Economics in Contemporary Country Music 18. See, in particular, Black and White Masculinity in the American South, 1800–2000, ed. Lydia Plath and Sergio Lussana (Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), and White Masculinity in the Recent South, ed. Trent Watts (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008). See also music-specific explorations of southern masculinity in the scholarship of Barbara Ching and Travis D. Stimeling. 19. Watts, White Masculinity in the Recent South, 11. 20. Graphs of unemployment rates generated from public data sets at http://research.stlou isfed.org/fred2/graph/, accessed November 5, 2013. 21. Reported in Coleman Insights Media Research, “Country P1 Consumer & New Media Study,” presented March 9, 2011, www.ColemanInsights.com, accessed November 5, 2013. 22. This statistic is reported in the Country Radio Broadcasters Edison Research 2009 National Country P1 Survey, which is discussed at www.edisonresearch.com/home/ archives/2009/03/the_edison_research_crb_national_country_research_study_2009.php, accessed October 20, 2013. 23. The phrase “Lost Cause” refers to a movement among white southerners such as the United Daughters of the Confederacy, who reinterpreted the Confederacy’s aims as noble and honorable even in defeat at the end of the Civil War. Notions of heroism and nostalgic pride were inscribed into the evolving postwar social order as the region attempted to reconcile with the North, its former combatants. See Gaines Foster, Ghosts of the Confederacy: Defeat, the Lost Cause, and the Emergence of a New South, 1865–1913 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987), 4–8. 24. US Department of Labor Report, “Women’s Employment During the Recovery,” published May 3, 2011, www.dol.gov/_sec/media/reports/femalelaborforce/, accessed November 5, 2013. Eric Church’s “Drink in My Hand” includes the line “Boss man can shove that overtime up his can,” using language that invokes Johnny Paycheck’s famous recording of “Take This Job and Shove It.” Trace Adkins’s “Ladies Love Country Boys” cites both “straight A’s” and “law degree” in its description of the female character. 25. Robert Toombs told the Georgia Legislature this in 1860, referring to the necessity of the war, quoted in Watts, White Masculinity in the Recent South, 3. 26. Alex Macaulay, “Marching in Step: The Citadel and Post World War Two America” (PhD diss., University of Georgia, 2003), 182. 27. Quoted by Alex Macauley in “Murder and Masculinity: The Trials of a Citadel Man,” in Black and White Masculinity, 59; original text from Roy Reed, “Revisiting the Southern Mind: The South,” New York Times, December 5, 1976, 42. 28. Barbara Ching made a similar argument in Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); see, for instance, “Abjection is constantly portrayed by an absurdly unregenerate white man who jokes and suffers while women . . . brandish the normative values that underscore abjection,” 30. 29. New York Times, December 5, 1976, emphasis added. 30. The car ride begins around 1:45 in the video. 31. This action takes place at 2:07. 32. Video posted on Shelton’s fan club website behind a required login and password, at www.blakeshelton.com/news/bsers-exclusive-behind-scenes-boys-round-here-223491, accessed September 10, 2013. 33. This particular video expresses an intrinsic racism that deserves further analysis.

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“Hey! If I Should Grab Ya”: “College Country” and the Ruralization of Urban Brazil AlexAnDer S. Dent

The Rural Modern Until quite recently the genres of Brazilian music heard around the world were bossa nova, tropicália, or samba. But in the summer of 2012, a Brazilian “college country” (sertaneja universitária) tune performed by a solo singer named Michel Teló became so popular that it topped international best-seller lists and was remixed in several languages—in English by Cuban American rapper Pitbull, for example. If you appeared on a dance floor anywhere in the world between approximately April and September 2012 you probably heard Teló, and most likely looked on as someone close to you on the dance floor did the song’s line dance, thrusting while mock-fanning herself to cool off. If you were a soccer fan, you might have seen the dance performed by Brazilian players after scoring a goal—a goofy smile on their faces. So popular was “Hey! If I Should Grab Ya” that a Brazilian reporter for Forbes magazine compared it to Carmen Miranda’s international hit from the 1930s, “Mamãe Eu Quero” (Mama, I Want . . .).1 The immense popularity of Brazil’s form of country music was not news at home, where it had been one of the most listened-to genres since the mid1990s. Also unsurprising was the idea of a country mega-hit on the world’s airwaves; Billy Ray Cyrus had achieved global status in the early nineties with his performance of “Achy Breaky Heart.” But what was different this time was that a country song from Brazil had taken the world by storm. How? What did this mean for “country” music and popular culture on a global stage? This chapter uses Teló’s broad reach as an occasion to analyze the way in which Brazilian forms of rural public culture, including country music and rodeo, partake of local rural traditions while at the same time fashioning a country cosmopolitan.2 This involves an orientation to rurally identifying populations in places like Canada, the United States, Australia, and Mexico; in practice, participants “imagine” (in Benedict Anderson’s sense of “imagined communities”) that in these other places, the rurally identifying share the same desire to use a “country stick” to “beat an urban present” (to quote Raymond 26

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Williams).3 Put slightly differently, the forms of subjectivity at the heart of the country cosmopolitan use an idealized past as the ground upon which to criticize a debased urban present. The country cosmopolitan, therefore, is an internationally oriented sphere of rurally themed public culture whose practitioners criticize social and economic change that is perceived to be too drastic. In many locations around the world, the musical genre locally referred to as “country” is thus much more than just a set of musical and embodied features that provide participants with ways to conceive of their “identities.” While it is indeed these things, country is also just as much a cultural critique that grounds itself in a particular temporality. Despite the global aspirations of this rural modernity, it still has local forms that are quite distinct. What this means is that social categories such as race, gender, or class are differently configured with respect to one another under the umbrella of country’s local temporality. In Brazil, country’s temporality is inextricably linked to gender and, crucially, to embarrassment about that approach to gender. In more detail, Brazilian rural masculinity incites men to be “old-fashioned” in two ways. First and foremost, men should be quiet, strong, independent, and stoic, just like bull-riders; men and women can be proud of this public face of masculinity. However, the other side of Brazilian rural masculinity is that men are encouraged to be plangent, flawed, female-dependent, and long-suffering; in this case, songs about past and future loves are the most pertinent touchstones, and here is where embarrassment comes in. Brazilian “country” provides a way to mediate between these two extremes in the production of masculinity, and this mediation is shaped by the presence of powerful discourses of shame. This anxiety draws sustenance from a number of different sites, but one of the most important is the continual insistence on the part of the press and traditionalist musicians and fans that country music is “gone for good.” At the very moment that it is being enjoyed, contemporary popular forms of Brazilian country are also being experienced as having lost their roots. This regret provides participants with a sense of the good old days, which are no more, and makes fans feel as though their current country hits are a guilty pleasure. This guilt is oriented toward how Brazil is presenting its maleness to other nations. The back-and-forth between weak and strong masculinities is something that Brazilians should be deeply embarrassed to show to the world. In this way, guilt is continually reinforced as a signal attribute of Brazilian country. In order to explore this localized approach to gender and its relationship to a distinct form of embarrassment, in the context of a particular temporality, this chapter will begin by considering the explosion in popularity of rural forms of public culture in Brazil, which began in the early nineties and continues into the present; here, we will briefly consider Brazilian rurality in relation to its American forms. Then, we will analyze the specific case of Teló’s hit in more detail. 27

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Finally, we will step back from all of this to consider what it means for the role of gender in the country cosmopolitan.

The 1990s: Country Takes the National Stage Like ultra-popular música sertaneja (backlands music), its ancestor, música caipira (roughly, hick or hillbilly music), emerged largely from the Central-South, the region of Brazil known first for its coffee and cattle, and later for its orange juice, sugar-cane ethanol, and soybeans. In the older form of the genre, the pairs of brothers most often responsible for singing it often pined for homes in the countryside. Important practitioners included Raul Torres & Florência, and Zé Carreiro & Carreirinho. Perhaps the most famous rural song of the first half of the twentieth century was composed by dentist, police scribe, and music-store owner Angelino de Oliveira in 1918. It contained a country everyman named Armadillo Joe who pined for his home “off in those hills.” But Joe can only ever sing about his home; he can never actually get back there. “With this viola / I sing, and cry, truthfully / And each tune is like a piece of longing,” he laments, urging the listener to hear “my suffering and my pain.” When he uses natural imagery and personifies himself as a songbird “Who can only sing of sadness / From his branch,” the narrator emphasizes both his unbreakable connection to the country and the impossibility of his return.4 In these lines, a grief-stricken man sings about the bygone days of rural bliss, and some variation on this trope would be carried through the majority of country songs up until the late 1980s. Throughout this period, the music had a loyal fan base in the Central-South.5 In the early 1990s música sertaneja, which had evolved from música caipira in the Central-South, expanded outside of its region onto the national market.6 As Brazil transitioned out of military dictatorship and ramped-up economic reforms, its urbanization skyrocketed. A once largely rural nation found itself quite overwhelmingly in cities, and its citizens began to practice nostalgia for the countryside and the old ways of life. Rural songs began to treat the loss of love more unremittingly than música caipira had done in the past, sometimes leaving aside altogether explicit references to the countryside. In newer and more popular música sertaneja, the lyrics were frequently about the bygone days of romantic love, which had been lost due to a woman’s indifference, cheating, or obstinacy. The pair of brothers still grieved on stage, singing openly of their broken hearts. However, those broken hearts were less explicitly the result of having left that shack in the interior than they were the result of the loss of that perfect love. There were other shifts. Whereas in the eighties and before, the two brothers in a dupla had harmonized the entire song together in parallel thirds or sixths, 28

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newer duplas like Leandro & Leonardo or Zezé di Camargo & Luciano began to incorporate longer solo-sung passages into their work. Electric and electronic instrumentation together with multi-track production played increasingly important roles; these new songs were well-produced, and their production quality stacked up against that of Brazilian rock and pop. At the same time, what had been coded as lower class in the seventies and eighties began to span social classes. Indeed, the money circulating through rodeo and a mechanizing agribusiness meeting China’s new demands for goods like beef meant that rural genres were now largely divorced from social class. Here was music that often cost a lot to go and hear, and its fans were happy to pay for tickets to rodeos and the upscale concert halls that had eschewed the stuff only five years before.7 The explosion of the popularity of música sertaneja was accompanied by a vast increase in attendance at rodeos, which began with a localized form of cattle competition rooted in Brazil’s tremendous beef industry, and later appropriated some American events such as bronc and bull riding.8 By the end of the twentieth century, Brazil was producing some of the world’s very best bull riders. Everpopular soap operas had country soundtracks and rodeo plotlines, and Os Dois Filhos de Francisco (Francisco’s Two Sons), a biographical film about a famous dupla, became the highest grossing Brazilian film to date, with songs provided not only by the usual country stars but by higher-brow Brazilian composers and performers. The news media and the small number of scholars who cared to treat the subject during this boom by and large castigated the music and its fans for having lost their “true” rurality.9 These critiques were often enveloped in an amorphous invocation of “the culture industry” and its sway over apparently hapless listeners.10 Within such treatments, the notion of musical “urbanization” was employed without reserve or precision; often, it seemed to imply that the music had somehow become “Americanized,” though precisely what this might have meant was under-specified.11 And this lack of specification was due to the fact that specificity was not at all the point. What was important was that fans and even casual listeners should feel chastised for enjoying something that, like the nation at large, had changed too fast, and in so doing had lost itself. The pleasures of country music were meant to be shameful, and the critics helped craft this impression. This scolding did not emerge solely from journalists and scholars. Indeed, at the very same moment that música sertaneja was starting to sell more records than any other genre in the land, a revival of traditional música caipira was taking place. Across the Central-South region, schools of the consummate instrument of música caipira—the ten-string guitar, or viola—began to spring up. Many of these schools were led by classical or jazz guitarists who had discovered the viola and had begun to research the techniques of its old masters. 29

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These new “traditional” musicians played in the styles of past música caipira practitioners, and vehemently opposed the more popular “romantic” country music that was all the rage.12 Orchestras of viola students lovingly strummed carefully arranged traditional tunes on community stages, and revivalist duplas seeking to recreate the great viola and vocal traditions of the country music past began to appear on small labels that put out “regional” music. Some of this material was oppositional, as in Zé Mulato & Cassiano’s song “Navigator of the Generations,” in which they say, “Calling me a caipira is actually a compliment, but calling me sertanejo can lead to confusion.” And later in the same song are the lines “I’m here to show you a real song, something purely from the countryside,” with the clear implication that more popular forms were not real, and were impurely rural.13 Whether the criticism that ultra-popular música sertaneja had lost its rural roots came from journalists or from traditionalists, there were problems with the notion of a strict separation between the commercial and the folkloric. Indeed, performance practice in the 1990s showed that popular players would reference the greats of the past, or invite the modern revivalists on stage with them at rodeos. In other moments, the hard-core traditionalists might get caught hanging around with the country stars (like Leonardo) who had sold millions of records. But this was not the only indication that more was going on than a one-way critique. Indeed, rigorously comparing the “new” música sertaneja of the 1990s with its predecessors reveals not so much a rupture as a dialogue between that critique and the understanding that crucial features, in fact, remained from previous periods. Enumerating some of the continuities puts a spotlight on the back and forth between the journalistic-traditionalist flap and popular country’s attempts at continuity—a crucial way of producing shame. First, topically, though the countryside was mentioned less in the nineties, the pained masculinity on show during the sixties, seventies, and eighties was still very much in evidence. Sertanejo performers of a previous era had interspersed songs of jilted love with songs of upset over going to the city. And it was true that in the nineties, unhappy love became the whole story for one or two very famous duplas. However, many would still perform a song or two about the farm in the interior, where they had been born, and the music continued to revolve around a split male subject who was still unable to get back to an idyllic past. For example, in famous duo Chitãozinho & Xororó’s first mega-hit, “Fio de Cabelo” (A Little Strand of Hair), a strand of hair becomes the Proustian reminder of the past’s inaccessibility: “And today made me sadder still / I found a little piece of her / A hair on my jacket.” Through this reminder the narrator relives his past, remembering “all that passed between us / The vivid love / That long strand of her hair / Once stuck in our sweat.”14 So, pining for an

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unreachable and ideal past by men still occupied center stage in the late eighties and early nineties. Another consistency between the “new” sertanejo of the nineties and its ostensibly forgotten progenitors was that it overwhelmingly relied on the brother form. Indeed, as the music became more popular, brotherhood become more important. This was because a hierarchical relationship between the two singing brothers at times took on gendered attributes as a way of emphasizing the cross-gendered message of the music. “You, woman, complete me, and without you, I’m lost” was frequently voiced by a leading brother (melody) singing to a following one (harmony). For instance, in Zezé di Camargo & Luciano’s shows, the two brothers would frequently face each other while singing the chorus, or the lead brother, Zezé, would deliver his lines to a Luciano who patiently waited for his harmony part. Such modes of delivery looked very much like those reserved for cross-gendered romantic performances (duets sung by a man and a woman) and were reinforced by extra-musical features of the show, like Luciano toweling off his brother’s sweaty face and then throwing the towel into the crowd. The brotherly relationship was also tinged with cross-gendered romantic love in offstage pronouncements, such as the liner notes of their 2000 live album Zezé di Camargo & Luciano Live. The liner notes’ last page contained a letter from Luciano to Zezé, where Luciano began, “how special you are in my life.”15 He told Zezé that Zezé was a book where “each page is a new lesson . . . each chapter is a new surprise.” Luciano continued that it was his brother who “found” him, giving him the chance to become a star. The letter took the form of a poem, with lines broken up by spaces. Luciano remembered the precise date of their beginning the way one might recall an anniversary: “[I]t was on December 23rd, 1989 that you discovered me, pushed me out into this world so filled with magic in which illusion becomes real. And from there to here, the stage opened up.” Zezé, the older and more experienced brother who had already established himself as a writer of songs for some of Brazil’s most famous country duos, takes his brother on as a project, and in so doing, allows dreams to become reality for Luciano. Not only does Luciano get to share the stage with his talented brother, but doing so can be framed as personal growth; he writes that his joy lies “Not only in sharing the stage with you, but in growing each day.” Furthermore, Zezé is able to contain Luciano’s explosivity: “At the difficult moments, you were always by my side, even when my emotion yelled loudly, and made me lose reason,” Luciano declares.16 Here, the female-gendered brother, Luciano, is the one that loses control, while Zezé reins in the hysteria. And throughout, Zezé is the teacher and Luciano the eager student. This “letter” ends with a heartfelt quotation of amorphous provenance: “As the old poet said, ‘I knew I would love you my whole life. . . .’”17

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We have seen up to this point that by way of lyrics and an amplification of the brother form, lost heterosexual love—a frequent theme in música caipira— becomes música sertaneja’s defining attribute in the nineties.18 But it does so in a particular way. Zezé and Luciano become the two faces of masculinity—operational in each and every man. And the idea therefore becomes that, for each man, love can become not just the most important thing in his life, but something that can make him irrational. This leads to dependence—such that love makes the male speaker entirely beholden to his female interlocutor. Consider, in this context, the first hit by Zezé di Camargo & Luciano, entitled simply “It’s Love,” in which the singer describes how his love renders him “a raving lunatic, inconsequential,” and makes his existence utterly dependent upon being loved in return: “It’s love that messes with my head and makes me this way / That makes me think of you and forget myself / And that makes me understand that life is nothing without you.” Though these features of rural music were not entirely without precedent, since country music singers had often sung publicly about shedding tears over a cheating or lost woman in the past, here, they were emphasized strongly. This is a narrator who cannot survive without his mate, and who is overwhelmed by this realization. Finally, in terms of the consistency of the música sertaneja of the nineties with its predecessor, the performance spaces in which the music was most often consumed were often profoundly rural. During the hot summer months, these brother duos played many shows in upscale concert halls in cities, it was true; and this was a new development, signaling that promoters and agents recognized the genre’s new earning potential. But in the fall, winter, and spring months, an intense schedule of rodeos governed performance. The largest of these, in the towns of Barretos, Americana, and Jaguariúna, were two-week festivals that held roughstock and timed rodeo events in the late afternoon, and then rurally themed musical shows in the evenings. At these open-air shows, which took place in the rodeo’s stadium, with fans frequently dressing in tengallon hats and western boots, there was no question that the music was unremittingly rural. Two things are important to understand about the transformations discussed here. First, the amplification of love in the nineties, the deepening of the importance of the brother form, the argument for love as a profoundly irrational and passionate force, and the heightening of the rurality of performance spaces at rodeos were perceived by the brother duplas and their fans as a way for them to be cosmopolitan—to align themselves with what they saw as a global rural public sphere that was critical of superficial and financially driven life in cities. What should be most important is lasting connections, not fleeting ones based on self-interest. And what could be more lasting than an obsessive and everlasting love? The music produced during this period would not have been attractive 32

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to American, Canadian, or Australian audiences. It was, therefore, an extremely localized way for them to imagine themselves as rural moderns. The second important thing to underscore is that critiques of popular music’s losses did not exist in a vacuum—quite the opposite. The critiques were essential to the production of the music’s prerequisite shame—paradoxically, a shame that would emerge from showing the world this embarrassing face of Brazilian manhood. Therefore, criticism forms part of the intricate dance of Brazilian country music.

College Country With this in mind, it becomes easier to explain how the appearance of Michel Teló seemed to signal to journalists and traditionalists yet another rupture from rurality. A few solo vocalists, such as Teló himself, were becoming incredibly popular by the end of 2011, and were cited by many as giving already ultrapopular rural genres an added boost. Once again a critique was launched, not only in the press but among musicians, too; the duplas of the nineties, who themselves had been so strongly reprimanded for ruining everything, were now admonishing the kids for losing touch with the past. Meanwhile, college country began to eclipse all other genres of Brazilian music in terms of record sales, radio exposure, soap opera soundtracks, ticket sales, YouTube views, and downloads—licit and otherwise. It seemed to be taking over to an even greater extent than its predecessor had done. Once again the critics did, indeed, have something to talk about, since there appeared to be some noteworthy shifts that had taken place between this newer form of country music’s appearance and the popularity of what ruled the airwaves in the 1990s. First of all, its designator “college” indexed the extent to which rural music was now considered something that students listened to at a growing number of rurally themed urban nightclubs and bars in big CentralSouthern cities. The rapid growth of Brazilian universities in the twenty-first century, and with it the growth in the number of students with rural tastes attending colleges, was often cited by journalistic histories of the new genre as its defining feature.19 This was further attested to by another important difference from the older form of sertanejo, which was that the tempos of many sertanejo universitário songs had been sped up considerably. There were still plenty of dirges like those that could be heard in the nineties, to which we will return in a moment. But such tearjerkers were now interspersed with more upbeat keys and tempos that were good to dance to. In these faster songs, the topics had shifted somewhat. Many of these songs celebrated decidedly collegiate activities and modes of engagement, such as easy sex and heavy drinking. Note the hit by sertanejo 33

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universitário dupla Fernando & Sorocaba, “It’s Tense.” The song situates the narrator’s amorousness as nothing more than drunken folly: “I have a problem / I get really drunk / Really kiss / Really grab”; and the encounter as a meaningless embarrassment: “the next day I don’t even remember it / It’s tense!”20 In the lyrics of “It’s Tense,” we not only see a shift toward framing sex less obsessively, but the lyrics allowed the music’s critics to argue for its increasing approximation to American cultural forms; surely this sort of song would be at home in any American fraternity house—at least on the level of its words, if not its musical and harmonic structure. Critics also pointed out that the heartbroken male was nowhere to be seen here. Instead we had a lecherous drunk who had no memory of what he had done the night before—quite the opposite of the obsessive whiner of the nineties. Yet here the differences seemed to end and the similarities to begin again. Because even in the contemporary, up-tempo country tunes there was a fallibility in the male narrators—who were, even in a song like “It’s Tense,” harmonizing with one another in the typical country intervals and power relationships (as in Zezé di Camargo & Luciano). This fallibility becomes even more obvious when we note the contrast between the newer college country and other Brazilian musical forms, such as samba. In samba the male narrator is often wily and cunning, getting females through his street smarts and ability with words. He brags, and is confident about his seductions; the next woman is always just around the corner. But the male narrator of the up-tempo college country songs was profoundly flawed. In Fernando & Sorocaba’s song, the narrator was constantly getting drunk and losing control; this was far from an orchestrated and skillful seduction. Something similar happens in Michel Teló’s “My Humble Residence”: “I’ll wait for you here / But please answer your phone / Even if it’s a collect call,” he begs his lover, going on to confess, “I’m not going out today / Because my car is broken / And I can’t spend any money.”21 The narrator, who sounds like a college student, is so poor he cannot afford to make cellular phone calls, fix his car, or even go out. This is profoundly emasculating when you consider the tremendous importance of cars and cellular phones among Brazil’s emerging middle class. Later in the song, he asks his mate to be patient, because in addition to these previously listed problems, the bed is broken and it has no blanket. So, not only is he not going out to go after the girl, but he must sit home and wait for her to come to him. In another famous college country song by João Neto & Frederico, these two brothers from Goiás voice a narrator who is similarly disempowered. The singer offers a litany of woes that echoes those of the protagonist in “My Humble Residence”: “I have no money / I’m not famous / I’ve got no car / I got a ride here.” This narrator, like Teló’s, also emphasizes his failure to achieve middle-class prosperity when he confesses: “My credit card / Has been blocked / Because I blew through / My limit.”22 Once again, far from 34

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the confident narrator of samba, this character is celebrating what he lacks to a female interlocutor. In all of these kinds of apparently up-tempo songs, the male is vulnerable. Despite the fact that the cross-gendered contact for which the narrators call seems more casual than the cross-gendered contact of the sertanejo of the nineties, even the references to casual sex seem rife with anxieties. These emerge in analysis of the way in which college country singers frequently enclose sexuality in childlike onomatopoeia. Puerile refrains are frequently used to describe sexualized dancing, which, in turn, stands in for the act itself. In this way, though college country frequently focuses on the act, it does so by avoiding the customary words to describe sex, as when the narrator of João Neto & Frederico’s hit assures his paramour: “I’m a simple man / But I can guarantee you / That I know how to do the lê lê lê.”23 Other hits in this mold include “I Want Tchu, I Want Tcha,” “Lê, lê, lê,” or “Let’s Do the Parapapa.” These nonsensical words seek to make the act more playful than rapacious—still profoundly different from other Brazilian genres, and still heavily mitigating the idea of an aggressively sexual male voice. This is someone who is more goofy and gregarious than sinister and seductive. Other apparent differences between the música sertaneja of the nineties and today’s sertaneja universitária also reveal underlying continuities. For instance, while it is true that a few noteworthy solo artists are selling a tremendous number of records within the genre, one way of seeing their performance is as drawing out the length of the solo vocals that the romantic duplas of the nineties began; for example, Zezé di Camargo sang increasingly long verses while his brother listened, waiting to break in for the harmony of the chorus.24 His brother was unquestionably present, but he spent more time waiting. It is also important to note that the vast majority of sertaneja universitária is still practiced by duplas, many of them brothers.25 The presence of solo singers does, therefore, represent something of a change in the genre, but not such a radical one as some imagine. And despite the new presence of these more upbeat and college-themed songs, the old topics still dominate. In 2009, of the ten best-selling albums of the year, a staggering three were by brother dupla Victor & Leo (in that year, Victor was the highest-grossing songwriter in Brazil, having penned tunes for a number of other pop acts).26 The vast majority of this dupla’s corpus is right at home among the sad sertanejo songs of the nineties. Their hit “Butterflies,” for example, is narrated by a bereft man for whom “time has already stopped” and “there is no joy,” and who mourns a past in which love “was all so pretty” before “it flew away to infinity / Just like / butterflies in a garden.”27 And indeed, even the solo artists whose repertoires contain up-tempo songs also sing about painful love and loss a great deal; Teló’s studio record contains numerous sad songs. So the dirgelike quality persists, and songs about casual encounters amount to 35

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no more than about a third of even the most upbeat corpus; many sertaneja universitária songs are just as sad as sertanejo songs ever were. Yet another consistency with previous instantiations of sertanejo is that sertaneja universitária has actually returned to some of the instrumentation of the música sertaneja of the sixties and seventies. Ten-string violas appear quite frequently, and the electric guitars of the nineties have been replaced across the board by acoustic ones. As we will see in a moment, accordions are back. And finally, in terms of dress and locations of universitária production, these remain overwhelmingly rural, with plaid shirts as a minimal uniform; winter rodeos continue to be primary venues for both solo artists and duplas. Other transformations of the sertaneja universitária of today do not require listening back through previous attributes of sertanejo history, but instead require that we know something about other genres of Brazilian music. For example, the accordion, once so crucial for música sertaneja but which was pushed out in the eighties because kids associated it with their parents’ oldfashioned LPs, has decisively reentered the genre. However, it has done so in a somewhat different modality. Instead of using the accordion the way it was by sertanejo players in the seventies and eighties, to double melody and harmony parts, the sertanejo universitário genre has borrowed a great deal from the forró universitário explosion of the nineties, in which a rural northeastern, accordion-driven dance genre became tremendously popular among college students in the Central-South. The up-tempo danceability of forró made it a hit at clubs and parties, and various universitário duplas make extensive use of the accordion, together with forró’s danceable tempos. Thus, current sertanejo universitário players use the accordion for rhythmic accompaniment, as in forró. In sum, in early 2000, a newly popular wave of música sertaneja maintains much continuity with its own past, while some added transformations have drawn on other Brazilian musical sources. One of the clearest places to see continuity with previous attributes of sertanejo is in the interpretive practices that accompany it in scholarship, the press, and even practitioners of what gets portrayed as a previous wave of Brazilian rurality. Once again, one of the most constant attributes of rural genres of Brazilian music seems to be critical flaps over a lack of continuity between older rural forms and current, popular ones. It is true that these reprimands characterize other genres, too, many of which also chastise current performers for losing track of what came before. However, the reprimands are particularly harsh for rural genres, because they lie at the core of the embarrassment listeners are supposed to feel as they experience the traditional approach to gender. The fuss over the ostensibly radical changes in sertaneja universitária is almost identical to the fuss over the ostensible changes in the música sertaneja of the nineties. This consistency of treatment goes a long way toward projecting generic continuity; one of the things that defines 36

“College Country” and the Ruralization of Urban Brazil

sertanejo, it would seem, is a profound anxiety over reconciling its massive popularity with its ostensibly insular past. A further continuity is the way in which fragile masculinity forms the core of performance practice.

Hey! If I Should Grab Ya Despite all this continuity, we now arrive (for the third and final time in this chapter) at what seems like a definitive rupture—the surprising capacity of a rural Brazilian song to obtain global success, as seen in the case of Michel Teló’s performance of “Hey! If I Should Grab Ya.” There is some precedent for Brazilian country’s attempt to reach outside national borders. Back in the nineties several duplas tried to record Spanish-language records. However, none of them achieved much success in other parts of Latin America. So what explains the ability of Teló’s performance to travel so far? To begin with, we can point to certain attributes of sertaneja universitária as facilitating this song’s movement. The sped-up tempo and danceability make an inability to understand Portuguese less of a problem in places where it is not spoken; slow sertanejo songs of the past were vastly language dependent. Teló’s appearance by himself is also more familiar in disparate lands, whereas the presence of two people sharing the stage as a duo, while not inherently alienating, requires some explanation. Part of the wonder of the song lies in the path it took to reach its global success. An archaeology of its movement from its baptismal moment to its megamillion downloads underscores a somewhat staggering degree of inter-generic shifting. Typically, extremely popular Brazilian songs are wrapped in the garb of one of two places: Rio de Janeiro or the Northeast, most often the state of Bahia. Even if the song may not be said to have “originated” in these places, it certainly sounds like it did when it becomes popular. Across these spaces for Brazilian sonic success, it is customarily Brazil’s African rhythms which are on show—if only at the shallowest level. But in Teló’s case this, surprisingly, reverses; the song’s earliest version was in a loosely Afro-Brazilian genre, but it ends up in a rural mode. Here are the details. Though the song was recently mired in an intellectual property lawsuit that temporarily resulted in the freezing of the assets it generated, it now seems clear that the original author of the song’s chorus was in fact a group of seven partying teenage girls who composed it in 2006 on a trip to Disney World, in Florida. The group later travelled to a beach party in Bahia, in Porto Seguro, a town famous for its long beach parties with line dancing and drinking. Part of the reason for their success was the fact that the town hired party producers and “animators,” whose job it was to sing, and get people to dance and drink. When these girls visited Bahia in 2009, they apparently 37

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taught their refrain to one such animator, Sharon Acioly, who took the chorus— “wow, wow, you are just killing me like that”—and set it to music. She arranged the song for two of her sexiest male dancers who performed in a northeastern rhythm called axé. When they paraded in front of her, she fanned herself (a crucial aspect of the current song’s line dance) and said, “Wow—you are just killing me,” in a clearly sexualized way. Eventually, a friend and producer, Antônio Dyggs, suggested transforming the song, making it more melodic, and changing some of its words to fit the northeastern dance genre forró. They co-wrote the next version, finally copyrighting it together, and this form became a local hit. Teló then heard it and wanted to record it, changing some of the references from forró to Central-Southern rural forms.28 Very soon after its release in Teló’s form, the song became a #1 hit in Brazil. The lyrics share much with the sertaneja universitária we have seen above. Once again, this song’s male narrator mixes doubt with confidence. “Saturday at the balada [a Central-Southern dance where música sertaneja is typically played] . . . the prettiest girl passed by me,” he sings, “So I screwed up my courage, and said / Wow, wow / You are just killing me.” He needs to get his courage up to make this somewhat bold statement. But even when he does, he does not seem entirely sure of himself. The chorus is an invitation—a request—much more than it is a statement of certitude: “Hey, if I could grab ya / Hey, hey, if I could grab ya / Delicious, delicious.”29 “If ” I could grab ya is quite different from “someday, baby, you’ll be mine.” Teló’s boyish appearance and delivery assist this interpretation, making the song more sweet than lecherous—as it became in some other artists’ deliveries in other parts of the world. There is even the possibility that the grabbing need not happen at all. The recycling of the chorus (these three stanzas are repeated three times in the radio version of the song) makes it seem almost as though Teló is just appreciating her beauty and what it does to him. The song never arrives at the actual conquest. He fans himself to cool off at both “wow, wow” and “delicious, delicious.” Despite the pelvic thrusting of the line dance, in Teló’s version, at least, we can consider the possibility that “getting” the girl is not absolutely necessary; here is a boy on the dance floor experiencing a fantasy, and wondering what he might need to do to make it a reality. He is a touch unsure. Indeed, in the official video and on stage, Teló actually avoids the thrusting; clearly the audience and viewers understand that it is supposed to be there, but it is merely suggested rather than indulged. It was after the performance of the song’s dance by a Brazilian soccer player to celebrate a goal that it really seems to have rocketed to global recognition. Everyone watching that match wanted to know what Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior (usually just known as Neymar) was doing, and YouTube quickly provided the answers: a short piece of the line dance for “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” (yes, he included the thrusting, though somewhat toned down). He had a kind of 38

“College Country” and the Ruralization of Urban Brazil

sheepish smile on his face, but nonetheless appeared to be enjoying himself. Subsequently, the song made the Billboard Top Latin charts, making Teló the first Brazilian to do so since Sérgio Mendes in the 1960s. By mid-July 2012, Teló’s “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” had reached #1 in thirty-five countries, sold 16 million copies, and had been watched almost 370 million times on YouTube (as of this writing, that number is over 532 million).30 Given global propensities to consume Brazil in terms of its northeastern dance musics, this song seemed to have traveled backwards. A ruralized song getting transformed into one of the more Africanized Brazilian forms seemed possible. But a northeastern afro-genre getting turned into a rural one and then making a break for it? How strange. So how did this happen? Some commenters noted that the song was incredibly “catchy”—a term intended to index the ease with which its chorus could be repeated.31 Another way of expressing the catchiness of a song is by pointing to the presence within it of “hooks,” like fish hooks, with which the song can then capture and hold onto its prey: listeners. And this metaphor seems quite accurate, in this case. The song’s hooks revolve not only around its having captured what seemed like an incredibly common moment on the dance floor—a man seeing a pretty girl and wanting to have sex with her, while, at the same time, wondering if he is up to the task. Even more importantly, a crucial accordion figure that precedes the chorus—which, incidentally, was completely lacking in the northeastern version—sets this combined confidence and tentativeness up so beautifully, and makes them echo through listeners’ heads.32 But another set of reasons involve the expansion of the country cosmopolitan itself. Country has begun to turn up in unexpected places, most frequently fueled by the notion that people can be simultaneously proud and embarrassed to wear their emotions on their sleeve. Dolly Parton and Don Williams are popular in Africa; country music is all the rage in Canada and Australia; the Caribbean even has its popular country singers. Frequently, revitalizations of localized forms of rurally keyed music in turn suggest borrowings from the “countries” of other places—once upon a time the United States, but increasingly Brazil. This was propelled by the rise of Brazil’s rurally identifying middle class, which was, recall, simultaneously proud of its country and a little bit embarrassed by it.33 Perhaps Brazil was entering an era in which it had the capacity to present itself more as it chose—whether that choice was a trifle shameful or not. Within this context, a song with a hickishly played accordion (that most old-fashioned of instruments) presents a slightly vulnerable masculinity that mingles confidence with self-doubt. To give further support to the dynamics of this somewhat flawed masculinity, in Brazil at least, we may consider an episode of the Brazilian talk show hosted by famous Brazilian singer and actress Hebe Camargo—simply called Hebe. When Neymar was the guest of honor, the show’s producers brought out Teló to dance and sing with the soccer great, 39

Alexander S. Dent

and also so that Teló could thank Neymar for his role in popularizing the song. A short question-and-answer period followed Teló and Neymar’s slightly awkward routine, in which the show’s all-female panel attempted to ramp up the tone of explicit sexuality that seemed to be in the air after playing the song. Here, they pressed both Teló and Neymar to render the song’s chorus more explicit by way of extra-musical commentary. “So, what if you were to actually grab one of them?” Hebe asked Teló while pointing to the meticulously attired women of the studio audience. Teló just looked embarrassed, glanced down, and repeated, in monotone, a piece of the song’s chorus: “you’re killing me.” The audience laughed awkwardly, but Teló was not to be pinned on this point; his capacity to continue to perform the song successfully relied upon his ability to appear at least somewhat flawed in his desires, and he seemed to know it at some level. Moments later, trying to reintroduce sexual tension once again, one of the panelists pushed Neymar to name a woman about whom he might sing the chorus. “Who is a woman who absolutely kills you?” she asked, provocatively. “My mom,” Neymar replied, looking down and away, much as Teló had just done. The questioner just looked disappointed.

Conclusion That this song is still Brazilian “country” despite its upbeat tempo is perhaps nowhere more strongly reinforced than through the reaction on the part of the Brazilian press to the popularity abroad of Teló’s song—because recall that rural cosmopolitanism is a highly localized attempt to orient outwards, but one that is simultaneously proud and rueful. In terms of profound continuities with past música sertaneja, then, the Brazilian reception of Teló’s popularity cleaved to the cultural intimacy reserved for rural forms. Brazilians who had enjoyed the song when it was a local hit became momentarily nervous upon learning of its international reach.34 This was textbook cultural intimacy. Following Michael Herzfeld, a practice may be described as culturally intimate when it is tremendously important for national subjectivity, but is also incredibly embarrassing: for Greeks, Herzfeld talks about sheep stealing and plate breaking.35 And as I have been arguing here, música sertaneja, in its fashioning of a country cosmopolitan, is in part defined by such intimacy. But here, that intimacy revolves around the presentation of a flawed masculinity, in particular. With respect to the particular case of Teló, then, one scholarly article wondered how “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” might have been compared to a Carmen Miranda song from years ago. While Miranda, with her fruit-basket hat, had also been terribly embarrassing for Brazilians, at least she had had some shallow roots in the performance of samba before she headed to Hollywood. But Europeans 40

“College Country” and the Ruralization of Urban Brazil

and North Americans thinking of Brazil while singing country music? How frightening.36 A genre of videos on YouTube scorned the song and its popularity, suggesting that it was simply formulaic. Several clips offered advice on “how to compose a sertaneja universitária song,” deriding the simple chords, the words about lost love, and the aforementioned onomatopoeia meant to index sex. You, too, can compose a piece of garbage like this and hope that others will adore it; one of these how-to clips chalked up close to 350,000 hits. All of this underscores the quite paradoxical mixture of dynamics that makes up this cosmopolitanism I have been discussing. Because, while it is, of course, true that many forms of public culture produce anxieties about change, some of them positively require those anxieties. In this context, country is an embarrassing affinity, across international space, in which masculinity is both strong and weak at the same time. Notes 1. Anna Carolina Paiva Diniz and Thiago Soares, “‘Ai Se Eu Te Pego’ É o Novo ‘Mamãe Eu Quero’: Carmen Miranda e Michel Teló Como ‘Cicerones’ da Identidade Brasileira” (“Hey! If I Should Grab Ya” is the New “Mama, I Want . . .”: Carmen Miranda and Michel Telô as the New Brazilian Tour Guides). 15th Communication Studies Conference of the Northeast of Brazil (2012). 2. I spend considerable time positioning my notion of the cosmopolitan elsewhere. Alexander S. Dent, River of Tears: Country Music, Memory, and Modernity in Brazil (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009). 3. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1991); Raymond Williams, The Country and the City (New York: Oxford University Press, 1973). 4. Paulo de Oliveira Freire, Eu Nasci Naquela Serra: A História de Angelino de Oliveira, Raul Torres e Serrinha (I Was Born Off in Those Hills: The History of Angelino de Oliveira, Raul Torres, and Serrinha) (São Paulo: Paulicéia, 1996). 5. Suzel Ana Reily, “‘Música Sertaneja’ and Migrant Identity: The Stylistic Development of a Brazilian Genre,” Popular Music 11.3 (1992). 6. José de Souza Martins, “Música Sertaneja: A Dissimulacão na Linguagem dos Humilhados,” Capitalismo e Tradicionalismo: Estudos Sobre as Contradicões da Sociedade Agrária no Brasil (“Música Sertaneja: Alienation in the Language of the Humble,” Capitalism and Traditionalism: Studies of the Contradictions of Agrarian Society in Brazil) (São Paulo: Livraria Pioneira Editora, 1975). 7. Okky de Souza, “Oura na Garganta: A Riqueza do Interior Impulsiona as Duplas Sertanejas na Conquista do Público das Grandes Cidades” (Golden Throats: The Wealth of the Interior Propels Sertaneja Duplas in the Conquest of the Big Cities), veja, May 19th, 1999. 8. Claudia Izique, “O Novo Rural Brasileiro” (The New Brazilian Rural), Pesquisa FAPESP, April 2000; Larry Rohter, “Barretos Journal: Brazil’s Wild and Woolly Side: Meet the Caubóis,” New York Times, August 23, 2001.

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Alexander S. Dent 9. Sérgio Martins, “Beibe, Ai Lóvi Iú: Banidas da Mpb por Duas Décadas, Versões Voltam a Fazer Sucesso” (Baby, I Love You: Banished from Brazilian Popular Music Decades Ago, Cover Songs Are Back), veja, June 7, 1999. 10. Marcos Antônio Siscar, “A Voz da Música Sertaneja” (The “Voice” in Música Sertaneja), Remate de Males (Packing the Suitcases) 10 (1990). 11. Sérgio Martins, “As Raves do Jeca Tatu” (Armadillo Joe’s Raves), veja, February 6, 2008; José Ramos Tinhorão, Pequena História da Música Brasileira: Da Modinha ao Tropicalismo, 5th ed. (A Short History of Brazilian Music: From the Modinha to Tropicalism) (São Paulo: Art Editora, 1986); José Ramos Tinhorão, Os Sons que Vêm da Rua (The Sounds that Come from the Street), 2nd ed. (São Paulo: Editora 34, 2005). 12. Roberto Corrêa, A Arte de Pontear Viola (The Art of Picking the Viola) (Brasília: Projeto Três Américas—Associação Cultural, 2000); Roberto Nunes Corrêa, Viola Caipira, Série Folclore Brasileiro 1 (Brasília: Viola Corrêa Produções Artísticas, 1989). 13. Zé Mulato & Cassiano, “Navegante das Gerais” (Navigator of the Generations), Velas Produções Artísticas/Universal Music, 1999. 14. Chitãozinho & Xororó, “Somos Apaixionados” (We Are in Love) Copacabana, São Paulo, 1982. 15. Zezé di Camargo & Luciano, Ao Vivo (Live), SonyBMG, 2001. 16. Ibid. 17. Ibid. 18. Zezé di Camargo & Luciano, “É O Amor” (It’s Love), Sony, 1991. 19. Lígia Nogueira, “‘O Sertanejo Universitário Repetiu de Ano” (Sertanejo Universitário Parrots the Work of Others), G1 (2008). 20. Fernando & Sorocaba, Acústico na Ópera de Arame (Acoustic at the Arame Opera), Som Livre, São Paulo, 2012. 21. Michel Teló, Na Balada (At the Country Dance), Som Livre, São Paulo, 2011. 22. João Neto & Frederico, Ao Vivo em Palmas (Live in Palmas), Som Livre, São Paulo, 2011. 23. Ibid. 24. These solo performers include Luan Santana, Gustavo Lima, and Michel Teló. 25. Some of the most famous practitioners include João Bosco & Vinicius, Victor & Leo, Fernando & Sorcaba, João Lucas & Marcelo, and João Neto & Frederico. 26. Bruna Bittencourt, “Mais Pop, Sertanejo Domina o Mercado” (More Like Pop Music, Sertanejo Dominates the Market), Folha de São Paulo, April 5, 2010. 27. Victor & Leo, Ao Vivo Em Cores (Live in Cores) SonyBMG, São Paulo, 2009. 28. Brenda Coelho, “Compositora de ‘Ai Se eu Te Pego’ Conta Trajetória do Hit Antes da Fama” (The Author of “Hey! If I Should Grab Ya” Tells the Story of the Hit from Before It Was Famous), G1 (2012), accessed September 10, 2012, http://g1.globo.com/bahia/noticia/2012/01/ compositora-de-ai-se-eu-te-pego-conta-trajetoria-do-hit-antes-da-fama.html, accessed September 10, 2012. 29. Teló, Na Balada. 30. Coelho, “Compositora de ‘Ai Se eu Te Pego’ Conta Trajetória do Hit Antes da Fama.” 31. Bryan McCann, “Catching ‘If I Catch You,’” Pop Matters (2012), www.popmatters.com/ pm/feature/158666-catching-if-i-catch-you/, accessed September 6, 2012.

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“College Country” and the Ruralization of Urban Brazil 32. A detailed ethnomusicological investigation of the term “catchy” must await another venue. 33. Bryan McCann, “Popular Culture in Emergent Brazil,” Emergent Brazil, ed. Jeffrey Needell (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 2015). 34. One critic, record collector, and musician, Régis Tadeu, attempted to reinvigorate his career by appearing on any national TV show that invited him purely because of his reputation as one who agreed to pan the song. 35. Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation State (London: Routledge, 1996). 36. Diniz and Soares, “‘Ai Se Eu Te Pego’ É o Novo ‘Mamãe Eu Quero.’”

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Act Naturally: Charley Pride, Autobiography, and the “Accidental Career” MAtthew D. Sutton

With a career spanning over fifty years, Charley Pride is the most successful performer of color in country music history, selling over seventy million albums. In his 1994 autobiography Pride, the singer and his co-author Jim Henderson discursively recount Pride’s entry into stardom as a concatenation of unforeseen events and challenges, speaking carefully on crossing the unwritten color line and its social repercussions. As such, his memoirs reinforce the gentle stoicism and independence expressed in his #1 country hit “I’m Just Me” (1971). Throughout his book, Pride demarcates his private ambitions and desires from the career envisioned by a team of Nashville professionals overseeing a limited integration of country music airwaves and playlists. Pride reinforces his genial Everyman persona while underscoring the hard work necessary to maintain integrity in the face of Nashville’s paternalism. By framing his career as the progress of a “natural man”—a unified self-conception of fortitude, guilelessness, and rectitude—Pride individuates himself from existing masculine stereotypes in country music and eludes simplistic race-based categorization. Just as the lyrics of “I’m Just Me” good-naturedly refused to take sides in the culture wars of the day (“I was just born to be exactly what you see / Today and every day, I’m just me”), Pride sits comfortably in the subgenre of the fanfriendly mid-1990s country-music autobiography.1 In plain, artless prose, Pride and Henderson sketch a familiar story: the young artist overcomes a hardscrabble rural upbringing through instinctive musical talent and a “big break,” experiences a lengthy period of success, followed by an unexpected career downturn, as Nashville turns its back on the veteran artist, leaving him or her to seek consolation in a faithful (and book-purchasing) fan base. Yet at times Pride seems predicated on a vaguely absurdist premise that would fit well into a television situation-comedy or a fish-out-of-water movie: what if a black man could not shake off his knack for singing country music and ingratiating himself with white fans? What if the music industry coerced him to shape that knack into a lucrative career and what if fans insisted that he become one of the top country stars of his era? Pride navigates such a curious career trajectory. 44

Charley Pride, Autobiography, and the “Accidental Career”

In Pride’s recollection of his initial exposure to country music—listening to the Grand Ole Opry radio program as one of eleven children on a sharecropping farm in Sledge, Mississippi—he credits his innate ability to mimic the voices of white country stars like Hank Williams and Roy Acuff as his impetus to sing in that style. “It was natural that my taste in music would lean in their direction,” Pride writes. “I sang along with those guys, memorized their songs, and country music just grew inside me.”2 Significantly, Pride describes this formative encounter with country music as organic, something that “just grew” out of an innocent apprehension of disembodied sound. As a child, Pride declares wonderment at the aural segregation of music, not understanding why the music he has absorbed is deemed “white folks’ music.” “I sang what I liked,” Pride recalls, “in the only voice I had.”3 With money earned from picking cotton, Pride buys a guitar, which he plays largely for diversion. By representing his musical preference and expression as outgrowths of his rural southern background, Pride underscores the simplicity of his intentions and disclaims any hint of racial transgression. Furthermore, his description of his musical knack refutes the notion that he spurned his own inherited traditions and aimed to sing like a white man. Instead, Pride’s portrayal of his musical origins identifies country radio and records as facets of the rural southern experience rewarding to black and white folks alike. Though veteran country stars like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, especially in the latter part of their careers, have traded upon their status as complicated men and walking contradictions, Pride has unwaveringly downplayed personal and professional conflict, especially concerning race.4 Thus, Pride resists the provocative question anchoring W. E. B. Du Bois’s The Souls of Black Folk: “How does it feel to be a problem?” Pride told a fan magazine in 1974 that, when performing for the country audience, “I felt the only thing I needed to do was to get in front of them, because I’ve always believed that anyone that had something in common with someone else has no problems, on any level. That not only included music, but in everything. . . . The only time I mention it is when I talk to reporters and try to explain. Because saying that I am Charley Pride, genetic man, American, projecting that belief without even saying it takes care of itself.”5 Pride refers to “genetic” here in the sense of sharing a common humanity, thus underscoring his aspirations to be accepted as an equal among his peers and a figure with an unspoken kinship (“something in common”) to the mostly white country audience. Significantly, Pride conflates manhood with American citizenship and represents both as absolute, inalienable categories. In doing so, Pride rejects typecasting and embraces consensus. While Du Bois’s conception of double consciousness would seem applicable here in its characterization of African Americans “always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt 45

Matthew D. Sutton

and pity,” Pride espouses a relatively untroubled, unified self-conception.6 Foundational to that conception is his prerogative as a “genetic man” in America to reach across racial and social lines as an individual to speak (or simply intuit) a common language and uncover shared ground, rooted in the nationalistic traditions and discourses that country music holds in esteem. As such, the term “natural” takes on another connotation, as Pride becomes “naturalized” into the larger country-music community through a commonality of beliefs, practices, and behaviors. While country performers have often been divided into two camps in academic studies—“hard-core” and “soft-shell,” largely depending on their appeal to the wider pop marketplace—Pride stands as an exception to that dialectic, for reasons only tangentially connected to race.7 In keeping with his self-identification as a “genetic man,” Pride carries traits common to both camps. Like his hard-core brethren, Pride can claim a childhood marked by longing and deprivation, a connection to the land (originating from years of sharecropping in the Mississippi Delta), and an informal stage manner suited to a workingclass audience. While country singers of the 1960s and 1970s became more amenable to adapting pop, rock, and soul songs, Pride covered only “pure” country songs from the catalogs of Hank Williams (“Kaw-Liga”) and Buck Owens (“Act Naturally”), as well as introducing a steady stream of new hits from Music Row. Yet his Everyman image invites comparisons to more pop-oriented country entertainers, through his conversational, melodious voice, mellow demeanor, and casual dress. That persona is reinforced by a litany of songs that spurn the masculinist pose of the “rambler,” in its place celebrating marital devotion and fidelity, such as “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” “Burgers and Fries,” and “Amazing Love.” As Pamela Fox has demonstrated, the previous generation of “honkytonk heroes,” including Williams and Ernest Tubb, embodied alternatives to staid, middle-class masculinity, while Pride found favor with an increasingly suburban, affluent audience through songs that reveled in nostalgia and domestic peace.8 Yet Pride has also convincingly delivered songs of working-class labor and struggle, including “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town,” “Cotton Fields,” and “Louisiana Man.”9 Bridging the hard-core/soft-shell divide, songs of heartbreak like “Crystal Chandeliers” and “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger” wed lyrics of abjection, familiar from the honky-tonk tradition, to sophisticated pop-influenced arrangements. Able to work both sides of the hard-core/soft-shell shell line, Pride has a reputation for authenticity traceable in part to his knack for vocalizing with few inflections of jazz, blues, or any other style outside of mainstream country’s realm. Remarkably consistent in his approach, considering country music’s various divergences into pop crossover, “outlaw” aesthetics, neo-traditionalism, and alternative country, Pride found his niche by embodying a style with associations 46

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in line with the music’s ad hoc notion of generic purity. As such, Pride assumes the historically shaped, adaptive behaviors identified by Pierre Bourdieu as habitus, where subjective interpretations of history become internalized as “natural” when reflected in thought and practice.10 Just as country music is not a “pure” music but rather an amalgam of stylistic approaches developed over time from cultures often in conflict, Pride’s standing as a “natural” man is a construction, pieced together in large part from elements outside of Pride’s control, such as other songwriters’ lyrics, industry publicity, and fans’ projected notions of what country music signifies. Bolstering the industry-generated notion that, in its emotional directness, sincerity, and appeal to mass tastes, country music is “America’s music,” Pride’s neighborly persona and avowedly instinctive skill for singing is developed into a social strategy. In its congruence with a larger cultural narrative of integrity, progress, and interracial understanding, Pride’s intentional gestures toward consensus become interpreted as constitutive of country music’s essential nature. Considering the impact Pride has made in American music, it seems astonishing that he and his co-author represent the genesis of his career (though not his musical skill) largely within the realm of accident and chance. “Luck” and “accident” often intersect and are generally employed as synonymous terms, but in autobiography, where agency and self-determination are common underlying themes, accidents assume a slightly different connotation, referring to events that are wholly unanticipated and, therefore, unplanned. While luck, especially when represented as a big break, often follows from being in the right place at the right time, accidents arise from sheer circumstance, completely unforeseen. In most books by entertainers, subjects in collaboration with co-authors claim that who they are at the time of their writing is essentially the same person they were before fame, with stardom an external phenomenon.11 Therefore, a star’s irrefutable transformation in stature and notoriety over time must be ascribed to an external cause, and in many instances that cause is represented as sheer accident. Most intriguingly, though, African American musicians crossing the unwritten color line regularly represent their breakthroughs as the beginning of an essentially accidental career in order to explain or even excuse success in the shadow of a system as pervasive as Jim Crow. Of course, when unplanned events strike a chord or crystallize experience, they cease to be accidents at all, instead becoming larger-than-life events incorporated into an orderly narrative. When male musicians elevate accidental beginnings while recounting their careers they typically employ the trope for different ends than do women. While women invoke accident to demonstrate a lack of overt careerism, men who prize chance do so largely to present themselves as an approachable Everyman, a “natural” man unaffected by the trappings and demands of fame. For men, happenstance plays a role primarily 47

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when narrating the start of a career and a crucial moment of performance: in one common story, aspiring performers from Jimmie Rodgers to Elvis Presley and George Jones to Ray Charles salvage faltering early recording sessions (and their careers) at the last minute by breaking out into more individualistic, less mannered performances that unexpectedly win popular approval. These “accidental” airings of their true voices come to define their mature styles. What we conveniently call “accident” in music, then, is often a synchronism of events, a combination of, in Peter Guralnick’s words, “accident, necessity, invention, and the illumination of genius.”12 In an autobiographical worldview that prizes individualism and rejects predetermined outcomes, no situation is inescapable; as distant a prospect as it may be, instant good fortune is always held out as a possibility. Called to confront unimaginable odds, musicians’ creativity and instincts collaborate with the open-ended semi-narrative of fate to create something spontaneous and unanticipated. Backstories where the subject becomes almost secondary to his or her own success and is swept into something akin to an “accidental career” have been a constant throughout the history of musicians and singers in the United States, especially in cases when a performer breaks through barriers of race, class, or gender. In some instances, complete (and sometimes hostile) strangers personify fortune. For example, in the stock narrative he shared with interviewers early in his career, Nat “King” Cole claimed only to have switched from being an instrumentalist to a singer when he was pressured by an overzealous and intoxicated white man to vocalize during a performance.13 As his popularity with white audiences grew and his style became synonymous with “crossover,” Cole subtracted the element of conflict from this origin myth.14 Transformed from a jazz piano player to one of mainstream America’s most popular vocalists, Cole amended the tale to recharacterize it as a simple matter of show business: “To break the monotony, I would sing a few songs here and there between the playing. I noticed thereafter people started requesting more singing and it was just one of those things.”15 Tellingly, Cole deletes the obnoxious white patron (if he ever existed) from his amended story, in large part to bolster his amiable public image. From Cole’s vantage point as a mainstream star, the patron’s challenge (and, perhaps, implicit threat) becomes “just one of those things,” out of his control, along the way to fame. In this anecdote, Cole employs accident to address his unlikely mainstream success yet retrospectively finesse any perceived transgression of race and class lines and disavow any bitterness against an unjust system. Similar well-wrought narratives of falling into country-music stardom are as old as the music itself. Jimmie Rodgers regaled fans with the tale of how tuberculosis waylaid him from his desired vocation as a train brakeman and unexpectedly led him toward a musical career.16 Gene Autry delineated how 48

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kind words from Will Rogers during a chance meeting set him on a path to greatness, though this origin myth took shape only after Rogers’s passing.17 Even when accidents set the wheels into motion, white male country performers generally have little trouble trumpeting their achievements and accepting fame and adulation as their due. Their female counterparts, on the other hand, most often credit “happy accidents” and/or the intercession of a spouse, another male family member, or a manager with bringing their talent out into the open and introducing them into the public sphere. In Coal Miner’s Daughter, for example, Loretta Lynn recounts the process of having her raw talent, developed within her circumscribed domestic space, brought to the public by her husband and a succession of country-music professionals, who aggressively mold her appearance and behavior in accordance with industry standards.18 While her talent is unquestionably her own, Lynn’s early career is represented as an unforeseen series of events set into motion by others. This perceived purity of intention has long been the foundation of the relationship between country stars and their fans, where, as Barbara Ching explains, “acting naturally” is sufficient evidence of authenticity.19 In autobiographies like Lynn’s, external efforts on a female subject’s behalf are described in precise detail to represent the desired passage from domestic space to public arena while deflecting any evidence of unbecoming opportunism.20 Historically, country-music performers of color have also invoked the accidental career trope when relating how they crossed over and began singing in a style interpreted as white. Singer Johnny Rodriguez, born in Texas of Mexican heritage, rose to fame in the 1970s in part upon a greatly embellished backstory in which he was overheard singing and playing guitar in his jail cell by a sympathetic Texas Ranger, who took it upon himself to alert a talent scout.21 In Rodriguez’s narrative, the element of accident (the policeman’s unintentional listening) is the pivot of the story, setting into motion a series of fortuitous events beyond the singer’s control. Not coincidentally, the act of happenstance also underscores Rodriguez’s return to a more legitimate social standing; “discovered” under the aegis of the law, Rodriguez’s good character and claim to citizenship are affirmed. Pride’s predecessor as the most visible African American performer in country music employed similar, often convoluted, narratives of strange fortune to explain his unlikely prominence in a white-dominated field. As an original cast member of the Grand Ole Opry, harmonica player DeFord Bailey appeared on the Opry’s radio show for sixteen years, beginning in 1925, and toured extensively through the South supporting the likes of Bill Monroe, Roy Acuff, and the Delmore Brothers. As his biographers David C. Morton and Charles K. Wolfe outline, Bailey complemented his own favorable publicity with varying stories about his big break, all of which put good fortune and the intercession of others 49

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in the foreground. Depending on the version he chose to tell, Bailey accidentally broke into country music either by being overheard playing harmonica by the secretary of one of the Grand Ole Opry’s sponsors, being forced against his will to compete against white entertainers in a talent contest and winning second prize, or being taken along involuntarily by a white band needing a harmonica player for an imminent radio session.22 In every version, Bailey expressed modesty about his own musical skills to the point of abjection, along with an unwillingness to disturb the status quo. Only at the insistence of white people with a certain influence, Bailey insisted, did he move forward in his musical career. These narratives of unintentional fame recur up to the present day. Despite his historical distinction of being the first African American to enjoy a sustained recording and touring career in country music, Charley Pride represents his rise with astounding diffidence in his autobiography. Before he commits to a professional career as a singer, music holds relatively minor importance in his self-conception. As a young man, Pride sings as a hobby—to entertain fellow soldiers during his stint in the army and patrons in honky-tonks and cowboy bars—but pursues baseball as a career.23 Playing professionally in the last days of the Negro Leagues, followed by several seasons of minor-league and semipro ball, Pride looks to the newly integrated major leagues as a means to leave the Mississippi Delta behind and provide for himself and his young family. Moving to Montana to join a team, Pride takes on a day job as a zinc smelter at a mining company. He limits his singing to renditions of the National Anthem at his own baseball games and occasional guest slots at honky-tonks, for fun rather than pay. Though Pride admits that being the lone African American man in country bars invited close scrutiny, historically, black entertainers in white drinking establishments and performance spaces are not that unusual. As Patrick Huber notes, African American musicians were fixtures at otherwise all-white picnics in pre–World War II Piedmont mill towns, the novelty of their presence and music likely adding to a spirit of transgressive play as workers temporarily slipped the bonds of hard labor.24 Nationwide, as the honkytonk emerged as an alternative to feminized domestic space, Barry Shank explains, clubs became a “site where values were inverted, where the culturally repressed returned, and where the tensions and conflicts of a changing social world were fought over.”25 Pride depicts the male-dominated world of the honky-tonk as a proving ground, both for his music and his unassuming stage presence. Approaching an audience that was “noisy, boisterous, blue collar, all white, and country to the core,” Pride assimilates to the boozy, carnivalesque atmosphere, essaying Hank Williams numbers with remarkable fidelity.26 By directly acknowledging his white audience’s curiosity (and perhaps generating a cultural “return of the repressed” by symbolizing country’s debt to black musicians), Pride depicts the crossing of the color line not as a confrontation 50

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or an upsetting of cultural norms but rather a “natural” act performed personto-person with little fanfare or ceremony. When asked years later how he was able to become a favorite among the Silent Majority, Pride’s stock answer was simply, “I just gotta talk to ’em.”27 In addition to this amiability, Pride’s singing career benefitted from the advice of professionals and several unforeseen changes of plan. After hearing Pride while passing through Montana, singers Red Foley and Red Sovine suggest that he leave the saloons behind to pursue a full-time music career in Nashville. Facing a crisis of confidence and anxious about his worth as his family’s provider, Pride makes one final effort to break into major-league baseball, attending a tryout for the fledgling New York Mets. After being rebuffed, Pride impulsively takes the next bus to Nashville, where he walks into the offices of the Music Row publisher suggested by Foley and Sovine. Pride passes an audition with no difficulty but remains casual about a career in music. As delegated music-industry foremen conspire to establish a usable image to capitalize on his innate talent, Pride remains self-possessed and distant, emotionally and spatially removed at his blue-collar job in Montana, until he is convinced that he can provide for his family as a singer. Recalling his reluctant entry into his new field, Pride writes, “Having a record or two on the streets, I imagined, could add a nice supplement to my smelter salary.”28 Pride commutes between Montana and Nashville initially, not quitting his day job until years later when he finally hears his own songs on the radio while working for the mining company.29 From its unintentional beginnings, Pride’s career takes a turn into serendipity, as his sound and image serve the evolving needs of an industry looking for a traditional-sounding black country singer to test the viability of the concept in the marketplace. “Hillbilly” music and the blues had shared a common repertoire on record since the 1920s (when live country music performances still commonly employed blackface caricatures), but following the advent of rock and roll in the mid-1950s the integration of musical genres intensified. During a brief moment when existing genre distinctions broke down, a popular song could reach a top spot on the pop, country, and rhythm-and-blues charts. Though radio formatting and popular tastes soon made these categories more rigid, competing country music executives actively sought to produce a prominent African American star by the mid-1960s, a long overdue acknowledgment of listeners’ diverse tastes and the cross-racial interchange at the heart of the music. However belated or minor this integrationist impulse was in light of the larger effort toward civil rights, the search for a black singer of country music neatly inverted Sam Phillips’s quest a decade before for the elusive “white man who could sing like a Negro” that resulted in Elvis Presley’s discovery. (Significantly, with their complementary styles, Presley and Pride were RCA’s best-selling artists throughout the 1960s and 1970s.) By the end of the 1960s, country was 51

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an almost $100 million-a-year industry, boosted by a self-consciously respectable (good-) old-boys network of studios, publishing houses, and venues skilled in marketing country’s music and message to an increasingly urban, cosmopolitan, but also conservative-leaning and predominantly white audience.30 As Pride confirms, manager Jack Johnson, producer Jack Clement, and musician/ RCA Records executive Chet Atkins spent two years laying the groundwork for Pride’s introduction to the industry by circulating demo tapes (which met with label approval) and, less openly, publicity photographs (which met with label trepidation), with Pride having little input on these insiders’ machinations.31 Initially known only by his first, traditional-sounding singles, label promotion introduced the singer to listeners as “Country Charley Pride.”32 “Considering the racial climate of the times,” Pride and his co-author write, “it was natural, I suppose, for RCA to proceed with caution.”33 By accepting the label’s deliberately slow steps to integration as something “natural” (where others in a similar situation might charge the label with a lack of courage), Pride retrospectively frames RCA’s cautious marketing steps as behavior symptomatic of Nashville’s habitus and as realistic choices in line with his own beliefs. Pride’s version of his Nashville breakthrough—where he plays an incidental role in the planning and marketing of his music—is intended to be read as “natural,” socially and aesthetically, a clear break from the pervasive alienation and “unease” of “hard” country acts perceived to have a lack of refinement and an inability to move easily across class lines.34 In a 1969 interview with Country Song Roundup, Pride left the honky-tonk world behind as he described his studio sessions in efficient, workmanlike terms: Well, Jack Clement, my producer, usually picks most of my songs or I should say has been pickin’ most of them up to this point. You see, I live in Montana and I don’t get into Nashville too often, other than when I’ve got to record and usually he’ll have publishing companies bring material around and he decides whether it’s my style or the type of song which would be most fitting to my voice then sends it to me. That’s the way we’ve been doing it in the past. . . . I have no plans to change anything. Just to sing as best I can and cut and record the same way I’ve been recording.35

By his own account, Pride approaches Nashville without an agenda beyond his own personal success; his voice and style are characterized as natural gifts, whose use has been leased to knowledgeable men of the professional creative class. Unlike female performers (including Pride’s groundbreaking African American female counterpart Linda Martell) whose “accidental” careers were in fact rigidly controlled by self-styled Svengalis, Pride enters into a mutual “gentleman’s agreement” with his management and producers: Nashville may package and publicize his talent any way they choose, so long as they do not 52

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tamper with his inherent skill. Cannily, Pride invokes his positionality as a nineto-five man to establish his authenticity, at a time when the country audience was fiercely protective of the music’s working-class identity.36 Whether picking cotton, laboring in a factory, or making records, Pride works dutifully and forthrightly, neither a subservient “hand” blindly following orders nor a selfsacrificing John Henry figure.37 In an act of class solidarity with the mainstream of country music fans, Pride constructs an image of himself as an independent working man who contracts his seemingly inborn skills out to others for good pay. Pride’s deep, unaffected singing voice is an extension of the stoicism hard labor often generates; on record and in performance, Pride never literally or symbolically “sings the blues,” instead neatly compartmentalizing his vocal approach from his personal feelings. Pride sings in what he characterizes as an unaffected style, neither white nor black in its essence. As Pride describes the 1960s country music scene he helped integrate, radio airwaves, sales charts, and the hearts and minds of country fans are open to all in a meritocracy where sincerity and humility hold currency. In a story that became part of country music lore long before his autobiography, Pride recalls how a rehearsed joke delivered during his first tour ingratiated him among potentially hostile audiences. Before a crowd of 10,000 white country fans at a package show in Detroit, Pride addresses the stunned crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen, I realize this is a little unique . . . me coming out here on a country music show wearing this permanent tan . . . I only have three singles out and I am going to do those and some Hank Williams and I hope you like it.”38 Just as it did in the honky-tonks of Montana, Pride’s arresting modesty garners applause, and the singer retains the one-liner as part of his stage patter long after he becomes familiar to country audiences. The “permanent tan” line resonates on two frequencies. Those amenable to Pride’s entry into the nearly all-white country music field can appreciate the joke’s acknowledgment of the superficiality of skin color. For those more skeptical, the self-deprecating quip puts Pride “in his place,” marked as the Other, classified separately from his peers. The improbability of the image and Pride’s plain-spokenness help assure dubious spectators that the singer is not attempting to undermine prevailing racial codes or “pass” undetected. Read literally, the joke assumes that white is culturally and phenotypically the norm, with Pride affirming, rather than defying, the terms of country music orthodoxy. Thus, imitating male country stars’ stylistic traits and having an identifiably “country” voice and a “permanent tan” can effectively naturalize him and make him “white,” with a difference. By following up the joke with a string of Hank Williams songs, Pride pays tribute to arguably the most mythologized figure in country music, and by extension the tradition of “Great Men” who came before. Such discourse articulates habitus, as Pride builds a consensus with the crowd through shared tastes, knowledge, and 53

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practices already established as normative. By framing his incursion into country music as a haphazard but ultimately natural occurrence, ratified through generic conformity, he defuses any potential hostility that would arise from a bolder move into white, male-dominated space. Though his career may have commenced accidentally, Pride becomes a quick study of prevailing regional mores and the “nature” of country music. In addition to agreeing to have his earliest publicity materials and debut single distributed without accompanying photographs, he initially avoids singing love songs so as not to inflame racist sentiment. At a time when country’s biggest stars doubled their chart presence by pairing off into duos—George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, and so on—Pride remained a solo act, without female accompaniment. Though singers like Merle Haggard and Kenny Rogers would broach the subject of relationships between white men and black women in their lyrics starting in the 1970s, Pride has avoided the theme of interracial romance in his body of work.39 Even innocuous country standards like “Green, Green Grass of Home” presented challenges to Pride, because of lyrics that rhapsodized over a woman with “hair of gold” and “lips like cherries.”40 Pride admits that his management and A&R team took race into account when choosing material, fearing that “a white guy might say, ‘Wait a minute, who’s he singing this to? He’s singing to our women.’”41 As a result, his producers chose “The Snakes Crawl at Night” as Pride’s debut single because, in the singer’s words, “there was a certain racial neutrality” in a revenge song about a man on trial for shooting his unfaithful wife.42 The acceptance of this set of values—essentially exchanging bigotry for misogyny—demonstrates that in the process of becoming “Country” Charley Pride, the singer occasionally assimilated into the darker aspects of Nashville’s habitus in order to sublimate even the slightest suggestion of virility and sexual power. Such acquiescence also extends to Pride’s silence on civil rights issues during the 1960s. Summarizing his philosophy of limited accommodation, Pride invokes an impersonal credo of rugged individualism rather than identification with other African Americans who came of age and broke barriers during the civil rights movement. “Protect yourself and what’s yours,” Pride writes, “but don’t fight the battle if there is nothing to be won.”43 Through such pronouncements, Pride rejects any notion of double consciousness. While Du Bois’s identification of the “two warring ideals in one dark body” still resonates, Pride insists his allegiances as a “genetic man” and an “American” are his defining characteristics.44 In Pride’s manner of self-presentation, portraying his success as the result of a constant struggle, further complicated by an identity crisis, would give backhanded credit to the hegemonic power of racial codes in Nashville and the South in shaping his career. By contrast, a narrative where good fortune and 54

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interpersonal understanding take active roles underscores the sense that events leading to Pride’s fulfillment, even ones perceived as accidental, have followed a preordained, “natural” order. That same sense of equilibrium was illustrated in a 1967 article for Ebony magazine, “They Call Him Country Charley.” While the anonymous author seemed dubious about the prospect of an African American man breaking into country, remarking on Pride’s “nasal nuances” and “drawl,” overall the article and its accompanying photographs reinforced Pride’s claims to being a “genetic man” and a natural talent. To Ebony’s class-conscious readership, Pride is portrayed as a “man on the make,” no matter how unintentionally his professionalization began. Staged photographs depict “Country” Charley Pride riding a horse at a Montana ranch, spending quality time with his wife and children, performing and signing autographs and, most significantly, posing in modish clothes with his guitar outside the mining company where he once worked.45 The Ebony profile showcases Pride’s upwardly mobile work history to “explain” him to their readership, underscoring that through good fortune Pride had encountered a rare opportunity to integrate a style of music effectively closed off to African Americans. Pride’s assignment, as the Ebony article implies, is to assume a traditional male role and call upon his well-developed skills as a laborer to “put his nose to the grindstone” and finish that job efficiently. In the final photograph of the Ebony profile, Pride’s children and wife Rozene stand in the doorway of their home, behind a white picket fence, seeing Pride off as he embarks on another tour. In this rendition of a familiar domestic tableau, Pride is normalized as another ambitious husband making his way in the maledominated public sphere, working tirelessly to provide for his family while his wife keeps the proverbial home fires burning. Neither a racial firebrand nor a true honky-tonk man, Pride finds compensatory masculine power through an image of paternal authority and stability. In keeping with this image, Pride blazes his trail guilelessly. According to the singer, younger country personalities like Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, and George Jones immediately welcome him into their fold, and older stars with more entrenched racial attitudes, such as Faron Young and Tex Ritter, come to respect Pride for his work ethic and his admiration for country music’s patriarchal tradition. Yet Pride admits facing resistance early in his career from a self-styled fraternity of male country singers, skeptical of his understanding of country music. As Ted Ownby points out, the exaggerated embodiment of belligerent white southern manhood W. J. Cash termed the “helluvafella” reached even greater proportions in the musical community.46 In 1966 Pride meets Faron Young, a figure as renowned in Nashville for his unreconstructed good-old-boy behavior as his string of hits. As Pride recalls their initial encounter, Young cautiously compliments Pride on his success, then unexpectedly breaks into song. 55

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Pride joins in, leading Young to exclaim, “Goddamn, here I am singing with a jig and I don’t even mind it. Who’d have ever thought it?”47 Young’s confounded state underscores Pride’s inherent knack to “harmonize” within country’s stylistic traditions and echo what many partisans of the time unabashedly termed the “white man’s blues.” When Pride refuses to rise to Young’s “jig” insult, and returns a good-natured put-down of his own, their relationship is sealed. The two tour together, with Young, though still unreconstructed, appointing himself intermediary between Pride and country DJs and audiences, many of whom were then unfamiliar with Pride’s ethnicity.48 Through humility, quick wit, and an understanding of the nuances of combative working-class male bonding, Pride ably negotiates around the prejudices of Young and other gatekeepers of country music authenticity. These prejudices occasionally take a turn into sadistic homosocial play. In an episode from the mid-1960s recounted in both performers’ autobiographies, Pride and George Jones follow up an appearance in Waco, Texas, with a drinking contest at a local DJ’s home, at Jones’s insistence. Unable to match Jones drink for drink, Pride passes out. (In Pride’s recollection, he and Jones sleep it off in the same bed; Jones is unforthcoming on the matter.) Awoken the next morning with a splitting hangover, Pride is led outside to his car, which Jones and the DJ have defaced with graffiti reading “KKK.”49 While Pride understands immediately that Jones and the DJ are the culprits, the message inscribed on Pride’s car brings to the fore the racial terrorism the Ku Klux Klan waged against African American men, especially those deemed to threaten the livelihoods of white men and the sanctity of white women. Additionally, the timing of the act, at the height of the civil rights movement, underscores its intimations of cultural and physical emasculation. As Jones and his co-author explain, the prank was carried out not long after the federal government passed transformative civil rights legislation, making Pride’s reaction even more of a test of whether the implied threat of vigilantism would effect a change in his “natural” demeanor. Yet Pride neither complains nor retaliates. Much like Nat “King” Cole’s selfreported anecdote about his pop-singing origins, Pride recalls the inflammatory act as “just one of those things” native to his hard-drinking, hard-living white brethren. Such hazing rituals test the limits of Pride’s endurance and his willingness to be accepted by the Nashville fraternity. The story, in both renditions, demonstrates the interlocking masculine roles in country music, as Jones personifies what Barbara Ching terms the “lonesome loser” image in hard country who cries out for attention and commiseration while, as a “genetic man” sympathetic to all his “brothers,” Pride represents a more assured sense of self.50 Retold almost thirty years after the fact, the incident is framed by both men as a bit of lore from country music’s wild years; Pride makes no commentary about its wider social repercussions and Jones expresses no remorse or any belated 56

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recognition of Pride’s dignity. Pride’s soft-shell-leaning stoicism and tolerance complement (and shame) Jones’s unreflective hard-core hell-raising. Able to slough off the most egregious of insults, Pride proves his mettle to his helluvafella peers by “taking it like a man.” Racial slurs and elaborate attempts at humiliation aside, a self-respecting man like Pride had good reason to be skeptical of the music industry’s motives. His predecessor DeFord Bailey was patronized as a “mascot” for the Grand Ole Opry, while the Opry’s George D. Hay’s cutting characterization of Bailey as childlike and “lazy . . . like some members of his race” still lingered in Music City’s long memory.51 Internalizing this assessment in the prologue to his narrative, Pride refers to Bailey as “a fleeting novelty act,” perhaps to bolster his own singular status.52 Pride’s description, however, is as historically inaccurate as it is dismissive; Bailey enjoyed years of popularity among radio listeners, a significant number of whom were African American. As David C. Morton and Charles Wolfe’s research shows, Bailey was a pragmatic professional during his years at the Grand Ole Opry, and, like Pride, was extremely cognizant of how his actions and career ambitions were monitored by white musicians and music executives.53 Authorized to speak out in a way that Bailey was never afforded, Pride generally does not depict the performance of country music across the color line as contested ground in his autobiography, outside of a few tense moments early in his career, which he neutrally characterizes as “a series of tests.” His descriptions of racial obstacles are typically followed by rationalizations. For example, Pride contends that the majority of heckling he received on stage in the 1960s came from black audiences, who perceived his facility with white-coded music as emasculated Uncle Tomming.54 He downplays the significance of a bomb threat during one of his performances in Maine, stating that the nonspecific, anonymous threat could have been delivered at any venue for any reason.55 Ultimately, Pride represents his cultural breakthrough as a matter of personal ambition and individual dignity rather than evidence of a larger social equality. Instead of extrapolating the particulars of his success to larger issues of race relations, Pride weaves the narrative of his ascendancy into stardom into the broader fabric of country music history, illustrating the industry’s pursuit of widespread appeal and at least token inclusion. Similarly, in the canon of country music autobiography, white subject-authors’ elaborate praise of Charley Pride and their depiction of themselves as Pride’s primary champion to skeptical country fans have become something of a cliché. In their respective autobiographies, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Maxine Brown, Roni Stoneman, and Bill Anderson, among others, each take credit for Pride’s acceptance in the country music field.56 Few of these accounts harmonize with one another; fewer still are verified in Pride’s autobiography. What is consistent, 57

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though, is the country music community’s one-dimensional characterization of Pride. Time and again, Pride is praised in lavish yet oddly impersonal terms as a “friend” or a “buddy” and an all-around credit to country music.57 Such assessments bristle against Pride’s self-reliant “I’m Just Me” stance and recall what Benjamin DeMott has termed “friendship orthodoxy” in American race relations, an attenuated yet overwrought type of colorblindness that conveniently overlooks white racism and the historical record to foreground sentimentalized tableaux of interracial understanding.58 In such stories, white narrators blithely assume familiarity and unity with African Americans rather than confront race and class disparity. Within this scenario, their patronization compromises Pride’s subjectivity, portraying him more as an adjunct to country music’s universal appeal than an independent-minded, self-sufficient professional. Though writing his memoirs in a period when no major country label had an African American on its artist roster or among its executives, Pride expresses little dissatisfaction with his place in the country music pantheon. He dismisses the notion that he pursued music with the intent of breaking the color barrier in country music, declaring “I never wanted to be a role model or a spokesman for anybody.”59 Unlike the class of African Americans who transcended segregation as “race men,” Pride rejects any wider social responsibility.60 Pride explicitly limits his agency by telling readers he has no interest in changing his “pure country” singing style or further integrating the ranks of country musicians. While dozens of Nashville singers, musicians, producers, and executives are namechecked in Pride, notable African American counterparts such as Linda Martell, Stoney Edwards, O. B. McClinton, and Cleve Francis are conspicuous by their absence. Nor does Pride consider southern rhythm-and-blues singers like Al Green, Dobie Gray, or Bobby Womack who went back to their country roots in the wake of Pride’s trailblazing efforts. Pride’s silence on his colleagues and their own challenges tacitly supports the allegation that Nashville has worked on an unwritten racial-quota system.61 If Pride ever attempted to assume a leadership role, challenge Music Row hegemony, and “open the doors” for other performers of color, he does not mention it in his autobiography, nor does he present to the reader any scene where he tries to wrest control of his music, change his original untutored approach to singing, or even stand out more in the Nashville star system.62 Instead, he follows his original musical “knack,” which in its natural simplicity and quality inevitably results in a convergence with good fortune. After lamenting the commercial decline of his generational cohort due to a more corporate-minded industry and a crop of slicker, crossover-ready younger entertainers, Pride shifts his focus in his later chapters to nonmusical issues to keep his hard-won personal independence at the forefront.63 His move to a previously segregated Dallas suburb and even his purchase of the land his family once toiled on as sharecroppers are represented more as savvy real estate 58

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investments than as synecdoches of African Americans’ changing fortunes in the New South. Like his contemporaries Jimmy Dean and Bill Anderson, Pride uses his book to publicize his successful non-musical business ventures.64 And like a good businessman, Pride strenuously avoids offering opinions on matters political or religious. Personal problems are discussed fleetingly, without “excessive” emotion; while Pride reveals suffering episodes of manic depression, the specifics are contained to a nine-page chapter that ends with a clear resolution. Likewise, Pride describes ending drinking and smoking habits in single discrete paragraphs. If sections of Pride read somewhat formulaically on their surface, their subtext also needs to be considered. Loosened from the demands of Nashville, Pride may face some of the reduced circumstances of the veteran country star (less media attention, infrequent releases on small independent labels, and afternoon matinees in Branson theaters), but his desired status as a “genetic man” and unhyphenated American remains intact while his place in history is assured. Published shortly after Pride received a long-overdue invitation to join the Grand Ole Opry, his autobiography serves as a similar type of career marker, representing a lasting commitment to his original “gentlemen’s agreement” with an often confounding industry, as well as a restatement of his enduring resilience and sincerity. While the typical firsthand account of a musician’s career reads as a mockheroic tale of private ambitions leading to a series of triumphant performances, an autobiography like Pride’s recounts the rise to fame through two seemingly incompatible narrative conventions—the self-made man myth and the trope of the accidental career story—to maintain that instinctive musical (and social) skills are all that is needed to connect with country listeners and fellow performers.65 In the trope of the accidental career, musicians utilize the cultural capital inherent in an autobiography to deny intentionally chasing fame or having any overt designs on success. Adherence to this stance can result in unusual narrative contours. Though almost perverse in its diffidence, in light of his historical importance, Pride’s imperviousness on sensitive issues of race and his compartmentalization of his talent from his career have remained consistent. By representing his crossing of the country music color line as a series of “natural” occurrences set into motion by unplanned events harmonious with the habitus of Music City, Pride can disavow any dissatisfaction with the homogenizing, star-making machinery of Nashville and the industry’s history of marginalizing performers of color. Consequently, “I’m Just Me” takes on another level of significance: though aware of his exceptionalism, Charley Pride rejects both the responsibilities of a leader and the limitations of the token figure to assert the uniqueness of his experiences. While many similar autobiographies endeavor to convey wild life stories that, to borrow a phrase from Jerry Lee Lewis, “would 59

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make a damn good country song,” Pride’s singular account proves that a career negotiated around the limits of what is considered “natural” can contain just as many fascinating details. Notes 1. Glenn Martin, “I’m Just Me,” performed by Charley Pride, The Essential Charley Pride (compact disc, Sony/BMG B000F9TCIC, 2006). 2. Charley Pride with Jim Henderson, Pride: The Charley Pride Story (New York: Quill, 1994), 55. 3. Ibid., 56. By contrast, Ray Charles, a self-proclaimed “country boy,” credited his successful early-1960s foray into country and western to a longstanding love of the music and careful planning. Ray Charles and David Ritz, Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story (New York: Dial, 1978), 222. 4. See Leigh H. Edwards, Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009), 1–8. 5. “Charley Pride: An Exclusive CSR Interview,” Country Song Roundup (September 1974): 14–16. 6. W. E. B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, ed. David W. Blight and Robert Gooding-Williams (Boston: Bedford, 1997), 38. 7. Richard A. Peterson, Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 150–55. 8. Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 84–85. 9. Pride’s hits “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town” and “Mountain of Love” were written by Harold Dorman, who grew up just across the color line in Pride’s hometown of Sledge, Mississippi. Their paths would not cross until they met professionally in Nashville. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 47–48. 10. Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 78. 11. Paul John Eakin, Living Autobiographically: How We Create Identity in Narrative (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2008), 12–13. 12. Peter Guralnick, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke (Boston: Little, Brown, 2005), 94. 13. Will Friedwald, “Jazz Singing since the 1940s.” In The Oxford Companion to Jazz, ed. Bill Kirchner (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 476. 14. Cole’s crossover appeal was broadened further by the countrypolitan arrangements of his 1962 hits “Ramblin’ Rose” and “Dear Lonely Hearts.” 15. Gene Lees, You Can’t Steal a Gift: Dizzy, Clark, Milt, and Nat (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004), 226. 16. Nolan Porterfield, Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), 23–24. 17. Douglas B. Green, Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy (Nashville: Country Music Foundation Press/Vanderbilt University Press, 2002), 121.

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Charley Pride, Autobiography, and the “Accidental Career” 18. Loretta Lynn with George Vecsey, Coal Miner’s Daughter (Chicago: Regnery, 1976), 111–12. 19. Barbara Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 10. 20. Fox, Natural Acts, 126. 21. Bill C. Malone, Don’t Get above Your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 140. 22. David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe, DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Country Music (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991), 39–46. 23. Pride’s trajectory closely matches that of Roy Acuff, who also pursued baseball as a career. Ironically, “settling” for country music stardom may have bolstered Pride’s authenticity among older fans since it had precedent in the backstory of the “King of Country Music.” 24. Patrick Huber, Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 36. 25. Barry Shank, Dissonant Identities: The Rock ’n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994), 35. 26. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 111. 27. “Charlie [sic] Pride Says, ‘I just gotta talk to ’em,’” Country Song Roundup (December 1967): 42. 28. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 136. 29. Ibid., 145–46. 30. Paul Hemphill, The Nashville Sound: Bright Lights and Country Music (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970), 29–30. 31. Johnson’s proposed tactics to garner attention for his client included undercutting his manhood. In one scuttled plan, Johnson considered dressing the sober-minded Pride in a rube costume and taking away his poetically apt family name, billing him instead as George Washington W. Jones III, a stereotypically “black” alias more suited to the minstrel stage. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 136; Ann Malone, “Charley Pride,” in Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez, ed. Bill C. Malone and Judith McCulloh (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975), 349. 32. RCA was not the only record label making such calculations. Black-owned Motown Records packaged many of its early-1960s albums and singles without photographs of their African American artists on the front cover so as to market their music to segregated parts of the country as “The Sound of Young America.” See Philip Brian Harper, Are We Not Men?: Masculine Anxiety and the Problem of African-American Identity (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 85. 33. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 12. 34. See Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best, 17–21. 35. “Charley Pride: A Conversation,” Country Song Roundup (August 1969): 10–11. 36. Diane Pecknold, The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 123. 37. If Pride rejected the John Henry image, other country stars, most notably Johnny Cash, revived the legend to assert their identification with working-class males. See Edwards, Johnny Cash, 78–80. 38. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 18.

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Matthew D. Sutton 39. Nick Tosches, Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock ’n’ Roll (1977; New York: Da Capo, 1996), 214–15; Don Cusic, “Politics and Country Music, 1964-1974,” in Country Music Annual 2002, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002), 168. 40. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 144. 41. Ibid. 42. Ibid. 43. Ibid., 49. 44. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk, 38. 45. “They Call Him Country Charley,” Ebony (March 1967): 61–66. 46. Ted Ownby, “Freedom, Manhood, and White Male Tradition in 1970s Southern Rock Music.” In Haunted Bodies: Gender and Southern Texts, ed. Anne Goodwyn Jones and Susan V. Donaldson (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997), 369–88; W. J. Cash, The Mind of the South (1941; New York: Vintage, 1991), 50. 47. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 162. 48. Diane Diekman, Live Fast, Love Hard: The Faron Young Story (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 113. 49. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 168–69; George Jones with Tom Carter, I Lived to Tell It All (New York: Dell, 1997), 162–63. 50. Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best, 126. 51. Morton with Wolfe, DeFord Bailey, 123. 52. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 12. 53. Morton with Wolfe, DeFord Bailey, 109–13. 54. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 155. 55. Ibid., 157–59. 56. Lynn with Vecsey, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 3; Johnny Cash, Man in Black (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1975), 100–105; Willie Nelson with Bud Shrake, Willie: An Autobiography (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 159–60; Maxine Brown, Looking Back to See: A Country Music Memoir (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2005), 205; Roni Stoneman, as told to Ellen Wright, Pressing On: The Roni Stoneman Story (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), 109; Bill Anderson, Whisperin’ Bill: An Autobiography (Atlanta: Longstreet Press, 1989), 199–200. 57. Lynn with Vecsey, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 3; Brenda Lee with Robert K. Oermann and Julie Clay, Little Miss Dynamite: The Life and Times of Brenda Lee (New York: Hyperion, 2002), 213; Wade W. Hall, Hell-Bent for Music: The Life of Pee Wee King (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1996), 115. 58. Benjamin DeMott, The Trouble with Friendship: Why Americans Can’t Think Straight about Race (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 27–29. 59. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 224. 60. See Hazel Carby, Race Men (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1998), 4. 61. Chris Willman, Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music (New York: New Press, 2005), 180. 62. Pride also neglects to mention Neal McCoy, of Irish and Filipino descent, who was Pride’s longtime opening act. Pride does take some credit in bringing white musicians to prominence, most notably Ronnie Milsap. Pride with Henderson, Pride, 246–47.

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Charley Pride, Autobiography, and the “Accidental Career” 63. Bruce Feiler, Dreaming Out Loud: Garth Brooks, Wynonna Judd, Wade Hayes, and the Changing Face of Nashville (New York: Spike, 1998), 248. 64. Pride’s self-portrayal as a savvy New South businessman is another point of distinction from his hard-country and Outlaw peers, whose autobiographies teem with woeful accounts of financial mismanagement, failed business schemes, and run-ins with the IRS. See Willie Nelson with Turk Pipkin, The Tao of Willie (New York: Gotham, 2006), 106–8; Waylon Jennings with Lenny Kaye, Waylon: An Autobiography (New York: Warner, 1998), 290–95; Merle Haggard with Tom Carter, My House of Memories: For the Record (New York: Harper Collins, 2002), 280–83. 65. For analysis of a more recent attempt to break through the country music color barrier by crossing redrawn musical genre and demographic boundaries, see Adam Gussow, “Playing Chicken with the Train: Cowboy Troy’s Hick-Hop and the Transracial Country West,” Southern Cultures 16:4 (Winter 2010): 41–70.

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Holding On to Country: Musical Moorings for Desired Masculinities in Aboriginal Australia ÅSe ottoSSon

Introduction It’s late afternoon on the second day of the studio recordings of a country and gospel album with Aboriginal musicians from the small community of Ikuntji in the Central Australian deserts.1 The men have journeyed to the recording studio of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA) in Alice Springs (pop. 27,000), the only town of any size in Central Australia. In the cramped control room, the two Aboriginal sound engineers, about fifteen Aboriginal friends and relatives to the recording musicians, and myself are watching as the five men put down the final twanging chords of a sweet country song sung in Luritja language. The Ikuntji men in the control room are clearly emotionally moved by the song, sighing and smiling as the last notes fade out. Most people would recognize the tune as a rustic country version of the Rod Stewart hit “Sailing,” written by Gavin Sutherland. When I later sit down with the musicians to document the copyright details for the album, they identify one of the band members as the writer of this tune. I clarify how we need to separate the music from the lyrics for the copyright report. They all nod and repeat that the identified man wrote the song. I look at the man and he confirms that the song is indeed his. I suggest gently that Rod Stewart and Sutherland may not agree. The Ikuntji songwriter nods with a broad, generous smile and says, “That’s alright, he can sing it, too.” I have worked with these men over the past few days and it is clear to me that they are not ignorant of Rod Stewart’s version preceding the one they sing. Like most Aboriginal desert musicians, they have listened to a great diversity of music since they were small boys and they are usually familiar with various song versions and artists. On a minute’s notice, most of the desert musicians I have come across can also pick up the guitar and play an impressive number of globally circulating country, rock, pop, and reggae tunes. As styles of music have been picked up and reworked over time by Aboriginal men in particular playing styles and sounds, an experienced ear can easily identify a piece of music 64

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as belonging to a certain Aboriginal area or community, or a certain Aboriginal person. In this highly differentiated soundscape and music scene, musicians are also more likely to refer to the Aboriginal person, area, or community where a particular music style or sound has been developed than to any non-indigenous artist. For the Ikuntji men, the adopted and adapted country tune may also be a version of “Sailing,” but it first and foremost conveys a shared sense of place, socio-musical history, and cultural identity that is firmly embedded in their everyday lives as adult Aboriginal men in their home community. After introducing the social life of country music making as an arena for connecting and mediating different ways of being men and Aboriginal, this essay will outline the changing intercultural and racialized dynamics in which particular country music styles have become a core expressive form in remote Australian Aboriginal settings. Looking at three musicians from different backgrounds, I proceed to explore ways in which certain styles of country music become a kind of social, cultural, and moral compass for male self-reflection, self-imagery, and self-realization for Aboriginal desert men as well as for their evaluation of the worth of other men.2

Intercultural Mediations Conceptualizing music and gender as socially generative practices and transformative processes through which people experience, express, and negotiate localized and broader forms of identification and values, this essay frames country music, gender, and indigeneity analytically in terms of intercultural mediation. A key constructivist insight underpinning this approach is that contemporary Aboriginal modes of being men emerge in intercultural processes involving various indigenous and non-indigenous models of manhood. That is, non-indigenous masculine models are understood as co-implicated in producing Aboriginal male experiences as people, ideas, practices, and values from various sources and sociocultural formations constantly interact and become embedded into expressive forms and everyday practice. From the first colonial encounters, Indigenous Australians have adopted and adapted a range of introduced forms of music into their everyday settings.3 These music traditions did not attract much scholarly attention before the 1970s. Since then, academic writing on popular Australian Indigenous music has mostly been concerned with racial and sociocultural difference and less with intercultural dynamics. Emerging as part of larger sociopolitical trends, these studies usually emphasize one of two forms of difference; on the one hand, introduced music is investigated for its “traditional” content and meanings; on the other hand, popular music is analyzed in terms of a modern activist stance 65

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of Aboriginal resistance. The traditionalist approach is usually applied in studies of more traditionally oriented Indigenous people in geographically remote and non-urban locations, while the resistance approach usually informs studies of urban musicians, or music from remote regions that to some extent has influenced the broader music industry.4 My approach instead resonates with contemporary international music studies that discuss how people interpret musical experiences through layers of prior engagements with a range of global and local musical and extra-musical ideas, imagery, values, practices, and aesthetic traditions.5 The way I use the concept of mediation, however, departs from its more common application in analyses of music as semiotic systems or “texts” through which meanings are produced, communicated, and enacted.6 My starting point is instead the social practices, interactions, and lived experiences of Indigenous musicians as they produce and perform music. Similar to Aaron Fox in his ethnography of country music in Texas, I approach mediation as a process that connects “the practical and concrete domains of everyday life (work, play, sociability, worship, aggression, sexuality, performance, sound, smell, taste, kinesics) with more abstract domains of memory, historical consciousness, senses of emplacement and displacement, ideologies of class, race, and gender, models of self- and personhood, poetics, theories of emotion, and structures of feeling.”7 Gender and masculinities become central for understanding country music practices in Aboriginal Central Australia. It is mainly men who write, play, perform, and record country music (and other styles of popular music), and these practices are in the main transmitted from older to younger Aboriginal men, who develop individual styles and skills together with other Aboriginal men. Most people who hang around at rehearsals and studio recordings are Aboriginal men and boys, and most sound engineers and music workers are men. This does not mean that women are absent or irrelevant in this musical realm. Aboriginal teenage girls may sing in family ensembles and adult local Aboriginal women occasionally sing at Aboriginal country music events. Female relatives may co-write songs and real or imagined women appear in lyrics. Women are of course also present as audiences and non-indigenous women may act as managers for musicians. However, with the exception of Christian gospel music, it is very rare to come across adult local Aboriginal women who regularly write and publicly perform non-ancestral forms of music, who have a core perception of themselves as musicians, and who are acknowledged as such by others. Bob Connell defines masculinity as inherently historical “configurations of practice within gender relations, a structure that includes large-scale institutions and economic relations as well as face-to-face relationships and sexuality.”8 That is, connections between actual men, being male, and masculinities, are 66

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reproduced through particular privileged sets of ideas, practices, and institutions in any given time and place.9 Such anti-essentialist arguments are developed further by Judith Butler, who proposes that gendered and racialized subjects are continuously created through, and are enabled by, the enaction (performance) of certain norms that take on a quality of inevitability through the recurring repetition over time of certain practices, ideas, and values concerning male and female, black and white, and other identities, practices, and bodies.10 Butler’s concept of the performative has been criticized for lacking historical, material, and sociological grounding. In some aspects, though, the idea of the formation of gender and race as reiterative practice resonates with my use of the concept of mediation. Both notions emphasize the ambiguous, multifaceted, and emergent processes inherent in identity formations. Both concepts suggest that it is through the day-to-day repetition or layering of certain norms and experiences in practice that already established meanings are both reasserted and inevitably transformed. The material situation, the dynamics of power relations, and the time and place are never identical. The intention of an action may misfire. And importantly, by adding layers of experiences, every action irreversibly changes the context for renewed action.11 The notion of the performative and the concept of intercultural mediation are thus ways of thinking about musical, indigenous, and male practice as emergent, ambivalent, and contingent, and not mere enactments of preexisting or “authentic” forms of identification. Yet, people cannot reinvent themselves in endless combinations. That is, “practice cannot escape structure, cannot float free from its circumstances . . . [i]t is always obliged to reckon with the constraints that are the precipitate of history.”12 Applied to the male homosocial character of the Central Australian Aboriginal music scene, it can be thought of as a strong version of the male-dominated structures and masculinist discourses of popular music cultures and industries elsewhere.13 Like other music scenes, contemporary Aboriginal desert music should also be understood as embedded in its particular intercultural history of local and broader discourses and norms that shape relations in Central Australia.

Intercultural Histories Central Australia is a vast, sparsely populated desert region in the south of the Northern Territory, where Aboriginal people make up about a quarter of the population.14 Like Indigenous people elsewhere in Australia, Aboriginal desert people have never belonged to one society or language group; they identify and organize themselves according to distinct localized orders affiliated with identifiable ancestral areas and languages. Twenty-five Aboriginal languages and 67

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dialects are still spoken across the desert region and Aboriginal people continue to organize aspects of their day-to-day lives and relations according to modified forms of local ancestral principles. Most of the musicians I have worked with from desert communities are ritually initiated men, and to what extent they continue to be active in ceremonial life varies from person to person. Numerous works on Central Australian Aboriginal societies describe how they historically have relied on an intensely homosocial division of men’s and women’s labor, knowledge, ancestral music practices, and everyday activities.15 Although modified by more than a century of engagements with non-indigenous society, many Aboriginal settings in Central Australia are still characterized by gender-related restrictions on everyday relations and interactions. The all-male sociality of the Central Australian popular music scene thus must also be partly understood in such evolving localized gendered norms. The first non-indigenous explorers arrived in Central Australia in 1860, almost a century after the British began to colonize the continent. The completion of an overland telegraph line through the interior in 1872 opened the region for non-indigenous settlement as the repeater stations and wells along the line became milestones for more exploring parties seeking fame and wealth, missionaries seeking to convert and protect the “natives,” pastoralists looking for cattle and sheep country, miners looking for gold, and traders with camels and bullock-wagons transporting supplies from the south. The diseases they brought had devastating effects for the Aboriginal population. Many were also killed in retaliatory chains of violence and resistance as water holes, ancestral sites, and hunting and gathering grounds were increasingly closed off by the newcomers. By the end of World War II most Aboriginal people in the region had been forced off their ancestral homelands or had left voluntarily for the food and protection provided by Christian missions and Aboriginal reserves.16 Others continued to work and live on cattle and sheep properties, or around Alice Springs and other non-indigenous settlements. There were few non-indigenous women among the early settlers and forced and more “contractual” or voluntary sexual relationships between non-indigenous men and Aboriginal women are an intrinsic part of the regional history.17 The increasing number of people of mixed descent concerned the newly created federal government. As part of its project to create a white Australia, one of the most advanced race policies in the country was implemented for the Northern Territory in the 1920s and 1930s.18 The so-called “breeding out the color” policy declared every “half-caste” a ward of the state and such children were removed from their Aboriginal families to be raised in institutions and trained for domestic and rural work.19 Based on a number of racial categories, a range of restrictions were also imposed on Aboriginal men’s and women’s movements and activities well into the 1960s. 68

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Energized by international civil rights activism, a nationwide Australian Aboriginal rights movement gathered strength during the 1960s and Aboriginal land rights legislation was introduced in the Northern Territory in the late 1970s as part of a new federal policy era of Aboriginal self-determination.20 Almost half of the land in the central region has now been handed back to its traditional Aboriginal owners. These homelands are dotted with remote settlements that locals usually call “Aboriginal communities” or “bush communities.” The biggest bush community has a population of 800 to 1,000 people, but most have less than a couple hundred residents, including non-indigenous people who work in schools, shops, health clinics, mechanical workshops, and administration. Most bush communities began as Christian missions, government settlements, or as workers’ camps on rural properties, and Aboriginal people also settled near and in small towns. These different kinds of settings fostered their own forms of interpersonal interaction and hierarchies between and within Aboriginal and non-indigenous populations, based on certain understandings of gender, race, and other forms of identification and classification. Each setting also cultivated particular constellations of musical influences. Besides missionary church music and ancestral music, country and western music styles are the earliest, most widespread, and enduring of such music forms.

“Real” Male and Blackfella Desert Country Country music first arrived in Central Australia in the late 1920s when travelling non-indigenous showmen introduced American hillbilly and cowboy song music and Australian bush balladry. These styles of music were also a mainstay of touring country variety shows that became very popular in rural and remote Australia from the 1940s and continued into the 1980s.21 Many middle-aged and older Aboriginal musicians describe these touring musicians and shows as their first and most influential musical memories. They would watch the country guitarists’ fingers closely and then copy and practice the chords and playing styles on both real and imagined guitars. Some also entered the country shows’ talent quests, from which the organizers picked out individuals and invited them to play in the touring band for a period. This is how some of the now most wellknown Aboriginal musicians from Central Australia, such as Warren H. Williams and Sammy Butcher, began their careers. From the late 1940s, Aboriginal locals also identified with the music and male imagery of Hollywood western movies with their cattle working and singing cowboys and the instrumental, Mexican-Spanish style guitar music. Even more popular became the classic honky-tonk style country and country-rock that arrived on vinyl records, via radio, and with touring musicians in the 1950s and early 1960s. 69

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It is a combination of these earlier styles of country music that the desert musicians today refer to as “real country.” More or less every Aboriginal desert person can tell how they grew up with uncles strumming on beat-up acoustic guitars and singing old Buddy Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Tex Morton, Charley Pride, and Slim Dusty tunes, while the aunties knew their Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, and Peggy Lee songs. This music is so much taken for granted that many musicians do not mention it when I ask what kinds of non-indigenous music they heard when growing up. As these styles of country have been reworked over several generations into Aboriginal desert people’s own social worlds, languages, and memories, they simply do not think of “real” country primarily as a non-indigenous music form, but as a kind of traditional Aboriginal music, although seen in a separate register from that of the allimportant ancestral music traditions.22 I discuss in more detail elsewhere how the desert musicians describe “real” country by contrasting it with what they perceive it is not: “American” or “Nashville country.”23 The desert musicians often complain about mainstream Australian country music taking that “American” turn and they tend to perceive their own country music making as one of the last strongholds for “real” country. The meanings they attach to “real” versus “American” largely resonate with the opposing concepts of “hard-core” and “soft-shell” that are part of understanding and marketing styles of country music worldwide. Aboriginal country music events in Central Australia are mostly rather relaxed social occasions for people of all ages to come together, and the laid-back way musicians dress and relate to the audiences tends to blur the line between the stage and the rest of the venue. Hence, both “hard-core”and Aboriginal “real” country musical and performance styles, dress codes, and artistic imagery involve “looking, talking, and acting like one of the audience and not like a professional entertainer with a fine singing voice, fashionable clothes, and the professional stage manner of a soft-shell entertainer.”24 Desert musicians’ descriptions of how “real” country should communicate genuine feelings and lived experiences in ways that move the audiences emotionally and personally also coincide with the notions of homemade, traditional, authentic, sincere, honest, real, and from the heart that are associated with global “hard-core” country sentiments.25 However, while non-indigenous American and Australian country legends continue to be very popular, it is the Aboriginal “oldfella” country men that pioneered these styles of country in local Aboriginal settings that desert musicians tend to refer to when describing “real” country and the associated male sentiments that continue to influence later generations of desert musicians and men as they craft their sense of selves. The life and music of one “oldfella” country man and two musicians of more recent generations can illuminate the ways in which country music becomes a medium through which such indigenous and male selves emerge. 70

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Herbie Herbie Laughton, also called “the grandfather of Aboriginal country music in the Northern Territory,” told me how he first experienced country music when the legendary Tex Morton came and played at the Bungalow, the institution for half-caste children in Alice Springs in the early 1930s.26 Herbie was a skinny, fair-skinned, and hungry Aboriginal boy, and he was captivated. “I had never heard anything like it, I was gob-smacked!” he said, shaking his head at the impact the experience had on him back then. He yearned to be able to play guitar and mouth organ like that, and to sing about real life in a way that touched others the way it moved him. He began to sing Tex Morton songs and taught himself to play a toy mouth organ donated by a Melbourne church. He was freed from the neglect and abuse at the Bungalow in his teens and sent to work at a cattle property, but he soon ran away. He wanted to find his birth mother and he wanted to learn how to read and write. It would take him more than a decade to find his mother, but a German man at a miner’s camp taught him how to read and write from newspapers. When he got hold of a dictionary, he created his first song by picking words out of this book. As fair-skinned as a white man, Herbie could move around relatively freely, and he performed his own and others’ country songs in Aboriginal settings all over the Northern Territory while working building roads, on northern pearling ships, and as a horseman mustering cattle. The impact his performances had on Indigenous people was widespread and long lasting, as it was the first time many of them had seen an Aboriginal man playing and singing about their own experiences.27 Herbie returned to Alice Springs at the end of World War II and formed the first Aboriginal country band in the Northern Territory. Their sessions in Aboriginal camps and housing areas inspired many younger Aboriginal men to take up country music. In the 1950s he got a steady job with the public service building roads; he was married to a local Aboriginal woman who had also been taken away as a child, and they had six children. For the first time in his life, he felt it was getting better for him. However, with no experience of a family life, he told me he struggled and, according to him, failed as a husband and father: “My children were growing up as strangers to me . . . and the same thing happened with me and my missus, we were like strangers, too.” It ended with a divorce. He recalled: “All through this life, my music, throughout my songs I was trying to get people to understand what I was going through. I wasn’t trying to put in the bad things, the bad things were hurting me and I didn’t like to put that in songs to hurt other people’s feeling. I wanted to put a little bit in, just to show people that sadness I went through.”28 That sadness brought Herbie to an attempted suicide. As he recovered, he became a Christian, but he told me his country music was the main thing that “held me up straight.” 71

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Herbie’s life took a new turn in the late 1960s when Gus Williams, another important “oldfella” Aboriginal country musician, convinced him to come back to performing on stage. Gus had formed the first electric Aboriginal country band in the Northern Territory and organized the first Northern Territory Aboriginal Country Festival. It became an annual event that created a unique opportunity for scattered desert musicians and interstate Indigenous country artists to come together. Herbie and Gus formed a strong musical partnership and remained a main force in the Aboriginal country music scene in Central Australia until Gus passed away in 2010 and Herbie in 2012. When I first saw Herbie perform in 2001, he was a marvelous storyteller and song man on stage. He seamlessly wove together the nostalgic “good bits” in his old-style bush ballads with telling poignant stories about his and other Aboriginal people’s hard lives in more overtly racist times. In one of our conversations about life and music at his kitchen table, I asked what it was that made his country music Aboriginal. He replied with a long and detailed narrative about the ritual initiation of young Aboriginal men into manhood. They had to walk long desert tracks to learn all the plants, animals, and waterholes and how to hunt and gather food to survive, and they had to memorize the songs the elders sang about these places, plants, and animals. It could take years, “and at the end, every little thing the oldfellas mentioned is just like a key opening doors to you, things come flooding back, everything you did and learnt come to your mind just like that!” He compared this to when he is on stage and “sing any song straight out like that. Because I know them. That’s how our old people used to be. All these songs, what they sing, is the real story that tells you every detail, what’s happened in that country. And what we sing in country, say if I’m singing the ‘Old Ghan’ [his song about returning to Alice Springs on the train], Aboriginal people understand, they know I’m travelling back to home. They know it, their feeling for home.” He directly associated this with “real real country song,” like those sung by Hank Williams, or songs like “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” Real country men have lived through the things they sing about, “and that singing, it’s the same with Aboriginal people, going back thousands of years, Aboriginal people always did sing about life’s happening and what’s happened in the land. It’s where I belong,” Herbie concluded. He then continued to tell me with strong emotions about his feelings of alienation as a half-caste boy and about the backbreaking, mostly unpaid work as he became an adult Aboriginal man. All the while he quoted from the songs he wrote about his experiences. In “An Old Aboriginal Stockman” he laments how horsemanship has been replaced by cattle trucks; in “Your Careless Ways” he scolds younger Aboriginal men who waste their lives drinking and thus disrespecting their elders; in “Old Bungalow Days” he cherishes the few good times the children had together in the half-caste institution; and in many of his 72

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country ballads he describes a longing for, and belonging to, the desert ranges, plains, dry river beds, and his ancestors in this landscape.29 His songs document the layered male and Aboriginal experiences as he grew into troubled manhood in a particular historical period of changing government approaches and broader understandings of Indigenous people, of a regional rural economy in transformation, and of the increasing marginalization and new sets of social problems created by welfare dependency in Aboriginal settings. Just as his country songs emerged from these experiences, it was country music that “held” him and guided him: “It’s the only thing that kept me going, it was the only thing in my life I really had to hang on to. It was like my wife, it was my friend, it was everything to me. I had nothing else.”

Alec30 When I walk into the outdoor venue for the Aboriginal country music showcase happening later tonight, Alec is on stage for a sound check. A tall, dark-skinned Aboriginal man in his mid-thirties, he is singing one of his most well-loved songs, a swinging, catchy classic country tune in Merle Haggard style about longing for the place where he was born, and returning as a grown man through dusty cattle country. His distinct, deep, and somewhat raspy voice is almost drowned out by the bass guitar and drums. When he walks off the stage, he shakes his head in frustration over the Aboriginal sound engineer, who is also an experienced rock musician. I ask what’s wrong. Alec mumbles a string of crudities that roughly translates into a complaint about big-headed, immature, and useless rock musicians. He lifts his chin towards the sound engineer in a gesture that signals that the man is a lost case and concludes in a more composed manner: “He doesn’t know country.” To “know country” here is partly about understanding the particular ways in which country music is played and sounds, with the instrumentation staying in the background and mainly enhancing the melody, main vocals, and lyrical expressions. To foreground bass and drums in the sound mix, like the sound engineer does, instead directs the attention to the instrumentalists. This is how rock music is typically mixed and played, with a focus on individual instrumentalists who are expected to show off their skills in self-aggrandizing solo playing, independent of, or in a call-and-response pattern with, the main vocals and other instruments. Alec’s mumblings about rock musicians not knowing country also refer to some enduring norms and values in Aboriginal desert societies for how adult men ideally should behave. The non-assertive way of playing “real” country music with selfless attention to other band members largely resonates with 73

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norms for gaining respect as mature and dignified Aboriginal men, who ideally appear generous and unselfish and downplay individual assertiveness in public.31 In contrast, young men are not expected to have developed these skills and may even be admired for more self-centered, rebellious, and irresponsible behaviors. As at the sound check, the biological age between a rock musician and country musician may not differ that much, but such enduring generational Aboriginal ideals are still often employed by country musicians to make evaluative distinctions between masculine styles espoused by country and rock traditions. The different male sentiments associated with Aboriginal country and rock are also associated with the historical development of these two musical genres in the desert region. As described previously, over several generations country music styles have come to form an expressive core of Aboriginal sociality and can be said to constitute a sonic oldfella of regional Aboriginal musical styles. Country is also literally embodied in older Aboriginal musicians, many of whom are respected ritual elders and community leaders. As such, country has accumulated a kind of status that is related to the higher authority and respect that is attributed to older, ideally more responsible and wiser men in regional Aboriginal regimes. Rock, reggae, and other more recent socio-musical traditions have yet to earn such a male and social status. Middle-aged Aboriginal rock musicians may certainly be accorded a high degree of respect, too, but it is often earned on an individual basis, for a man’s selfless contribution to his community, for instance. Country musicians tend to command a certain degree of respect simply by being associated with the long-established social history of the country music genre. The multilayered Aboriginal and male meanings mediated in Alec’s comment about “not knowing country” are also conveyed in the ways Aboriginal country musicians tend to describe country music not just in terms of music, but as a feelingful way of relating to oneself, others, and life in general. Alec explains, “If you’re an Aboriginal man, you’ve got to know your country. You’ve got to know your people. It’s personal, in here.” He knocks his fist softly against his breast in a heartbeat rhythm. “It’s a type of belonging and responsibility to know what connects country, people, and language, and to live by these rules in an orderly and moral way. It’s like when I know a country song in my head. It needs to come out right and accurate and true. Guitar, words, and what I call the soul; that’s the thing that touches people, a mental picture, a true story that comes out of your living it.” This is how he ends an hourlong answer to my question as to what makes his country songs Aboriginal. He began with a long silence and then told me about his first years on a cattle station in his ancestral country, where his Aboriginal father and older male relatives worked.32 Alec’s biological father was the 74

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non-indigenous station manager, but he and his half-siblings were brought up speaking Aboriginal languages with their Aboriginal parents and relatives, and they sat with the older men singing and playing country songs by Slim Dusty, the young Jim Reeves, George Jones, and other early country artists. Like many Aboriginal station people in northern Australia, his extended family had to move off the station in the late 1960s. At this time, a large number of underpaid or unpaid Aboriginal workers lost their jobs when minimal wages for Indigenous rural workers were introduced and the rural industries also went through major rationalizations.33 It was also a period when the Australian welfare state expanded and Indigenous Australians gained access to government benefits similar to other citizens.34 Many station people ended up in small regional towns or in Christian missions and government settlements that were later transferred to Aboriginal governing councils. Alec went to school in town and learned to play the guitar as a teenager in drinking sessions with older, respected Aboriginal country musicians. He left for the big city for an Aboriginal music course and started drinking a great deal of alcohol every day, and taking other drugs, with other aspiring Indigenous musicians. “It was the thing to do. We thought that was part of being real musicians,” he says. It ended with a major physical collapse and mental breakdown. To get rid of the voices in his head, he decided to “give up alcohol, drugs, and women.” He also gave up playing rock and country music as he became heavily involved in the local Baptist church and struggled with what the Bible and his congregation said about music and immorality. He instead began to play gospel songs and was surprised by how controlled, smooth, and alive his playing sounded when not associated with drunkenness. It took him several years to return to writing and playing country music, and even longer before he performed his music in public. As he describes it, he first had to learn how to control his “impulses” by “taking the time properly to think and take responsibility for how I had lived and played music and related to others without much thought.” It was when “something had really shifted” he could perform his country songs, now from a “completely different place,” as a faithful husband, responsible father, and a qualified community development officer and mental health worker, working for Aboriginal groups in his ancestral country. His dance-friendly country songs, some with added instrumentation of traditional clap sticks and many with yearning harmonica lifting the vocal melody, are often about a man sincerely reassessing and changing his life by returning to the country where his “old people” lived, and committing to the woman who can truly see who he can be. Alec refers to these songs as “a kind of road map” for his ongoing self-reflective and practical efforts to become a selfless, humble family man devoted to his Aboriginal homeland. And only after reaching a certain stage in this personal and socio-cultural journey was he “ready” to write and 75

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perform his “true” country song about longing for his place of home and returning there on dusty cattle tracks, which he played at the sound check. Similar to senior men such as Herbie, the younger Alec thus weaves into a seamless whole his country music making as an anchor for the struggles involved, perhaps even required, to craft a meaningful sense of respected Aboriginal manhood.

Lyndon “You know, it’s not just music, country. It’s life, it’s how we live.” Lyndon, a short brown-skinned Aboriginal man, chuckles as if he realizes how serious that reply sounded to my question about what makes his country music Aboriginal. He takes a swig out of his beer can and adds with a lopsided grin: “Or at least how we should live it.” Lyndon is a talented country lead guitarist who really shines when playing his own foot-stomping bluegrass style of music with lots of fast-played piano, banjo, and fiddle driving his guitar-picking solos. His nickname “Skaggsy” refers to his musical and male role model Ricky Skaggs and his style of revived old bluegrass. We’re leaning against my car, waiting for the rest of the members of a local rock band to turn up for a rehearsal. The band members are often late and some may turn up drunk, or not at all, to both rehearsals and gigs. Lyndon has explained to me several times that he only plays with them because he owes it to the main instigator of the band, and in rehearsals he often acts with a rather disinterested or dismissive attitude to the eighties pub rock music they play. He may exaggerate his lead guitar playing in a caricature of a head-banging rock guitarist, for instance, and in this way make clear that he thinks rock music is simplistic and hard to take seriously for a country musician. He also keeps making half-joking comments that infer that only insecure men, maybe even feminine or gay men, have a need to prove themselves in the attention-seeking, masculine, “look at me” rock gestures. Some of Lyndon’s behavior is part of a male bantering with strong sexual overtones that characterizes many interactions among Aboriginal musicians and men. In other parts, it is a way to mark out Aboriginal country music making and male sentiments as morally elevated and distinct from other popular music traditions. Lyndon has performed solo and with country bands and he has played guitar, banjo, and added his vocals on a number of country musicians’ studio recordings for the past fifteen years. I have also seen him fill in on guitar, drums, and backing vocals in different styles of rock, pop, folk, and gospel music both on stage and in studio recordings. And while his statement about country music as a template for life is unusually grandiose for him, he has made disapproving comments to me previously about married men chasing sex. He has also talked 76

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dismissively about Aboriginal men who fail to provide moral leadership and material basics for their family because they spend a lot of time and money on drinking alcohol. He and other committed country musicians often associate such “immoral” and immature behaviors with men who mainly identify with rock music idioms and male imagery, which they contrast with a more sincere, family-oriented, and responsible male attitude in the country music scene. Among the Aboriginal country musicians I have followed or heard graphic stories about, I cannot detect a pattern of the kind of morally upstanding male behavior Lyndon and other country musicians perceive as characteristic for their “country music family.” Just as Aboriginal rock musicians I know are nondrinking, faithful, and responsible husbands and fathers, I know country musicians who drink heavily, ignore their paternal responsibilities, and do not take monogamy seriously. Lyndon himself is probably more experienced than the other band members in the kind of anti-domestic male activities that the band’s rock songs and associated masculinist gestures suggest. He honed his guitarplaying skills as a teenager playing rock and country songs requested by the drunks his Aboriginal mother brought home. He never met his non-indigenous father and had to fend for himself from an early age in welfare housing when his alcoholic mother was unable to feed and clothe him and his half-siblings. A Catholic service helped out at times and the nuns arranged for Lyndon to spend a few months every year in a remote Central Australian Aboriginal community when he was a small boy. After school, he trained as an electrician and has since worked in telecommunication, as a prison officer, for Aboriginal housing, and other town jobs. He started writing country songs in his late teens, took an Aboriginal music course in his mid-twenties, and has pursued his music alongside his day jobs. Now in his early forties, he has three sons of pre- and primary school age, and has raised them as a single father since their mother left a few years ago. Lyndon started drinking in his early twenties and continues to drink and smoke dope heavily in periods. Before he turned twenty, however, he was “saved” from living on the streets by a congregation of born-again believers. He “saw the light,” moved in to the church boarding house and was completely committed to their teachings and to playing country gospel music for a few years. When he left the church, he picked up his country music playing, and the drinking, and like Alec, Lyndon describes how country music practices and sentiments came to guide him as a young Aboriginal man who had begun to reflect on his “bad ways” on a profound level in the church, and who now needed to find a way to live “true” to his beliefs and aspirations. Today, in the circle of Aboriginal musicians in Central Australia, few would think of Lyndon as a man guided by strict religious principles. They see him drinking, smoking dope, and ramping up the crude bantering to new levels in 77

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all-male settings. I point this out when he states that Aboriginal country music is a way of life. He shrugs his shoulders. “I don’t live the right way now, but I will. I want to. I know I can. Not doing all this drinking and that,” he says and compares himself with Ricky Skaggs, who is also a dedicated Christian and describes his music as part of his Christian lifestyle. I ask if beer can’t be part of a Christian lifestyle. Lyndon quotes the Bible where it says you should do no evil. “Is drinking evil?” he asks rhetorically and holds out the beer can. “In my book it is,” he says and takes a drink, shaking his head over his own failings. He does want to make his little family more comfortable, he says, and get his own house and a car. He hopes the grant he has applied for to record his own first country music album will be the new start he needs to give up alcohol and better provide for his boys. “I’m thinking of putting a gospel song on the album, maybe record a whole gospel album later,” he says confidently and puts the empty beer can on the hood of the car. Lyndon did get the grant and recorded his album Make a Start.35 The tracks are a mix of bluegrass, classic country ballads, and honky-tonk tunes, with many lyrics about male yearnings to make things right with his woman, after failing to be the man she expects him to be, and that he knows he can be. Lyndon did not include a gospel song, but on the cover he thanks “my Heavenly Father the Lord Jesus who I know had a hand in all of this,” and dedicates the album to his sons. It did not become the commercial success he hoped for, though, and he continues to work, play country music, and raise his sons the best he can.

Holding On to Country From the brief sketches of three life trajectories, we can begin to conceptualize how Aboriginal men in Central Australia not only hold on to country music for its pleasing musical properties and socio-historical importance; country music practice and sentiments also anchor and mediate certain desired forms of being sincere, dignified, and respected Aboriginal men. The men’s stories illuminate some of the ways in which Aboriginal desert men also refer to country music as a kind of social, cultural, and moral compass for male self-reflection, selfimagery, and self-realization, as well as for the evaluation of the worth of other men. Just like Alec’s understanding of “true” country music making and meanings partly coincides with the self-reflective insights he deems necessary for becoming a “true” adult contemporary Aboriginal man with particular rights and obligations in relation to his Aboriginal kin and ancestral country, Herbie and other older musicians connect “real” country music expressions and practices with their ritual ancestral practices and their working life as horse and cattle men, both of which involve skills and practices required for dignified adult 78

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Aboriginal manhood in their generation. And just like country music making in a sense came to replace intimacy, parental presence, and family life for Herbie, Lyndon holds on to his country music making as a path to achieve his aspirations as a father and provider who brings up his children “the right way.” Framing this analytically in the terms of intercultural and gendered mediations outlined previously, these and other desert men have grown into manhood as they continually interact directly and indirectly with a range of Indigenous and non-indigenous, local and globally circulating, musical and masculine styles, values, and normative practices. The meanings of such layered experiences will be interpreted in ambivalent, partial, and co-productive ways as they are reorganized and reemerge in the men’s day-to-day musical and extra-musical actions in relation to themselves and others. In this ongoing historical and relational process, meaningful and distinctive forms of Aboriginal masculinity are continually reproduced as well as transformed. Some of the most enduring and valued manhood ideals that resonate through regional country music expressions in Central Australia also emerge to various degrees in the three men’s lives and music. Gendered values, beliefs, and male styles associated with Christian teachings appear strongly in how all of them perceive they are measuring up as “true,” morally mature Aboriginal men and country musicians. As described, Aboriginal desert people have lived and worked in Christian missions and disciplinary regimes from the early days of European settlement and both older and younger Aboriginal men identify strongly with the reverent and non-extrovert adult male demeanor of the Christian family man model. Like Lyndon, country musicians may also draw on Christian ideologies and rhetoric in order to differentiate a distinct and morally elevated attitude to music making and a related sense of responsible manhood, by condemning the “immoral” behaviors of musicians who identify more with rock music aesthetics and male styles. For Herbie and Alec, “real” expressions of manhood and of country musical sentiments are also intimately associated with the physicality of work with cattle and horses and of walking and travelling through the desert landscape, which simultaneously entails engaging with the presence of real and spiritual ancestors embodied in that land. Many Aboriginal men who were born, grew up, and worked on cattle stations with Aboriginal families, as well as non-indigenous managers and co-workers, have internalized and embodied the masculine ideals, activities, dress codes, manners, values, and beliefs associated with the rural industry. Such masculine sentiments were not least expressed and reinforced in country music played and sung around campfires at the end of the working days, at touring country shows, and in the American cowboy movies, which further empowered a masculine stock worker aesthetics and hardworking, tough sensibility that Aboriginal station workers could relate to. 79

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In these and more ways, country music continues to provide Aboriginal men with an interculturally mediated social practice and introspective matrix through which they can draw on, and enact, a range of respected and desired forms of masculinity as they craft their sense of male selves, in various phases of their lives, in different social circumstances, and as they navigate their way through the many challenges and opportunities that characterize day-to-day life in remote Aboriginal Australia. Notes 1. The indigenous population in Australia includes Aboriginal mainland peoples and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The capitalized “Indigenous” is now commonly used as a term that encompasses all these peoples. This is how I use the terms in this essay, while “indigenous” is used to denote indigenous people and matters also beyond Australia, and “non-indigenous” for people and matters of other heritage. 2. The essay draws on my work and research with Aboriginal people across Central Australia over the past thirteen years, including fifteen consecutive months of anthropological field research among Aboriginal desert musicians. 3. For a good description of a first musical encounter, see Inga Clendinnen, Dancing with Strangers (Melbourne: Text Publishing Company, 2003), 6–7. 4. For examples of the traditionalist approach, see Aaron Corn, Dreamtime Wisdom, Moderntime Vision: The Aboriginal Acculturation of Popular Music in Arnhem Land, Australia (Darwin: North Australia Research Unit, 1999); Peter Dunbar-Hall, “Site as Song—Song as Site: Constructions of Meaning in an Aboriginal Rock Song,” Perfect Beat: The Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture 3 (1997): 58–76; Fiona Magowan, “‘The Land is Our Märr (essence), it Stays Forever’: The Yothu Yindi Relationship in Australian Aboriginal Traditional and Popular Musics,” in Ethnicity, Identity, and Music: The Musical Construction of Place, ed. Martin Stokes (Oxford: Berg, 1994), 135–56; Karl Neuenfeldt, “Yothu Yindi and Ganma: The Cultural Transposition of Aboriginal Agenda through Metaphor and Music,” Journal of Australian Studies 17 (1993): 1–11. For examples of the resistance approach, see Marcus Breen, ed., Our Place, Our Music: Aboriginal Music: Australian Popular Music in Perspective (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1989); Philip Hayward, ed., Sound Alliances: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Politics, and Popular Music in the Pacific (London and New York: Cassell, 1998); Tony Mitchell, Popular Music and Local Identity: Rock, Pop, and Rap in Europe and Oceania (London: Leicester University Press, 1996); Karl Neuenfeldt, “To Sing a Song of Otherness: Anthros, Ethno-pop, and the Mediation of ‘Public Problems,’” Canadian Ethnic Studies 23 (1991): 92–118; Karl Neuenfeldt, “Songs of Survival: Ethno-pop Music as Ethnographic Indigenous Media,” Australian-Canadian Studies 14 (1996): 15–31. 5. See, for example, Georgina Born and David Hesmondhalgh, ed., Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000); Louise Meintjes, Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003); Ronald Radano and Philip V. Bohlman, ed., Music and the Racial Imagination (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); Peter

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Musical Moorings for Desired Masculinities in Aboriginal Australia Wade, Music, Race, and Nation: Musica Tropical in Colombia (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). 6. Examples of works in this field are Steven Feld, “Communication, Music, and Speech about Music,” in Music Grooves, ed. Charles Keil and Steven Feld (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 77–95; Steven Feld and Aaron Fox, “Music and Language,” Annual Review of Anthropology 23 (1994): 25–54; David W. Samuels, Putting a Song on Top of It: Expressions and Identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004); Thomas Turino, “Signs of Imagination, Identity, and Experience: A Peircian Semiotic Theory for Music,” Ethnomusicology 43 (1999): 221–55. 7. Aaron A. Fox, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 34. 8. Bob Connell, Masculinities (Cambridge and Oxford: Polity Press, 1995), 44. 9. For an outline of constructivist approaches and ethnographically based research, see Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne, “Introduction,” in Dislocating Masculinity: Comparative Ethnographies, ed. Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne (London: Routledge, 1994), 1–10. 10. Judith Butler, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (New York: Routledge, 1990); Judith Butler, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex” (New York: Routledge, 1993); Judith Butler, Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative (New York: Routledge, 1997). 11. Charles Goodwin and Alessandro Duranti, “Rethinking Context,” in Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon, ed. Alessandro Duranti and Charles Goodwin (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), 1–42. 12. Bob Connell, Gender and Power: Society, the Person, and Sexual Politics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987), 95. 13. For good descriptions and discussion of the male-dominated music industry, see Sara Cohen, Rock Culture in Liverpool: Popular Music in the Making (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991); Susan McClary, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1991); Robert Walser, Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1993); Sheila Whiteley and Stan Hawkins, eds., Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender (London: Routledge, 1997). 14. In Australia as a whole, 2.5 percent of the population identify as Aboriginal or/and Torres Strait Islanders. 15. See, for instance, Diane Bell, Daughters of the Dreaming (North Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2002); Ronald M. Berndt and Catherine H. Berndt, The World of the First Australians: Aboriginal Traditional Life: Past and Present (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1996); Annette Hamilton, “Dual Social Systems: Technology, Labour and Women’s Secret Rites in the Eastern Western Desert of Australia,” Oceania 51 (1980): 4–19; Annette Hamilton, “A Complex Strategical Situation: Gender and Power in Aboriginal Australia,” in Australian Women: Feminist Perspectives, ed. Norma Grieve and Patricia Grimshaw (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1981); Jon Willis, “Heteronormativity and the Deflection of Male Same-sex Attraction among the Pitjantjatjara People of Australia’s Western Desert,” Culture, Health & Sexuality 5 (2003): 137–51.

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Åse Ottosson 16. Tim Rowse, White Flour, White Power: From Rations to Citizenship in Central Australia (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998). 17. Ann McGrath, “‘Black Velvet’: Aboriginal Women and their Relations with White Men in the Northern Territory 1910-1940,” in So Much Hard Work: Women and Prostitution in Australian History, ed. Kay Daniels (Sydney: Fontana/Collins, 1984), 233–97. 18. John Kane, “Racialism and Democracy: The Legacy of White Australia,” in The Politics of Identity in Australia, ed. Geoffrey Stokes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 117–31; Alexander T. Yarwood, “The ‘White Australia’ Policy,” Historical Studies 10 (1962): 257–69. 19. Tony Austin, Never Trust a Government Man: Northern Territory Aboriginal Policy 1911-1939 (Darwin: Northern Territory University Press, 1997), 195; Ronald Wilson, Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families (Sydney: Sterling Press, 1997). 20. Nicolas Peterson and Marcia Langton, eds., Aborigines, Land and Land Rights (Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1983). 21. Graeme Smith, “Australian Country Music and the Hillbilly Yodel,” Popular Music 13 (1994); John Whiteoak, “The Frontiers: Early Cowboy Music in Australian Popular Music,” in Outback and Urban: Australian Country Music, vol. 1, ed. Philip Hayward (Gympie, Qld: Australian Institute of Country Music, 2003), 1–28. 22. The immense private and public importance of country music in Indigenous Australian settings and histories, not only in Central Australia, has also been recognized by a number of scholars and writers; see, for instance, Breen, Our Place, Our Music; Peter Dunbar-Hall and Chris Gibson, Deadly Sounds, Deadly Places: Contemporary Aboriginal Music in Australia (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2004); Catherine Ellis, “Country Music,” “Gospel Music,” and “Music,” in The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia, vol. 1, ed. David Horton (Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994); Clinton Walker, Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music (Annandale: Pluto Press, 2000). 23. Åse Ottosson, “The Intercultural Crafting of Real Aboriginal Country and Manhood in Central Australia,” Australian Journal of Anthropology 23 (2012): 179–96. 24. Bruce A. Beal and Richard A. Peterson, “Alternative Country: Origins, Music, Worldview, Fans, and Taste in Genre Formation,” Popular Music and Society 25 (2001): 236. 25. James E. Akenson, “Australia, the United States and Authenticity,” in Outback and Urban, ed. Hayward, 191. 26. Walker, Buried Country, 70. 27. For instance, Herbie inspired a young Bob Randall to start playing on homemade instruments and writing songs about his experiences of being taken away from his mother to the Bungalow in Alice Springs. He was soon moved north to a Christian mission at Croker Island where Herbie turned up with a guitar and played his “strong country” for the kids. Randall’s country song “Brown Skin Baby” from 1962 has now become a kind of anthem for generations of removed Indigenous children in Australia. 28. This and other excerpts from my field recording transcripts and notes are edited for readability. 29. Some of Herbie Laughton’s songs can be heard on his album Country From the Heart (CD, Pindaroo Music PIN505CD, 1999).

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Musical Moorings for Desired Masculinities in Aboriginal Australia 30. This musician prefers to remain anonymous. Alec is not his real name and I do not refer to his recordings. 31. Good insights into Aboriginal and male ways of interacting in the desert region are provided in Kenneth Liberman, Understanding Interaction in Central Australia: An Ethnomethodological Study of Australian Aboriginal People (Boston: Routledge & KeganPaul, 1985); Fred Myers, Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place, and Politics among Western Desert Aborigines (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986). 32. “Cattle stations” are the Australian version of American ranches. 33. Rowse, White Flour, White Power, chapters 7 and 8. 34. For a concise history of the shift to welfare-based Indigenous life in Australia, see Jeremy Beckett, “Colonialism in a Welfare State: The Case of Australian Aborigines,” in The Future of Former Foragers in Australia and Southern Africa, ed. Carmel Schrire and Robert Gordon (Cambridge, MA: Cultural Survival, 1985), 7–24. 35. Lyndon Reid, Make a Start (CD, CAAMA Music 377, 2002).

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Taylor Swift’s “Pitch Problem” and the Place of Adolescent Girls in Country Music trAviS StiMeling

For as long as Taylor Swift has been a major-label country recording artist and singer-songwriter, critics have noted the prevalence of a “pitch problem” in her live performances as she struggled to sing in tune during tour concerts and nationally televised performances alike. Consider, for example, her recent performance of her hit song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” on the 2013 Grammy Awards telecast. Swift stomps around the stage, dancing unenthusiastically while surrounded by an array of fancifully costumed dancers, men marching about on stilts, and boxes full of mimes. As the performance continues, her pitch becomes flat at times and seems to reveal some difficulties with breath support in her chest voice. At the song’s structural and pitch climax, however, she belts confidently—and in tune—to declare her independence from the suitor to whom the song is addressed, revealing her ability to maintain pitch and breath support when necessary. Interestingly, though, at the conclusion of this dramatic moment, Swift’s pitch immediately slips flatward as she shifts to her head voice, bringing a nasal character to her vocal tone as she reflects on her naïve belief that her relationship would always work out, quickly turning to a more in-tune and well-supported chest voice to conclude the song. Swift’s performance, which took place in the opening segment of CBS’s national broadcast, highlights her overwhelming popularity, a popularity that Rolling Stone recently attributed to “the massive raging-cowgirl audience [that] Swift has led to the pinnacle of the music world.”1 Yet, if frequent (but brief) intonation problems have marred her singing, how, then, can we account for the widespread commercial success of her recordings and concerts? Many critics of Swift’s music and professional career have treated her success as the product of a commercial music industry that promotes inferior quality music to an uncritical fan base. When combined with her youth, charming good looks, adolescent-themed songs, and success in both the country and pop domains, Swift’s persistent struggles with pitch control have often been depicted as a symptom of a troubling trend within the broader popular music industry: the “manufacture” of pop stars. Implicit in this argument is a familiar belief that 84

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pop stars—typically, but not exclusively, young women—lack the musical talent necessary for a successful music career but, through the mediating effects of modern recording technology and the media, can convince audiences of their musical prowess.2 Coming on the heels of a decade marked by the success of several female pop artists—including Britney Spears, Ashlee Simpson, and others—who used dynamic compression and pitch correction software prominently in recordings and onstage, criticism of the manufactured pop star marginalized these popular musicians through a gendered rhetoric of inauthenticity.3 These tropes can be seen in any of a variety of places, including the 2006 film Before the Music Dies, which includes a segment demonstrating how pitch correction software allows record producers to transform fashion models into musically viable pop superstars.4 From this perspective, the music industry— whether promoting pop, rock, or country artists—has adopted artist rosters in which, as Michael McCall argued in a 2004 Nashville Scene editorial, “truly gifted yet less magnificent physical specimens are left to struggle in the shadows or are pushed aside altogether.”5 Such criticism is not limited to pop music, however. As a recent blog post by award-winning country songwriter Al Carmichael noted, contemporary country music “attach[es] corny country laced lyrics to generic pop grooves and melodies, squash[es] the shit out of them with plug-ins, and sell[s] the swill as the ‘new’ country music.”6 Yet, I would argue that the persistent popularity of recording artists who rely heavily on recording and post-production technologies to create their work might indicate that, rather than another symptom of a money-hungry music industry duping consumers, audiences may, in fact, hear something more in these recordings. Not surprisingly, sexist tropes also run through the popular discourse about Swift’s singing voice, even in forums not dedicated exclusively to discussions of country music. For example, in November 2009 the creators of the online religious satire site landoverbaptist.org posted an article titled “Is Taylor Swift Singing for Satan?” featuring a chart suggesting that the further out of tune she sings, the more sexually aroused teenaged boys become.7 Still other detractors struggle to find merit in either her sexuality or her musicality. In a forum post to a feature article on askmen.com, for example, a commenter argued that Swift is “a joke to country music. She can’t sing and she looks like a horse!”8 Or, as a fark .com message board contributor noted after hearing that Swift was planning to write songs for a new album, “Another album of sh*t pop/rock with synthesized fiddles so it can get played on as many radio stations as humanly possible? Are all the songs going to be about being an ignorant southern girl who falls in love with an equally retarded guy? AND she looks like Cindy Lou Who? She has to be stopped.”9 Positioning Swift’s recorded work and critical commentary about her voice within the context of recent scholarship on the musical experiences of 85

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adolescent girls and on the ways in which musicians use technology, this essay seeks to recontextualize Taylor Swift’s “pitch problem” not as evidence of her country inauthenticity but as an expression of a distinctly adolescent female approach to country authenticity that is rarely heard in mainstream commercial country music. To be sure, young female country artists have graced the stages of honky-tonks, concert halls, and the Grand Ole Opry for generations: Leann Rimes projecting a traditionalist approach by channeling the spirit of Patsy Cline, Tanya Tucker provocatively expressing a sexuality far beyond her years, and Brenda Lee playing the role of precocious child. Yet, Swift and her music do not attempt to be traditional, mature, or cute. Rather, I would suggest that her work responds to the specific issues facing the teen and preteen girls who constitute a significant portion of her audience and speaks to them in their own musical and lyrical vernacular. This essay, therefore, responds to Susan Douglas’s description of “the fusing of yourself with another, largerthan-life persona that girls [feel] as they sing along” with the recorded voices of those female musicians who speak to their own experiences, and to Sarah Louise Baker’s ethnographic study of the ways that preteen girls “negotiate the corporeal” through their pop music–related play.10 In their respective work, Douglas and Baker demonstrate that the very act of singing—whether alone or in groups—performs significant cultural work that allows girls to learn about their changing bodies, temporarily adopt identities, and fashion for themselves identities that fit with their own worldviews. We might, therefore, see Taylor Swift’s music as the latest in a long line of important female popular musicians whose voices prompted girls to sing along. Furthermore, this work builds on the musicological models developed in Jacqueline Warwick’s discussion of 1960s girl group record production, Elizabeth Eva Leach’s exploration of pop authenticity in the work of the Spice Girls, and Nicola Dibben’s observation that “music’s social content exists in material form at the level of socially constituted musical materials” by exploring the ways in which the musical characteristics of Swift’s songs combine with the lyrical themes discussed in her songs to encourage sing-along participation.11 Consequently, this essay interrogates the ways in which masculine notions of country music authenticity work to marginalize the voices of country artists who express distinctly adolescent female subjectivities in their music and argues that, in its subversion of such authenticities, Taylor Swift’s music and career call for a more deliberate effort to problematize generic authenticities and notions of a core audience for country music. Few topics have engaged the imaginations of popular music scholars, critics, and listeners alike more than the notion of musical authenticity, which Steve Jones and Kevin Featherly have described as “the most invisible and most opaque of the concerns that occupy popular-music critics.”12 Most scholars and critics agree that authenticity is subjective and culturally constructed, despite the fact 86

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that, as Holly Kruse has suggested, the notion of its authenticity draws much of its power from a belief in the transcendence of musical meanings “that refuse to be bound by historical and social contexts.”13 Audiences ascribe authenticity to music that, as Sarah Thornton has suggested, “rings true or feels real, when it has credibility and comes across as genuine.”14 Investigating these feelings, Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor have pointed to three common species of authenticity: “representational authenticity, or music that is exactly what it says it is . . . [;] cultural authenticity, or music that reflects a cultural tradition . . . [; and] personal authenticity, or music that reflects the person or people who are making it.”15 Regardless of the species, discourses about authenticity are often used to legitimate the aesthetic, political, and social agendas of those ascribing authenticity.16 Women have been particularly targeted in this ideological battle over authenticity in popular music, whether in the role of artists or listeners. Several scholars have delineated the ways in which rock music—the source for much of the ideology surrounding popular music—reinforces gendered ideas of authenticity. Norma Coates, for example, argues that “rock is indeed a technology of gender in that ‘masculinity’ is reinforced in its many discursive spaces. . . . Rock masculinity, at least the stereotype which . . . is still very much in play discursively and physically, is one in which any trace of the ‘feminine’ is expunged, incorporated or appropriated.”17 Criticism—whether professional or amateur— is complicit in this gendering of popular music.18 Drawing heavily from “rockist” sensibilities that privilege adult white male constructions of musical authenticity, such constructions are all the more powerful in the domain of country music, the field that Taylor Swift has dominated since her 2006 debut.19 At their very core, rockist notions of authenticity privilege artists who write their own songs, produce their own records, and appear to communicate directly with their audiences.20 Such standards persist in country music in the form of what Jimmie N. Rogers has identified as a “sincerity contract” that country artists and their audiences frequently enter into, an implicit agreement that “the audience must accept the . . . [speaker’s] attitudes and treatment of the topic in the song if the singer is to be credible.”21 Rogers—as well as country music scholars Curtis Ellison, Aaron Fox, and Jocelyn R. Neal—has observed that country audiences locate this sincerity in the voices of their favorite artists, attributing the sounds and stories that they hear on records and radio to the lived experiences of the artists themselves.22 As Rogers notes, country musicians who are deemed sincere must refrain from “calling undue attention either to artificial vocal techniques or the [singer’s] inability to carry a tune.”23 By standing between singer and listener, technological mediation and weak vocal technique might, therefore, complicate the terms of the sincerity contract and create opportunities for critics to challenge the artist’s authenticity. Yet, as Kembrew McLeod has demonstrated, music critics 87

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tend to celebrate music that exhibits “aggressive intensity,” “violence,” and “rawness,” among other characteristics, with the implication that such descriptions become naturalized as male.24 This emphasis on “rawness” plays a particularly important role in the construction of country music authenticity, especially as it pertains to the sound of a particular singer’s voice. When considered alongside the vocal weaknesses that she has displayed on recordings and in live performance, therefore, it would seem that Swift would be celebrated for her country music authenticity. This has certainly been the case with Hank Williams, whose voice has been the subject of much scholarly analysis in an effort to locate his authenticity.25 Swift’s career has conformed to many rockist standards of authenticity, much like such celebrated female country predecessors as Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, and Gretchen Wilson. She is an award-winning songwriter whose penchant for capturing what New York Times critic Jon Caramanica calls “the play-by-play details of broken hearts and romantic dreams” led American Songwriter contributor Edd Hurt to describe her as “a poet of the teenage experience.”26 Moreover, she has frequently downplayed her upper-middle-class upbringing in favor of discussing the Christmas tree farm where she was raised, constructing the kind of “rags-to-riches” autobiographical narrative that Pamela Fox has identified as a key to women’s participation as producers of country music.27 And despite her appearance on Maxim’s “Hot 100” list in 2011, she has persistently presented a clean-cut image that, unlike contemporary pop stars such as Miley Cyrus, downplays her sexuality, again conforming to long-held country music expectations that have, with a few notable exceptions, restricted expressions of female sexuality.28 Swift’s fan base—dominated by teenage and preteen girls—has likely contributed to much of the critical denigration of her music. In the search for masculine authenticity, professional and amateur music critics alike have largely ignored—or, in many cases, denigrated—female participation in popular music as both artists and fans.29 As a consequence, as Brenda Johnson-Grau has observed, gendered criticism has resulted in a sort of ghettoization of women in popular music, in which “women musicians who do make it to the front of the stage are undermined and made extraordinary by being compared only to other women, as if the history of rock and pop has been played out in different rooms with all participants wearing gender-specific headphones.”30 Such gender segregation has, as Kruse has posited, permitted male critics to objectify female musicians’ bodies and to dismiss female fans as deranged, fickle, and lacking a strong sense of self.31 Yet, while it may be easy to dismiss the fandom of teenagers (and teenage girls, specifically), the Music in Daily Life Project, spearheaded by Susan D. Crafts, Daniel Cavicchi, and Charles Keil in the 1980s, published several interviews with teenagers (including four with female 88

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subjects) that convincingly demonstrate that teenagers—even those with minimal interest in music production or consumption—develop complex understandings of music’s role in their daily lives that are informed by social, cultural, physiological, and emotional concerns.32 More recent studies by Dafna Lemish, Sarah Louise Baker, Melanie Lowe, Kyra Gaunt, and Tyler Bickford point to the central role that popular music plays in helping “tween” girls33—one of the primary audiences for Taylor Swift’s music—navigate the complicated landscapes of identity formation and changing bodies in a highly gendered and sexualized environment.34 In contrast to the often dismissive tone taken by critics of female pop fans and their favorite artists, then, we can come to understand girls’ fandom as, in Baker’s words, “serious play” that, as Bickford suggests, might lead to the formation of a powerful “childhood counterpublic.”35 Thus, while music produced and/or consumed by women might be highly suspect in the eyes of many, predominantly male rockist critics and fans, the literature reinforces the belief that such declarations of inauthenticity necessarily ignore the quite real— and, therefore, authentic—experiences of everyone—including girls—involved in the production and consumption of this music. Considering ways that dominant discourses of authenticity construct and reinforce power relations between social groups, a musical analysis of some of Swift’s compositions can help us ascertain why her music comes under criticism. Swift, who was offered her first songwriting contract when she was barely a teenager, has released five albums since 2006.36 Her eponymous debut album, released when she was only sixteen years old, is characterized by a preoccupation with teenaged romance, from “I’m Only Me When I’m with You,” which describes “a small town boy and girl / livin’ in a crazy world / tryin’ to figure out what is and isn’t true,” to the album’s hit single, “Tim McGraw,” a song that finds Swift constructing her country music bona fides by using the music of a canonic male country artist as a symbol of a failed teenage romance. These themes persist throughout 2008’s Fearless, which finds Swift’s speakers imagining a romance as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story in “Love Story” and, in “Fifteen,” reflecting on the reasons that it might be unwise to become sexually active as a teenager. This sensitivity to the difficulties faced by teenaged girls around the United States as they negotiate the complicated social structures of middle and high school resulted in high praise for Swift’s songwriting in some circles, including from New Yorker critic Sasha Frere-Jones, who described “Fifteen” as having “unpacked the emotional math of being fifteen,” and scholar Brandon Hernsberger, who has argued that Swift has marketed “the materiality of girlhood.”37 Although Swift’s more recent musical efforts have embraced themes similar to those expressed in her earlier albums, her public romances with Jonas Brother Joe Jonas, Twilight star Taylor Lautner, and One Direction singer Harry Styles, among others, have resulted in a bevy of autobiographical 89

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songs, including 2008’s “Forever & Always” and 2012’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.”38 Such strong autobiographical content would seem to conform to the expectations of the typical country and rock audiences, who demand that musicians convey a piece of themselves in their work, what Barker and Taylor call “personal authenticity.”39 Yet, just as her efforts to capture the teenaged female experience in song have achieved popular success, many of Swift’s detractors—the vast majority of whom are, not surprisingly, men—suggest that the teenaged experience, and especially the experiences of a young white woman, are not interesting enough to merit any special attention. Critic Jeff Miers of the Buffalo [New York] News, for instance, railed against Swift’s recent Grammy nomination in December 2008, condescendingly reducing Swift’s accomplishments to little more than animalistic sounds tweaked by recording technologies: “Sorry, Taylor Swift, but just because you are a pop star who actually writes her own songs is no reason for us to genuflect before you while you make yet another appearance on a glitzy awards show. If I slapped my 14-year-old cat in front of a microphone and cranked up the Auto Tune, she could probably ‘write her own songs’ too. (Note to self: Record cat, then cut and paste into pop song at first available opportunity . . .).”40 Such criticism also persists in the popular domain, especially in comments posted to Internet message boards and appended to video links. As a fark.com contributor using the sexually suggestive nom de plume AdolfOliverPanties opined after watching a replay of Swift’s November 2008 CMT Crossroads performance with hair metal icons Def Leppard, “I felt SO bad for them. She was in the interview room with them describing her songwriting process to them and came off as just so . . . teenage and bland. You’ve got these middle aged guys listening to some flash in the pan tell about her angst and hurt in the ways of love.”41 Similarly, in late February 2013 a video circulated widely through social media and popular websites combining a video of a screaming goat and Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” garnering comments such as this from a Gawker user: “The goats make the song a LOT more interesting than the auto-tuned and overproduced pop crap.”42 Comments such as these hearken back to what cultural critic Ilana Nash has described as the tendency of popular culture to treat “the teenage girl . . . [as] either more or less than human, never simply a whole person with her own three-dimensional subjectivity.” That is, as Nash continues, “popular culture . . . persistently view[s] girlhood as radically Other to an unnamed but implicit ‘self ’: adult men, teen girls’ polar opposites in age, sex, and cultural alliances.”43 The powerful voices of teenage girls are, therefore, silenced because the men who control the critical and popular discourse about their music either think that they already know what girls have to say or, quite simply, do not care. As such, the very fact that Swift speaks from the perspective 90

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of a young woman and draws from her own already suspect experiences situates her in opposition to visions of authenticity in country music that privilege the perspectives of adult men. Turning from Swift’s authorial voice to her singing voice, we find still more musical evidence to suggest that the “problems” critics identify in Swift’s musicianship might actually help reinforce her position as an advocate for the experiences of teenaged girls. Swift’s documented problems with pitch and timbre can likely be traced to weak breath support, which causes her voice to sound small and for her pitch to wander flatward. Although professional and skilled amateur singers are typically quite cognizant of their breath, Swift’s continued difficulties with breath support might be heard not simply as a technical problem but instead as a (perhaps unintentional) mechanism that allows her to connect with a fan base comprised predominantly of teenaged girls.44 If, as Sheila Whiteley has argued, “the voice, the mark of character, of persona and of individual body, is inevitably heard as gendered,” we must consider that listeners hear, interpret, and construct gender—whether implicitly or explicitly—when engaging with all recordings of vocal music.45 Consequently, it is likely that, in hearing Swift’s obviously female voice, her female fans can connect with her voice through their shared gendered identities. Moreover, as Suzanne Cusick has provocatively suggested, “Our abilities to use our bodies to make this ‘music’—our ability to sing—also communicates to our cohort the depth to which we have allowed cultural norms to penetrate and discipline our bodies’ interior spaces and interior actions.”46 To extend Cusick’s supposition, then, singing in tune and with proper breath support and good tone might be seen as evidence of the vocalist’s social maturity. We might, therefore, hear in Swift’s vocal idiosyncrasies the voices of the very girls who speak through her lyrics as well as the girls who consume her music, voices that are attempting to negotiate a complex of cultural norms that they will ultimately use to forge their own identities.47 Consequently, Swift—now twenty-four years old—seems as though she could be a peer to her audience, not a young adult who is playing a performative role, much like the “hard” country musicians that Aaron Fox and Barbara Ching have identified as exemplifying a working-class authenticity to country honky-tonk patrons.48 In conjunction with the approachability of her voice, closer examination of the melodic characteristics of many of Swift’s compositions suggests that her songs might be constructed in a manner that lends itself to the voices of teenaged girls. The vast majority of the songs released on Swift’s first four albums are marked by vocal ranges that seldom span more than a perfect fifth, melodies that lie near the top of Swift’s chest register, and the repeated use of short melodic motifs. Although the verses, prechoruses, and bridges of her songs are equally ripe with evidence for these phenomena, I would like to focus particular 91

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Figure 5.1

Example 1: Chorus of “Love Story” (Taylor Swift, 2008)

Figure 5.2

Example 2: Chorus of “You Belong with Me” (Taylor Swift and Liz Rose, 2008)

attention on the choruses. In Swift’s songs, as in most pop songs, the chorus is a site of harmonic release and the place where the song’s “hook”—often the title itself—is prominently displayed.49 The melody of the chorus of 2008’s “Love Story,” for instance, is comprised primarily of a repeated three-note stepwise motive from D4 to FG4, presented with minor rhythmic variation that is designed to accommodate the lyric (see Example 1).50 The chorus of “You Belong with Me,” also on the 2008 blockbuster album Fearless, exhibits similar traits, this time presenting a rhythmic riff that alternates between re and mi until the appearance of the hook, which is marked by a sweep up to fa followed by a descent of an octave (see Example 2).51 These musical traits recall Jocelyn R. Neal’s analysis of what she describes as “catchy” pop songs, in which 92

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she notes that, “When a group of friends launches into song, or when a karaoke singer grabs the microphone, to a greater or lesser extent, the version of the song that emerges has passed through the filters of the casual performer’s recollection,” creating in the process a version that “often [discards] certain elements of the song while retaining its most salient features, hooks, or the essence of its memorable appeal.”52 Swift’s songs dispense with this process altogether, conveying simple—some might argue, melodically anemic—melodies that lend themselves well to group performance, an element that Susan Douglas has identified as being an essential social experience of teenaged girls.53 Consequently, we might argue that Swift’s songs assist her predominantly tween audience in mapping their identities onto those of the characters who inhabit her songs by allowing her listeners to adopt the voices of Swift’s characters with the voices they themselves possess.54 Whereas her live performances often lay her vocal weaknesses bare, Swift’s recorded output demonstrates how contemporary recording practices, particularly pitch correction and dynamic compression, have mitigated some of her vocal flaws. Pitch correction—frequently described as “Auto-Tune,” after the most notorious software and hardware platforms—uses complex algorithms to determine how far out of tune a particular pitch is and, based on the recording engineer’s inputs, brings the pitch back into tune.55 Dynamic compression works to mask the inevitable dynamic inconsistencies that sneak into any live musical performance, evening out the louds and softs in a performance. Yet, in extreme cases (many of which are heard on contemporary country recordings and exacerbated by further compression added by radio stations), dynamic compression can create what Douglas Wolk has described as a “squished” sound that provides “loudness at the expense of subtlety and listenability.”56 Although these tools have proven to be quite useful cost-saving devices that allow engineers to correct minor mistakes in otherwise strong musical performances, the deployment of these technologies has not come without controversy.57 Musicologist and professional recording engineer Steve Savage, for instance, has recently observed, “The widespread manipulations that create the new paradigms of musical presentation fuel debates surrounding the question of musical authenticity.”58 Not surprisingly, then, while the vast majority of artists whose work has been heard on Top 40 country radio in the last decade or more have deployed pitch correction software to touch up their own recordings, country music communities have also taken ideological stances against these technologies.59 Recording aficionados cite the work of radio mainstays Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, and Kenny Chesney, among others, as examples of what a February 2008 article on the blog HomeTracked alleged to be “auto-tune abuse in pop music.”60 Concurrent with the widespread acceptance of pitch correction has been a—no 93

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pun intended—vocal resistance. Journalist Michael McCall, for example, cited Garth Brooks, Martina McBride, Vince Gill, and Trisha Yearwood as examples of artists who “see . . . [the use of Auto-Tune] as cheating.”61 Alternative country singer-songwriter Neko Case put it even more bluntly in an April 2006 interview for Pitchfork: “When I hear auto tune on somebody’s voice, I don’t take them seriously. . . . It’s not an effect like people try to say, it’s for people like Shania Twain who can’t sing. Yet there they are, all over the radio. . . . It’s a horrible sound and it’s like, ‘Shania, spend an extra hour in the studio and you’ll hit the note and it’ll sound fine. Just work on it, it’s not like making a burger!’”62 And, in an act of full disclosure, alternative country singer-songwriter Allison Moorer informed potential purchasers of her 2002 album Miss Fortune that they would be hearing her voice in its unmediated form and, deliberately positioning herself as a real musician, releasing the album with stickers reading, “Absolutely no vocal tuning or pitch correction was used in the making of this record.”63 By complicating the terms of the sincerity contract, overt technological mediation creates opportunities for those artists who, like Case and Moorer, wish to position themselves as purveyors of a “more authentic” brand of country music to translate their rejection of technology into political and cultural capital.64 Yet, Nashville’s recording studios have, for the last six decades, been laboratories for the development and testing of new recording technologies, regardless of which side of the “hard-core” and “soft-shell” dialectic the artist worked.65 However, because Swift’s work certainly channels elements of pop, her use of digital recording techniques has come under fire from professional critics and Internet trolls. Swift and her label, Big Machine Records, must have felt compelled to respond to such criticism with the release of the deluxe CD/DVD issue of Swift’s 2008 album Fearless, which included footage of Swift recording portions of the song “Change.” Here, viewers are granted access behind the scenes of a modern Nashville recording studio, where we witness Swift playing through the song on an acoustic guitar, working through her arrangement ideas with her production team, and cutting vocal tracks. Although the video footage has been carefully edited and the audio tracks selected reveal none of Swift’s vocal weaknesses, the effect of this film is still the same: challenging critics who believe that Swift is just the latest in a long line of pop starlets who threaten to undermine the hard-fought authenticity of “real” rock musicians, the vast majority of whom, not surprisingly, are adult men. In the introduction to The Girls’ History and Culture Reader, Miriam Forman-Brunell and Leslie Paris observe that “girlhood is never merely a biological stage. . . . The parameters of girlhood have been defined as much by legal designations, social practices, girls’ degree of biological maturation, and broader ideological and political forces as by actual age.”66 Pop music—of which commercial country music is an integral, if often underappreciated, part—plays a 94

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central role in defining these parameters, not only because pop can leverage the media industry to indoctrinate girls, but because girls are active consumers who are more than capable of engaging critically with the voices they hear and the messages those voices bear.67 Yet, as Sarah Cooper reminds us, “Whatever the musical form, and from whatever culture it springs, where women appear, they are still the exception, and therefore, the exotic, the other, the ‘ultimate outsider,’ surrounded by a web of generalizations and clichés.”68 Thus, it is imperative to consider Swift’s work not simply as embodying all that is wrong and inauthentic about contemporary country music, but to instead consider how Swift’s music might be heard as speaking to an authenticity that is frequently marginalized within the broader landscape of country music. Teenaged and preteen girls have seldom had a voice within country music, artists such as Brenda Lee, Tanya Tucker, and Leann Rimes notwithstanding. Yet, the experiences of teen and preteen girls are not all that dissimilar from those expressed by country artists whose songs reside in the honky-tonk habitus of hard country: love, heartbreak, despair, and joy. Consequently, Swift’s music might be heard as performing the same kind of social function as the country music that has been deemed authentic by critics and scholars alike, namely, helping people negotiate the complicated and often overwhelming nature of human existence. Notes [An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2010 International Country Music Conference and the Northern Illinois University Graduate Colloquium (February 2013). The author would like to thank Stephanie Vander Wel and the members of the Millikin University Musicology Discussion Group for their valuable feedback on this project.] 1. “50 Best Songs of 2012: Taylor Swift, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.’” www .rollingstone.com/music/lists/50-best-songs-of-2012-20121205/taylor-swift-we-are-never-ever -getting-back-together-19691231. Accessed 12 February 2013. 2. This notion of the “manufacture” of pop musicians has been the subject of much scholarly discourse. See, for instance, Philip Auslander, Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1999), 77–78; Sarah Cooper, “Introduction,” Girls! Girls! Girls!: Critical Essays on Women and Music (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 3–4. 3. Such rhetoric is also applied to male artists, especially those with large female fan bases. Arguably, male artists are in a better position to resist such criticism because their gender permits them to refashion their careers more easily than female artists. Consider, for instance, the case of Ronnie James Dio, who, as Glenn Pillsbury has convincingly demonstrated, effectively erased his pop career when he became a heavy metal superstar (Glenn T. Pillsbury, “Dio’s Lost Decade: Recovering the 1960s Career of Ronnie James Dio,” paper presented to the Society for American Music, Little Rock, Arkansas, 7 March 2013).

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Travis Stimeling 4. B4MD: Before the Music Dies, dir. Andrew Shapter and Joel Rasmussen (B-Side Entertainment, 2006). 5. Michael McCall, “Pro Tools: A number of leading country artists sing off key. But a magical piece of software—Pro Tools—makes them sound as good as gold,” Nashville Scene (10 June 2004). www.nashvillescene.com/nashville/pro-tools/Content?oid=1190101. Accessed 18 May 2010. 6. Al Carmichael, “Ten Reasons Why Country Sucks,” allthingsal, 8 July 2013 http://allthing sal.wordpress.com/2013/07/08/ten-reasons-why-country-sucks/. Accessed 1 August 2013. 7. “Is Taylor Swift Singing for Satan?” www.landoverbaptist.org/2009/november/taylorswift .html. Accessed 19 May 2010. 8. “Taylor Swift.” www.askmen.com/celebs/women/singer/taylor-swift/. Accessed 19 May 2010. 9. Nickxero, 5 March 2010. www.fark.com/cgi/comments.pl?IDLink=5081601. Accessed 19 May 2010 (censorship of vulgarity in the original). 10. Susan J. Douglas, Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media (New York: Times Books, 1994), 87; Sarah Louise Baker, “Bardot, Britney, Bodies and Breasts: Preteen Girls’ Negotiations of the Corporeal in Relation to Pop Stars and Their Music,” Perfect Beat 6, no. 1 (July 2002): 18–32. 11. Jacqueline Warwick, “‘He’s Got the Power’: The Politics of Production in Girl Group Music,” in Music, Space and Place: Popular Music and Cultural Identity, ed. Sheila Whiteley, Andy Bennett, and Stan Hawkins (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004), 192; Jacqueline Warwick, Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s (New York: Routledge, 2007); Eva Elizabeth Leach, “Vicars of ‘Wannabe’: Authenticity and the Spice Girls,” Popular Music 20, no. 2 (May 2001): 150–52; Nicola Dibben, “Representations of Femininity in Popular Music,” Popular Music 18, no. 3 (1999): 332. 12. Steve Jones and Kevin Featherly, “Re-Viewing Rock Writing: Narratives of Popular Music Criticism,” in Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002), 31. 13. Holly Kruse, “Abandoning the Absolute: Transcendence and Gender in Popular Music Discourse,” in Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002), 137. 14. Sarah Thornton, Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital (Hanover, NH, and London: Wesleyan University Press/University Press of New England, 1996), 26 (emphasis in original). 15. Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor, Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music (New York: W. W. Norton, 2007), x. 16. Kembrew McLeod, “*½: A Critique of Rock Criticism in North America,” Popular Music 20, no. 1 (January 2001): 51; Simon Frith, Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996), 70; Leach, “Vicars of ‘Wannabe,’” 143; Auslander, Liveness, 70–71 (emphasis in original). 17. Norma Coates, “(R)evolution Now? Rock Music and the Political Potential of Gender,” in Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, ed. Sheila Whiteley (London: Routledge, 1997), 52. See also Sara Cohen, “Men Making a Scene: Rock Music and the Production of Gender,” in Sexing the Groove, 17–18. 18. Helen Davies, “All Rock and Roll Is Homosocial: The Representation of Women in the British Rock Music Press,” Popular Music 20, no. 3 (2001): 301–2; Marion Leonard, Gender in the Music Industry: Rock, Discourse and Girl Power (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007), 67. 96

Taylor Swift’s “Pitch Problem,” the Place of Adolescent Girls in Country Music 19. For a fairly comprehensive listing of Swift’s industry award nominations and wins, consult “List of awards and nominations received by Taylor Swift.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ List_of_awards_and_nominations_received_by_Taylor_Swift. Accessed 11 November 2012. 20. For useful definitions, explanations, and interrogations of rockism, consult Robert Christgau, “Rockism Faces the World,” Village Voice 35 (2 January 1990), 67; Kalefa Senneh, “The Rap Against Rockism,” New York Times (31 October 2004). www.nytimes.com/2004/10/31/ arts/music/31sann.html. Accessed 9 November 2012; Douglas Wolk, “Thinking about Rockism,” Seattle Weekly (4 May 2005). www.seattleweekly.com/2005-05-04/music/thinking-about-rock ism.php/. Accessed 9 November 2012; Michael J. Kramer, “Rocktimism?: Pop Music Writing in the Age of Rock Criticism,” Journal of Popular Music Studies 24, no. 4 (December 2012): 590–92; Miles Parks Grier, “Said the Hooker to the Thief: ‘Some Way Out’ of Rockism,” Journal of Popular Music Studies 25, no. 1 (March 2013): 31–55. 21. Jimmie N. Rogers, The Country Music Message: Revisited (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1989), 17–18. 22. Curtis W. Ellison, Country Music Culture: From Hard Times to Heaven (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995), 6; Jocelyn R. Neal, “The Voice Behind the Song: Faith Hill, Country Music, and Reflexive Identity,” in The Women of Country Music: A Reader, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003), 112–14; Aaron A. Fox, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004). 23. Rogers, The Country Music Message: Revisited, 18. 24. McLeod, “*½,” 51; Kembrew McLeod, “Between Rock and a Hard Place: Gender and Rock Criticism,” in Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones, 97–100. 25. Richard Leppert and George Lipsitz, “‘Everybody’s Lonesome for Somebody’: Age, the Body and Experience in the Music of Hank Williams,” Popular Music 9, no. 3 (October 1990): 263–66; David Brackett, Interpreting Popular Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 90–92. 26. Jon Caramanica, “My Music, MySpace, My Life,” New York Times (7 November 2008). www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/arts/music/09cara.html. Accessed 19 May 2010; Edd Hurt, “Taylor Swift: Elevating Teen Dreams into Art,” American Songwriter (12 December 2008). www .americansongwriter.com/2008/12/taylor-swift-elevating-teen-dreams-into-art/. Accessed 19 May 2010. 27. “Exit Interview: Taylor Swift,” Philadelphia (November 2008). www.phillymag.com/ articles/exit-interview-taylor-swift. Accessed 1 August 2013; Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 113–44. This argument is also proposed in Richard A. Peterson, “The Dialectic of Hard-Core and SoftShell Country Music,” in Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars, ed. Cecelia Tichi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 245–46. 28. “2011 Hot 100 | Maxim.” www.maxim.com/girls/2011-hot-100. Accessed 12 February 2013; “2012 Maxim Hot 100 | Maxim.” www.maxim.com/hot-100/2012. Accessed 12 February 2013. Female sexuality has been underrepresented in country music throughout its history. Consult Joli Jensen, “Taking Country Music Seriously: Coverage of the 1990s Boom,” in Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002), 190–91; Kristine M. McCusker, Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 28–29, 39–49; Fox, Natural Acts, 94–112. 97

Travis Stimeling For a nuanced critique of Miley Cyrus’s multimedia career, consult Deborah Clark Vance, “‘Moving Her Hips, Like, Yeah’: Can Miley Survive the Hannah Brand?,” in Rock Brands: Selling Sound in a Media Saturated Culture, ed. Elizabeth Barfoot Christian (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011), 68–72. 29. Dave Laing, “Anglo-American Music Journalism: Texts and Contexts,” in The Popular Music Studies Reader, ed. Andy Bennett, Barry Shank, and Jason Toynbee (London: Routledge, 2006), 338; Anna Feigenbaum, “‘Some Guy Designed This Room I’m Standing In’: Marking Gender in Press Coverage of Ani DiFranco,” Popular Music 24, no. 1 (January 2005): 38. See also Kruse, “Abandoning the Absolute,” 136; Warwick, “‘He’s Got the Power,’” 192. 30. Brenda Johnson-Grau, “Sweet Nothings: Presentation of Women Musicians in Pop Journalism,” in Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002), 210. These observations were presaged by Angela McRobbie, who, in 1980, noted that “Writers and editors seem unable to imagine that girls could make up a sizeable section of their readership. . . . As ‘the exception,’ women musicians are now treated with a modicum of respect in New Musical Express or Melody Maker, but women are dealt with more comfortably in the gossip column on the back page, as the wives or girlfriends of the more flamboyant rock figures”; Angela McRobbie, “Settling Accounts with Subcultures,” Screen Education 34 (1980), reprinted in On Record: Rock, Pop, and the Written Word, ed. Simon Frith and Andrew Goodwin (New York: Pantheon, 1990), 76. 31. Kruse, “Abandoning the Absolute,” 135–36. See also Davies, “All Rock and Roll is Homosocial,” 302; Laing, “Anglo-American Music Journalism,” 337; Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs, “Beatlemania: A Sexually Defiant Consumer Culture?,” in The Subcultures Reader, ed. Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton (London: Routledge, 1997), 525; originally published as “Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” in The Adoring Audience, ed. Lisa A. Lewis (New York and London: Routledge, 1992); Tia DeNora, Music in Everyday Life (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), 73. 32. Susan D. Crafts, Daniel Cavicchi, Charles Keil, and the Music in Daily Life Project, My Music (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1993), 37–65. 33. Here, I adopt the definition of “tween” offered by Tyler Bickford, who describes tweens as “young people ‘between’ childhood and adolescence—9–12-year-old kids (narrowly, or broadly 4–15 years old)”; Tyler Bickford, “The New ‘Tween’ Music Industry: The Disney Channel, Kidz Bop and an Emerging Childhood Counterpublic,” Popular Music 31, no. 3 (2012): 418. 34. Dafna Lemish, “Spice Girls’ Talk: A Case Study in the Development of Gendered Identity,” in Millennium Girls: Today’s Girls around the World, ed. Sherrie A. Inness (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998), 145–67; Baker, “Bardot, Britney, Bodies and Breasts”; Melanie Lowe, “‘Tween’ Scene: Resistance within the Mainstream,” in Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual, ed. Andy Bennett and Richard A. Peterson (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004), 94; Kyra D. Gaunt, The Games Black Girls Play: Playing the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006); Bickford, “The New ‘Tween’ Music Industry,” 426–32. See also: Warwick, Girls Groups, Girl Culture, 163–64. 35. Baker, “Bardot, Britney, Bodies and Breasts,” 29; Bickford, “The New ‘Tween’ Music Industry,” 432. It should be noted that Bickford is theorizing through a gender-blind lens, but, in light of the extensive literature on girls’ use of music, the extension of this understanding to girls alone appears to be valid.

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Taylor Swift’s “Pitch Problem,” the Place of Adolescent Girls in Country Music 36. Taylor Swift discography at Discogs, www.discogs.com/artist/Taylor+Swift. Accessed 14 February 2013; Benji Wilson, “Taylor Swift—The Meteoric Rise of Pop’s Brightest New Star,” [London] Daily Mail (25 October 2009), www.dailymail.co.uk/home/you/article-1222172/ Taylor-Swift--meteoric-rise-pops-brightest-new-star.html#axzz2KjooHHsM. Accessed 12 February 2013. 37. Sasha Frere-Jones, “Prodigy: The Rise of Taylor Swift,” New Yorker (10 November 2008), www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/musical/2008/11/10/081110crmu_music_frerejones. Accessed 12 February 2013; Brandon Hernsberger, “Pop’s Got a Brand New Brand: Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, and the Construction of Emotional Beef in the Teenage Market Share,” paper presented at the 43rd annual meeting of the Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association, 30 March 2013. See also Vanessa Grigoriadis, “The Very Pink, Very Perfect Life of Taylor Swift,” Rolling Stone 1073 (5 March 2009). 38. Jocelyn Vena, “Taylor Swift Says She ‘Owed It’ to her Fans to be Open about Joe Jonas Breakup,” www.mtv.com/news/articles/1599032/taylor-swift-explains-why-was-open-about -joe-jonas-breakup.jhtml. Accessed 12 February 2013; Lauren Effron, “Taylor Swift Reveals New Album, ‘Red,’ Drops New Single, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’: ABC Exclusive,” abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2012/08/taylor-swift-reveals-new-album -red-drops-new-single-we-are-never-getting-back-together-abc-exclusive/. Accessed 12 February 2013. 39. Barker and Taylor, Faking It, x. 40. Jeff Miers, “Jeff Miers’ Sound Check: Concert to Announce Nominee Adds Injury to Grammy Insults,” Buffalo [NY] News (5 December 2008), www.buffalonews.com/entertain ment/story/514146.html. Accessed 22 July 2009. 41. AdolfOliverPanties, 5 March 2010, www.fark.com/cgi/comments.pl?IDLink=5081601& IDComment=58688940#c58688940. Accessed 19 May 2010. 42. iliketoeat, 27 February 2013, comment to Camille Dodero, “Here Is a Taylor Swift Song Remixed with a Goat Yelling Like a Human,” http://gawker.com/5987070/here-is-a-taylor -swift-song-remixed-with-a-goat-yelling-like-a-human. Accessed 31 July 2013. 43. Ilana Nash, American Sweethearts: Teenage Girls in Twentieth-Century Popular Culture (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), 2. 44. It should be noted, however, that I have been unable to find any information regarding the nature of Swift’s vocal training. It is highly likely that she receives regular instruction and vocal coaching in order to preserve her voice. 45. Sheila Whiteley, “Which Freddie? Constructions of Masculinity in Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins,” in Oh Boy! Masculinities and Popular Music, ed. Freya Jarman-Ivens (London: Routledge, 2007), 31. 46. Suzanne G. Cusick, “On Musical Performance of Gender and Sex,” in Audible Traces: Gender, Identity, and Music, ed. Elaine Barkin and Lydia Hamessley (Zürich: Carciofoli Verlagshaus, 1999), 31. Similarly, Kay Dickinson has noted that “the involvement of the body—also a fluctuating cultural factor—means that all the attendant politics from which it is woven and which it attracts cannot be erased from the sphere of popular music and discourse”; Kay Dickinson, “‘Believe’: Vocoders, Digital Female Identity and Camp,” Popular Music 20, no. 3 (2001), reprinted in Music, Space and Place: Popular Music and Cultural Identity, ed. Sheila Whiteley, Andy Bennett, and Stan Hawkins (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2004), 166.

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Travis Stimeling 47. Consider, for example, Laurie Stras’s excellent analysis of the vocal technique of 1960s girl groups. Laurie Stras, “Voice of the Beehive: Vocal Technique at the Turn of the 1960s,” in She’s So Fine: Reflections on Whiteness, Femininity, Adolescence and Class in 1960s Music, ed. Laurie Stras (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010), 33–55. See also Douglas, Where the Girls Are, 83. 48. Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best, 26–46; Fox, Real Country, 272–89. See also Sarah Dougher, “Authenticity, Gender, and Personal Voice: She Sounds So Sad, Do You Think She Really Is?,” in This Is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project, ed. Eric Weisbard (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 150–51. 49. Walter Everett, The Foundations of Rock: From Blue Suede Shoes to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 145–46. 50. Taylor Swift, “Love Story,” Fearless (Big Machine Records, 2008). 51. Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me,” Fearless (Big Machine Records, 2008). 52. Jocelyn R. Neal, “When Recollection Is All We’ve Got: Analytical Exploration of ‘Catchy’ Songs,” College Music Symposium 47 (2007), 21. Neal’s argument resonates with Simon Frith’s supposition that “the voice as direct expression of the body . . . is as important for the way we listen as for the way we interpret what we hear: we can sing along, reconstruct in fantasy our own sung versions of songs, in ways we can’t even fantasize instrumental technique . . . because with singing, we feel we know what to do” (Frith, Performing Rites, 192 [emphasis in original]). 53. Douglas, Where the Girls Are, 83–84. 54. Warwick’s observations about the girl group sound have particular resonance here: “The girl group sound was predicated on the unpolished voices of girls like Shirley Owens, whose passion and earnestness prevent the musically conventional and formulaic songs from being empty and insipid” (“‘He’s Got the Power,’” 194). See also Ibid., 198. 55. For historical background on the development of Auto-TuneTM, consult Sasha FrereJones, “The Gerbil’s Revenge,” New Yorker (9 June 2008), www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/ musical/2008/06/09/080609crmn_music_frerejones. Accessed 23 March 2010; “Antares History,” www.antarestech.com/about/history.shtml. Accessed 23 March 2010; “Ask the Expert,” www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/sciencenow/0401/03-ask.html. Accessed 17 May 2010. For a technical overview, consult Steve Savage, The Art of Digital Audio Recording: A Practical Guide for Home and Studio (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 71–73. 56. Douglas Wolk, “Compressing Pop: How Your Favorite Song Got Squished,” in This Is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project, ed. Eric Weisbard (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004), 212. For a good discussion of how compression and its more aggressive cousin, limiting, work in the realm of digital audio recording, consult Savage, The Art of Digital Audio Recording, 55–66. 57. Mark Katz, Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004), 43–44. 58. Steve Savage, Bytes & Backbeats: Repurposing Music in the Digital Age (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011), 5. 59. Numerous studies have examined the ways in which musical communities form around technologies. See, for example, Thornton, Club Cultures; René T. A. Lysloff and Leslie C. Gay, Jr., eds., Music and Technoculture (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003); Joseph G. Schloss, Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004); Paul D. Greene and Thomas Porcello, eds., Wired for Sound: Engineering

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Taylor Swift’s “Pitch Problem,” the Place of Adolescent Girls in Country Music and Technologies in Sonic Cultures (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005); Gerry Bloustien, Margaret Peters, and Susan Luckman, eds., Sonic Synergies: Music, Technology, Community, Identity (Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008); Kiri Miller, Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 155–219; William Cheng, “Role-Playing toward a Virtual Democracy in Lord of the Rings Online,” Ethnomusicology 56, no. 1 (Winter 2012): 31–62. 60. “Auto-Tune Abuse in Pop Music,” HomeTracked, www.hometracked.com/2008/02/05/ auto-tune-abuse-in-pop-music-10-examples/. Accessed 18 May 2010. 61. McCall, “Pro Tools.” 62. Ryan Dombal, “Neko Case,” http://pitchfork.com/features/interviews/6306-neko-case/. Accessed 18 May 2010. 63. Maureen Ryan, “What, No Pitch Correction? Raising a Flag on Vocal Effects,” Chicago Tribune (27 April 2003). 64. Barbara Ching and Pamela Fox, “Introduction: The Importance of Being Ironic— Toward a Theory and Critique of Alt.Country Music,” in Old Roots, New Routes: The Cultural Politics of Alt.Country Music, ed. Pamela Fox and Barbara Ching (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008), 8–9. 65. See, for instance, Jack Isenhour, He Stopped Loving Her Today: George Jones, Billy Sherrill, and the Pretty-Much Totally True Story of the Making of the Greatest Country Record of All Time (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011), 169; David B. Pruett, “When the Tribe Goes Triple Platinum: A Case Study Toward an Ethnomusicology of Mainstream Popular Music in the U.S.,” Ethnomusicology 55, no. 1 (Winter 2011): 14–15. 66. Miriam Forman-Brunell and Leslie Paris, “Introduction,” in The Girls’ History and Culture Reader, ed. Miriam Forman-Brunell and Leslie Paris (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011), 3. 67. See especially Baker, “Bardot, Britney, Bodies and Breasts”; Lemish, “Spice Girls’ Talk”; and Lowe, “‘Tween’ Scene.” 68. Cooper, “Introduction,” 2.

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Gender and the Nashville Songwriter: Three Songs by Victoria Banks chriS wilSon

So I’ve been in the difficult position of trying to write for a living in a male-dominated publishing world, where women “can’t write songs for men,” for record labels that are second- and third-guessing what to do to break their artists in this environment . . . and on top of all that, I have to try and write songs that will get past male radio gatekeepers and be what they think 30-something-year-old women want to hear. While being a 30-something-year-old woman myself. Ironic, isn’t it?1

This essay explores gender issues as they are made manifest in the careers and daily activities of professional songwriters in Nashville, Tennessee. Above is my informant Victoria Banks’s summation of how her gender and, more broadly, gendered norms associated with the commercial culture of which she is a part impinge upon her work as a Nashville songwriter. In the pages that follow I will introduce Banks and discuss her experiences—as related to me via interviews and email correspondence—during the writing of three songs: “Remember That,” “Come On Over,” and “Some Men Don’t Cheat.” Several incidents that occurred while writing these songs provide a commentary on gender issues relevant within the sociocultural milieu of Nashville songwriters. In my discussion of these songs’ provenances, I highlight some of the observations Banks makes about gendered aspects of her professional life in Nashville. I then connect her perspectives to larger concerns related to the ways that gender is implicated in the working processes and social interactions that are part of the daily lives of Nashville songwriters. Women who are songwriters in Nashville have what is in many ways a paradoxical position in the “male-dominated publishing world” they work within. Songwriters generally do not encounter the scrutiny of audiences and are thus not bound by the gender norms that inform the live appearances and media depictions country music performers experience in the course of their daily work. Further, female Nashville songwriters enjoy considerable agency and are typically treated as peers by male songwriters. Nevertheless, and though 102

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female songwriters have a long and storied history on Music Row, their male counterparts dwarf their numbers to the extent that working with and navigating the expectations of men is unavoidable. As such, they must navigate gendered expectations and behavior—in their daily interactions and as a consequence of the larger genre culture within which they live and work—in order to achieve success. Songwriters occupy a unique place in country music production. Commonly accepted narratives about country music—including its perceived gendered, racial, and classed norms associated with southern working-class whites— position current Nashville songs as the most recent incarnations of a single, unbroken musical tradition, ascribing vernacular qualities to these songs as the expression of an identifiable sociocultural group.2 By contrast, scholars have noted the many historical inaccuracies in this origin story—what Richard Peterson has famously called country music’s “fabricated authenticity”—emphasizing its strategic and deliberate construction.3 The seeming contradiction between country music’s historical continuity and ongoing construction is not new; it exists as a defining feature of the genre itself. By creating country music’s texts, then, songwriters are both perpetuators of a tradition and innovators charged with continually refreshing the genre’s relevance to successive generations of listeners. Rather than betraying an inherent instability, contradictions and the debates that surround them have allowed country music to persist through so many generations and concurrent cultural shifts. If it is the case, as Michael Herzfeld contends, that the “confluence of stereotypes, their use in social interaction, and their necessarily unstable evocation of competing histories is the defining object of a ‘social poetics’” (emphasis the author’s), then country music indeed possesses such a social poetics, with competition for and reclamation of aspects of its history serving not as its unraveling but as its vitality.4 One of the competing histories of country music is contained within the arena of gender. Though particular views about gender perpetuate country music, these views have not remained static. Indeed, as Pamela Fox points out, “unstable models of femininity and masculinity, working in conjunction with other markers of identity, shape the very definition of country identity.”5 Fox’s important study Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music positions gender as a central aspect of country music discourse, “but only in its conjunction with race as well as class, to produce shifting models of authenticity at particular moments in country music history.”6 Gender in country music thus is far from being a fixed and constant set of archetypes. Instead, it is better understood as a site that is continually contested in order to both reinforce and reinvigorate the meaning of the music.7 Nashville songwriters have multiple and overlapping professional identities, and can be viewed through many lenses: as creative individuals who also 103

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respond to and fuel the discourse of country music culture; as laborers working within the commercial network of Music Row (the area of downtown Nashville where most commercial country music is produced); and as members of a local songwriting community whose constituents interact with and influence each other both socially and professionally in a variety of ways.8 As my time spent interacting with members of the songwriting community in Nashville revealed, a key factor accounting for a Nashville songwriter’s success or lack thereof is the ability to adapt to being a cowriter, and to be productive within the peculiar sociality of cowriting sessions. It is within the complexity of cultural meanings, social poetics, and professional identities outlined above that country music songwriters must create and promote their songs. Thus any examination of writing songs in Nashville must wrestle with how these overlapping factors affect a songwriter’s work. Victoria Banks and her songwriter colleagues supply songs that perform multiple functions: among other things, they serve as commodities, resonate with listeners, and act as cultural texts that fuel a wider discourse.9 There are problematic aspects in positioning Banks as somehow representative of the members of the Nashville songwriting community, in assuming that there are uniquely feminine characteristics that she or any female writers bring to their songs, and in discussing three individual songs’ inception and reception as either typical or non-typical. Further, it must be noted that the songs discussed here were not big hits, nor is their significance on par with the prominent feminine-themed Nashville songs of the past.10 Yet while noting these and other potential concerns, I contend that ethnographic inquiry on a single songwriter reinforces how a focus on an individual—one who is in some ways typical and in others exceptional among her peer group—can shed an invaluable and unique light on a group, community, or, in this case, a large and complex commercial culture, regardless of the status of that individual.11 Below I explore how Banks’s songs, views, and activities complicate the commonly accepted gendered narratives of country music culture, and inversely how gendered expectations and resistance to them have affected her work. In the process I both examine the common narratives themselves and highlight how female practitioners such as Banks have contested them over time. For my purposes here I position gender as “a way of referring to the social organization of the relationship between the sexes,” rather than simply commenting on Banks as a woman working in a male milieu who experiences gendered expectations and behavior (though as we will see, she is an astute observer of such things).12 I wish here to temper a sole focus on gender issues by demonstrating how a Nashville songwriter’s success depends on her or his ability to reconcile the many factors—whether creative, commercial, social, or political (and this would include those factors related to gender)—that impinge on her or his work 104

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and daily life. As I make clear in the pages that follow, these many factors are inseparable from each other.

Victoria Banks: Nashville Songwriter Victoria Banks is a Canadian songwriter and singer from Bracebridge, a town of roughly twelve thousand people in the Muskoka region of Ontario, three hours north of Toronto. Since she was a teenager, Banks was determined to write songs for a living. “I didn’t know too much about it,” Banks told me in August 2010 at a café near Music Row, “but I did know you could make a living doing it because one of my high school friends that I played in a band with . . . was living down here.”13 That friend and bandmate, Deric Ruttan, had relocated a couple of years earlier.14 Banks moved to Nashville in 1997 with the knowledge that she had a couch to sleep on upon arrival, as well as the advice of someone who had already been navigating the songwriting terrain there. “[Ruttan has] been a kind of halfway house for a lot of Canadians coming into Nashville, ’til we get our feet on the ground,” she explained.15 The reciprocity that Ruttan exhibited toward Banks is common among songwriters and aspiring writers in Nashville, and not just among old friends who have relocated there. Songwriters’ large numbers within close proximity, as well as the collaborative nature of their work, fosters an observable community-mindedness, collegiality, and mutual support network. Almost all of my informants related a similar story to Banks’s: of fellow songwriters who extended an unconditional helping hand to help them get established in town and in their work. While this lack of overt competitiveness may seem counterintuitive given that there is a large pool of writers and relatively few opportunities available for placing their songs with performers, supportive camaraderie is an apparent and defining feature of the interaction between members of the Nashville songwriting community generally. Richard Peterson and Howard White have explored how peer groups of workers employed within informal occupations such as songwriting (i.e., those whose work conditions are not imposed from without) will form seemingly noncompetitive work environments. Yet as the two scholars note, this outward veneer of reciprocity masks how these workers form cliques, called “simplexes,” through which they “discipline and reward each other through gossip and the exchange of favors,” seek to “control the relevant people in the task environment by shaping the flow of information,” and reward members who “support, rather than challenge, the simplex.”16 Seen in this light, peer camaraderie has its limits, and reciprocity is not extended toward just anyone out of simple benevolence. Rather, this overt camaraderie masks a deeper 105

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process of informal peer selection. In other words, one explanation of the peer support shown to Banks could be that it was the result of her work ethic, sociability, and talent; in short, her appropriateness for the work and life of a Nashville songwriter. While gender did not seem to be an impediment toward Banks being shown reciprocity from her songwriting colleagues, this does not mean that the gender of Nashville songwriters is not relevant to their work. Artist and repertoire representative (A&R rep) Renee Bell encapsulates the experience of being both openly accepted and tacitly discriminated against as a woman working on Music Row: “I’ve been lucky because my superiors haven’t been chauvinistic males. . . . I have never felt men were prejudiced against me because I am a woman. . . . [However,] to get an edge, you have to work three times as hard. If you are willing to do that you will get the respect of the men.”17 Although women such as Renee Bell and Victoria Banks will mostly defend the majority of the men they encounter in terms of their attitude toward women as professional peers, they will also freely acknowledge that they experience a bias against themselves as women in the course of their work.18 The experiences that Banks had while trying to find her way in a new physical and professional environment upon arriving in Nashville are not characterized by gendered discrimination or obvious sexism. But just because men on Music Row may not behave in an overtly discriminatory way, that does not mean the system is not biased in their favor.

Dialectics of Inclusion 1997 was a particularly good time for a female songwriter like Banks to be coming to Nashville. At that time, publishers were trying to figure out the kind of material being sought by the female singers who were then dominating the country music charts (such as Martina McBride, Faith Hill, Sara Evans, and Banks’s country-mate, Canadian Shania Twain).19 Banks’s songs, which she calls “female empowered, pop-influenced, pushing the edge of pop stuff for women to sing,” helped address this dearth of female-oriented songs, and she was signed to a publishing deal within six months of moving to Nashville.20 Banks tells the story this way: “I got my first publishing deal because I was a woman. Women were doing really well on the radio in the mid 90s, and publishers were scrambling to try and find female writers who wrote the pop-influenced style of country that was having success. I fit right into that mold, so I was signed with very little songwriting experience under my belt.”21 In this instance Banks parlayed her gender and her gendered songwriting style into an asset, one that allowed her to, in her mind, jump the queue ahead of other, more experienced songwriters. 106

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While being a woman was advantageous in this case, the disadvantages of Banks’s gender were more powerfully felt shortly thereafter, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center in New York (Banks uses the descriptor “9-11”). The comparative broad-mindedness of the late 1990s in terms of gender- and women-oriented subject matter in country songs ended. In its wake, the sounds of the honky-tonk—sounds that are coded as masculine—dominated, and, as Banks puts it, “the women all of a sudden weren’t doing that well. [Instead we got] ‘boot-in-your-ass, I’m American rah-rah-rah, how-country-am-I’ . . .”22 This shift had material implications for Banks well beyond abstract debates about the gendered nature of country music: the ranks of female singers that she had regularly supplied songs to dwindled: “There were a lot of women who were doing really well at that time. I had a Sara Evans single, ‘Some Saints and Angels,’ that came out right before 9-11. Sara was rockin’. She was double platinum, her record was doing great. [After 9-11] my song went up and came back down, and she never charted top ten after that.”23 Referring to this time in her career, Banks said, “I was writing songs that were better than I’d ever written, but I was writing with other women . . . and there just wasn’t anyone on the pitch sheet to record the songs we wrote.”24 This shift from the pop-oriented, cosmopolitan musical and lyrical content that characterized the music of Shania Twain and Martina McBride to the honky-tonk, typically southern content of the music of Toby Keith and Alan Jackson, male singers who dominated country music charts in the wake of 9-11, is one manifestation of what Richard Peterson has coined the “hard-core versus soft-shell dialectic.”25 Progressive cycles in Nashville’s production process have shown a tendency to vacillate between these poles, at times employing the poporiented sounds of the day (“soft-shell”) to appeal to a wider audience, at others showing a resistance to this perceived watering-down of a traditional country (“hard-core”) sound. Banks’s statement above indicates that this dialectic is not only about the size and makeup of the audience, but also the gender of this audience and its members’ views about gender. Indeed, the soft and hard binary itself is in large part a gendered distinction, and the “wider audience” sought by soft-shell country is often made up of women who might feel alienated or indifferent about hard-core, honky-tonk country.26

Cowriting and Gender Politics While cowriting has long taken place among Nashville songwriters in the past, it was always undertaken at the discretion of the writers themselves. Cowriting has recently become a standard practice largely because of the interests and 107

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interventions of Music Row publishers and producers. The ubiquity of cowriting now exists for two primary reasons: to increase the number of parties (writers and their respective publishers) advocating for and promoting a song, and to gain access to royalty income for singers and their management by insisting on singers’ presence in cowriting sessions. Since cowriting has become standard practice, members of the country songwriting community share more than a way of life: they collaborate regularly in the course of their work and participate in and collectively embody the particular sociality made manifest in cowriting sessions. These sessions are spaces in which a song is formulated and then written, ideally out of input from everyone present and often prompted by the recounting of personal experiences or thoughts of the cowriters. Prior to coming to Nashville, Banks mostly wrote alone, and Fame Music, her first publisher, encouraged her to continue doing so.27 Four years after arriving in Nashville, she married her songplugger at Fame, who became her “conduit to the world” while she “just stayed home and wrote.”28 This relationship did not last, yet its beginning and its end had profound implications for the trajectory of Banks’s career and music. One of the effects of the eventual demise of Banks’s marriage was that she sought to break her relative isolation and began to collaborate more often to write songs. For a period of time (roughly 2005 to 2009) she did so almost exclusively with women. As Banks explains it: “. . . a lot of [my cowriting] relationships came from after my divorce when I felt a little threatened by being in the room with men.”29 It is exponentially more difficult to find songwriting collaborators who are women on Music Row than it is to find male ones, owing to the disparity of the size of their respective ranks. Thus some deliberate effort was made on Banks’s part to seek out cowrites conducted exclusively among women. While the effort exerted to find suitable female writing partners might have been beneficial on an emotional or psychic level for Banks, the tactic was not without risk. Banks explained to me that “there’s a belief in the business that although female artists will cut male demos, males can’t ‘hear through’ a female demo.” While Banks’s assertion that “males can’t ‘hear through’ a female demo” is a widely held perception (and likely an accurate one), there are exceptions. For instance, Tim McGraw’s assertion in 2012 that “for some reason, girls can sing a guy’s demo better than a guy can sing a girl’s demo” is in direct contravention to Banks’s claim.30 Nevertheless, a widely held perception exists that women routinely decide to cut songs upon hearing songwriter demos in which the singer is male, but the reverse seldom happens. This is, according to Banks and others, a gendered stigma, if not an overtly sexist outlook, one that prevents men from cutting a song they hear as “female.”31 108

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This perceived bias extends beyond singers on demo recordings and into the writing room where songwriters meet to create songs. Banks asserts that: There also seems to be a double standard that males can write female material but females can’t write male material without at least co-writing with a male because they will naturally come up with female-sounding melodies, use too wide of a vocal range, or say things in a uniquely female way. Maybe that’s true sometimes [i.e. that women bring a female perspective and tendencies], but I fully believe that a woman who pays attention and knows her craft can write a song for a man just as well as a man can write one for a woman. Why not?32

While Banks does not deny that something “uniquely feminine” might result from a cowriting session between women, or where the perspective of the woman who is present dominates a song’s content, she questions what the problem with such a perspective might be. Indeed, Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter Cindy Walker wrote songs for male singers throughout her career (most notably Eddy Arnold’s “You Don’t Know Me”) largely without any gendered scrutiny of her lyrics. Further, there have been many country songs written by men and sung by women, and these are not rejected simply because they might have too much of a male perspective. Regardless, this bias, or at least the perception of it, exists to the extent that it is safe to extrapolate that fewer songs are written only by women on Music Row. This indicates how Banks’s decisions about cowriters after her divorce might have marginalized the songs she wrote at this time, in spite of the fact that Banks was, in her own estimation, writing “songs that were better than [she’d] ever written.” “Remember That” Remember How he told you you were stupid How he couldn’t even look at you anymore Remember How he told you you were crazy How he got out of the car and slammed the door He said you can’t do anything right Why you gotta make me so mad Just get outta my sight Remember that When it’s 3 a.m. and he’s at your door And he wants you back and he’s begging for forgiveness 109

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Remember that When your phone keeps ringing all night long And that same old weakness gets so strong that you’re helpless Remember that Remember . . .33 In the set of lyrics abbreviated above (written by Banks and Rachel Proctor), the very personal nature of the scenario it outlines is contrasted by the removed stance the speaker maintains. Nashville songwriters tend to adhere to the belief that listeners are not interested in hearing about a songwriter’s personal problems, and that country songs are most effective when they invite listeners to imagine themselves in the situation the song describes. In spite of the intimate ways in which the words describe such a private topic (one not often broached directly in country songs), there is little or no indication of how personal the topic might be to the actual writers of these words.34 The song is sung from the perspective of a former victim of male domestic abuse to another woman who is currently in a similar situation. Banks’s account of the song’s inception is worth quoting here at length: Rachel Proctor and I wrote it together about a year after my divorce. Rachel had saved the idea to write with me—we’d never written together or even talked much before that, but somehow she just felt compelled to bring that idea to me. . . . It turned out that we both had that experience in common—we’d both . . . had “Remember That” moments that helped us end our relationships. So when we finally finished talking about it and got down to writing it—which wasn’t until about four p.m., but we finished it within an hour—we wrote it from the heart to try and help other abused women to have the same realization we had.35

The song’s writing was motivated largely by two songwriters’ mutual desire to come to terms with abusive and traumatic experiences they had suffered at the hands of male romantic partners. Proctor had “saved the idea,” presumably choosing not to even suggest it to male cowriters (or to female ones who might not relate to the type of phenomenon the song describes). Banks’s statement that it “wasn’t until about four p.m.” implies that the pair had been talking since that morning when their cowriting session began. During a conversation that lasted several hours, the two songwriters described their experiences of abuse both emotional and physical to each other, and found common ground in recalling each of their epiphanic “‘Remember That’ moments.” With the clarity of that image, they wrote a song relatively quickly (“within an hour”).

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Is “Remember That” an intrinsically female song? Banks certainly thinks so: “I don’t think it could have been written with/by a man—at least not the same way. I wouldn’t have felt as open and connected with a male cowriter at the time, although I’m getting better at that now, and I’m not sure a man would have had the same personal investment that motivated the lyric to be written. It came straight from our hearts and our respective experiences.”36 If her explanation that a man would not have a “personal investment” in speaking about the subject matter were a compelling argument for why this song is specifically gendered, then “Remember That” would be a rare exception among cowritten Nashville songs. By this I mean that it was not written for its potential to be a money-making hit, as is the expectation for songs now being written between professional songwriters on Music Row. Rather, it is very personal to the experiences of its songwriters, and Banks and Proctor felt that it was an important message for and about women who have been abused by their male romantic partners. While I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of her claims (nor any interest in doing so), Banks’s initial statement that the song could not have been written by a man, while not entirely refutable, needs to be scrutinized further. It is likely true that Banks would not have felt “as open and connected” with a male cowriter when discussing domestic abuse, yet it should not be assumed from this that male songwriters do not or cannot write songs on subjects that could be of particular interest to women. Nashville songwriters routinely write songs by adopting subject positions, including gendered ones, different from their own.37 I refer to this process of adoption as empathetic transference. Here I intend the term to relate to both the process that allows songwriters to write songs describing subject positions outside of their direct experience, and also the process through which a listener will relate to and attach meaning onto a song.38 Amy Shuman reminds us that “empathy provides one means for understanding across disparate experiences,” and that the empathetic responses of both songwriters and listeners are called into play when consuming a country song.39 While scrutiny of the potential relationship between a songwriter and the subject of a song, looking for connections between the lyrics and the writer herself, is routine among listeners and scholars alike, how empathy extends to the listener of a song as well is less often examined. Yet I want to suggest that this is an important analytical step given that Nashville songwriters are assigned the task of writing songs for others to sing, in which listeners can believably connect these songs to the singers that perform them, and that empathy is the capacity the listener possesses that allows her or him to relate to a song’s subject matter. Based on my discussions with numerous commercial songwriters, it is the second aspect of empathetic transference (in which a songwriter anticipates

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how a listener will react to a song upon hearing it) that most concerns them in their work. This is also the primary concern of a songwriter’s publisher, that publisher’s songplugger, and the producer, performer, manager, or agent that the songplugger is pitching the song to.40 In pointing out this aspect of writing commercial country songs, I wish to simply note that while “Remember That” is without a doubt a very personal, perhaps even autobiographical song to its writers, this does not entirely account for what makes it compelling to listeners. Banks’s and Proctor’s ability to extend their mutual experience into a song that can be relatable and widely consumed must be considered as well. Banks’s choice of collaborators, largely born out of a desire to achieve a sort of psychic unity between her songwriting and other aspects of her life (and in spite of the risk involved in not writing with men), helped earn her a reputation as a quasi-specialist at writing empowered songs for women, a reputation that has contributed to some specific songwriting successes. The song “Remember That” set one such success in motion the day an executive at RCA Records pulled a demo CD out of a pile on her desk and listened to it.41 The song was then pitched to Jessica Simpson, a well-known actress and singer at the time (2007) who was making her entry into the country music market and was looking for songs. Simpson liked it so much that she decided to cut it.42 “Apparently she’s been through that experience, too,” Banks explained, “so she related to it, fell in love with the song and decided hands-down she was going to record [it].”43 While Banks and Proctor may have been somewhat surprised that this song got cut given its subject matter, they were optimistic that the message of the song might be widely heard. In addition to helping themselves and their own processes of healing from trauma, Banks clearly states that she was motivated by the idea that the song might help other women who had been or are currently in similar situations. That a well-known singer cut the song made them even more optimistic about the song’s potential effect: “Remember That” was [Jessica Simpson’s] second single, and we had such high hopes for it! Rachel and I personally hand-wrote a card to each country radio station in North America . . . asking them to please consider “Remember That” and the impact that it could have on their listeners that needed to hear it. But radio didn’t play it. I don’t know if it was the mostly male music programmers, or whether country radio was just over Jessica Simpson already. But we were pretty crushed about it. It was the most downloaded song on iTunes [for a brief period after its release], so it must have touched the listeners out there that did find it.44

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even more unusual, and would be seen as transparently self-serving unless the altruistic motivation behind it was apparent. It would seem that the songwriters’ advocacy had little effect on the song’s radio presence, however, and it never achieved a high position on the charts. Banks’s observation about the downloads indicates how a song might have wide appeal, or appeal to a large group of listeners, yet still be rejected by “mostly male radio programmers” who either do not recognize the song’s merits or are biased against it because of how its gendered position contrasts with their own. “Come On Over” Leave your dishes in the sink Leave the ice cubes in your drink Just come on over Leave your coat behind the door Leave your laundry on the floor Just come on over I need you now I need you bad I need you, baby Looking just like that Don’t pack your bag Don’t make me wait I wanna kiss that smile That’s on your face I need you wrapped up in these arms I want you just the way you are Come on over . . .45 Hearing the song “Remember That” prompted Simpson to make another choice about her upcoming recording. As Banks relates, “She decided she wanted to write for her record and she sought us out to write with us because of that song.”46 The song that emerged from that decision, “Come On Over,” was not similar in tone to “Remember That,” as can be observed in the sample of the lyrics above. These lyrics of course do little to provide insight about Simpson or any of the song’s individual writers. “Come On Over” is a broadly relatable statement of longing and desire, an impassioned plea for the placation of these feelings, and a good vehicle for Simpson’s sexually charged stage persona. However, the story behind its creation demonstrates how songwriters’ actual lives and interactions (and in this case, their sharing of poignant and observably 113

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gendered experiences) facilitate a song’s creation and help songwriters navigate the formulaic constraints of country music songwriting. To write what would eventually become “Come On Over,” Simpson flew to Nashville on two separate afternoons. The first of the writing sessions consisted of Simpson recounting several incidents of her life while Banks and Proctor sat in silence (Banks was taking painkillers because of a recent knee surgery and Proctor was stricken with a serious flu). “Luckily she liked us enough to give it another chance, cuz we didn’t come up with anything that day,” recalls Banks, “but she came back a couple of weeks later . . . and in the meantime I had taken some of what she, you know, was talking about, and started the song ‘Come On Over’ that we ended up writing.”47 It is important to reflect on the types of interactions that occur between writers—including the brief moments of caring that allowed Banks and Proctor to take Simpson’s stories and infuse them into a song; that made it safe for Simpson to put herself in an emotionally vulnerable position in front of virtual strangers on more than one occasion; and that informed the song that resulted from these interactions. Country songs owe their existence to unpredictable and intangible personal interactions and to spontaneous decisions made by songwriters in cowriting sessions (though Banks alludes to the fact that sometimes work gets done at home after these sessions as well). Regardless of the number of times a song is played, reworked, or listened to, I would suggest that it inevitably bears some imprint of the writers present at its initial formation. This imprinting, which I refer to as auratic transference, places the presence of the songwriter in the song itself, regardless of the circumstances and personnel involved in later performances, recorded or live.48 Recognizing auratic transference thus complicates binaristic thinking about songs as either authentically autobiographical or otherwise, and considers how songwriters contribute to songs whether or not the final lyrical content directly reflects the songwriters’ personal experience. In this case, the cowriting session between Banks, Proctor, and Simpson was initiated out of Simpson’s belief in the emotional trustworthiness of the songwriters, this belief coming from hearing a poignant and relatable song that they wrote. This would at least help to explain why Simpson would fly all the way to Nashville and pour her heart out to two strangers as a way to write a song. She chose these collaborators not only as a marketing strategy (though this is obviously part of the reason that a singer in her situation seeks out professional songwriters as cowriters), and in large part because of her own personal comfort level. Notably, this mirrors how Banks made decisions about cowriters after her divorce. As Banks points out, the subject matter of “Remember That,” and by extension the gender of her cowriters, was a clear factor in Simpson’s choice to write with them. Thus, while in the previous section I cautioned against a reading of Nashville songs as strictly autobiographical, it would seem that Simpson, as a 114

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performer and also a listener, did not hesitate to make that connection. “Come On Over” represents another instance in which Banks’s gender and her choice to write only with female cowriters seems to be responsible for another tangible success. Banks’s, Proctor’s, and Simpson’s eventual collaboration produced Banks’s most commercially successful song to date, which still holds the record for the most successful debut single by a solo artist in the history of the Billboard Country Music Charts.49 “Some Men Don’t Cheat” One foot in the hallway And one foot out the door One foot in a new life And one still in the life I lived before That ain’t my life no more Back over my shoulder this house is full of pain But even though the comfort’s cold it’s still almost enough to make me stay But I can’t live that way Because I still believe that some men don’t cheat And some men don’t lie Some men don’t need what they don’t have to feel satisfied So I’ll walk out this door And drive off down that street ’Cause baby I deserve more Some men don’t cheat . . .50 The story of another Banks song, “Some Men Don’t Cheat,” sheds light on the auratic transference that occurs in cowriting sessions and how this might pertain to a song written by a man and a woman together. It complicates my previous depiction of Banks as someone who only cowrites with other women, and is an example of men collaborating with women in the crafting of a song written for a woman to sing, something that happens with regularity in Nashville.51 The character in “Some Men Don’t Cheat” is describing her thoughts as a woman who is exiting a relationship because of a partner’s infidelity, and asserting the inevitability of her decision in spite of the pain that will ensue. Banks describes the song’s genesis this way: “[After my divorce] I did work with a couple of men that I really loved working with. Michael Dulaney was one . . . he pulled one out of me after my divorce, a song called ‘Some Men Don’t Cheat,’ . . . I was [talking a lot] about my marriage cuz it was close to coming to an end and he looked at me and said, ‘Some men don’t cheat. You deserve better,’ and I was like, ‘Let’s write that!’”52 115

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The interaction between Banks and Dulaney described here further highlights how songwriters in cowriting sessions can generate ideas by mining their own and their collaborators’ experiences and views for subject material. While conversations in cowriting sessions routinely drift toward topics usually considered too private or intimate to be shared among mere acquaintances, and certainly between virtual strangers, these conversations could at any time be interrupted by a “let’s write that!” moment. Banks describes how this happened in the session with Dulaney: Michael contributed a lot to “Some Men Don’t Cheat,” but again that song is a painfully honest commentary on the experience I had with my first husband. After the divorce, I spent about six months coming apart emotionally in the writing room, often with cowriters I had just met! I was hurting, and I was venting. Some of my collaborators brushed it aside, but the really good ones like Michael used it as material and gently helped me dig into it and explore my feelings about what had happened. They mined my pain like the songwriting gold that it was, so to speak . . . country music loves a cheating/ drinking/ heartache song.53

“Some Men Don’t Cheat,” while arising out of Banks’s experience, is not written from an unequivocally female perspective, but rather represents a merging of two slightly different takes on the assertion of the title. Dulaney is essentially defending men as not all dogs, and it was he who came up with the lyrical hook to that effect. Banks meanwhile seems to be contextualizing her specific dog by saying that not all the others act that way, and drawing hope from such an assertion. Aaron Fox highlights how a process of “split subjectivity” allows country listeners to both relate to and be ashamed by characters and behaviors described in country songs, simultaneously embracing and disavowing the lyrics’ applicability to their own lives.54 Accounts like that of the writing of “Some Men Don’t Cheat” demonstrate how Nashville songwriters employ a similar split subjectivity. Though country songs often appear to be autobiographical, it must be remembered that they are not generally written to be confessional or selfdepicting. Typically they are intended to be recorded by another singer, and to be believable when sung in another’s voice. Nashville songwriters make themselves vulnerable enough to expose personal stories and thoughts, but at the same time abstract themselves from these experiences in order to write a broadly relatable song text. Dulaney, rather than being embarrassed by or dismissive of Banks’s emotional pain, “gently helped” her to translate her real-life experiences and emotions into a more broadly relatable song. Through this we can observe how cowriting sessions, even when they contain intimate sharing of personal details from the songwriters’ lives, act 116

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as a buffer between the emotional content contained within a song and a song’s eventual manifestation as a recorded and mass-mediated commodity. A group called Cowboy Crush recorded “Some Men Don’t Cheat” in 2005. The experience of this group and its efforts to exploit the commercial potential of this song gives insight into how gender affects how one hears a particular song, and also how certain viewpoints get privileged on the radio, the primary medium through which country songs come to the attention of listeners. After cutting the song, the band and its management team chose it as the first single to be released on its debut album.55 More correctly, that was the intention until it came to the first radio tour promoting the album.56 Banks describes what happened: We were told that the radio programmers were reacting very unfavorably to it. As much as it mobilized and excited women listeners, who were calling in to the radio requesting it, it must have been incredibly uncomfortable to listen to that song if you were a man that DOES cheat. And according to what we were told, radio programmers tend to be men who have a penchant for hitting on the female artists out there on radio tours. There are many inside stories about female artists’ careers being made or broken by the fact that they slept with—or rejected the advances of—a high power radio programmer . . . so as sad as Cowboy Crush was to have to pull the song, they said they could see programmers visibly squirming when they played it and it just wasn’t going to fly.57

Owing to the perception of a gendered bias among gatekeepers at country radio, Cowboy Crush’s management team concluded at the time that it was not commercially expedient to release “Some Men Don’t Cheat” as a single. In describing this experience and the response of middle-aged male radio managers and programmers, Banks becomes more animated about male biases in the country music industry than at any other point during our conversations. In Banks’s estimation, “There are so many women that would have loved to have heard that song. And men too!”58 She believes that they were denied this opportunity at the whim of a group of men who were squeamish at the song’s lyrical content because of how it reflected on them personally, and without any regard for (or out of a misrepresentation of) the listeners they are charged with getting a favorable response from. Banks identifies a poignant concern arising out of this scenario: that there is little room for her own subjectivity—as a “30-something-year-old woman” who has experienced the kind of physical and emotional pain the song describes—in her professional environment. In other words, Banks cannot simply write songs she feels women like herself would want to hear, which is certainly ironic given that a significant percentage of country listeners are believed to be women of a 117

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similar age to Banks. In order to get a song on the radio in the current industrial climate, Banks has to employ empathetic transference in order to write what a man, who is likely to be in his mid-fifties, thinks a woman in her mid-thirties, someone much like herself, would want to hear, or perhaps what they want such a woman to hear. To Banks, the idea that middle-aged male radio programmers were making decisions about radio content meant that women were not hearing the songs they ought to be hearing, songs that might empower and uplift them.

Analyses of Victoria Banks’s Stories What are we to make of Banks’s statement that she “mined [her] pain like the songwriting gold that it was,” quoted above? Using her painfully personal story as a theme for a commercial country song intended for mass mediation may seem a debasement of these experiences to some, yet this is not by any stretch unusual for Nashville songwriters. Nashville songwriters rely on inspiration plucked from plausibly real-life scenarios, thoughts, and beliefs in order to resonate with listeners. Banks’s approach to her work and the process through which these songs came about challenges the overly reductive view that positions songs as either sincere and authentic or fabricated and commercial. All of the songs I discuss here, though inspired from real-life experiences of its writers, are written from a stance that invites listeners to participate in their meaning for themselves. Further, “Remember That” and “Some Men Don’t Cheat” were not initiated through Banks’s own insistence. The former came from an idea that another songwriter “saved” to work on with Banks, while the latter was the idea of a collaborator who was inspired by Banks’s story. That the experiences and emotions she depicts in these songs closely resemble her own can be seen to simply sharpen the songs’ imagery. Observable in Banks’s work and views is an ability to adapt to a variety of constraints—some longstanding and constant, others arising more spontaneously and unpredictably—in order to write sellable songs. While musical ability is a necessary prerequisite, it alone does not account for who can successfully forge a career writing songs in Nashville. In addition to dogged determination, success requires continual adjustment to the work conditions imposed by publishers and producers, and by their constantly shifting expectations. Nashville songwriters must also have the ability to work and interact with others (whether friends, acquaintances, or strangers), and to produce songs from these interactions. This is possible through a process of split subjectivity in which one is intimately connected with and simultaneously abstracted from a song’s subject,

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yet also relies on an ability to be comfortable and productive within the unique sociality that exists between Nashville songwriters when they collaborate. Banks’s personal story was subject to the same collaborative process and genre-appropriate reformatting that cowriters subject any idea to. Rather than focus on how these songs might represent some sort of cheapening or selling out of her own experiences with domestic abuse and divorce, it is important to contemplate how Banks may have strengthened, even authenticated, these songs by finding a balance between the autobiographical and the broadly relatable within the confines of a cowriting session and using the medium of the country song. Banks’s post-divorce songwriting process was to write with women, or the few men that she was comfortable collaborating with, as part of a healing from her trauma. Thus it could be argued that gender and gendered decisions were responsible for her and her collaborators discovering this middle ground between an intensely and painfully personal account and a widely shared, communal one. Cowriting in Nashville requires a particular adaptation on the part of female songwriters, who must negotiate an often intimate environment when cowriting with men (or, like Banks, make a choice to write only with women and accept the ensuing consequences). The social environment of the cowriting session is characterized by the revelation of private thoughts or personal experiences not often shared between acquaintances or work colleagues. While it might be assumed that women can summon the empathy required to write songs more readily than men, such generalizations are dubious and difficult to quantify. Nevertheless, Banks’s experiences offer food for thought as to how cowriting might be different were it not always inclined toward the proclivities of male writers, as it arguably is at the present time. The songs that are written in cowriting sessions are subjected to social and commercial processes beyond the ability of the songwriter to significantly affect. These processes inscribe hindrances upon the potential success of songs written by women (e.g., who they are likely to be pitched to or cut by) while seemingly not imposing these disadvantages on songs written by men. The significance of this phenomenon and its implications for how gender is negotiated in the production and consumption of country songs merits further scholarly critique. Though difficult to quantify, experiences such as Banks’s and other female Nashville songwriters can certainly shed light on the more tacit biases and underlying gendered assumptions informing country music culture and song production. Banks’s gendered choices of cowriters were part of a process through which she sought to make her songwriting an organic extension of the rest of her life and her personality, as the following quote illustrates:

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The thing that empowers me most as a writer is to think of the creative process in a spiritual way, where I’m not responsible for the content that I come up, I’m just the tap, the conduit, so it’s all about keeping the tap working. I don’t have to be responsible. It’s too much responsibility to place on my shoulders, and it puts me through all this agony, to think that I’m responsible for coming up with the idea. But to think that I just have to listen for it and it’s there . . . allows me to honor those little whispers in my subconscious. . . . If you looked at your creative personality like a little child—it’s that delicate really . . . you would treat that child with respect and gentleness.59

Banks sought to achieve a state of spiritually attuned listening and self-nurturing through songwriting, and felt she could achieve this more readily when she cowrote with women. The reasons why Banks chose to do this, and the fact that she was even in a position to make a choice about the gender of her cowriters, set her apart from her peers. Barbara Ching points out that the “differences” that have cropped up over time to challenge the norms of country music ought to be viewed as crucial in the formation of oppositions to official narratives, and that it is these differences, these slippages in the official narrative, through which “meaning” is created.60 Less typical individuals and the creative acts they perform provide important windows into how things come to be normalized or accepted as natural, things “already said” (in the sense Michel Foucault uses this term) and thus taken for granted.61 Points of slippage encourage inquiries into other possible modes of production and creativity, and are implicated in how and why country music as an entity maintains its relevance through so many generations: it is a commercial cultural practice that, while importantly positioned as a historically constituted, nostalgia-tinged fixity, is actually a highly flexible discursive arena through which many gendered (and classed and racialized) issues are debated and made meaningful. Oppositional stances and challenges to convention such as Banks’s are often unnoticed or lost over time. This reinforces how and why it is difficult—but not impossible—to affect large-scale change in the context of longstanding and monolithic commercial cultures such as country music. Fortunately for the continued health and relevancy of the genre, however, the monolithic nature of the country music industry and the conservativism often attributed to country music culture does not seem to stop people such as Victoria Banks from challenging conventional wisdom in various ways.

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Notes 1. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. 2. Geoff Mann, “Why Does Country Music Sound White? Race and the Voice of Nostalgia,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 31:1 (2008): 73–100. 3. Richard A. Peterson, Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Keith Negus, “The Corporation, Country Culture and the Communities of Musical Production,” in Musical Genres and Corporate Cultures (London: Routledge, 1999), 103–30; Anthony Harkins, Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004); Karl Hagstrom Miller, Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010). 4. Michael Herzfeld, Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation State (New York: Routledge, 2005), 16. 5. Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 5. 6. Fox, Natural Acts, 5; see also Richard Leppert and George Lipsitz, “Age, the Body and Experience in the Music of Hank Williams,” in All That Glitters: Country Music in America, ed. George Lewis (Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993), 34–35. 7. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold, “Introduction,” in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004), xx. 8. Some songwriters are also performers, whether they divide their time between the two tasks and treat them as separate but related aspects of their work, or whether they are appearing in one of the many forums in Nashville (and increasingly elsewhere) that feature songwriters performing their own songs. Banks is in fact a performer herself, with an active career in Canada. She has been nominated as Female Artist of the Year at the Canadian Country Music Awards (CCMAs), which award she won in 2010. The term “country music culture” has been defined most coherently by Curtis Ellison, who presents both the historical and vernacular significance and the commercial and constructed nature of country music as a cohesive whole. “Commercial country music was invented during a period of intense modernization in the twentieth-century American South. It evolved rapidly . . . [into] an extensive national network of performers and fans unparalleled in other forms of popular music. That network supports a distinctive, self-conscious entertainment community within American society that I call ‘country music culture.’ Borrowing culture from its anthropological use, here I mean to focus on the accumulation and reinforcement through time of shared attitudes, values, traditions gestures, rituals and ceremonial events.” Curtis Ellison, Country Music Culture: From Hard Times to Heaven (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995): xvi. 9. Michael Hughes has discussed how much of the discourse surrounding country music is intended to do the work of maintaining it as a musical form that is distinct from other popular musics with which it is clearly affiliated (i.e., rock and roll, folk and popular musics). Michael Hughes, “Country Music as Impression Management: A Meditation on Fabricating Authenticity,” Poetics 28 (2000): 195, 200.

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Chris Wilson 10. The most prominent of these include “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” written by J. D. Miller and recorded by Kitty Wells in 1953, and “The Pill,” written by Lorene Allen, Don McHan, and T. D. Bayless and recorded by Loretta Lynn in 1975. 11. See Jonathan Stock, “Toward an Ethnomusicology of the Individual, or Biographical Writing in Ethnomusicology,” World of Music 43:1 (2001): 5–19, for further discussion on the merits and limitations of ethnographic study of individuals’ cultural practices. 12. Joan W. Scott, “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis,” American Historical Review 91:5 (1986): 1053. 13. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. 14. Ruttan is another of my informants, and has written songs recorded by Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, and several Canadian country singers, including Terri Clark, Michelle Wright, Paul Brandt, Jason Blaine, and Jason McCoy. He is also a performer with an active career in Canada, and was nominated in 2013 for Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Single of the Year (for “Main Street, 1979”), Songwriter of the Year (along with co-writer Jason Blaine) for “Cool” (recorded by Blaine), and Video Director of the Year (for “My Kind Of Freedom,” directed by Ruttan, John Fucile, and Lisa Fucile) (see www.dericruttan.net/index.php, accessed August 8, 2013). 15. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. 16. Richard Peterson and Howard White, “The Simplex Located in Art Worlds,” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 7:4 (1979): 18–19. 17. Quoted in James Dickerson, Women on Top: The Quiet Revolution That’s Rocking the American Music Industry (New York: Billboard, 1998), 48–49. 18. Many of the female songwriters I spoke with about the topic simply said they felt that women were fully accepted as peers and colleagues once they had earned respect as songwriters, either through previous successes or by being signed to a publishing deal. However, it must be remembered that as workers who need to be concerned with navigating their particular professional milieu, female songwriters may not feel that they are in a position to offer a full-blown critique of their male coworkers’ attitudes toward female coworkers to someone in my position. 19. The year before Banks moved to Nashville, 1996, was the first in the modern era of recorded music (post-1954) that female singers made up a bigger percentage of solo artists that made the Top 20 on the charts than their male counterparts did (Dickerson, Women on Top, 17–18), and country music reflected this emergence as much as any genre. The late nineties was also the first era in which female record buyers accounted for more sales than men (see Ger Tillekens, “Trends and Shifts in U.S. Music Sales: An Overview of the Annual Demographic Surveys of the RIAA,” www.icce.rug.nl/~soundscapes/VOLUME02/Trends_and_shifts_in_ music_sales.shtml, accessed July 23, 2013. See Dickerson, Women on Top, 17–63, for further discussion of the late 1990s as it pertains to women in popular music generally and country music specifically. 20. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. While it is not unheard of for an arrivee with no industry connections to be signed by a publisher within a few months, most of my informants who came to Nashville under similar circumstances, particularly those who have arrived more recently, were not signed so quickly, some waiting over two years (or never getting signed by a publisher at all). Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. 21. Ibid.

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Gender and the Nashville Songwriter: Songs by Victoria Banks 22. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. For a discussion on honkytonk’s coding as masculine, see Barbara Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture (London: Oxford University Press, 2001), 30–34. See Aaron Fox, “‘Alternative’ to What? ‘O Brother,’ September 11th, and the Politics of Country Music,” in Country Music Goes to War, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2005), 164–91, for further discussion on changes in country music in response to 9-11. 23. Ibid. 24. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. A pitch sheet is a list of singers who are looking for material, compiled from information sent from record companies to publishers and distributed to the songwriters on the respective publishers’ rosters. 25. Richard A. Peterson, “The Dialectic of Hard-Core and Soft-Shell Country Music,” in Readin’ Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky Tonk Bars, ed. Cecelia Tichi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995), 273–300. 26. See Hughes, “Country Music as Impression Management,” 196, for more on the gendered implications of the hard-core vs. soft-shell dialectic. 27. Banks’s arrangement with her publisher to produce solo-written songs was exceptional for the time, and as of this writing is virtually unknown on Music Row. Songwriters are not hired and given a salary by publishers; rather they are signed to a contract (usually one to three years) and receive a draw that is recovered from the future royalties they are expected to produce. As cowriting is deemed to increase the chances that the song that results will be cut, most Nashville songwriters are not even offered a choice from their publishers about writing solo-written songs: they are expected to collaborate with others in the course of their work. In some cases publishers will set up these cowriting sessions themselves, usually but not always with input from the writer on their roster. 28. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. A songplugger is a salesperson of songs. It is her or his job to have the right song be heard by a person—whether a singer, manager, or producer—that is in a position to get a song cut. 29. Ibid. 30. Craig Shelburne, “Tim McGraw Earns His Freedom,” American Songwriter 27:4 (2012): 65. 31. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. 32. Ibid. 33. © 2008 Circle C. Songs (Administered by Full Circle Music Publishing LLC (ASCAP). Circle C Songs (ASCAP/SOCAN). 34. In spite of its rarity, there have been prominent songs that have broached the subject of domestic and spousal abuse, both physical and psychological. Loretta Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home a’ Drinkin’ with Lovin’ on Your Mind” from 1967 (written by Lynn and her sister, Peggy Sue Webb) and Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” from 1994 (written by Gretchen Peters) are examples of this type of song. 35. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. 36. Ibid. 37. Two examples of songs that primarily appealed to women but were written by men are Pam Tillis’s “All the Good Ones Are Gone,” written by Dean Dillon and Bob McDill, and more recently Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” written by Josh Kear and Chris Tompkins.

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Chris Wilson 38. Oxford Dictionary Online, http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/empathy ?q=empathy, accessed August 20, 2013. 39. Amy Shuman, Other People’s Stories: Entitlement Claims and the Critique of Empathy (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 18. 40. In commenting on the role of audience and the motivations of producers in country music production, sociologist Michael Hughes notes that “. . . collective behavior of industry actors and artists . . . is based in generalized beliefs about the existence and nature of the audience and what they will buy.” These beliefs are far from fixed, and not only change over time but are often confounded by unanticipated song choices on the part of audiences. While publishers and producers try to anticipate what audiences will respond to, this process is highly speculative and the whims of consumers change constantly. Hughes, “Country Music as Impression Management,” 196. 41. Songwriters regularly “demo” their songs (i.e., record them or have them recorded by professional musicians and singers). Songpluggers then make CDs (or use more recent digital file technologies) of particular songs from their roster of songwriters that they think would be of interest to producers and managers, whether as a matter of routine or because of specific knowledge they might have about what types of songs producers might be seeking. 42. Pitching is the process through which a song comes to the attention of a singer or whomever makes decisions on that singer’s behalf about which songs will be cut. While traditionally the domain of songpluggers, songwriters themselves have taken up this task more recently as the significance (and numbers) of songpluggers has decreased. 43. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. 44. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. 45. © 2008 Sweet Kisses, Inc. (ASCAP)/EMI April Music Inc. (ASCAP). Circle C Songs (administered by Full Circle Music Publishing LLC) (ASCAP). Circle C Songs (ASCAP/ SOCAN). 46. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. 47. Ibid. 48. To Walter Benjamin, the aura of the artist is eradicated when the art object is removed from its original context (i.e., the physically and historically located tradition from which it emerges), which is what happens through the process of mechanical reproduction typified by recorded country songs. Sarah Thornton argues that Benjamin was not in a position to anticipate the “new authenticities specific to recorded entertainment” that arose after his writing. Country music’s traditional objects are mechanically reproduced songs, and like Thornton I contend that the technological process is not antithetical to the auratic transference through which a songwriter is present in a song itself, whether it is recorded or otherwise. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Schocken, 1968), 217, 221–23; Sarah Thornton, Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1995), 27–28. 49. The music charts printed and distributed by the Billboard Company have, since their inception in 1936, been considered the most authoritative record of song popularity. It publishes charts in multiple genres, including country music. 50. © 2005 Mojave Rain Music/Circle C Songs (Administered by Full Circle Music Publishing LLC (ASCAP). Circle C Songs (ASCAP/SOCAN).

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Gender and the Nashville Songwriter: Songs by Victoria Banks 51. Famous examples of this type of collaborative song include “Stand By Your Man” (written by Billy Sherrill and Tammy Wynette) and “Redneck Woman” (written by John Rich and Gretchen Wilson). 52. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. 53. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. 54. Aaron Fox, “Split Subjectivity in Country Music and Honky Tonk Discourse,” in All That Glitters: Country Music in America, ed. George Lewis (Bowling Green: Bowling Green State University Press, 1993), 132–40. 55. The common industry strategy for promoting a group is to release one or more songs in advance of a full-length, multiple-song recording (on CD or as a downloadable digital package). While this is primarily done to promote the upcoming full-length recording, the process can veer off course owing to the vagaries of Music Row. Curb Records released six singles by Cowboy Crush between 2005 and 2008, one of which was “Some Men Don’t Cheat.” None charted higher than #56. The full-length recording Cowboy Crush was finally released in 2009, and achieved only modest success. 56. A “radio tour” is undertaken by singers as a way of promoting new singles after their release. A visit to a radio station typically involves a live on-air performance, and as Banks alludes to, can also consist of various forms of interaction between the singers and musicians and the radio managers and programmers, some public and some private. 57. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2013. 58. Personal communication, Victoria Banks, Nashville, 2010. 59. Ibid. 60. Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best, 5. 61. Michel Foucault, Archaeology of Knowledge and the Discourse of Language, trans. Alan Sheridan Smith (New York: Pantheon, 1972), 25.

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As if They Were Going Places: Class and Gender Portrayals through Country Music in the Texas State Prison, 1938–1944 cAroline gnAgy

The concept of the prison has played a historic role in country music. Jimmie Rodgers, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard: country music’s pantheon of flawed men, all sang of “stripes upon their shoulders.” Indeed, prison has played such an important role within country music that it could arguably be considered one of its defining themes. But it has been a distinctly masculine one; when it comes to the theme of crime and punishment in country music, women have historically played supporting roles. Good girls become victims or loving, patient family members, mothers, daughters, sisters, or wives who wait at home. Bad girls tend to assume the role of the other woman, or serve as Jezebels who entice some fallible man to his undoing. It is a rare occurrence, in a country song, when a woman’s bad actions are led by her desires alone, “just to watch him die.” Scholar Jimmie N. Rogers describes country music’s bad girl as a woman who is “presumed ‘good,’ only until she can be persuaded to be ‘bad,’ and once a woman is presumed ‘bad’ she is offered little opportunity to move back up the scale.”1 Women have rarely sung country songs about committing murder; if they do kill in a country music song, it is usually somehow justified. In country music, if a woman commits a murder in cold blood, it is almost certain that the man she has enticed or otherwise influenced will gallantly shoulder the stripes while she walks free. But what if she didn’t walk free? What if instead the bad girl lives behind prison bars and turns to singing country songs of the rambler, cowboy, and home sweet home, all in order to move back up the gendered scale of propriety and win back her own freedom to be a mother, daughter, sister, or wife? Playing country music could then allow a female prisoner to not only attain a family and home of her own, but also to seize a powerful transformational opportunity to improve her image and her circumstances, both during and after her incarceration. The compelling story of the female prisoners who performed on the Texasbased radio show Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls offers an example of just 126

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such a transformational use of country music. When the show first aired on Fort Worth radio station WBAP in the late 1930s, the Texas state prison system housed approximately 150 real-life bad girls in its female-only unit, the Goree State Farm for Women. A select few of these bad girls comprised the Goree All-Girl String Band, a featured act on the radio broadcast. For these marginalized women, country music and its gender iconography became a vehicle for contesting and reconfiguring public understandings of their lives; changing the way they were treated, both as prisoners and in society at large; and in some cases, ultimately allowing them to maneuver themselves out of a bleak and literally confining existence. This pantheon of wholesome images that early country music radio allowed women to play in turn allowed these not-so-wholesome women to, in some cases, resurrect themselves in the eyes of the prison system, the public, and, perhaps, themselves.

Negotiating Identity on Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls resulted from the convergence of an array of cultural and social forces: the prison reform movement; the development of country music as a genre focused on the image of both the common man and the outsider; and the emergence of radio broadcasting as a platform for exploring politics and social issues. During the 1930s government officials worked to improve the Texas prison system’s brutal public image, one that had long been rife with reports of prison guards committing both systematic and arbitrary acts of sadistic torture as punishment for what they perceived as insubordinate inmates. In 1927 newly elected governor Dan Moody proposed an extensive reform for the prison system, guided by the findings of the national Committee on Prisons and Prison Labor (CPPL). Throughout Moody’s administration, the Texas penal system cultivated a number of inmate programs and activities, including the inmate-run newspaper, the Texas Prison Echo, and later, the Texas Prison Rodeo, one of the most successful efforts to garner positive public perception of its reform agenda. Described by Robert Perkinson as a “gladiatorial convict spectacular,” the rodeo made its raucous debut in 1931 and soon became a major regional tourist attraction, due in part to provocative media coverage. The event originated somewhat informally at a branch of the Texas prison system, the Eastham Farm, serving as an opportunity for inmates to attempt daring stunts such as wild mare milking, goat roping, bull and bareback bronco riding (with little or no professional training) in front of a small crowd of spectators, mostly prison employees and other inmates. Its creator, prison system general manager Lee Simmons, soon expanded the rodeo’s concept and scope, moving the event to 127

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the main Texas prison at Huntsville (also known as “The Walls”). Texas and California penology expert Ethan Blue interpreted the sensationalized wording in the Texas rodeo programs as evocative of “an Anglo-Texan memory of the American West, steeped in the lore of the open frontier.” Whether the allure was the romantic Old West or bloodthirsty Ancient Rome, the audience numbered in the thousands.2 Music played a vital role in the rodeo’s festivities, serving as a natural venue for western-themed songs performed by both male and female string bands that became crowd favorites and were later featured heavily on Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls. The western songs performed by the inmates on the rodeo were almost always popular tunes and current radio hits, the products of the burgeoning country music industry. Country music—represented in the 1930s as “western,” “hillbilly,” or “string band” music—gained significance in American popular culture as both a consumer industry and a cultural genre years before Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls began in 1938, and from its beginnings emphasized the plight of the outsider and the renegade. As the eminent scholar Bill Malone has argued, hillbilly and western music appealed to the masses in part because it satisfied the “preoccupation with the mythic common man that touched every realm of art during the Depression years.”3 Some of the genre’s earliest hits were Vernon Dalhart’s 1924 recording of “The Prisoner’s Song” and Jimmie Rodgers’s songs of the prisoner, the rounder, the loner, and the haunted (i.e., the common man), which captivated America, spawning dozens of imitators who in turn developed their own country music identities and further defined the genre. Barn dance radio also exponentially aided the growth of commercial country music, with shows such as the Grand Ole Opry and the WLS National Barn Dance, as well as similarly targeted programming on large clear-channel stations, including Fort Worth’s WBAP. These shows elaborated a vision of the idealized community from which the outsider was excluded, providing for the listening public a definition of what country music ultimately represented: home and hearth; mother and daddy; church and field; labor, land, and nostalgia for a world that no longer existed. Hollywood also capitalized on America’s fascination with the western frontier and cowboy culture, sanitizing a historically gritty, unglamorous American tradition by popularizing stars possessed of a clean-shaven square jaw, wavy hair, and disarming glissando, all of which could be found directly beneath a crisp, perfectly cocked cowboy hat. In all of these incarnations, country music promised the reincorporation of the common man into an idealized world of familial and community ties. As country music’s thematic and cultural appeal generated hope in a radio audience beset with numerous problems caused by the Great Depression, nonmusical radio shows also grew in popularity. Radio campaigns, aimed to raise public awareness of social issues, appealed to the listening public and encouraged 128

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the virtues of compassion, empathy, and good citizenship. Radio and broadcasting industry publications between 1932 and 1944 reported an increasing number of shows constructed around interviews between prison inmates and government officials throughout the United States. According to these trade publications, such shows—including Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls, for which WBAP won a Peabody Award in 1940—were enormously popular, and the large amount of fan mail they received from a curious public was perhaps indicative of listeners’ sympathy for the average American who may have fallen on hard times, even some who may have made injurious or immoral choices in order to survive. As such, Thirty Minutes became one of the most significant and unique examples of what country music could do for a marginalized population.4 The combination of these programs and the use of radio as a tool for public service programming enabled the Texas government to develop a successful avenue through which they could promote the success of their rehabilitation efforts on Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls. The show began in March 1938 and ran until early 1944 as a live radio broadcast from inside the prison grounds, featuring inmates and various public officials. Through the performance of country and other forms of popular music and human-interest interviews with inmate participants, government entities could capitalize on the popularity of radio and music and, at the same time, make prison inmates, and ultimately their platforms for rehabilitation, relatable to the public. Another draw of the show was that inmates themselves were entirely responsible for preparation and production of the broadcast, which proved an effective rehabilitative program and set a precedent for other prisons that soon followed suit. Whether due to curiosity, a sense of solidarity, or simply the quality of the music, Thirty Minutes was enormously popular with the listening public, airing throughout most of North America. WBAP received more than a thousand cards and letters after its inaugural broadcast, and the show had an estimated five million listeners at its peak. Thousands of fan letters and requests poured in each week. One broadcast challenged the audience to write and request that the anniversary show be extended to a full hour, and reported receiving letters in excess of 220,000 the following week.5 The Texas Prison Echo reported that the cast of the show rehearsed nightly and most of the day each Wednesday. In addition to the radio broadcast, the inmates put on a free live performance for the public within the prison walls. Before each Wednesday’s regularly scheduled broadcast time, the prison auditorium doors swung open at 9:30 p.m. and the live floor show started at 10:00 p.m., featuring many of the inmates who would perform on that night’s 10:30 p.m. radio broadcast. The in-person attendance at these live performances averaged from 300 to 400 attendees, with as many as 900 for some shows. Echoing the voyeuristic qualities of the rodeo audiences, fans traveled for hundreds of 129

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miles to the prison to get a glimpse of the inmate performers they heard on the air each week, and indubitably to satisfy their curiosity about life inside the prison.6 Not surprisingly, the necessity of appealing to a mass audience meant that Thirty Minutes did not focus solely on country music. Varying the content widened the audience and allowed inmates of all races to participate as long as they conformed to the institution’s expectations for good behavior, for the show was still considered a rehabilitative program. Although existing radio transcriptions reveal that country music comprised the majority of the show’s musical content, each episode presented a grab bag of hits from a number of popular genres: patriotic, hymns, blues, swing, jazz, pop, and Hawaiian music were featured, as well as instrumentals of any genre. Except for several unique broadcasts featuring the inmates’ own compositions, nearly all the songs were popular radio hits with sheet music made available to the inmates and deposited in the prison’s song library, which the Echo reported as being on a par with many radio station libraries in the United States. In 1942 the paper enthused that “twelve hundred songs, orchestrations and copies of sheet music have been catalogued in the past few weeks.”7 In addition to music, the program also featured minstrel-style comedy acts and human-interest interviews. Thirty Minutes inmate interviews generally began with a few casual personal questions, followed by disingenuous discourse about topics such as the length of the prisoner’s sentence and her rehabilitative prospects, with an unspoken expectation that the interviewee exhibit a supplicant demeanor in her response. This expectation of supplication was particularly notable with respect to race. While the variety of music performed by black and white inmate acts integrated the show as a whole, racial lines were clearly not crossed when it came to the rest of the format; for instance, the minstrel comedy was performed by two black inmates and an overwhelming majority of human-interest interviews were conducted with white inmates. Moreover, as Ethan Blue notes in Doing Time in the Depression, inmate announcers “consistently represented black prisoners with a mixture of opprobrium and condescension, while still emphasizing their musical skills to listeners.” Thus Thirty Minutes, while evoking an air of tolerance, still relegated blacks to what they felt was an appropriately submissive or minor role in the show. The unspoken message was that black inmates were entertainment, whereas white inmates could be taken seriously.8 Surprisingly, despite the show’s racial marginalization of inmates, the most documented female star of Thirty Minutes was not white, and her brief recording career shows how inmates and outsiders used music to create familiar, appealing social identities for popular consumption. “Blues Singing Negress” Hattie Ellis recorded four songs for John and Ruby Lomax during a visit to 130

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the penitentiary on their 1939 southern states recording trip.9 The recordings were racially integrated; session notes compared with prison records reveal that although most of the inmates who appear with Ellis on these recordings were black (providing a vocal chorus), the white guitar player “Cowboy” Jack Ramsey, a member of the Texas prison’s male string band the Rhythmic Stringsters, provided guitar accompaniment for Ellis on at least two recordings. This example of inmate musical integration is possibly the only penitentiary recording the Lomaxes made in which a white prisoner was featured (or at least, credited) as an accompanist for a black inmate.10 Nonetheless, the decision to deemphasize the presence of white musicianship was singularly intentional, and grew out of the Lomaxes’ desire to present Ellis as a representative of what they viewed as an authentically racialized musical tradition. Lomax proclaimed that his primary goal on the trip was “to record on aluminum and celluloid disks, for deposit in the Library of Congress, the folk songs of the Negro—songs that, in music phrasing and in poetic content, are most unlike those of the white race, the least contaminated by white influence or by modern Negro jazz.” This proclamation is somewhat belied not only by Ramsey’s presence but also by the songs Hattie Ellis actually recorded for the Lomaxes, the majority of which were popular jazz and blues numbers of the era, one example being a jazzy vocal rendition of “I Ain’t Got Nobody.” It is conceivable that the Lomaxes made an exception to their collecting philosophy because of Ellis’s vocal ability and her immense popularity on Thirty Minutes and at the rodeo. Whatever their philosophy, both the repertoire and the personnel on Ellis’s recordings revealed the tension between outsiders’ conceptions of inmate populations and the inmates’ own senses of themselves, and demonstrated how music could serve as one means for inmates to become visible on their own terms.11 Unfortunately, because the Lomaxes chose to concentrate only on folk music of the black inmate population, their southern states song collections captured no other examples of music within the white population of the Texas prison system during the 1930s. Despite the Lomaxes’ disinterest in documenting it, however, country music was unquestionably popular among the white population of the Texas prison system. In fact, one inmate’s association with a member of the outside world influenced, if only indirectly, the entire theme of the prison in country music, again showing how the marginalized residents of the Texas prison system made music a vehicle for speaking about their own experience in a public sphere that was otherwise beyond their reach. Inmate Raymond E. Hall met country music pioneer Jimmie Rodgers when both worked on the railroad in the mid-1920s. They traded some songs at the time, and later Rodgers specifically requested that Hall write him a “convict song, like the one Dalhart did.”12 In response, Hall penned “Moonlight and Skies” as well as a number of 131

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other songs for Rodgers, including “Ninety Nine Years Blues” and “Gambling Polka Dot Blues” (both with co-credit attributed to Rodgers). This repertoire was subsequently taken up by other prisoners on Thirty Minutes. In 1941 the Echo reported having the entire Jimmie Rodgers catalog, including Hall’s compositions, on file in the prison’s song library for use on the radio show. Thus, the association between Rodgers and Hall, like the association between the Lomaxes and Hattie Ellis, was a complex negotiation of inmate identity crafted for both public and inmate consumption, and shaped by the needs and preconceptions of outsiders, the personal experience of prisoners, and the circulation of music across commercial and folk idioms. Hall’s achievements may have inspired others; not only did he find success as a songwriter for Rodgers, he was also featured in the 1941 edition of Who’s Who in Poetry in America. He was still imprisoned in the Eastham Unit and would be for most of his life, but the recognition he received was something toward which other inmates could strive, even if clemency proved unattainable. Thirty Minutes transcriptions indicate that songwriting was indeed acceptable and encouraged, in part through occasional “original composition” episodes that showcased songs written, composed, and performed by the inmates. A piece reprinted from the Baltimore Sun, which clearly implied that country music was a favored genre among the imprisoned songwriters, explained their tenacity: “Many of the convicts spend their leisure composing, hoping that a tune, born in the gloom of a prison cell, may click and provide funds to finance pleas for clemency. Many of the songs played on the program are prison born. The lyrics yearn for home and fireside, the sweet face and gray hair of mother, the thrill of riding down a mountain trail with the sun in your face and a surefooted pony under your creaking saddle.”13 In the Echo, inmates frequently wrote of their desire for clemency, and one can certainly envision the hope in their hearts as they wrote country songs they wished would bring money, freedom, or both. At other times, though, Thirty Minutes could become a venue for inmates’ thinly veiled criticism of public perception of them, if not the penal system itself. Hall, for example, skillfully employed his rhetorical gifts on an early episode of Thirty Minutes when an interviewer, whom Hall may well have perceived as condescending, asked him how he felt about being committed to the Eastham Farm, one of the roughest and most brutal prison units, reserved for the worst recidivists (of which Hall was one) and for prisoners deemed incorrigible and beyond hope. Hall replied: I won’t attempt to judge my fellow men. They’re human, for all their lawlessness. They live and breathe and love freedom—like you—like all men—like the beasts of field and forest. That’s as natural as day and night. They’re all long-termers; most of them lifers or 99 year men. The fact that they’re daring, difficult to handle, is 132

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because most of them see only a life of living in a stone and steel-barred world. Almost anyone except the most craven coward would be the same way under similar circumstances. Hope, to us, is the stuff of life. Take it, and we have nothing left.14

Though his remarks may have seemed somewhat barbed to the listening public, they expressed, as did his music, the shared humanity of the outsider and the common man, the incarcerated and the free. Hall spoke eloquently for all prisoners when he told the world about the importance of hope to the incarcerated.

Performing Gender in the Goree All-Girl String Band Of all the country music featured on Thirty Minutes, its crown jewel was the extraordinary Goree All-Girl String Band. A December 1940 interview on Thirty Minutes conducted just a few months after their first public performance identified the Goree Girls as Reable Childs on the banjo, Ruby Guyton and Bonnie Scott on acoustic guitars, Lillie Mae Dudley on string bass, Burma Harris on fiddle, and vocals shared between Ruby Morace, Reable Childs, Fay Woodard, and Mozelle McDaniel. For the next four years, or until they were released, playing in the Goree Girls provided these women an opportunity to transform their lives. The image they presented through their music was a jarring contrast with the reality of their existence in an oppressive and sometimes violent environment, and with the fact that they were serving heavy prison sentences for crimes such as cattle thievery, robbery, assault, drug-related crimes, and murder. But, like Hattie Ellis and Raymond E. Hall, the members of the Goree Girls carefully navigated the spaces between popular perceptions of prison inmates, the desires of non-inmate producers, and the conventions of commercial music in an effort to change how others might view them, and their performance of gender was a critical part of that effort.15 The story of the band’s most popular performer, Reable Childs, demonstrates that gender ideology often shaped popular representations of female inmates, musicians and non-musicians alike. In 1929, at age seventeen, Reable Sapp left her large, impoverished family in Shelby, Texas, to marry a prominent local man twelve years her senior: Marlie James Childs, a former treasurer of Shelby County. Marlie Childs suffered from polio; with his mobility affected by the disease, his condition apparently contributed to a marital disagreement when Reable learned, after her marriage, that Marlie emphatically did not share her desire to have children. The seeds of dissent were sown, and a few years into the union, Reable Childs began an affair with a local man named Terrence Bramlett. On the night of April 23, 1936, while brushing his teeth at a kitchen sink, Marlie Childs was shot in the head from outside a window, and died. The rumor mill 133

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led investigators to Reable Childs and Terrence Bramlett, who were questioned and both eventually charged with first-degree murder.16 Gender conventions and stereotypes played an important role in the way Childs and the crime were imagined. Newspaper accounts of the murder and subsequent trial described her as an auburn-haired “comely young widow,” connoting her as a heartless conspirator: a beautiful young Jezebel who murdered in cold blood her invalid husband, a decent, upstanding man. Photographs of Childs from this time, the publication of which may well have undermined her claim of innocence, show a stylishly dressed, affluent, attractive young woman. Other news reports pointedly sexualized her, reporting that when Childs celebrated her twenty-fourth birthday in jail, Bramlett, who was also in custody, sent an officer out for candy and “some attractive lingerie.”17 Such depictions emphasized that Childs had violated expectations of feminine chastity and respectability, and implied that such a woman was a dangerous force, easily capable of murder. Reable Childs consistently claimed that she had no knowledge of Bramlett’s intent, although under oath she admitted to having a two-year affair with him. Bramlett confessed to shooting Marlie Childs, but in the end, perhaps not surprisingly, the jury found both Reable Childs and Terrence Bramlett guilty of first-degree “murder with malice.” Childs was sentenced to twenty-five years in the Texas state penitentiary. Bramlett received fifty years. Despite her image as a cold-hearted seductress in the media, after her entry to Goree State Farm on October 2, 1936, Childs quickly rose through the prison’s microcosmic hierarchy. By 1938 the notorious Jezebel had become a valued addition to the inmate ranks as trusty; a columnist for “Across the Back Fence,” the gossip column that appeared in the inmate-run newspaper the Echo; and, eventually, the shining star of the Goree All-Girl String Band.18 Playing in the Goree Girls was both a demanding job and a cherished privilege. In “Across the Back Fence,” Childs related that the inmates were responsible for practicing their own instruments and developing their skills enough to appear on Thirty Minutes. According to fiddler Burma Harris, the band rehearsed for a full six months in order to learn a few songs for their first public appearance at a prison baseball game in July 1940. Individual practice was added onto a schedule that included a ten-hour workday, as mandated by Texas prison reform laws, and a nightly full-cast rehearsal. Wednesdays were almost entirely devoted to cast rehearsal, followed by an evening dress rehearsal before the doors opened for the floor show that culminated in the half-hour broadcast on WBAP.19 Added to these responsibilities were the requirements of touring. Between the rodeo, Thirty Minutes, prison ball games, and their engagements outside the prison, the Goree Girls played as frequently as, if not more than, most working 134

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country bands of the time. Their schedule was grueling in part because, like their professional counterparts who were required to return each week to the Grand Ole Opry stage from their tent show tours, the Goree Girls had to be back in time to play Thirty Minutes each Wednesday night. The band’s tour route in the fall of 1941 provides insight into their demanding schedule. The Goree All-Girl String Band played the rodeo in Teague, Texas, on September 29; the County Fair and Rodeo in Pittsburg on September 30; then traveled back to Huntsville to perform on Thirty Minutes on October 1. Shows in Bartlett, Crockett, and Schulenburg followed on October 2–4, and then the girls returned to Huntsville again to open the annual Texas prison rodeo on Sunday, October 5. After the following Wednesday’s Thirty Minutes performance on October 8, the Goree Girls went to Marlin, Palestine, and Groveston, Texas, from October 9–11, and arrived back in Huntsville to play the prison rodeo, as well as an additional performance at the Wynne Unit of the Texas prison on October 12. Indeed, the girls played so frequently that Childs called it an “epidemic of sore fingers and thumbs” while preparing for the rodeo in October 1941. “Owing to heavy practice and rehearsing, plus the many times we have played at various places in the past few weeks,” she wrote in the Echo, “we will have to carry a first-aid kit wellstocked with arnica, collodion, and ‘nu-skin.’”20 Clearly, performing on Thirty Minutes required a staggering amount of time and commitment each week, and at least the original members of the Goree Girls seem unlikely to have been motivated by love of music or performing; only Ruby Morace possessed a modicum of musical experience, having sung in some honky-tonks around her hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana. Rather, participation in Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls held personal importance to the inmates for other reasons. Like prison officials, inmates viewed being in a band as valuable vocational training. Touring provided precious opportunities to temporarily experience the outside world. Appearances on the show led to public recognition, and sometimes brought gifts of money from fans that could be used for clemency appeals. Undoubtedly, performing on the show also gave participants the personal thrill and therapeutic effects of accomplishment. Perhaps most importantly, though, the show offered inmates an opportunity to be seen by the public as fully human. Childs spoke of the significance of the program and the hope it instilled in the inmates: “This program is as important as vocational training . . . [it] fits the hand and mind to do useful work in life . . . it prepares us to be self-sustaining when we leave here . . . but what can the hands and mind do without a heart to give them life? If our spirits are broken by disapproval by the public, our vocational training is wasted. . . . But now that WBAP has taken us to the public as human beings, we feel that our future is not hopeless.”21 Eating, sleeping, and breathing music became second nature, and the hard work necessary to get (and stay) on the show was worth being on one’s best 135

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behavior. One issue of the Echo even boasted that an inmate, released on parole prior to a broadcast day, opted to stay in the prison another night, so he could perform one last time. Clearly, the Goree Girls’ definition of success was not stardom, no matter how exciting the experience may have been. Above all, their chief desire was to regain their personal autonomy in the form of clemency. Success on Thirty Minutes was the key to obtaining this desire, an opportunity to convince the public (and the government) of their worthiness to be set free. The image they sought to project was thus a matter of paramount importance.22 Inmate anecdotes show that the Goree Girls spearheaded the approach to their own visual representation, but how much consideration and calculation they or the station officials gave to the social messages of their music is unclear. The variety of songs they performed consisted almost entirely of popular western and hillbilly songs, such as the Shelton Brothers’ “Just Because,” Rex Griffin’s “The Last Letter,” Stuart Hamblen’s “Texas Plains,” and WLS star Patsy Montana’s “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart.” The dissemination of the songs to various performers indicates that their choices were driven by logistics such as familiarity with the song, current popularity, personal preference, and, later, requests by fan mail rather than by an effort to craft a repertoire that would communicate their experience as inmates. Country music motifs are of course rife with yearnings of all sorts, including those of the prisoner. The country song is by definition so universal that one could interpret many of the themes, such as freedom to roam or freedom to go home, from more than one perspective even when offering “a tunnel view of those who wish to live their own lives for their own satisfaction, for a minimum amount of restriction.”23 But lyrical analysis of a number of the Goree Girls’ song selections in the Thirty Minutes radio transcripts does not indicate any veiled subtext, such as pleas for freedom or better treatment, beyond the standard conventions of the genre. Nor did the Goree Girls join their fellow inmates in using songwriting as a way to express their personal experiences or desires. Though Thirty Minutes occasionally devoted special episodes to original compositions by inmates, announcing the authorship and genre style for each song played, the available radio transcriptions attribute all of these compositions to male inmates (mostly the Rhythmic Stringsters). Perhaps they were not interested, or perhaps they were not encouraged, but neither the Goree Girls nor, apparently, any other female inmates wrote their own material to be performed on the show. The Goree Girls’ gender performance, however, appears to have involved careful consideration, if not orchestration. Other female-headed hillbilly acts such as the Girls of the Golden West, Patsy Montana, the Coon Creek Girls, and the Carter Family were in vogue on barn dance radio throughout the late 1930s, and it is likely that the radio station managers, prison officials, and the inmates intentionally developed the Goree All-Girl String Band using these acts 136

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as a model. However, their very composition placed them in uncharted territory concerning established roles for female country music performers. Unlike their professional peers, the Goree Girls could not believably project the era’s most common image for female country performers: the moral or sentimental mother. This image implicitly combined a notion of autonomy with the quality of virtue, a model image to which other women should wish to aspire. Scholarly explorations into female imagery in barn dance radio show that, whether or not the performer herself resembled her projected image, the role of the moral or sentimental mother or pure mountain girl appealed to mass audiences, and many performers found success by acceding to these expectations of authenticity and morality, sometimes at the expense of their own physical or mental health. By assuming familiar, beloved roles that fit into a traditional family dynamic, female barn dance performers were allowed a measure of autonomy and the opportunity to claim a leadership position with their music.24 It is possible that, because of the nature of their public reparation for crimes committed, the women of the Goree All-Girl String Band could have achieved later success by adopting a variation on the moral mother role had they continued with their musical careers in barn dance radio after they left the prison system; but as long as they remained in prison, employing the moral mother image was out of the question. An incarcerated woman, by her very circumstance, had already been evaluated by the state judicial system and found to be immoral in some manner. Moreover, the state of her incarceration assigned her unequivocally to a position of total dependence, whether or not she was a mother prior to entering the prison system. Without the option to believably assume already established female roles in country music, the Goree Girls assumed a different role in the same family: the obedient daughter. Projecting the image of a convivial sorority of good daughters who live together in harmony and sing respectfully of their sentimental mothers enabled the Goree Girls to build a more superficial, glamorous image as an accomplished, attractive hillbilly band, an alluring combination that was not only great fun for them but could result in their primary desire: personal liberty. The image of the obedient daughter was evident in a 1940 Thirty Minutes interview with Reable Childs. She divulged her twenty-five-year sentence but did not discuss her case. She appeared to be the model image of the rehabilitated prisoner: a well-spoken and musically talented young woman, obedient and diligent, wanting only to work hard and earn an honest way in life, so that her heart could be light again. Thus, the transformation of Childs’s image was complete; no trace could be found of the “comely young widow,” the sexualized Jezebel the media had fixated on just a few years earlier. Regional listeners of the show may have recalled the Reable Childs murder case, but the trial was already 137

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two years past when the Thirty Minutes program began, and national listeners were probably unfamiliar with the court case. Instead of revisiting her crime or punishment, Childs spoke with heartfelt enthusiasm of the radio show and how it gave the inmates hope for freedom and forgiveness: “WBAP has given us a nice dream. . . . I mean a dream of the future. If the public is interested in us while we are in prison, it stands to reason that their interest will go with us when we leave here. We believe that we shall find happiness somewhere; that our mistakes won’t be held against us . . . that we will be given another chance.”25 These were very likely honest sentiments, an expression of sincere optimism rather than an effort to fool the public. Indeed, although Robert Perkinson describes some Echo columns and editorials as exhibiting a “shrewdly independent voice,” overall, inmate columns and radio show interviews—particularly those of female inmates—appear to stem from a genuine place, using humor or the veil of anonymity common to gossip columns as an outlet for any criticisms they may have had. But Childs’s comments on Thirty Minutes also positioned her as a wayward girl, promising to transgress her appropriate role no more.26 While their interview persona might have elaborated the figure of the obedient daughter, the Goree Girls’ visual presentation and song choices projected every bit the “singing cowgirl” image. Just as John Lair had used regional associations to create a plain-folk, “musical mountaineer” image for the Coon Creek Girls, the image constructed for this all-female, Texas-based string band was firmly situated in the “singing cowboy” camp.27 Published photographs of the earliest Goree Girls occasionally showed the band in prison whites, but the majority featured them in gaily colored Western outfits with cowgirl hats, under which coiffed hair nestled next to dimples on innocent, affable faces. In one of her columns, Childs ardently described the outfits that the girls had sewn for themselves to wear at the upcoming rodeo: The cowgirl shirts are gold satin trimmed in black. Slaunch-cut double pockets with a black steer head set off the right pocket and a black horse’s head adorns the left one. The ten-gallon puncherette hats are black with corded black and white band. Dude ranch khaki riding britches and glossy black English riding boots complete the riding habits. However, for a bit of adornment, each girl wears a silk scarf of varying design and color, and believe you me, some of them put a mad artist’s palette to shame when it comes to a wide assortment of color.28

A promotional photograph of the Goree All-Girl String Band wearing the above-described ensemble made the rounds; no doubt the costumes were appreciated by audiences at the rodeo and the various festivals to which they traveled. On one live broadcast of Thirty Minutes, the announcer gave an enthusiastic, if unintentionally ironic, description of their outfits: “Folks, you ought 138

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to see the Goree Girls tonight . . . all dressed up in cowgirl skirts and boots, and wearing green handkerchiefs as if they were going places.”29 The Goree All-Girl String Band were indeed becoming stars, polished and adept at performing hit songs in public and on Thirty Minutes. In August the Echo reported that “fan mail and orders for souvenir booklets soars above previous sales.” The group became so popular that they were featured in a number of all-girl special episodes of Thirty Minutes. Unfortunately, these all-girl radio shows commenced in April 1942, over a year after any extant volumes of radio transcripts end. The Echo, however, gives some clue as to their popularity. “The All Girl Program that was broadcast from this unit on April 1, proved such a success and there have been so many requests for another program by the girls that one is promised for June 3. Reable [Childs] is the manager of the band, did the announcing and wrote the continuity for the program.”30 The dimpled, bright smiles seen in photographs of the Goree Girls belied the tribulations commonly experienced by incarcerated women in Texas in the 1930s, and an understanding of the conditions they faced as inmates illuminates the very real material importance of conforming to established gender ideology. Harsh treatment and meager accommodations had not ceased within the prison system even by the 1940s. General manager of the Texas Prison Board Lee Simmons adopted a strict authoritarian approach to prison management, eschewing what he felt were unrealistic propositions for reform. He did not shrink from the idea of using violence as a punitive tool, maintaining that the bat was still occasionally a viable form of punishment for some inmates. His tyrannical tactics drew strong criticism, but Simmons masterfully employed public relations to tout the state’s rehabilitation efforts.31 Compounding the ambiguous nature of Texas prison reform, in 1936 prison official Carl Basland implemented a revamped inmate classification system that designated each inmate to a subsection—according to race, age, and rehabilitative potential—of a few major classifications: “Physically Defective,” “Insane,” “Feeble Minded,” “Drug Addicts,” and “Homosexuals.” This classification system represented a desire to create a more humane, growth-oriented environment for the prisoners, and to modernize the existing system according to increasingly progressive psychological philosophies. Unfortunately, inmate classification under these parameters was vague and subjective, containing a loophole that enabled those with sufficient power to wield it in any way they chose, effectively fostering the exact opposite of a humane, growth-oriented environment.32 The female inmate population of the 1930s Texas prison system was deemed too small to process according to Basland’s classification system, but nevertheless it seems probable that that system played a role in decisions to categorize and “treat” certain female inmates who fit into the system’s subjective assessments of social pathology. The eugenics movement in the United States had 139

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lost steam by the late 1930s and Texas never passed official legislation sanctioning the practice of compulsory sterilization on either men or women in the penal system. Nonetheless, there is some suggestion that members of the Goree All-Girl String Band were treated with involuntary surgery to correct certain “behavioral issues,” as defined by Basland’s inmate classification. Skip Hollandsworth conducted interviews with the families of former Goree Girls Mozelle McDaniel and Ruby Morace; shockingly, each made assertions (independently) that their relative had undergone compulsory sterilization shortly after their incarceration.33 Theoretically, involuntary sterilization of inmates could not have occurred without legislation to justify it, but there is no evidence to undermine claims such as those of McDaniel and Morace, and circumstantial evidence substantiating them. If surgical procedures of this nature were performed on any inmate (male or female), the operation itself would have taken place at the Goree unit, one of the few units in the system that had a true operating room equipped to conduct major surgeries. Whether the practice was condoned or not, if prison or government officials chose to discreetly dictate the reproductive future of female inmates, the immediate proximity of surgical facilities could allow forced sterilization to occur without drawing much attention. Moreover, evidence from the inmate newspaper may corroborate the families’ claims of sterilization (forced or not) in these two women. McDaniel was committed to Goree on January 29, 1938. Eight months later, in August 1938, “Across the Back Fence” made a somewhat mysterious reference to the fact that she was “recovering from a recent operation.” Ruby Morace was committed to Goree in September 1938; in the May 1940 “Back Fence” column, Childs made a reference to Morace being hospitalized for several weeks. And in a 1941 interview on Thirty Minutes, Morace indicated that she had missed three months of singing on the show the previous year because “I underwent an operation, and I almost went under.”34 Judith Bergeron, Morace’s niece, told Hollandsworth: “You should have seen the tears form in my aunt Ruby’s eyes when she’d talk about a certain doctor tying up her tubes so that she could never have children. . . . She told me that a part of her life was taken away, that she was made to feel like she didn’t deserve to be like other women because of that one mistake she had made on that highway.”35 But why would these two women be subjected to forced sterilization when others, such as Reable Childs, were not? Without direct access to inmate medical records, it is impossible to prove that forced sterilizations were carried out, much less to establish whatever justification officials might have offered for them. However, if the sterilizations did occur, the difference between the prison system’s treatment of Morace and McDaniel and its treatment of Childs may be partly attributable to the gendered connotations of each woman’s crimes. 140

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Records show that Ruby Morace, nicknamed the “Little Blue and Gold Songbird,” was incarcerated for assault with intent to murder and robbery, and sentenced to “2 to 10+5+25” years in prison.36 Hollandsworth details that Morace and her boyfriend hitchhiked with a stranger to Texas; once there they tied him to a tree, robbed him, and stole his vehicle. Where Reable Childs’s crime consisted of enticing a man to murder, and therefore conformed to the gendered expectations of the “bad girl” archetype in country music and elsewhere, Morace had directly participated in violence, and perhaps this violation of gender expectations was sufficient for her to be judged feebleminded or insane. Mozelle McDaniel was also found guilty of wielding violence in her own interest—or perhaps for her own protection—having shot and killed her stepfather when he threatened her and her siblings with a severe whipping. Perhaps, like Morace, McDaniel’s spectacular violation of feminine norms of passivity and submissiveness met Basland’s definition of either insanity or feeblemindedness. If McDaniel and Morace—whose personal interviews on Thirty Minutes reveal them to be rational, intelligent, and personable—were victims of eugenically motivated sterilization, their experience suggests that the categories of “feebleminded” and “insane” were liberally and arbitrarily applied to describe any behavior that sufficiently violated gender conventions.37 Whether or not compulsory or coercive sterilization occurred within the prison, the allegations alone suggest the degree to which female prisoners viewed themselves as subject to the absolute power of prison authorities. If they believed that such power could be exercised over their bodies, then it is reasonable to assume that, to some extent, female inmates’ written or spoken expression and anecdotal commentary on their experiences carried beneath the surface an intensified need to project the proper image at all times, for fear that the right to reproduce might be taken away. In order to hold on to their hope for physical liberty, the Goree Girls did not attempt to challenge gender conventions as other female country music performers might be tempted to do; nor were they willing to contradict the public expectation of appropriate behavior in a convicted criminal who desires liberation. They wanted out, and they were willing to play all the country songs in the world to convince the public, and government officials, that as young women, they were docile, domestic, and dutiful—in a word, rehabilitated. For Childs at least, the performance of familiar and orthodox gender roles seems to have contributed to a public reevaluation of her. She was without question one of the most popular performers on Thirty Minutes. Radio transcriptions reveal that she appeared on nearly all the broadcasts. Inmates and listeners alike adored her, with outside fans traveling hundreds of miles to see her in the flesh at the live broadcasts. Inmate columns from the men’s units mentioned her frequently in glowing prose. Her old paramour, Terrence Bramlett, even 141

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appeared on the show so that he could show her how he had changed (though they never resumed their affair either in or out of prison). Even her future paramour and husband, former death row inmate Paul Mitchell, appeared on the show twice “just so he could look at Reable.”38 With their performances of familiar songs about home, fireside, and the wide western trail, both on Thirty Minutes and in the outside world, the Goree Girls experienced overwhelming support, empathy, and admiration from a national public that, in the lean years before the United States joined World War II, seemed to be revising its opinion of the criminal element. As the officials had hoped, a large part of the change appeared to be a result of the broadcasts. The Amarillo Daily News opined: “Radio has gone behind prison walls and messaged to the outside world the almost forgotten fact that men and women behind the bars are human, that they have feeling. . . . This changing public attitude well could make for reform instead of punishment. The prison problem is a public problem.”39 The public and Texas prison officials seemed to agree with this assessment of the humanity and potential of rehabilitated inmates. In 1943, less than a year before Thirty Minutes ceased broadcasting, Childs received clemency and was released from the Goree State Farm for Women.40 During her incarceration, she frequently spoke of the radio show and its impact on herself and her fellow inmates, and, true to her role as obedient daughter and singing cowboy’s sweetheart, she carefully kept the tone suitably light and inoffensive: “We glow with pride when we remind you that some of the outstanding talent comes from this unit: Helen Rogers, Ella Ray, Ruby Morace, Eleanor Dale, and our bluescrooning colored girl, Hattie. They’re so unassuming in our midst that we pass them unconcernedly six days a week, but when we hear them on the air it’s different. They’re stars then, shining in our own little sky above our back yard, and we clasp hands on the back porch to dream little dreams that are made of stardust.”41 By the mid-1940s, not long after the Thirty Minutes broadcasts ceased, all the original women in the Goree All-Girl String Band had either served their time or were granted clemency. They had, in fact, sung their way to freedom through country music. Furthermore, no members of the Goree All-Girl String Band mentioned in this essay were ever sent back to a Texas prison. Ruby Morace later opened a beauty salon in her hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana, using the skills she had learned in vocational classes provided at the Goree unit. Some of the Goree Girls left the “girl” assignation behind and assumed the role of wife and, for Childs at least, mother.42 None, however, appear to have returned to the country music they played on Thirty Minutes once they were released into the outside world. For all its significance to countless others, country music no doubt reminded these particular 142

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women of the pain they had suffered behind the walls of the Texas state prison. Mozelle McDaniel, later Mozelle Cash, said, “[I] didn’t want to bring it all up. . . . What I did. All that back then. What people said about me.” Morace’s niece Judith Bergeron also indicated that the stigma of prison overshadowed the joy her aunt might have found in country music: “She used to tell me she was all done with singing. . . . I really think she just didn’t want to think about that time of her life anymore.” Childs’s daughter Gayle Royer disclosed, however, that her mother did find joy and perhaps pride, if only privately, in the music itself. Childs kept a box containing handwritten lyrics to many of the songs the Goree All-Girl String Band played on the radio in the 1940s. “She always wanted to be a singer, and she finally got her chance. And then she felt she had to keep it a secret.”43 Perhaps the pleasant notoriety that they experienced during their Thirty Minutes days served its purpose; after all, they were bona fide country music stars for a few short years. Country music transformed the lives of the Goree Girls during a bleak period, providing them with a sense of accomplishment and many temporary opportunities to leave prison bars behind. As the Goree Girls brought joy to the nation through country music, so country music enabled the prison system to set them free to find their own joy in the outside world; to make their own home and hearth, or to ramble where and when they pleased; to see (and for some, to be) a mother, sister, daughter, or wife. For these women, country music was the tool by which they obtained freedom from an existence best forgotten; once free, they could never return to it.

Notes 1. “I Got Stripes,” written by John R. Cash and Charlie Williams; “Folsom Prison Blues,” written by John R. Cash; Jimmie N. Rogers, The Country Music Message (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1989), 229. 2. Robert Perkinson, Texas Tough: The Rise of America’s Prison Empire (New York: Metropolitan Books, 2010), 26; Ethan Blue, Doing Time in the Depression: Everyday Life in California and Texas Prisons (New York: New York University Press, 2012), 174. 3. Bill Malone, Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’ (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 66, 14. 4. “Awards to CBS, WLW, WGAR, KFRU: Outstanding Service of Broadcasters Wins Peabody Grants,” Broadcasting Magazine, March 31, 1941: 20, www.americanradiohistory.com/ Archive-BC/BC-1941/1941-03-31-BC.pdf. Accessed June 24, 2013. 5. Rachel Dovey, “San Quentin on the Air: Heroin and Prison Jazz in the ’40s,” Paste, April 24, 2009, www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2009/04/san-quentin-on-the-air.html. Accessed June 10, 2013; Dick Hall, “An Unusual Story of the Life of Musicians Behind Prison Walls,” Down Beat (October 1938); Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls: One Hundred and Fifty-Six Penitentiary Broadcasts, Presented each Wednesday night at ten-thirty from the Huntsville unit 143

Caroline Gnagy of the Texas Prison System, through the facilities of WBAP, in Fort Worth (Huntsville: Texas State Prison, 1941), Transcriptions, Program 156, March 19, 1941, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. 6. Don Hinga, “Texas Prison Radio Program is a Great Morale Booster,” (as reprinted from Baltimore Sun), Texas Prison Echo, 14:1 (January 1942), Texas Newspaper Collection, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. 7. Ibid. 8. Blue, Doing Time, 147. 9. Skip Hollandsworth, “O Sister, Where Art Thou?” Texas Monthly, May 2003, www.texas monthly.com/story/o-sister-where-art-thou. Accessed June 10, 2013. 10. Hattie Ellis, The John and Ruby Lomax 1939 Southern States Recording Trip, “I Ain’t Got Nobody” and “Desert Blues,” recorded May 14, 1939, at the Huntsville Unit of the Texas State Penitentiary http://memory.loc.gov/cgi- bin/query/S?ammem/lomaxbib:@FIELD([email protected] od1(+ellis,+hattie+)). Accessed June 8, 2013. 11. John A. Lomax, Adventures of a Ballad Hunter (New York: Macmillan, 1946), 112. 12. Hall, as quoted by Nolan Porterfield, Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979), 253; Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 11, June 1, 1938; “Song Library,” Texas Prison Echo, 13:3 (March 1941). 13. Hinga, “Texas Prison Radio Program.” 14. Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 11, June 1, 1938. 15. As might be expected in a prison system, inmate turnover on Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls was omnipresent—players changed as sentences were served and clemencies granted. For the first months following the Goree Girls’ first performance, relatively few changes occurred in the lineup, allowing for deeper analysis of various band member histories. Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 143, December 17, 1940; Skip Hollandsworth, “O Sister.” 16. Hollandsworth, “O Sister”; AP Newswire, “Murder of Texan Charged to Pair,” San Antonio Express, April 30, 1936. 17. AP Newswire, “Widow of Rich Texan Tells of Plot to Kill Him,” Dallas Morning News, May 1, 1936. 18. Ibid.; Texas Convict Record Ledgers, 1894–1954, microfilm, Volume 1998/038-168; Texas Conduct Registers, 1875–1945, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. 19. Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 143, December 17, 1940. 20. Reable Childs, “Across the Back Fence,” Texas Prison Echo, 13:10 (October 1941). 21. Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 155, March 12, 1941; Program 106, March 27, 1940. 22. Hinga, “Texas Prison Radio Program.” 23. Rogers, Country Music Message, 206. 24. Kristine M. McCusker, “‘Bury Me Beneath the Willow’: Linda Parker and Definitions of Tradition on the National Barn Dance, 1932-1935,” A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2004), 23; Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 61. 25. Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 106, March 27, 1940. 26. Perkinson, Texas Tough, 208.

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Class and Gender Portrayals in the Texas State Prison, 1938–1944 27. Lily May Ledford, Coon Creek Girl (1980; reprint Berea College Press, 1991), 12; reference to images in country music as defined by Bill Malone, Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1993), 3. 28. Reable Childs, “Across the Back Fence,” Texas Prison Echo, 13:10 (October 1941). 29. Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 145, January 1, 1941. 30. “Goree Girls’ Band on Air Two Years,” Texas Prison Echo, 14:8 (August 1942); Laura (no last name), “Across the Back Fence,” Texas Prison Echo, 14:6 (June 1942). 31. Perkinson, Texas Tough, 215. 32. Blue, Doing Time, 46. 33. Hollandsworth, “O Sister.” 34. Patsy Hutchings, “Across the Back Fence,” Texas Prison Echo, 10:8 (August 1938); Texas Conduct Registers, 1875–1945, Texas State Library and Archives Commission; Thirty Minutes transcriptions, Program 155, March 12, 1941. 35. Hollandsworth, “O Sister.” 36. Texas Conduct Registers, 1875-1945, Texas State Library and Archives Commission. 37. Hollandsworth, “O Sister.” 38. Ibid. 39. “Songs from Prison” (as reprinted from Amarillo Daily News, editorial, March 21, 1941), Texas Prison Echo, 13:3 (March 1941). 40. Texas Convict Record Ledgers 1894-1954, microfilm, Volume 1998/038-168. 41. Childs, “Across the Back Fence,” Texas Prison Echo, 12:3 (March 1940). 42. Texas Convict Record Ledgers 1894-1954, microfilm, Volume 1998/038-168; Childs, “Across the Back Fence,” Texas Prison Echo, 13:2 (February 1941); Hollandsworth, “O Sister.” 43. Hollandsworth, “O Sister.”

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Negotiating Gender, Race, and Class in Post–Civil Rights Country Music: How Linda Martell and Jeannie C. Riley Stormed the Plantation DiAne PecknolD

In the photograph from Ebony magazine, the two women seem to embody country music’s modernization at the dawn of the 1970s. They stand side by side in the offices of Shelby Singleton Enterprises. On the left, Jeannie C. Riley— in a leatherette miniskirt, frilly blouse with flared cuffs, and vaguely psychedelic embroidered vest—almost imperceptibly lowers her chin and smiles up at the camera with the sultry knowingness that has established her as country music’s leading sex kitten. On the right, Linda Martell, wearing an utterly unembellished dress shirt and broad necktie atop a pleated skirt, beams with a wide, friendly grin. Riley looks like she has just walked in from a Los Angeles swingers’ party, Martell like she has momentarily stepped away from her duties behind the reception desk. Visually, they are a study in contrasts: white and black, countercultural rococo and severe symmetry, sensuality and simplicity. Together, as female firebrand and race pioneer, they are calculated to represent what one reporter identified as the genre’s attempt at “a hip face-lift” in the wake of the civil rights movement, the sexual revolution, and women’s liberation.1 When they posed for the snapshot, Riley and Martell were at the apex of their respective careers. Riley had become an overnight sensation in 1968 with her recording of Tom T. Hall’s “Harper Valley PTA,” which earned her a Grammy and a Country Music Association award for Single of the Year and eventually sold more than five million copies. A year later, Martell’s first single, a country cover of the Winstons’ rhythm and blues (R&B) hit “Color Him Father,” debuted at #22 on the Billboard country singles chart, a position that still distinguished her as the highest-charting black female artist in country music four decades later. By 1972, however, both had left Shelby Singleton’s Plantation Records. After releasing Color Me Country, an album that produced two more charting singles, Martell was dropped from the label amid tension over who would manage her career. She recorded one more single for the tiny Delta label, and then left Nashville to return to her previous career in pop and R&B. Jeannie C. Riley, 146

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increasingly uncomfortable with being cast as a sex object in her personal and professional life, became an evangelical Christian and moved to MGM Records, notwithstanding an unsuccessful lawsuit by Singleton that asserted his continuing contractual rights over her. Though she recorded several more albums for MGM before moving on to a career in gospel, she never regained the popularity she had enjoyed as the straight-talking black sheep of Harper Valley. The juxtaposition of Martell’s and Riley’s careers reveals how the legacies of Jim Crow ideology continued to shape country music amidst the social change of the late 1960s, but their pairing also gestures to the ways gender performance in the genre could explicitly call attention to and thereby undermine interdependent hierarchies of race and class. Pamela Fox has argued that country music from the barn dance era through the 1950s traced the “locational similarities based in class [and] racial Otherness,” particularly through its rube and blackface comedy routines. Though it clearly fostered elements of “racism, misogyny, and classism,” it also connected the experiences of social and cultural disenfranchisement that both white and black working-class southerners experienced, albeit in vastly different ways.2 By the late 1960s, country music had— with the notable exception of Grand Ole Opry comedians such as Minnie Pearl, Rod Brasfield, and Stringbean (David Akeman)—largely abandoned the rube and the minstrel. While they were not primarily intended as comedic or carnivalesque figures, Riley and Martell were nonetheless marketed as nearly vaudevillian archetypes of specifically class- and race-based femininity. Nonetheless, both women challenged the middle-class gender politics of the Jim Crow South, Riley by unapologetically scandalizing the chaste, modest womanhood that had been imagined as a sign of white superiority, and Martell by embodying it as a black woman. Moreover, their work for Plantation pointed to a counterintuitive strain of cross-racial, class-based alliance that hovered under the surface of the increasingly polarized political climate of the early 1970s and illustrated how country music, despite its complicity in reinforcing the ideologies that underpinned white racial hegemony, could still generate alternative possibilities for representing and challenging them.

The Strange Career of Linda Martell In one sense, Linda Martell became a country singer by happenstance. Born near Leesville, South Carolina, she began singing in the Baptist church as a child, and by the time she was twelve had formed a band with some of her siblings and a cousin. In the early 1960s, she toured and recorded with a girl group called the Anglos, releasing “A Little Tear” on Fire Records, and later doing some backup work for Jimmy Hughes in Muscle Shoals. Though she also told interviewers she 147

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had grown up singing country music and that her father had been a big fan of country, her own career prior to 1969 had been squarely in R&B and pop. The Anglos had long since disbanded and she was playing local clubs and events in South Carolina when she was “discovered” by a Nashville furniture dealer and aspiring music executive named Duke Rayner. Rayner unabashedly described the racial novelty Martell offered as his long-sought angle for getting into the music business. “I figured that if I could find a colored girl that could sing Country and Western, I’d really have myself something,” he told Ebony.3 His chance came when a friend reported having seen Martell at Charleston Air Force Base, where she was “harassed by the audience of servicemen into singing a country song.”4 Martell, Rayner’s friend reported, had launched into a series of country standards including “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.”5 Rayner saw his chance, and tracked Martell down. Though she was initially skeptical, Rayner finally convinced her to fly to Nashville to record a demo, which he pitched to producer and record executive Shelby Singleton. As Singleton later recalled, the demo came across his desk at just the right moment. He had been thinking about trying to get a (presumably black) artist to record a country version of “Color Him Father,” and Martell seemed a likely candidate.6 This story of serendipitous discovery echoed the authenticating narrative through which Charley Pride naturalized his career in country music, but it also obscured Martell’s position as just one of a number of African Americans who had experimented with country repertoire over the previous decade. Solomon Burke, Ray Charles, and Esther Phillips had deployed country music to break out of the confines of R&B radio and reach a pop audience in the early 1960s.7 Berry Gordy similarly had the Supremes release an album of pop and country standards just as they were becoming stars in order to defy “popular assumptions that ‘Negro’ artists only sang ‘Negro’ music,” and lay claim not only to pop or R&B stardom but to the central canon of the American songbook.8 Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Isaac Hayes all covered country songs to establish the authenticity of their artistic personae and to reference not only their own southern roots, but also the larger, shared experience of the Great Migration and the cultural and social changes that attended it.9 Artists such as Joe Tex and Arthur Alexander formed part of what historian Charles Hughes has dubbed the “country-soul triangle,” an interracial recording scene that circulated between Nashville, Muscle Shoals, and Memphis, bringing together musicians, songwriters, and producers who worked in multiple genres and synthesizing the styles and sensibilities of R&B and country.10 While most of these excursions into the country canon were produced within the institutional and marketing framework of R&B, a number of Nashville managers and producers were, like Rayner and Singleton, expressly seeking black women who might become the female complement to Charley Pride. 148

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Journalist/publicist Charlie Lamb and legendary A&R man Paul Cohen brought a young Louisvillian with the stage name of Shirley B to Nashville to record for ABC Records.11 RCA executive Chet Atkins, who had signed Pride, tried unsuccessfully to convince local R&B star Audrey Bryant to record country.12 Shortly after Martell’s country career ended, producer Eddie Miller encouraged Jimmy Sweeney’s daughter, Jo Ann, to record country for MGM.13 Whatever other motivations they may have possessed, the white producers and artists and repertoire (A&R) men of Music Row who pursued black artists to perform country were conscious of the way race figured in the popular conception of their industry. By the time Martell arrived in Nashville, country was widely perceived as the sound of massive resistance.14 Scholars such as Neil Rosenberg have suggested that bluegrass became popular in the 1950s and 1960s in part because it offered a refuge from black-influenced styles such as rockabilly, but more overt mobilizations of country as a sign of combative whiteness—particularly its prominent place in campaign rallies for segregationist politicians such as George Wallace and Orval Faubus—solidified the music’s racist reputation in the national imagination.15 The association between country and racism was played out in more quotidian mobilizations of musical symbolism as well. In Mt. Airy, North Carolina, a United States District Court enjoined a luncheonette owner from playing country records to discourage black patrons from entering his establishment.16 At Camp Lejeune, when the Marine Corps issued a series of policies aimed at reducing racial tensions, they gestured to the importance of music in claiming racially marked spaces and identities by including the dictum that “[d]isciplinary action must be taken against blacks who play excessively loud ‘soul’ music and whites who play excessively loud ‘country’ music.”17 Many in the mainstream country industry were eager to disassociate themselves and the genre from the taint of the most vicious forms of southern racism. For them, the redneck racist was simply another form of the backward hillbilly stereotype that had long been used to denigrate country executives, artists, and fans, and working-class white southerners in general. Paul Hemphill’s popular exposé of the country industry, for instance, described the development of its audience as an unbroken line from ignorant hillbilly to reactionary southern populist. Country listeners, he wrote, were descended from “the poor, white, uneducated, conservative, hard-shell religious, Anglo-Saxon, Southern Appalachian, ‘free and untrammeled,’ whiskey-drinking, gun-toting, hookwormed, baby-making, rabbit-hunting, Hill-Billies. Over the years, of course, the strain improved. Started voting. For Wallace.”18 It was an impressive compendium of the slurs that had been leveled at rural southern whites over the course of the twentieth century, and it demonstrated the continuity between the hillbilly and the redneck as figures who defined the limits of appropriate whiteness through 149

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their respective forms of savagery and anti-modernity, from diseased breeders to violent white supremacists.19 This image was directly at odds with the modern, blue-collar suburbanite the country industry had spent a decade laboriously promoting, particularly among broadcasters and advertisers, as its typical audience member.20 Despite the prevailing image of the country industry, the music scene Martell encountered in Nashville was a contradictory amalgam of easy interracial exchange within clearly demarcated boundaries of racial difference and deference. Many of Music Row’s executives and musicians had longstanding connections with the city’s thriving R&B scene. Buddy Killen had worked for years with Joe Tex. Black and white musicians such as Jimmy Sweeney, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Jerry Kennedy, and Bobby Hebb regularly worked together in both country and R&B idioms. The geography of Music Row itself gestured to the porous social boundaries that country’s image as the sound of whiteness usually concealed. Though the neighborhood had started out as an opulent row of mansions at the end of the nineteenth century, over the course of the first half of the twentieth century, hastened by the Depression, it became a neighborhood of single-family homes, apartments, and boarding houses for both black and white blue-collar families. Ludwig Reinheimer, who lived in the house that became Owen Bradley’s first studio in the mid-1950s, remembers it as a safe, peacefully integrated neighborhood: “The streets were lit. We used to walk everywhere after dinner. Kids were on the streets until eight or nine o’clock. Black and white kids played together.”21 In the symbolic geography of Nashville, Music Row took root on the fringe, clearly separated from the central business district and embedded in a mixed-race working-class community. While the presence of black artists on Music Row was certainly conventional, it nonetheless depended on their relationships with the white entrepreneurs who controlled the industry, and those relationships were inevitably inflected by white hegemony. This was nowhere more evident than in Shelby Singleton’s career. The sessions he arranged for black artists such as Clyde McPhatter, Brook Benton, and Ruth Brown in Nashville were well in keeping with Music Row’s patterns of interracial collaboration, but the artists often felt uneasy about the specter of racism and racial violence in a southern city where they were not known. Singleton’s response was to position himself as a protective patron. This was, in part, a gesture of genuine sensitivity. When black artists came from out of town, Singleton always hosted them at his house because, as he later said, “there was really no decent hotel that would take them.”22 But his graciousness also concealed a starker relationship of dependency that he did not hesitate to make manifest. When one of Singleton’s black artists visited Nashville for the first time, for instance, Singleton picked him up at the airport and drove him to the studio. When he walked in, he was confronted with a noose hanging from 150

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a microphone and a crowd of people in fake Klan hoods fashioned from pillowcases. He panicked and turned immediately to Singleton, who had arranged the charade, for protection. Singleton later described the scene with a chuckle. “I was the only one in there that didn’t have a hood on. He came running at me and grabbed me around the neck saying ‘What’s happening? What’s happening?’”23 Beyond its disturbing racism, such “joking” served as a reminder that Singleton’s patronage was necessary not only to the success of the black artists who recorded under his aegis, but certainly to their social status in Nashville, and perhaps to their physical safety as well. Other producers were less personally invested in positioning themselves as benevolent patrons, but their presence was nonetheless a requirement for authorizing the country aspirations of black artists. Jo Ann Sweeney described her relationship with MGM producer Eddie Miller as being relatively equitable and honest. Her father had worked with Music Row producers and publishers for years, which meant that, unlike Martell, Sweeney enjoyed a social position there that did not depend on Miller alone. Perhaps as a result of this difference, she seems to have had more freedom to determine the shape of her career. When Miller asked whether she might consider wearing a wig at a photo shoot to cover her natural hair, she refused. “I was righteously indignant. I was wearing an afro and big hubcap earrings and I didn’t want to part with that,” she later recalled. “I said absolutely not, I cannot do that. But it didn’t stop anything. We went ahead and did the photo session and the whole thing went very very well. He was very enthusiastic about it.”24 Miller deferred to Sweeney’s wishes about her appearance, but the published photos from the shoot reproduced the visual trope invariably used in trade journals to represent the relationship between black women and their white producers in country music: Miller points at what appears to be a lead sheet, presumably giving Sweeney instruction on the song she is about to record.25 With or without an afro, the visual framing in such photos positioned the black country chanteuse as a dependent protégé under the direction and protection of her white sponsor. The paternalistic press image of the relationship between black female singers and their white producers was undoubtedly intended as a benign authenticating maneuver in which the judgment and guidance of the experienced A&R man affirmed for both industry and popular audiences the singers’ country bona fides. However, it also potentially carried a far more menacing connotation, unwittingly raising the specter of the sexual exploitation and violence southern black women continued to experience at the hands of white men through the civil rights era. Unquestioned sexual access to and control over black women’s bodies was the corollary to the imagined purity of white women that served as a sign and bulwark of white supremacy. As civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer observed, in the South, “a black woman’s body was never hers alone,” and few 151

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black women of Martell’s generation were unaware of the potential threat inherent in any kind of social or employment relationship with a white man.26 Like the double valence of Singleton’s lynching “joke,” the paternalistic authority of the white sponsor over his black female artist could invoke peril as easily as protection in specifically gendered ways. Judging from Martell’s later recollections of Singleton, he neither exercised the sexual prerogative he might easily have claimed nor indulged in racist theatrics with her. Nonetheless, while he showed his usual willingness to attend to his artists’ needs by finding a position for Martell’s husband in one of his warehouses, he clearly expected complete deference. When Martell’s husband began to pressure Singleton to give him greater control over his wife’s career, Singleton terminated her contract.27 True to the subtext of the lynching prank, Martell was unable to create a space for herself in the industry without Singleton’s sponsorship, and she left Nashville shortly thereafter. Relationships between black country singers and their white producers were shaped by the institutional as well as the social legacies of racism and segregation, and were poetically emblematized in the promotional regime Shelby Singleton devised to market Martell. As the insistence on the word “color” in the titles of her first single and album suggests, her commercial value to Singleton was inextricable from her racial Otherness in the context of country music’s whiteness. Martell’s first release, unlike Charley Pride’s, featured a photograph of her, and she appeared on television on both Hee Haw and The Bill Anderson Show to promote it. Far from obscuring her race, Singleton expressly sought to capitalize on her ability to surprise the racial homologies that organized the music industry. Among the most obvious of these efforts was the juxtaposition of her race with the name of her label, Plantation Records. Martell later noted that Singleton consciously embraced the marketing potential of the combination. “We’ll put her on Plantation,” she said of his attitude. “She’s a black artist. That’s a selling point.”28 The gimmick neatly summarized the combination of cultural and structural constraints within which Martell forged her country career. On the one hand, it represented another instance of the same cavalier insensitivity to the history of racial exploitation and oppression that had characterized Singleton’s Klan hoax, and clearly indicated his power to direct Martell’s public presentation.29 On the other, it reflected the inexorable influence of race on the institutions of the music industry. In naming his country label Plantation, Singleton had merely reiterated the southern rural nostalgia in which country so often traded. So long as only white artists appeared on the label, the problematic erasure of the black labor and suffering upon which that pastoral image was built remained imperceptible.30 To position Martell specifically as a country artist, however, Singleton had no choice but to place her there; his other label, SSS International, was strictly R&B. 152

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Between country’s perhaps unconscious but nonetheless pervasive white nostalgia and the genre organization of the music business, there was precious little space that did not consign Martell to bearing the racial burden of representation. Whatever the intentions of individual artists and producers or the desires of fans, the multiple legacies of segregation—the economic barriers that produced an all-white industry power structure, the expectation of racial dominance and deference in social interactions, the strategies of music marketing and cultural resistance to racism that produced racially defined genre categories—inescapably hovered over efforts to integrate the country music business. Yet, in spite of these constraints, the music and imagery Martell produced was unstable and unpredictable, generating meanings that exceeded the limits imposed by their conditions of production. Singleton clearly hoped to capitalize on the racial scandal of putting a black artist on Plantation Records, but the nature of the disgrace thus revealed was ambiguous. Even if Martell’s blackness was partly being played as a shameful, racist joke, her presence nonetheless directly impeached country’s otherwise covert erasure of the history of white supremacy, and offered the possibility that the real joke was on the stance of naïve whiteness that country culture often enacted. In this sense, Martell’s performances and persona can also be read as instances of radical racial melancholia, a “refusal to declare the past resolved” that troubled white conservatism by countering its disavowal of the history and persistence of structural racism.31

The Girl Most Likely Unlike Linda Martell, Jeannie C. Riley required no special authentication as a country artist; her race and class background made her an ideal embodiment of the spunky working-class heroine who was already a well-rehearsed character in country music lore of artists like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, and which would soon become the foundation of Dolly Parton’s popular persona. While Martell’s media biography conformed to the trope of the accidental black country star, Riley’s emphasized her lifelong dream of coming to Nashville and her dogged efforts to break into the business. Nonetheless, Riley’s career and musical persona were just as inescapably and profoundly shaped by the intertwined ideologies of race, class, and gender that supported white hegemony. Like Martell, Riley performatively embodied a particular social position within those interlocking hierarchies in ways that alternately reinforced and challenged them. Certainly Riley carried less of a symbolic burden; while Martell was saddled with representing all of black womanhood as it was reified by the thorny knot of southern cultural codes, Riley was just one of a number of artists who contested the popular denigration of white working-class femininity. But 153

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she was unique in the degree to which she articulated the parallel ways black and lower-class white women served to define by counterexample the normative southern womanhood at the heart of white supremacy. Loretta Lynn played the innocent, if outspoken, mountain girl; Tammy Wynette personified a class transformation from lowly beautician to glamorous entertainer; and Dolly Parton, who had yet to fully realize the ironically trashy Daisy Mae persona she would later adopt, was just beginning to fulfill the role of “girl” singer under Porter Wagoner’s tutelage. Riley, by contrast, was utterly naturalized as the uncontrollably sexual lower-class hussy whose coarseness, like that of blackface minstrelsy’s wench, proved the superiority of her social betters. Despite the differences in their press biographies, the story of Martell’s “discovery” mirrored nearly exactly the one that had been crafted for Riley. Shelby Singleton signed Martell because she had, in essence, served as the perfectly embodied voice to bring to life a saleable social archetype he had already imagined, the “female Charley Pride.” Publicity about Riley’s path to stardom similarly positioned her as a voice and body ideal for a character Singleton had already envisaged. According to Singleton, Tom T. Hall brought him a demo of “Harper Valley PTA” in early 1968, and while Singleton liked the song, he found the singer unconvincing as the brash, swinging single mother who denounced the double standards of her small town. Some months later, a local deejay brought him a demo of Riley singing another song that satirized the hypocrisy of the respectable middle class. With her twanging, sarcastic delivery—a later profile of Riley described her voice as “low-down” and “naughty”—she seemed the ideal interpreter to enact the defiant town tramp who “socks it to” her detractors. As Singleton told a UPI reporter, “Her voice fit the song. . . . Jeannie Riley is Harper Valley PTA.”32 Though Singleton appears to have chosen Riley because her voice allowed her to believably personify the scandalous widow, Mrs. Johnson, the song’s story is actually narrated by Mrs. Johnson’s daughter, who repeats her mother’s audacious speech to the PTA from memory and with evident pride.33 As she sang, Riley thus embodied the innocent girl who learns from experience that the rules of social propriety are not necessarily equally enforced while also taking a turn at acting out, at one degree of remove, the part of the transgressive, sexually liberated woman. Singleton guaranteed the popular equation between Riley and her first song character by following it with “The Girl Most Likely,” composed for her by two of his most prolific contract writers, Margaret Lewis and Mira Smith. In it, the whole town thinks of the narrator as “the girl most likely to wind up in a uh-uh jam” because her family is poor and her “house needs a coat of paint,” but she is vindicated when the “teacher’s pet . . . born with a silver spoon in her mouth” is the one who ends up pregnant and unwed after having sex with the doctor’s son. 154

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Riley’s first album, Harper Valley PTA, extended the correlation between singer and character still further, featuring a handful of songs—this time written expressly for Riley by Tom T. Hall—devoted to the characters from the title track, as well as “Satan Place,” a repetition of the “Harper Valley PTA” formula that was even more explicitly class-charged than the original. In it the small-town idyll of Satan Place (a wordplay on Peyton Place that gestured to the lyrics of “Harper Valley”), with its “rows of little white homes that looked like castles,” is revealed as a fraud when its self-righteous residents accuse a single mother of allowing her daughter to run wild and she, in turn, exposes the “private little scandal goin’ on behind each castle wall”: the neighbor’s daughter has been skinny dipping with the judge’s son, the banker’s son has impregnated his girlfriend, and the mayor’s daughter steals her daddy’s liquor and drives drunk. In the first year of her career, nearly every song Riley recorded advanced her curiously bifurcated persona: both an unfairly maligned innocent and an unrepentantly cheap and unrefined sex symbol who vociferously protests middle-class convention. Riley’s live and televised appearances reaffirmed her interchangeability with her song characters. In one 1969 Opry appearance captured by a team of documentary filmmakers, she was introduced simply as “the girl from Harper Valley, Miss Jeannie C. Riley,” her gold lamé go-go boots and minidress contrasting sharply with the gingham frocks of the Stony Mountain Cloggers who immediately preceded her. As she sang, she paced and occasionally offered a tiny shimmy, arching a brow here, batting an eye there, and once or twice drawing her mouth into an outraged but nonetheless enticing pout. In a televised performance of “The Girl Most Likely,” Riley’s vamping, this time delivered in a silver lamé minidress and matching boots, was almost comically exaggerated as she posed with one hand on her outthrust hip, peeked coyly at the camera, and even broke into something like a stifled go-go dance. Female singers such as Kitty Wells and Dolly Parton had occasionally sung in the voice of the disparaged honky-tonk angel, but none had so graphically incarnated her in the flesh. To some degree, Riley embraced her role as a rebel against class and gender propriety, seeing it as an expression of her own resentment at the exploitation and powerlessness she experienced as “the country girl with the orange fishnet hose . . . who bought her clothes from the discount department store for a dollar down and a dollar a week.”34 In her 1981 memoir, she depicted Music Row as a small town in microcosm, and maintained that singing “Harper Valley PTA” provided her with an outlet for her anger at the Nashville executives whom she felt had already taken advantage of her, both sexually and professionally, while still maintaining their own respectability. Like Singleton, she asserted that “[t]he lyrics, the music, literally made me the Harper Valley PTA girl.” “I was just angry at the people around me. Angry at myself for being the kind of woman I was, 155

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pushed around by everyone. . . . I snorted and sneered the anger of the world . . . sassing everything I hated,” she recalled.35 While Martell never protested the paternalism that seems to have characterized her relationship with Singleton, Riley’s descriptions of his domineering attitude toward her suggest that the deference he expected of Martell was based on gender as well as race. For instance, when Riley ordered a floor-length organza gown for her appearance on the 1968 CMA awards show—a costume that would have transformed her from the mini-skirted vixen of Harper Valley to a proper southern belle—Singleton called her tailor and insisted that the skirt be re-cut to hang no lower than her mid-thigh. And as was the case with Martell, he would not countenance interference with his authority even in Riley’s personal life. When her husband Mickey threatened to alienate salesmen and disc jockeys who expected her to play in real life the seductress she performed onstage, Singleton told her Mickey could no longer travel with the entourage on press junkets and promotional tours. It was thus not surprising that when Riley moved to MGM in search of greater artistic and personal autonomy, Singleton tried to reassert his control over his hottest property by suing the label for inducing her to break her contract with him, a charge the court ultimately determined to be unfounded.36 Riley’s experience as a recording artist belied the strength and independence her persona conveyed. In spite of the marketing strategy that packaged her as an unapologetic sexpot and proletarian proto-feminist, the perception that she was the character she voiced subjected her to the very same denigration her lyrics decried, revealing once again the continuing power of longstanding cultural constructions of class, race, and gender in the South. As Anthony Harkins has noted, the white hillbilly gal, like the blackface wench, was often imagined as primitively and uncontrollably sexual, and the lingering effects of this stereotype were evident in depictions of Riley.37 Describing an appearance on Ralph Emery’s radio show during which Riley reported that she would be going to charm school to prepare for an upcoming headlining stand in the main room of Las Vegas’s toney Flamingo casino, Paul Hemphill used hillbilly dialect and sexual innuendo to lampoon the very idea that she might be able to conceal her class identity, which would inevitably be exposed by her inability to enact genteel middle-class gender norms: “‘Ralph, they’re gonna teach me how to wawk,’ she drawled. Then she stood up in her micro-miniskirt and proceeded to demonstrate the walk of the old Jeannie C. Riley, and then projected the new Jeannie, the one about to play the main room at the Flamingo. ‘Well Ralph, what do you thank?’ she said. ‘I’ll tell you one thing, honey,’ said Emery, ‘they don’t walk like that in Harper Valley.’”38 In Hemphill’s account, no amount of training could hide Riley’s lowly class status and the failure of appropriate

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femininity it entailed; with or without charm school, he implied, she would always be white trash. Even audiences inclined to identify with the tarnished but proud town tramp could simultaneously participate in her degradation, as the documentary footage of her Opry appearance indicated. Riley was clearly a favorite with the crowd precisely because they saw her as the sexy swinger of “Harper Valley PTA.” When she launched into Mrs. Johnson’s tirade, they whooped and applauded, apparently delighting at the extra measure of brazen impudence in her voice as well as the song’s momentary reversal of power relations. But if they seemed to celebrate and identify with her performance of self-possessed sexuality and class confrontation in one moment, they were invited moments later to engage in the very objectification against which her songs seemed to protest. Resuming his duties as emcee at the end of the number, Bill Anderson pointed at the documentary crew. “I couldn’t help but notice this camera man right here, he never came above her miniskirt the whole time she was singin’,” he commented with a leer and a chuckle (the camera had indeed voyeuristically panned down her mostly bare legs several times). “Right on them boots wasn’t you, chief? You was doin’ alright.”39 While female country stars were routinely described as lovely or beautiful, such blatantly wolfish patter was nearly unprecedented for a show that only a year before had tried to forbid Jeannie Seely from appearing onstage in a miniskirt, and it effectively positioned Riley herself as the scandalous, sexually experienced woman whose body was assumed to be available for public consumption. Just as the collocation of Martell’s race and the label name Plantation Records produced a scandal that could be read simultaneously as a humiliating joke and as an act of defiance against white nostalgia that suppressed the realities of southern history, Riley’s outrageous incarnation of the white, female low Other cut both ways. Songs such as “The Girl Most Likely” and “Satan Place” exposed the fact that class status offered some women freedoms for which less privileged women were punished, but they also consistently relied on narratives that simply inverted prevailing stereotypes, claiming for working-class women the virtue normatively assigned to their middle-class counterparts rather than questioning the relationship between class and control of women’s sexuality. In doing so they potentially reinforced conventional femininity and class values as much as they undermined those discourses. This was as true of Riley’s persona as it was of her lyrical repertoire. The modern-day female hick she voiced in song allowed audiences to openly protest their own class abjection, while their relationship to Riley herself as a working-class sex symbol provided them an opportunity to inhabit a more powerful class position that was defined partly by the ability to ridicule and consume the ostensibly uncontrolled sexuality of the white rube.40

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The Plantation, the Greyhound Bus, and the Burden of History There is only one circulating piece of video footage of Linda Martell’s career in country music: her 1970 appearance on Hee Haw. In it, she stands stock still at center stage in front of an array of hay bales and impressionistic rail fences, her processed hair fashioned into the bouffant flip that was then the standard coif for country music’s “girl” singers. Her dress, a fitted green floral print with a crinoline-puffed skirt falling just to her knee, recalls the demure persona of Kitty Wells, as does her rendition of “A Bad Case of the Blues,” a song about the illicit lure of the city and faithless men that gestures to the combination of honky-tonk angel and traditional, prim country femininity so deftly enacted by Wells in the 1950s.41 The performance is notably characterized by its nearly absolute stasis and its peculiar datedness, both in relation to contemporaneous white femininity in country music and with respect to the rise of black-is-beautiful naturalism as a model for African-American femininity. Martell seems frozen in both space and time, uncomfortably contained by the reified versions of history and femininity she enacts. Even so, she irrepressibly bubbles up from under the weight of this fabrication. As she approaches the title line of the song, her voice slides into a classic blues melisma, breaking free of the plodding phrasing of the verse. Her shoulders drop, her hip sways slightly, and she glances sideways with a knowing look of conspiratorial solidarity with every woman who has ever been deceived, or deceived herself, about the intentions of a “city boy who one night said he loved her.” When she completes a series of pitch-perfect yodels, she breaks into a modest smile of satisfaction at her own mastery of country’s premier symbol of virtuosic vocal skill. Throughout her career as a country singer, Martell held these conflicting modes in tension with one another, simultaneously playing out and challenging the forms of southern womanhood upon which country’s constructions of whiteness depended, testing the strictures of class, race, and gender of the Jim Crow era, even as she pointed to their continuing power. Martell’s persona as the demure, respectable housewife delivering soft country-pop melodies was the polar opposite of Riley’s unrepentantly trashy minx. Their very different personae, however, converged in lyrical repertoires that outlined the parallel marginalization of working-class white and black southerners, not only within the region’s traditional hierarchies, but also within the liberal consensus against which country music was viewed as a regressive aberration. On “San Francisco Is a Lonely Town,” for instance, Martell captures the contrast between the insouciant privilege of late-1960s counterculture hedonism and the rural working-class experience of urbanization and modernization. San Francisco figured in the popular culture imaginary as the preeminent site of 158

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liberation from the restraints of social convention, but Martell reminds the listener that such freedoms were selectively available. Over the mournful strains of a pedal steel guitar, she tells the story of “two happy people on a Greyhound bus [who] came here looking for a life for us,” and who find instead isolation and loneliness. This San Francisco is a tough city where hard work and the lures of the nightlife take their toll; it sounds much more like Bobby Bare’s hard, inhospitable Detroit than the land of gentle people wearing flowers in their hair promised by Scott McKenzie. As Alice Randall has noted, Martell restores an aspect of San Francisco that was often overlooked, recounting the experience of “the kids who arrived not in beat-up Volkswagens but on the bus; the kids who weren’t white, who were brown; the kids who came not from Eastern cities, but from Southern towns.”42 Unlike the neoconservative revolt against “limousine liberals” that animated much of the continuing resistance to integration at the dawn of the 1970s, however, Martell’s implied critique is not racially exclusive. In her San Francisco, it is apparent that many of the freedoms promised by the New Left depended in practice on a form of social advantage that was difficult for working-class people of any race to access. If Martell’s performance of “San Francisco Is a Lonely Town” lodged a subtle protest against the cultural invisibility of working-class southerners in the middle-class discourse of the counterculture, Jeannie C. Riley’s “Cotton Patch” stridently exposed the class limits of the promises extended by sexual liberation and popular feminism. The story of a self-described “sweet young thing just turned eighteen” who hitchhikes to Dallas in search of “pretty clothes and rich men,” the song at first mocks the arrogance of the girl, who declares that she has “too much class for this cotton patch,” but ultimately arouses sympathy for her when she discovers that the stigma of her real class status prohibits her from attaining the kind of sexual and financial independence promoted by women like Helen Gurley Brown. When she applies for a job at “the best department store,” she is turned away by a disdainful manager who “called me a ripe tomato, but . . . said I sure look green,” and intimates a dawning realization of her lowly social position with the rueful observation that “it seemed nobody ’round Dallas could recognize the class I’d brought to town.” The irony, of course, is that everyone but the narrator realizes just exactly what class she carries with her. By the final verse, she is stuck working a factory job sticking labels on cans and—in a deflating inversion of the route traced by the narrator in “San Francisco Is a Lonely Town”—writes her mother to beg for money to “catch the next Greyhound comin’ home.” “I sure learned a lot about class fast, Mama, know what I mean?” she concludes. Like “San Francisco Is a Lonely Town,” “Cotton Patch” maps the continuities between racial and class disadvantage. Though its narrator does not face the endemic sexual violence and racist stereotypes of sexual wantonness that confronted African American women, her social value, 159

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like theirs, lies in her labor and her sexuality, and she is just as surely excluded from the ideal of liberation available to middle-class white women. But while the coupling of Riley and Martell highlighted the ways both black and white working-class southerners might be excluded from the nominally egalitarian vision of urbane liberalism, Martell also made manifest the differences in their positions by gesturing to the ways whites had historically used images of black women to construct white identity and maintain the privileges that accompanied it. As Grace Hale and Tara McPherson have argued, the racial order of Jim Crow was underpinned by the twin figures of the black Mammy and the white southern lady, who together guaranteed the legitimacy of the white middle class in the New South.43 In addition to serving as the contrasting Other through which the nature and value of whiteness were defined, the Mammy played “a key role in the actual production of white femininity.”44 The white imaginary brought to life by Margaret Mitchell in Gone with the Wind positioned black women as the caretakers of both the white home and the white female body: it is Mammy who laces Scarlett into her corset, she who conceals the degraded condition into which the iconic white lady has fallen by conjuring a lavish dress from the tattered remains of Tara’s drapes. In both material and cultural terms, the fantasized Mammy’s “physical labor and ‘supporting’ role allow Scarlett to perform [white] femininity,” mirroring the real-world performances of racialized gender upon which the social order of segregation relied.45 Thus, when Martell appeared in Ebony having her hair done by a white hairdresser in her own home and shopping for dresses in a “downtown boutique” with a white assistant, she directly summoned and inverted the Mammy-lady trope. The maneuver was made even more pointed by her continual juxtaposition with Riley, confirming that this imagery was not merely an illustration of new freedoms won in the civil rights movement, but also a commentary on the history of racial representations that had underwritten white supremacy. In this sense, the gender imagery produced at Plantation contested the very core of country music’s cultural politics of whiteness at the end of the 1960s. Geoff Mann has argued that country’s nostalgia conceals specific histories of racism to produce the pose of “dehistoricized innocence” and “naïve victimhood” that characterized white conservatism in the wake of the civil rights movement.46 What makes such nostalgia problematic is not its unwillingness to relinquish the past, or even its failure to acknowledge the history of racial oppression in the United States, but rather its willful disconnection of past from present. In the words of Christopher Lasch, nostalgia “idealizes the past, but not in order to understand the way in which it unavoidably influences the present and the future.”47 It endlessly returns to and celebrates the lost long-ago, but does so in a way that only confirms the distance between then and now, working “to proclaim the death of the past and to deny history’s hold over the present.”48 By 160

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indexing the ways the nostalgic historical romance of the plantation had legitimated later relations of racial domination under Jim Crow, Martell’s persona insisted on the continuity of past and present and highlighted the persistence of such imagery in spite of the advancements of the civil rights movement.

Coda Looking back on her career in country, Linda Martell remembered it as an exciting experience, whatever its shortcomings. Though it exposed her to what she described as her “first full-force contact with racism” when a Texas club owner refused to let her perform because she was black, she described Nashville itself as a welcoming place.49 Of her historic appearance on the Grand Ole Opry, she recalled, “That was just wonderful. It was one of the best experiences I ever had because the Opry people were wonderful to me.” Even Shelby Singleton was remembered fondly. “He put a lot of promotional work into that record. He really did,” she told an interviewer in the 1990s. “I think that’s the reason that it did so well.”50 Jeannie C. Riley’s recollection was far less sanguine. In her memoir, she insistently rejected the racy image Singleton had imposed upon her and bitterly recalled the serial sexual exploitation to which she had been subjected by the men upon whom her career depended. Certainly, these depictions served her desire to shape her story into a narrative of conversion to middle-class domesticity and respectability as well as evangelical Christianity. But they also poignantly revealed the very real social jeopardy experienced by white women who did not meet class-based standards of appropriate femininity. In both material and discursive terms, Martell and Riley labored in the shadow of traditional hierarchies of race, class, and gender. By 1973 the cultural expression of these hierarchies was undergoing yet another shift. The growing popularity of “Outlaw” country signaled a return to hard country aesthetics, “a specific re-articulation of whiteness” and masculinity that positioned the white, working-class, southern man as the primary victim of both social inequality and social change.51 As Travis Stimeling has pointed out, the Outlaws’ surface hypermasculinity and machismo often obscured their more nuanced exploration of masculine emotion and vulnerability, an approach that suggests we might view the movement “not as reactionary and anti-feminist” but rather as a venue for reconciling conflicting expectations of masculinity in the wake of women’s liberation.52 Its exploration of working-class masculinity may be more complex than has been commonly recognized, but by re-centering masculinity in its mode of production, lyrics, and vocal staging, and by frequently positioning “women and conventionally successful men” as the enforcers of the normative 161

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values against which the abject working-class white man had to struggle, the Outlaws’ turn to hard country aesthetics nonetheless rendered nearly invisible the injuries the South’s traditional gender ideology inflicted on white women of the same class.53 Moreover, as Barbara Ching has argued, the hard country ethos in which the Outlaw movement participated was “largely about refusing to follow the easy road to material success and social integration.”54 This was a stance entirely at odds with the upwardly mobile social and cultural aspirations of the country-pop and country-soul idioms within which nearly all black country performance, including Linda Martell’s, had taken place. The challenge Martell and Riley posed to hegemonic ideologies was fleeting and perhaps inherently limited, but their identification of the commonalities of class and regional identity among black and white working-class southerners hinted at the possibilities for cross-racial cultural alliances that were often difficult to locate as the political landscape fractured into conservative white resistance to racial equality on one hand and black nationalism on the other. By calling attention to the continuing legacy of inequalities purportedly swept away by the collapse of Jim Crow, they intervened in country’s politics of nostalgia and whiteness and sought the ground that differently disenfranchised sons and daughters of the South might share. Notes 1. Christopher Wren, “The Great White Soul Sound: Country Music,” Look 35 (July 13, 1971): 12. 2. Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009), 12. 3. “Country Music Gets Soul,” Ebony (March 1970): 68. 4. “Linda Martell Signs with SS Productions,” Music City News (July 1969): 28. 5. Pamela Foster, My Country, Too: The Other Black Music (Nashville: Publishers Graphics, 2000), 112. It is worth noting that both of these songs were included on Ray Charles’s Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, and had thereby also gained a comfortable place in the R&B repertoire. 6. Shelby Singleton interview by Diane Pecknold, January 24, 2009, audiotape (in Diane Pecknold’s possession), side 2, tape 1. 7. Diane Pecknold, “Making Country Modern: The Legacy of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music,” in Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, ed. Diane Pecknold (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013). 8. Suzanne E. Smith, Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999), 165–67. 9. Michael Awkward, Soul Covers: Rhythm and Blues Remakes and the Struggle for Artistic Identity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); Diane Pecknold, “Travel with Me: Country Music, Race, and Remembrance,” in Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt, ed. Eric Weisbard (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012).

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Negotiating Gender, Race, and Class in Post–Civil Rights Country Music 10. Charles Hughes, “‘You’re My Soul Song’: How Southern Soul Changed Country Music,” in Hidden in the Mix, ed. Pecknold; Charles Hughes, Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015). 11. Music City News (August 1969): 7. 12. “Let’s Trade a Little: The Country-R&B Connection,” March 27, 2004 (DVD), Frist Library and Archive, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville. 13. “Miller Sets 2 MGM Acts,” Billboard 84:47 (November 18, 1972): 27. The press image constructed for Sweeney also advanced the trope of accidental stardom that framed Martell’s and Pride’s careers. The announcement that she had been signed to MGM curiously described her as having been “discovered . . . singing in a Baptist Sunday school choir,” a narrative entirely at odds with the fact that her father, Jimmy Sweeney, was a songwriter for Acuff-Rose and recorded frequently on Music Row. 14. Bill C. Malone, Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 236–45. 15. Neil V. Rosenberg, Bluegrass: A History (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 116–21. 16. Jens Lund, “Fundamentalism, Racism, and Political Reaction in Country Music,” in The Sounds of Social Change: Studies in Popular Culture, ed. Serge Denisoff and Richard A. Peterson (Chicago: Rand McNally, 1972), 86. 17. Homer Bigart, “Marines to Step Up Campaign to Ease Racial Tensions,” New York Times, February 28, 1970: 11. 18. Paul Hemphill, The Nashville Sound: Bright Lights and Country Music (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970), 116. 19. Anthony Harkins, Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004); Allison Graham, Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race during the Civil Rights Struggle (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003). 20. Diane Pecknold, The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 133–67. 21. John Lomax III, Nashville: Music City, USA (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1985), 387. 22. Singleton interview by Pecknold, side 1, tape 2. 23. Singleton interview by Pecknold, side 1, tape 2. 24. “Let’s Trade a Little.” 25. Billboard, November 18, 1972: 26. This trope structured every representation of black women recording country I found between 1969 and 1973. 26. Quoted in Danielle L. McGuire, At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power (New York: Random House, 2010), 192. 27. Singleton interview by Pecknold, side 1, tape 2. 28. Waiting in the Wings: African Americans in Country Music, prod. Karla Winfrey and Henri Giles, CMT, February 22, 2004 (DVD), Frist Library and Archive. 29. It should be noted that Singleton never shied away from a distasteful marketing scheme, whether based on race or not. He also released a collection of “for adults only” joke songs with the suggestive title Creamed Country Corn and “The Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley,” which lionized the instigator of the My Lai massacre.

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Diane Pecknold 30. For a close reading of this dynamic, see Tara McPherson, Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003). 31. Sara Clarke Kaplan, “Souls at the Crossroads, Africans on the Water: The Politics of Diasporic Melancholia,” Callaloo 30:2 (2007): 514. 32. Duren Cheek, “Wife, Leery of Singing Career, Earns Hit with Nashville Sound,” Wisconsin State Journal, October 14, 1968. 33. I am grateful to the anonymous reader at the University Press of Mississippi for pointing out the dual nature of the characterization in the song. 34. Jeannie C. Riley with Jamie Buckingham, From Harper Valley to the Mountain Top (Lincoln, VA: Chosen Books, 1981), 74. 35. Ibid., 69, 71. As Pamela Fox has pointed out, women’s country music autobiographies are themselves interventions in the genre’s gender politics, and Riley’s can be read as an effort to resituate herself within the dominant mode of middle-class respectability and domesticity in the later part of her career. I am mindful that she may have molded her account to support this repositioning, but contemporaneous primary sources seem to bear out her depiction of these events. For a full analysis of women’s autobiographies in country music, see Fox, Natural Acts, 113–44. 36. Though it was Singleton who terminated the contract with Linda Martell, he seems to have felt a similar proprietary right over her. In the 2000s, he appeared on a panel with Jo Sweeney as part of the programming for the Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit Night Train to Nashville. When Sweeney recalled that, “There had been one black female some years before me . . . Linda Martell I believe was her name,” Singleton tersely interjected, “That was my act.” Sweeney seemed visibly taken aback by the possessiveness of his tone and shied away from further comment on what might have become of her career. “Let’s Trade a Little.” 37. Harkins, Hillbilly. 38. Hemphill, The Nashville Sound, 187. 39. The Nashville Sound, dir. Robert Elfstrom and David Hoffman (Xenon, 1970). 40. The conservative valence of Riley’s apparently rebellious, hip persona was apparent in the track selections for her fifth album for Plantation, The Generation Gap. The title track aims the counterculture’s generational critique of hypocrisy not at their parents but at them, criticizing baby boomers for lying to their children about smoking dope and swinging, and the album is rounded out by a cover of “Okie from Muskogee.” Like “Harper Valley PTA” and “Satan Place,” The Generation Gap managed to criticize and embrace conservative cultural politics at the same time. 41. Fox, Natural Acts, 94–101. 42. Alice Randall, “Alice Randall on Linda Martell’s ‘Color Him Father,’” Oxford American, www.oxfordamerican.org/articles/2010/apr/05/alice-randall-linda-martells-color-him-father/, accessed March 22, 2011. 43. Grace Elizabeth Hale, Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940 (New York: Vintage, 1999), 105. 44. McPherson, Reconstructing Dixie, 53. 45. Ibid., 55. 46. Geoff Mann, “Why Does Country Music Sound White? Race and the Voice of Nostalgia,” Ethnic & Racial Studies 31:1 (January 2008): 89.

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Negotiating Gender, Race, and Class in Post–Civil Rights Country Music 47. Christopher Lasch, The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics (New York: Norton, 1991), 118. 48. Ibid., 119. 49. Don Rhodes, “Black Singer Was Opry Pioneer,” Augusta Chronicle Online, February 20, 1998, http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/1998/02/20/ent_222817.shtml, accessed August 8, 2011. 50. Waiting in the Wings. 51. Barry Shank, “From Rice to Ice: The Face of Race in Rock and Pop,” in The Cambridge Companion to Rock and Pop, ed. Simon Frith, Will Straw, and John Street (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001), 264–65. Travis Stimeling and Jason Mellard have very sensitively explored the configurations of whiteness and masculinity in progressive and Outlaw country, and their relationship to the social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. See Travis Stimeling, Cosmic Cowboys and the New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive Country Music Scene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Travis Stimeling, “Narrative, Vocal Staging, and Masculinity in the ‘Outlaw’ Country Music of Waylon Jennings,” Popular Music 32:3 (2013): 343–58; and Jason Mellard, Progressive Country: How the 1970s Transformed the Texan in Popular Culture (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013). 52. Stimeling, “Narrative, Vocal Staging, and Masculinity in the ‘Outlaw’ Country Music of Waylon Jennings,” 355. 53. Barbara Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 30. 54. Ibid., 15.

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Remarkable Women and Ordinary Gals: Performance of Identity in Songs by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton kAte heiDeMAnn

Loretta Lynn says she was inspired to write “Fist City” in 1968, after she caught a woman making eyes at her husband Doolittle during a performance in Tennessee.1 Five years later, in 1973, Dolly Parton wrote “Jolene,” featuring a similar theme of a woman trying to ward off the rival for her man’s affections, although with different tactics.2 Lynn’s song persona is tough while Parton’s is pliant, but both songs became #1 country hits. These songs contributed to the success of Lynn and Parton as solo acts, success that signaled the gradually increasing presence and power of female artists in the country music industry, and which also reflected the changing status of women in American culture. In the early 1960s, opportunities for female country artists to become top stars were still limited despite the phenomenal success of Patsy Cline; there was typically room for only one “girl singer” on tours or television programs (and not as headliner or host), and record labels rarely released singles by two women at the same time.3 The commercial success of Lynn’s woman-centered songwriting helped convince the country music industry that female artists could be stars in their own right. Only a few years later, Parton was able to capitalize on the headway forged by Lynn; she took charge of her own career management, and eventually established herself as a bona-fide business mogul and pop culture icon.4 Lynn and Parton helped establish female country artists as stand-alone hit-makers by successfully navigating genre and cultural expectations in their songwriting and performing. The hit recordings “Fist City” and “Jolene” contributed to each artist’s success and boosted the stature of women in the country music industry, while also presenting narratives about the lives and identities of working-class women that seemed to resonate with listeners. These narratives simultaneously defined and broadened the possibilities for women’s lives and self-expression in country music culture in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The musical details of these recordings, and their consideration within the broader scope of each artist’s career, reveal how Lynn and Parton created 166

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different yet equally commercially viable representations of country femininity—each individual and remarkable, but still familiar to country music listeners. Both artists grew up poor in Appalachia, and their expressions of gender identity via the text and music of “Fist City” and “Jolene” reflect elements of their personal histories and their experiences of social structures in their formative communities. Lynn’s straightforward singing style and the honky-tonk musical backing of “Fist City” suggest tough, working-class affinities and a foray into a male-dominated social scene, while Parton’s tremulous soprano and her sonic references to old-time Appalachian balladry in “Jolene” present a model of rural femininity with both working- and middle-class overtones. Lynn’s fierce attitude in “Fist City” extends to many parts of her public persona, but is tempered somewhat by the ways she embraced traditional gender roles in her deference to her husband and male business partners. Alternatively, Parton’s delicate and submissive persona in “Jolene” contradicts her bold personal style and her ambition as a businessperson.

Cultural Conventions Loretta Lynn was born in 1932 in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, and tells of growing up struggling against hunger and poverty, and with spotty access to education.5 Dolly Parton was born nearly fourteen years later in 1946, and was raised (along with her eleven siblings) in a one-room cabin in Locust Ridge, Tennessee. Despite the Depression and war of the intervening years, and the resulting waves of northern and western migration, Parton describes her Appalachian upbringing in terms similar to Lynn’s. In their memoirs, both reminisce about their mothers and their parents’ relationships, and in doing so describe the gender roles they observed growing up in rural Appalachia.6 Both their mothers demonstrated their resilience as they shouldered physical labor and faced economic and emotional hardship, but they also exhibited a genteel side in their preservation of traditional domestic arts. Both were also limited by their status as women in their access to certain types of social power. Rural Appalachian men’s and women’s spheres were only somewhat separate in this era—though defined primarily as domestic work, women’s labor also included wage-earning activities such as farming—but power rested primarily in the hands of men. Women, and mothers especially, tended to the well-being and sometimes the education of children; made clothing and textiles; procured, prepared, and stored food; and provided first aid care. While wives were largely expected to defer to the judgment of their husbands, their work was integral to the survival of the family and was ideally respected as such. Mary Robertson, a union organizer from western North Carolina, explains that although mountain 167

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women “were forced to assume responsibilities, because it was the only way to survive,” an increase in responsibility did not always prompt an increase in power. The working-class Appalachian woman of this time “is more likely to be a decision maker in the family, and you’re more apt to see some signs of a matriarchal society in the mountains,” but “because of their isolation and their meager economic clout . . . they’re also more apt to bow to some religious social theory that they should be naturally subservient to men.”7 The specifics of each artist’s early home life carried out this paradoxical combination of broad-ranging responsibilities and limited authority. Lynn’s mother’s duties were primarily domestic but harsh, and required resourcefulness to carry out; she raised eight children and tended to meals and the home in general, which included caring for crops and livestock near the house, foraging for wild greens to supplement their food supply, and administering first aid and folk medicines such as homemade salves, poultices, and teas. Motherhood offered little in the way of special treatment or respite from chores. “She had her first seven kids at home, with an old midwife coming in to help,” Lynn recounted in her autobiography. “After Mommy had me, she was out setting onions on the hill only three days later.”8 Parton’s mother performed many of the same jobs, although she was also beset by health problems (“which I’m sure were not made any easier by having a baby every nine months,” Parton observed in her autobiography) and seemed to be more sensitive. “Sometimes Mama would get to telling a story or singing a sad song and she’d start to cry,” Parton recalled.9 In addition to her duties of sewing, cooking, upkeep of the house and garden, and family first aid, Parton’s mother, the daughter of a Pentecostal preacher, saw to her children’s religious and musical training. As her mother quilted in the evenings, Parton remembered, “all us kids would sit around and watch her and listen while she sang old-timey mountain songs or told Bible stories.”10 The relationships between their mothers and fathers illustrated where women fell in the social hierarchy of mountain culture. Lynn describes her father’s behavior toward her mother as exemplary: “He wasn’t one of those men that’s gone half the time either—he didn’t have no bad habits. He was always teasing Mommy, but in a nice way. . . . [T]here’s better ways to handle a woman than whipping her into line.”11 His good behavior highlights some common “bad habits” men were discouraged from but that were more or less tolerated, such as unexplained absence and physically “disciplining” one’s wife. Parton described her father as indulging in some of these habits, sometimes disappearing for days or drinking to excess. She remembered her father urinating off the porch after returning home drunk, and her mother scolding him for setting a bad example for the children. Parton remarked, “It was not within the bounds of the man/ woman relationship of that time and place for her to criticize the drinking that had caused him to pee off the porch, so she had to confine her complaint to the 168

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act itself.”12 The implication of these stories is that similar behavior by wives (and women generally) would not be tolerated in the same way. Lynn’s and Parton’s descriptions of their mothers echoed mainstream, romanticized ideas about the Appalachian South and the role of women (especially mothers) as guardians of traditional culture. Idealistic characterizations of a “distinctly female Appalachian cultural heritage” were often promoted by middle-class ballad collectors of the early twentieth century, and subsequently came to shape what many working- and middle-class listeners considered authentic representations of mountain culture.13 Kristine McCusker describes just such a strategy enacted by National Barn Dance performer and self-styled expert on mountain music Bradley Kincaid in an effort to promote a conventionally respectable interpretation of Appalachian culture and gain middleclass listeners. The traditional Appalachian woman at the center of Kincaid’s campaign was graceful, charming, domestic, a self-sacrificing mother, a skilled artisan, and a preserver of traditional song.14 This model of femininity and its middle-class appeal reflects a general pattern of class and gender pairings in working-class culture—in which feminine is to middle-class as masculine is to working-class—that also arises in “Jolene” and “Fist City.” Cultural anthropologist Sherry Ortner has observed that in multiple working-class subcultures, there appears to be a problematic split between “lifestyles”: “a choice between a lifestyle modeled essentially on middle-class values and practices and one modeled on more distinctively working- or lower-class values and practices.”15 This division has also accrued associations with gender. Ortner argues that “it appears overwhelmingly the case in working-class culture that women are symbolically aligned, from both the male point of view and, apparently, their own, with the ‘respectable,’ ‘middle-class’ side of those oppositions and choices.”16 Thousands of country songs reflect this pattern, wherein “Women represent middle-class ideology, a fatalistic acceptance of capitalist work discipline, and religious piety. They embrace respectability against the heroically disreputable male values of the labor process, shop-floor culture, military experience, and the utopian working-class space of the tavern.”17 Lynn’s and Parton’s stories of their parents support this classed gender division in some ways—their mothers participated in domestic, religious, and cultural activities that can be and have been interpreted as aspirationally middle-class. On the other hand, whatever their symbolic ties to middle-class culture may have been, the reality of their lives remained that they were poor women trying to survive in rural Appalachia. In their performances of “Fist City” and “Jolene,” Lynn and Parton both celebrate their working-class backgrounds, simultaneously affirming their country credentials, but also engage with these overlapping categories of masculine/working-class and feminine/middle-class as they stake out their own distinct models of country femininity. 169

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Lyrics and Vocal Performance The protagonist of “Fist City” hurls biting put-downs at her rival and repeatedly threatens physical violence in euphemisms and plain language. Alternately, Parton’s persona flatters, begs, and cries as she throws herself at the mercy of the enchanting “Jolene.” The personal and uneasy subject matter of both songs— cheating partners and direct conflict (whether characterized by violent anger or grief)—touches on classic country song tropes. As Aaron Fox writes, “in country music, intensely ‘private’ and ‘inarticulate’ (an alignment which is ‘natural’ in capitalist society) linguistic contexts (stories about cheating, divorce, lost love, family and home, and economic failure) are inverted to become intensely public, poetic, and articulate expressions.”18 The open hostility of Lynn’s lyrics and the intense vulnerability of Parton’s both relate private and/or inarticulate feelings and situations to their listening public. This places both songs within the genre of country even as each artist presents a different model of femininity through her lyrics and vocal styles. Lynn’s lyrics express a fairly consistent sentiment: her song persona is warning another woman to leave her man alone or suffer a beating. In the opening verse, the song protagonist confronts this woman about rumors she’s been spreading and commences with the verbal put-downs (likening the woman to “trash”) and first threats of physical violence (ending the verse with the euphemism of “fist city”). The second verse continues in a similar vein. Lynn goads the woman to confront her directly (“come on and tell me what you told my friends”); touts her own status as a “real woman,” as opposed to her “trashy” rival; and reissues her “fist city” threat. The physicality and threatening posturing of the lyrics reflect the no-nonsense and sometimes violent persona Lynn cultivated in some of her other hits, such as “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man).” This tone continues in the chorus of “Fist City,” coupled with lyrics that finally address the man’s role in this alleged infidelity. Lynn’s persona acknowledges that her man’s no saint, and that he even has a reputation for dalliances on the side. Following this admission, however, she offers no explicit commentary on his fault in this particular scenario, and instead reiterates her warning to the other woman (“I’m here to tell ya gal to lay off a my man”). Whatever Lynn’s persona may think of her man’s behavior, she seems to have at least resigned herself to the idea that it is up to her to keep their relationship intact by chasing off other women who capture his attention. This gendered power imbalance is somewhat at odds with the tough female persona presented in “Fist City”; regardless of her fierce demeanor, she is still subject to disempowering cultural standards that allow men to flout expectations of monogamy while prohibiting women from engaging in the same behavior. 170

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“Jolene” chronicles a similar woman-to-woman interaction, but Parton’s approach shares none of the aggression of Lynn’s song. Through her lyrics, Parton’s persona begs, pleads, and cries, throwing herself at the mercy of Jolene. The first verse is a litany of praise to Jolene’s good looks and beautiful voice: her “flaming locks of auburn hair,” “ivory skin and eyes of emerald green,” smile “like a breath of spring,” and voice “soft like summer rain.”19 Such high-flown metaphors and the lack of slang and popular idioms help make “Jolene” sound like a traditional Appalachian ballad.20 This reference to old-time music combines with the song’s polite and deferential tone to present a model of country femininity that also aligns with middle-class values. The second verse details the havoc that Jolene’s charms have wreaked on the song protagonist’s life: “there’s nothing I can do to keep from crying when he calls your name” and “you don’t know what he means to me,” she sings. Finally, after reiterating her absolute devotion to her man (“he’s the only one for me”) and her own inability to compete with Jolene (“you could have your choice of men”), Parton ends their talk and leaves the final decision in Jolene’s hands with the pleading reminder that “my happiness depends on you.” The delicate, retiring model of femininity Parton presents in the lyrics of “Jolene” of course contrasts with Lynn’s rough-and-tumble character in “Fist City,” but as in Lynn’s lyrics, the man is conspicuously absent and unaccountable. The fact that women are the main actors in these dramas reflects a social hierarchy in which women are limited in the ways they can “talk back” to men, echoing the same social structures that shaped the relationships of Lynn’s and Parton’s parents. Both artists challenge this gender hierarchy, however, in their composition and performance of other songs that address men directly (e.g., Lynn’s “Don’t Come Home A’ Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” and Parton’s “Just Because I’m a Woman”). In this way, the repertoire of each artist reflects boundaries of gender roles and limitations on women’s access to power, as well as a desire to change these gender categories and unfair social power dynamics. Like the lyric content of both songs, both performers’ voices are easily understood as country due to their simultaneously remarkable yet everyday attributes. In his article “The Jukebox of History: Narratives of Loss and Desire in the Discourse of Country Music,” Aaron Fox notes that the transformation of the ordinary into extraordinary public expression that occurs in country songwriting also takes place in country singing: “The nasal, rough, timbrally distinct and/or accented voices of most great country singers are at once unique and ordinary, an effect which spins a story about both the uniqueness (denaturalization) and the ordinariness (renaturalization) of the figure of the singer.”21 Each performer’s voice is unique and easily recognizable while also sounding like a natural extension of their everyday speaking voices—both have found their own comfortable vocal tone and, by the time of these recordings, are not 171

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attempting to sound like anyone but themselves. Their individuality as vocalists—the differences in their accents, vocal ranges, vocal qualities, and singing styles—also contribute to the distinct representations of country femininity each recording presents. Lynn and Parton have slightly different accents and styles of textual delivery that emphasize the regional and class affiliations audible in these recordings. Both women sing with an Appalachian accent, but Lynn’s is much more pronounced. She has a tendency to draw out the pronunciation of some vowels (in the most extreme case in this song, “man” begins to sound like “may-uhn”); she drops the “-g” off the end of several words (“lovin’,” “sayin’”); and she frequently uses the contraction “ain’t.” Additionally, her enunciation is more relaxed than Parton’s, resulting in the elided combinations “outta” and “wanna,” and shortened words like “ya” (for “you”) and “‘n’” (for “and”). Perhaps most indicative of her Appalachian origins is Lynn’s frequent use of the vowel prefix “a-,” such as “a-you’ve” and “a-lovin’” in the very first line.22 Lynn’s stronger accent bolsters her performance of rural working-class womanhood in “Fist City,” while Parton’s less pronounced accent supports the middle-class model of femininity suggested in the lyrics of “Jolene.”23 Lynn’s unabashedly Appalachian accent combines with her unadorned and straightforward delivery in her performance of tough femininity. A moderate huskiness pervades much of her singing in the lower part of her register—a hiss of air that occasionally verges on a sound of hoarseness. The quality is most apparent on “you’ve” and “town” (at 0:07 and 0:10) and as she again sings “town” later in the song (0:38).24 This vocal quality suggests mild wear—whether through long hours of talking, singing, and shouting, or through inhalation of smoke or dust—and implies a woman familiar with hard, physical work or one who is not shy about raising her voice. When her vocal line travels higher in register, especially when she sings at a louder volume, this husky quality gives way to a more piercing, sometimes nasal sound. This change in quality is audible as she sings “but the man I love” in the first verse, and even more so when she sings “if you don’t wanna go to fist city” (at 0:33) in the chorus. It is easy to imagine this style of singing as an extension of Lynn’s speaking voice; it sounds like a controlled, artistic form of yelling (often referred to as “belting”).25 Lynn acknowledges this as a long-standing aspect of her singing style: “I’d sit on the porch swing and rock them babies and sing at the top of my voice. . . . I’d sing old hymns like ‘Amazing Grace’ or ‘This Little Light of Mine’ or ‘We Read About an Old-Time Preacher Who Preached the Gospel Free,’ and stuff like that, as loud as could be. I didn’t care. And I’m still like that. I love to get up and sing at the top of my lungs.”26 This approach gives her voice an untutored, frank-sounding style, regardless of the fact that she spent years honing her vocal craft, and helps mark it as authentically country.27 While Lynn’s 172

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Figure 9.1 Example 1: Vocal melody excerpt of “Fist City” (0:05-18). Courtesy the Wilburn Family at SureFire Music.

assertive belting supports the hard-hitting message of the song, she still retains a modicum of sonic propriety; she never strains her voice or allows it to “break” in order to imitate sounds of fully impassioned yelling or screaming. Lynn bolsters the “hollering” quality of her voice with subtle melodic ornaments based on patterns of emphatic speech, usually bending pitches as she forcefully articulates her consonants or leaning on words for emphasis, suffusing her singing with a drawling character. For example, in her singing of “don’t wanna eat” (1:24) and “round my town” (1:34–35), she accents the beginning of her words, giving each of them a sonic punch. As she emphasizes the word “sees” (0:22), her line bends up and drops down again (moving up from G4 of “I” to A4 at the end of “sees,” and then sliding down to C4 on “a”), and seconds later on “outta” she travels from A4 to E4 over the course of the word. Lynn’s percussive articulations and slurs between pitches mimic the natural contours of yelling and angry speech, giving her performance an aggressive edge. Lynn combines slight swing and metrical anticipation to complement the rhythms of the words, further establishing the aggressive swagger of the song’s text; she simultaneously takes her time while sounding eager to move ahead. In her first phrase (transcribed in Example 1) she takes several opportunities to anticipate and blur the beat, syncopating her line as she arrives at “brags,” “love,” “trash,” and “can” an eighth note before the strong underlying pulse of the drums and bass. As she sings a repeated eighth-note pattern to “he puts it in a garbage can,” she slightly extends the eighths on “puts” and “in” and clips “it” and “a,” giving her line a relaxed, swinging quality. Conversely, Parton’s softened regional twang, clearer diction, vocal timbre, and comparatively restrained delivery unite in an expression of femininity that aligns with both the image of traditional domestic womanhood in mountain culture and a more bourgeois sensibility. She sings in a soprano range, beginning the melody of “Jolene” on CG4 (an augmented 4th above the lowest notes of Lynn’s melody) and easily extends the line to CG5 in the opening chorus. The youthful, petite nature of Parton’s voice suggested by her range is intensified by her bright and moderately nasal vocal quality.28 Parton often sings louder as her voice travels higher (for example, with her repetition of “Jolene” 173

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at 0:13–16), but her voice never takes on raspy hoarseness or breaks associated with intense vocal effort. This lack of harshness in her vocal quality aligns Parton’s performance with middle-class notions of feminine reserve and control. She also infuses most of her singing with a tight and quick vibrato that contributes a character of smallness and nervousness to her vocal performance. Parton’s vibrato is stylistically not very different from Lynn’s (one can clearly hear Lynn’s rapid vibrato, approaching a warble, on her closing “fist city”), but it is subtly present in almost every word she sings, giving her voice a delicate, shimmering quality; one can imagine the song protagonist nearly quaking as she confronts Jolene. Parton modulates her vocal quality slightly throughout the song, at times sounding breathy and other times approaching a crying or whining vocal character. Breathiness results from a relaxed style of singing or speaking that is akin to sighing, and is sometimes used to communicate intimacy.29 It is also a vocal quality more common in women than in men, and contributes to the perception of a voice as feminine.30 Parton tempers the brilliant sound of her voice with moments of breathiness at the ends of words (“man” at 0:20, “can” at 0:33) and emphasizes “breath of spring” at 0:47.31 Another vocal quality—the intensification of the nasality of her voice to create a whining sound—strengthens the childlike aspect of her voice. This quality is audible as she sings “compete with you” (0:51–52) and “he talks about you” (0:56–57). The relationship between this vocal quality and the sounds of pouting and crying, combined with the textual references to Parton’s persona being bested by Jolene, give these moments a tinge of youthful petulance. During the verses, she employs pitch bending that mimics patterns of speech—for example, letting her voice drop off at the end of “compare” (0:36), and slightly bending her pitch on “eyes” (0:40)—but to a lesser degree than Lynn. Overall, Parton’s singing style in “Jolene” sounds comparatively more formal and melodic, giving the song a ballad-like character. As she sings the chorus, her notes are fully voiced and sustained, and she inserts melodic “frills” in the form of turns—a CG-DG-CG-B-CG melisma on “can” at 0:32, again at 1:40, and again in slightly modified form at 2:27. She swings her melody much less than Lynn, and generally sings short, repeated melodic patterns, creating an obsessive mood much different from the rambling and strutting character of “Fist City.” Both performers therefore emphasize different parts of the working-class Appalachian model of femininity from their childhoods in these songs. Lynn amplifies the tough resilience of this model while Parton emphasizes its deferential characteristics. Lynn’s lyrics are aggressive, and are supported by her stronger accent, and her swaggering, relaxed vocal style to present a model of rugged working-class femininity. The lyrics of “Jolene,” on the other hand, suggest a retiring and submissive woman, while Parton’s clear diction and petite, 174

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youthful, and quavering voice highlights the middle-class propriety of her persona. Despite these differences, however, the lyrics of both “Fist City” and “Jolene” reflect aspects of the historically limited power of women in rural working-class contexts, and within the genre of country music.

Vocal and Instrumental Backing The different types of commercially successful country music in the 1960s and 1970s carried their own class and gender connotations, and the different musical styles of each track further situate and support the identities expressed by Lynn and Parton in their lyrics and vocal performances. The Country Music Association undertook a campaign in the 1960s to polish the image of country music in order to broaden its fan base and market to the newly affluent bluecollar middle class fostered by post–World War II economic growth. This marketing push coincided with the height of Nashville Sound popularity—a style similar to mainstream pop in its use of smoother vocal qualities and lush string arrangements that was pioneered in part by producers Owen Bradley and Chet Atkins (with whom Lynn and Parton worked, respectively). According to industry philosophy, country music now “appealed to a more sophisticated audience not because it had attracted new listeners but because its traditional listeners had achieved the economic success they [rural-to-urban white migrants] sought in their new communities.”32 Traditional country styles persisted in modern forms amidst these changes in the mainstream country music soundscape. Honky-tonk music—connotative of the male-dominated blue-collar barroom, and which enjoyed tremendous popularity on country radio in the 1940s and 1950s—received a sonic reworking and commercial boost in the popular Bakersfield Sound that emerged from California honky-tonks in the 1960s.33 The folk revival of that decade was also reaching its mainstream peak, and many middle-class performers and listeners again turned their attention toward old-time styles as sources of authentic expression and as soundtracks to political and social activism. The music of “Fist City” is basically honky-tonk in style, but with some pop touches indicative of widespread post–Nashville Sound production values. The Jordanaires, a white gospel quartet who appeared on hundreds of country records of the time and were best known for singing backup for Elvis Presley, contributed background vocals on “Fist City.”34 Even though their repertoire consisted of gospel, rock, and country, the Jordanaires’ vocal qualities are similar to those of traditional pop groups from the 1950s, such as the Four Aces— they are not nasal or twangy, and have no discernible regional accent, therefore avoiding strong country or working-class connotations. Their performance is 175

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professional and unobtrusive, supported by a buoyant yet not too boisterous energy as they lightly accent their entrances (especially with their “ooo’s” at 0:20 and “ahh’s” at 0:40). Their lyrics don’t comment directly on the subject of the song, and instead simply offer an approving male background; Lynn is the one who packs the punch, sonically and textually. Their smooth vocals temper Lynn’s tough-gal delivery with middle-class pop appeal, but also help portray her as “one of the guys.” The voices of the Jordanaires help do two somewhat contradictory things, then: their clearly male voices act as ambassadors to the male space of the honky-tonk, but their vocal tone sonically tethers the song to a smoother country-pop aesthetic. The musicians heard on “Fist City” are a mixture of artists drawn from a group of skilled and highly adaptable session players referred to as Nashville’s “A-Team” and frequently sought out by producers Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley. The recording opens with steel guitar (played by Hal Rugg), its highly reverberant sound created with the use of a delay pedal. The association between the sound of a steel guitar and the honky-tonk—a historically illicit, working-class, and masculine domain—is emphasized by Joli Jensen in Nashville Sound: “[the steel guitar] crystallizes the emotional tone of the genre and stands for the live communal band or jukebox-mode of performance. The sound of the steel says honky-tonk, complete with smoke and neon lights, which say real.”35 The text of the song, aligned with this single instrumental quality, sets up “Fist City” as a depiction of a working-class barroom brawl. The rest of the band—Harold Bradley and Roy Huskey, Jr. on electric and upright bass, Grady Martin and Ray Edenton on electric and acoustic guitar, and Buddy Harman on drums—accompany the steel guitar by marking the downbeats of each measure and then join in fully as Lynn begins her first line.36 The piercing quality of the rim clicks helps them stand out of the musical texture, the energy of which is counterbalanced by the more relaxed acoustic guitar strumming. Each of Bradley’s electric bass notes begins with a sharp articulation (hence its onomatopoeic moniker of “tic-tac” bass), and is doubled by Huskey’s rounded upright bass sound. Steel and electric guitar alternate throughout the song, each adding touches of syncopated vitality to the generally open texture and on-the-beat rhythms of the song. This mixture of sharp and rounded instrumental qualities, and straight and syncopated rhythms, result in a balance of sonic liveliness and leisure that complements Lynn’s lyrics and vocal performance, enacting a model of rugged and energetic, yet restrained, femininity that convincingly conjures the honky-tonk milieu. The form and harmonic palate of “Fist City” also make this song appropriate for this setting. It follows a simple, alternating verse-chorus structure (with sections constructed out of standard four-measure phrases), and generally sticks to three standard major harmonies—entirely typical of honky-tonk music of this era.37 176

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Figure 9.2 Example 2: Opening of “Jolene” acoustic guitar riff. “Jolene” written by Dolly Parton. Velvet Apple Music (BMI). All rights reserved. Used by permission.

“Jolene,” by contrast, makes use of old-time musical elements within a modernized country context; the mixture of traditional sounds and contemporary polish gives the track both working-class cachet and middle-class appeal.38 June Page and Dolores Edgin of the vocal group Nashville Edition—who, like the Jordanaires, worked frequently as session musicians in studios around Nashville—provided backup vocals for “Jolene.” Page and Edgin join Parton only in singing the latter half of each chorus (“Jolene . . . Please don’t take him just because you can”) and are once heard separately as they repeat “Jolene” at the end of the track. Both women sing harmonies in a high register with vocal qualities that are remarkably similar to Parton’s, further contributing to the “ladylike” character of the song persona. Their feminine voices also mean that sonically “Jolene” occurs in an all-female space, unlike “Fist City,” where the protagonist is stepping into a male-dominated sonic scene. The song’s instrumental backing consists of lush fingerpicking that alternates with keening fiddles and pedal steel guitar against a background of bass, piano, and drums. The polyphonic picking sounds distinctly like a trio of acoustic guitars, but Bobby Thompson, Buck Trent, Jimmy Colvard, and Dave Kirby are credited (incorrectly) on the track as playing acoustic and electric banjo, electric guitar, and rhythm guitar, respectively.39 The rest of the session musicians included Bobby Dyson on bass, Kenny Malone on drums, Hargus “Pig” Robbins playing piano, Stu Basore on steel guitar, and Johnny Gimble and Mack Magaha playing fiddle. The prominent opening riff—featuring fingerpicking in the right channel and a strummed tremolo in the left—is reminiscent of both old-time picking and banjo roll patterns, and is heard over an evocative rustling sound that perhaps conjures images of wind blowing through the trees. The two-bar syncopated pattern of the riff (transcribed in Example 2) is repeated four times, 177

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the last eighth note of the pattern rushing into the quick three eighth notes that start the next pattern. This rushing to and from longer notes creates an uneven yet perpetually turning feeling that pushes toward the beginning of Parton’s line, and aptly sets the scene for the obsessive, repetitive nature of the lyrics. The nervous energy of this riff complements the smallness of Parton’s voice, amplifying associations of timidity and fragility. These characteristics are related to a model of femininity in which anxiety and nervousness become the more acceptable if sometimes debilitating expressions of violent emotions, such as rage, that are at odds with the virtues of middle-class womanhood (and that also recall Parton’s stories of her mother crying, sewing, and singing as she waited for her husband to return home). The sharp twangs articulating each picked note are followed by the gentle ringing of the guitar, creating a constantly changing timbral profile. The tremolo guitar part eventually switches to picking (0:23), but the combined guitar sounds retain this shimmering, kaleidoscopic quality throughout the song. These old-timey guitar sounds and their associations of rustling winds help evoke a mythic, archaic image of Appalachian mountain life. These old-time connotations are balanced by the sounds of the amplified bass guitar and the drum set, which were both more recent additions to popular country songs. The instrumental mix of the track even includes bongo, borrowed from Afro-Cuban-inspired popular music. These sounds combine to add a modern, cosmopolitan element to the aforementioned rustic imagery. The instrumental mix is enhanced by the entrance of pedal steel guitar at 0:36—one of the earmarks of honky-tonk—followed by another nod to old-time music with the inclusion of the keening fiddles at 0:41. This collection of instrumental qualities invokes contemporary and commercial as well as rustic sonic icons, adding to the combined working- and middle-class connotations of “Jolene.” The form of “Jolene” further connects it to traditional Appalachian music. While Parton’s phrases at first seem to adhere to standard four-bar segments, the frequent return and repetition of the two-bar opening fingerpicking riff creates several instances of interpolated measures between each phrase, resulting in less evenly spaced phrase groups. For example, this practice results in a fivebar + six-bar + five-bar + six-bar pattern of phrases in the chorus, as opposed to the square four-bar + four-bar + four-bar + four-bar pattern that underlies the verses and choruses of “Fist City.”40 This uneven phrase patterning is echoed by the irregular alternation of the choruses and verses throughout “Jolene”—two verses follow the opening chorus, while the second half of the song features regular alternation of chorus and verse. This approach to phrasing and formal song construction is a modern take on the asymmetrical, improvisatory, and text-dependent phrasing practices present in much traditional, old-time music of the 1930s, such as the ballads and hymns recorded by the Carter Family.41 178

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Similarly, the song’s use of the Dorian mode throughout is typical of old-time styles, while the rigidly repetitive harmonic progression emphasizes the worried tone of the song lyrics and Parton’s voice.42 Parton’s use of traditional musical elements in “Jolene” connects her song’s persona to the idealized role of the middle-class Appalachian woman as steward of traditional mountain music. Combined with the song’s other modern and middle-class pop connotations, “Jolene” offers a model of bourgeois femininity, simultaneously genteel and rustic, that evolved in a working-class context but that is also intelligible in a more urbane, middle-class setting, which in turn may have helped the song earn some crossover success.

Persona and Biography The lyrics, vocal performance, and musical backing of each song present a sonic snapshot of two different models of femininity, each reminiscent of different aspects of traditional working-class country gender roles: Lynn performs a tough, working-class femininity at home in the historically male domain of the honky-tonk, while Parton’s performance presents a modernized vision of middle-class Appalachian womanhood. Both performers modify these representations as they incorporate them into their stage personas and publicized personal histories. Lynn’s and Parton’s public tellings of their life stories both focus on their poor Appalachian roots, and their humorous onstage preambles to both songs often revolve around threatened and actual violence against the unnamed antagonist of “Fist City” and the imagined Jolene. In this way, both women’s emphases on their poor rural roots and their performances of playful resilience speak to an overarching model of commercially successful country femininity that stresses a rough-hewn working-class affiliation. Although both performers have different approaches to fashion—Lynn’s style seems simple and almost rustic in comparison to Parton’s sexy, glitzy, and generally excessive look—both have affirmed their working-class roots throughout their careers in their stage mannerisms and style of self-presentation. Lynn combined her frank and unaffected demeanor with a simple, functional approach to fashion (although her wardrobe included more gowns, sequins, fringe, and lace later in life). When she first started appearing on the Wilburn Brothers’ television show in the 1960s, she typically performed in “blue jeans, a fringed cowboy hat, and a pair of boots.”43 When the Wilburns finally coerced her into wearing high heels by hiding her boots, Lynn wore them on stage but eventually kicked them off out of fear of falling over. Taking off her shoes became a regular part of her stage show after that, and she often followed their removal with a shuffling, jig-like dance that she refers to as a “hillbilly hoedown.”44 179

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Parton has explained her style as both a genuine response to her experience of poverty and as an homage to her working-class roots. Through her image, “she at once pays tribute to her own poor taste [with jokes like ‘It costs a lot to make a person look this cheap’]—the continuing legacy of her low-class roots—and celebrates her escape from the material deprivation that frequently accompanies it.”45 Even as she reminisces nostalgically about her childhood, Parton also remembers the emotional toll of just scraping by: “The worst thing about poverty is not the actual living of it, but the shame of it.”46 The glamorous femininity suggested by models in magazines represented escape and even a degree of power: “We wanted to look like them. They didn’t look at all like they had to work in the fields. They didn’t look like they had to take a spit bath in a dishpan. They didn’t look as if men and boys could just put their hands on them any time they felt like it, and with any degree of roughness they chose. The way they looked, if a man wanted to touch them, he’d better be damned nice to them. Most of all, they looked like a man would want to—very much.”47 The trappings of this idealized womanhood were alluring not only for their perceived comforts and benefits, but also due to their scarcity: “My sisters and I used to cling desperately to anything halfway feminine. For a long time I was a tomboy, but once I got a better idea of what it meant to be a woman, I wanted it with everything in me.”48 Understanding Parton’s image as originating in this desire to escape the indignities of poverty but also as a celebration of her humble beginnings connects it more clearly with an expression of working-class gender identity. Lynn amplified the rugged aspects of working-class Appalachian femininity through the fierceness of “Fist City,” and further exhibited her toughness in her staunch support of working-class women’s issues and her fight to retain the rights to her intellectual property as a songwriter. But in interviews and her autobiography, she also speaks about the regret of not being able to perform her traditional duties as a wife and mother, and remarks on the position of power men occupied in her business affairs. In contrast to her retiring, ladylike, and aspirationally middle-class persona in “Jolene,” Parton charms interviewers and fans with her bawdy humor, and delights in her over-the-top hair and makeup, and overtly sexy outfits. Also in contrast to her submissive song persona, she has proven to be a savvy and independent-minded businessperson who unabashedly capitalizes on her exaggerated performance of femininity in order to turn a profit. When “Fist City” and “Jolene” are considered alongside the public personas of each artist, it becomes clear that successful models of country femininity for both artists involved selectively embracing and ultimately balancing different aspects of prevailing working-class gender roles. In her outspoken expressions of working-class women’s solidarity to a typically conservative and potentially hostile listening public and industry, Lynn 180

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exhibited the toughness of spirit she acquired in her rural upbringing and that she displays in “Fist City.” In her autobiography she writes: “There’s plenty of songs about how women should stand by their men and give them plenty of loving when they walk through the door, and that’s fine. But what about the man’s responsibility? A man is supposed to give his wife a good time, too. Let him be tender with her once in a while, too.”49 Lynn addressed this double standard in her top charting songs “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind)”—in which a woman admonishes her man for ignoring her only to expect sex when he returns home drunk—and “You’ve Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me),” about a woman threatening her cheating partner with her own infidelity. “One’s on the Way” lists the woes of working-class, rural women—chief among them the demands of an inconsiderate husband, too many children, and “one on the way”—in contrast to the successes of middleclass women in urban centers and the glamorous jet-setting lifestyles of women in the public eye. And in “The Pill,” she controversially touted the benefits of the birth control pill.50 Professionally, Lynn was happy to share credit for her career and the bulk of managerial duties with her husband, but she is adamant in demanding recognition for her songwriting and stresses the importance of her songs to her success: “I’d say material is 80 percent of a singer’s career. You can have a great voice, but you’d also better have a new song that fits your style. And the best way is to write the songs yourself.”51 Unfortunately, Lynn’s contract with the Wilburn Brothers gave them the publishing rights to her songs, which prompted her hiatus from songwriting in the 1970s. Still, she fought for thirty years to retain those rights (although she eventually lost), and insists that at least her writing credits remain hers. After splitting from the Wilburn Brothers, Teddy Wilburn allegedly claimed he deserved credit for helping Lynn with her songwriting, which she flatly denies: “I’ll say this: Teddy Wilburn did work with me on lines for some of my songs. But they were my songs. And if he wants credit for a line here and there, why, I’ve worked with lots of other singers, giving ’em advice, changing tunes, writing a line, and I never took credit. That’s just the way it goes.”52 Lynn’s insistence that she retain credit for her intellectual property shows how the tenacity she exuded in her public image carried over into her professional life. Other aspects of Lynn’s life in the public eye, however, reflect the somewhat contradictory nature of Appalachian gender roles for women also suggested by the lyrics of “Fist City.” As much as she was outspoken for women’s rights, her relationship with her husband, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn, and her beliefs about appropriate behavior for men and women still echoed the assumption that women should be “naturally subservient to men.”53 Throughout her time in the public eye, Lynn has been forthcoming about the difficulties in her marriage: 181

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Doo’s infidelity, drinking, and their sometimes physical fights (which Lynn characterizes as “whipping her into line a little”). But she also credits Doolittle with the idea of her becoming a country singer in the first place, and she depended on his protection and guidance throughout her career, admitting, “I’ve always respected my husband’s common sense. When he’s traveling with me, I know things are going to work more smoothly because Doo is there, supervising things. I feel safe when he’s around.”54 When it came to monogamy and her own marriage, Lynn still viewed it as the woman’s responsibility in a relationship to stay out of trouble, and to tolerate it when her man didn’t do the same. She could relate to how Doo succumbed to temptation: “As for what Doo has done, it’s not anything I haven’t thought about doing myself.”55 The key difference is that what her husband was allowed to do, Lynn could only think. This reflects the contradiction of Appalachian womanhood Lynn grew up with: the coexistence of tough individualism with acquiescence to unfair gendered power dynamics. The fact that the protagonist of “Fist City” does not address her wayward man is a reflection of these boundaries in gendered roles that Lynn faced in her own personal life. Counter to the retiring persona of “Jolene,” Parton, like Lynn, is publicly candid on the topic of double standards. In a 1974 piece about women in country for Country Music magazine, Parton quipped: “I had my own opinion long before women’s liberation. I figure, what’s fair for the goose is fair for the gander. Really, it’s just as big a sin for a man to drink and run around as it is for a woman to do it.”56 Parton reflects a similar stance on gender equality in her song “Just Because I’m a Woman”: the song protagonist reveals her pre-marital affair to her husband, and challenges his rebukes with the reminder that he had loved before as well.57 The submissive and worried protagonist of “Jolene” also seems at odds with Parton’s unreserved enjoyment in her exaggerated performance of femininity. Over the years, her personification of excessive womanliness has come to be interpreted as representing something other than submission to a traditional notion of femininity. Instead, scholars and fans alike view her style and demeanor as symbols of how she is “keeping the upper hand and stage-managing her own ‘exploitation’” and “making patriarchal discourse work to her own advantage” by “managing and manipulating her sexual image in such a way as to attain the maximum response from the male gaze while maintaining her own dignity and self-esteem.”58 Parton knew that her femininity could be a business asset and wielded it more brazenly as such as her career progressed: If I catch a man who is not looking into my eyes as he talks to me, I have scored two really big points with him already. A smart woman can take a man who thinks with his small head and quickly turn the would-be screwer into the screwee. 182

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I should point out that I am not interested in screwing anybody (professionally). I never want anything more than what’s fair. The problem is, I never want anything less either. In the old-boy school of business, if a woman walks away from the table with what’s rightfully hers, the man feels screwed anyway. I have to admit that adds to the satisfaction of making a fair deal.59

The way Parton tactically (and gleefully) used her feminine charms to advance her career affords a complex interpretation of her public expression of gender. She appeared to authentically embrace many facets of traditional femininity, while also enjoying the power that expression of gender afforded her in a maledominated system. Parton seems to enjoy life as a touring musician while Lynn has often voiced distress at the rigors of being on tour and away from her husband and children. By taking on the dual roles of mother and the family’s main source of income, Lynn often worried she was missing out on motherhood and that her absence was detrimental to her children: “It’s a pretty emotional subject with me—how I wasn’t around when my kids needed me. . . . It’s a funny deal. In country music, we’re always singing about home and family. But because I was in country music, I had to neglect my home and family.”60 On the other hand, Parton never had children and appeared not to want to: “Carl and I had never really wanted to have kids. . . . People had often asked me about having children, and I always felt guilty and selfish if I said I didn’t want them. So sometimes I would just say I couldn’t have them.”61 In this way, Parton eschews domesticity and motherhood in her performance of country femininity, but not without some initial discomfort.62 Parton’s husband is notably publicity-shy and travel-averse, so she goes on tour and handles her various business ventures without his presence or input. She is an openly, enthusiastically sexual person (“I’ve always loved sex. I’ve never had a bad experience with it.”) and cannily views public speculation about her alleged extramarital affairs (with men and women) as a form of free publicity.63 This alleged or actual infidelity doesn’t seem to have affected the stability of her marriage: “[Carl] seems to know that I’ll be back, and that love affairs and relationships are just part of my dealings with people. He knows that I will always come home.”64 In this way Parton promotes an image of her marriage as one in which she enjoys almost complete freedom. Parton’s persona as a childfree businesswoman in a seemingly open marriage defies traditional working-class and middle-class gender roles. While she emphasizes her historical, regional, and familial ties to working-class Appalachia, Parton also expresses a unique femininity that transcends the models of the tough yet subservient mountain woman as well as the middle-class Appalachian lady. 183

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In the context of each performer’s public persona, “Fist City” and “Jolene” are sonic examples of both the variety and potential boundaries in gender identity expression available to female performers of their era striving for country superstardom. Both Lynn and Parton emphasize their working-class, rural Appalachian roots in their live appearances and public histories, and subtly capitulate to traditional gendered divisions of social power in the lyrics of their songs. Lynn’s frank attitude and forceful foray into the honky-tonk in “Fist City” are balanced by her identity as a faithful wife and loving, worried mother. Parton’s performance of traditional Appalachian yet middle-class vulnerable femininity in “Jolene” counters the nontraditional aspects of her persona: her brazen sexuality, her ambitiousness, and her rejection of motherhood. These balancing acts of gendered personae figured as parts of each artist’s lasting professional success and cultural influence: Lynn achieved a series of firsts for women in the genre, and Parton pushed the visibility of women in country music to unprecedented heights with her crossover successes. Both “Fist City” and “Jolene,” therefore, reflect some of the challenges these and other women faced in the male-dominated country music culture of the time, but also represent how each woman expressed a unique female persona while still coding as authentically, and therefore successfully, country. Notes 1. “Fist City” (written by Lynn, produced by Owen Bradley) was originally released by Decca Records in 1968. The recording I refer to in this essay comes from a combined 2011 CD release of the albums Your Squaw is on the Warpath and Fist City by Raven Records, RVCD-333. 2. “Jolene” (written by Parton, produced by Bob Ferguson) was originally released as a single in 1973 by RCA. The recording I examine in this essay is from the RCA Nashville/Legacy 2007 CD release of Jolene by RCA Nashville/Legacy, 82876-81241-2. 3. Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann, Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000 (Nashville: Country Music Foundation Press and Vanderbilt University Press, 2003), 267. 4. Lynn and Parton were at different points in their careers when these two songs were released. By the late 1960s, Lynn had already established her success as a country artist. She had appeared on television on the syndicated Wilburn Brothers Show for nearly eight years, charted eleven Top 10 country singles (four of which she wrote or co-wrote), and had been honored by the Country Music Association as their first Female Vocalist of the Year. By 1973 Parton had been on The Porter Wagoner Show for roughly seven years and released several successful duet albums with Wagoner, but was still in the early stages of building her career as a solo artist. She first started experiencing success with her solo singles in the early 1970s, charting four Top 10 hits (three of which she had written) by the time “Jolene” was released as a single late in 1973. 5. For most of her career, Lynn’s birth year was reported as 1935. Recent disclosure of her birth certificate reveals that she was actually born three years earlier, and may have begun

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Performance of Identity in Songs by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton using a younger age when she first appeared with the Wilburn Brothers at the start of her career in Nashville. See Miriam Coleman, “Loretta Lynn Story Shaken Up by Age Revelation,” Rolling Stone, May 19, 2012, www.rollingstone.com/music/news/loretta-lynn-story-shaken-up -by-age-revelation-20120519, accessed August 8, 2015. 6. Their autobiographies and many interviews may not be faithful accounts of each artist’s upbringing, but instead indicate how they envisioned and shaped their personae for their fans and the listening public. 7. Mary Robertson interview by Jacquelyn Hall, August 13, 1979. Interview H-0288. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection (Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill). http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/H-0288/excerpts/excerpt_5833.html, accessed August 8, 2015. 8. Loretta Lynn with George Vecsey, Loretta Lynn: Coal Miner’s Daughter (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo, 1976), 17. 9. Dolly Parton, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business (New York: Harper Collins, 1994), 36. 10. Ibid., 35. 11. Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 11. 12. Parton, Dolly, 32. 13. This phenomenon is analyzed by David E. Whisnant in his study, All That Is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983). Pamela Fox describes a similar line of thought in contemporary folk song revivalism in Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University Press of Michigan, 2009), 175–87. 14. Kristine M. McCusker, “Bury Me Beneath the Willow: Linda Parker and Definitions of Tradition on the National Barn Dance, 1932-1935,” in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004), 9–11. 15. Sherry Ortner, “Reading America: Preliminary Notes on Class and Culture,” in Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 27. 16. Ibid., 28. 17. Aaron Fox, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004), 251. 18. Aaron A. Fox, “The Jukebox of History: Narratives of Loss and Desire in the Discourse of Country Music,” Popular Music 11, no. 1 (1992): 56. 19. The verses of “Jolene” consist of three six-line stanzas—each contains a repetition of a smaller three-line structure (with the same rhyme scheme and sung to the same music). This six-line verse structure follows Parton’s organization of the text, which is visible in the layout of the original song manuscript (currently on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville). 20. This verse in particular also enables a hearing of this song in which Jolene is the object of the song protagonist’s desire, and in which the essential message of the song can be understood as, “please don’t take my man, take me instead.” 21. Fox, “The Jukebox of History,” 55.

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Kate Heidemann 22. Michael Montgomery, “Language,” in The Encyclopedia of Appalachia (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2006), 1003. 23. This difference in diction mirrors broader connections between speech and gender in working-class culture. “Quantitative sociolinguistic work on gender done during the 1970s, for example, showed that working-class women tended to strive to emulate more elite dialects than their male counterparts, sometimes ‘hypercorrecting’ their speech and coming across as affected in the process, and that blue-collar men and women alike tended to evaluate men’s command of correspondingly ‘low status’ dialects as ‘covertly prestigious’ within working-class communities, exactly to the extent that such dialects were stigmatized in the broader society” (Fox, Real Country, 250). 24. Typically, the slight audible friction present in Lynn’s voice would be the result of a relaxed glottis (keeping the vocal folds from completely meeting). A more extreme extension of this hoarseness occurs when the vocal folds are not vibrating properly, usually due to inflammation, and can be caused by overuse or other forms of irritation. See John Laver, The Phonetic Description of Voice Quality (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1980), 133. 25. To produce this type of vocal sound, a singer typically keeps the position of her larynx high and the shape of her throat in a speech-like configuration; this positioning is distinctly different from that required for operatic vocal production, where a singer widens her throat and lowers her larynx to create a more “hollow” sound. See Ingo R. Titze, Albert S. Worley, and Brad H. Story, “Source-Vocal Tract Interaction in Female Operatic Singing and Theater Belting,” Journal of Singing 67 (May/June 2011): 561–72. 26. Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 24. 27. See Fox, Natural Acts, 1–16; and Barbara Ching, “Acting Naturally: Cultural Distinction and Critiques of Pure Country,” in White Trash: Race and Class in America, ed. Matt Wray and Annalee Newitz (New York: Routledge, 1997), 231–48, for discussions of the link between perceived naturalness, rusticity, and authenticity in country music. 28. This quality suggests a smaller resonating space in the pharynx and mouth and an increase in the sensation of vibration in the nasal cavities for the singer. This results in the strengthening of upper partials of vocal sound, giving the voice its “brightness” (e.g., more similar in character to the vowel sound “ee” rather than “oo”). 29. Breathiness is typically the result of the escape of air through slightly open vocal folds, achieved in many healthy speakers by relaxing the vocal chords and neck. See Laver, The Phonetic Description of Voice Quality, 132. 30. John Van Borsel, Joke Janssens, and Marc De Bodt, “Breathiness as a Feminine Voice Characteristic: A Perceptual Approach,” Journal of Voice 23, no. 3 (2009): 291–94. 31. Here, the connection between breathiness, intimacy, and the flattering nature of the lyrics supports the interpretation that Parton’s persona may be enamored with Jolene. 32. Diane Pecknold, The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007), 135. 33. Following this trend, the instrumental backing of “Fist City” is quite reminiscent of the upbeat, rockabilly-influenced honky-tonk of popular Bakersfield artists Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. 34. At the time “Fist City” was recorded, the Jordanaires consisted of lead tenor Gordon Stoker, second tenor Neal Matthews, baritone Hoyt Hawkins, and bass Ray Walker.

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Performance of Identity in Songs by Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton 35. Joli Jensen, The Nashville Sound: Authenticity, Commercialization, and Country Music (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998), 34. 36. The session musicians are not credited on the jacket of the original LP. This list of musicians has been compiled from firsthand accounts by Harold Bradley, CD reissue liner notes (which are only partially correct), and online sources www.nashvillesound.net and www .allmusic.com/album/your-squaw-is-on-the-warpathfist-city-r2284982/credits, accessed August 8, 2015. MCA (of which Decca is a subsidiary) has unfortunately destroyed all of its records prior to 1970, including the session sheets showing the personnel who recorded on “Fist City” in 1968. 37. Two small deviations from the prototypical sixteen-bar section (consisting of four four-bar phrases) occur in the chorus: an extra measure in the middle of the chorus (0:44–45), and a one-bar overlap with the return of the instrumental introduction material (0:57). The harmonies consist of C major (I) and F major (IV) or G major (V) chords. In the choruses, a D major (II) chord appears as a precursor to G major (V). All of these small variants on standard song form and basic harmony are to be expected in this style. 38. In recent years, Parton has even more explicitly affirmed her connection to traditional music with a trio of albums, The Grass is Blue (1999), Little Sparrow (2001), and Halos & Horns (2002). 39. This list of personnel and instrumentation appears on the original RCA session sheets on file at the Country Music Hall of Fame Library, Nashville. 40. In the chorus, the end of Parton’s first four-bar phrase (four repeated “Jolenes”) overlaps with a return of the four-measure guitar riff to extend the entire segment to five bars. In the next phrase (“please don’t take my man”), the riff returns even earlier, and then repeats to create a six-bar section. This entire formal structure is repeated, creating a five-bar + six-bar + five-bar + six-bar phrase pattern in the chorus. The construction of the verse relies on a similar type of phrase extension. Parton sings a short rhyming couplet (e.g., “Your beauty is beyond compare / with flaming locks of auburn hair”) in four measures, and sings the rest of the short stanza (e.g., “with ivory skin and eyes of emerald green”) over an additional four measures. The end of this phrase overlaps with another four-measure guitar riff, resulting in a ten-measure section (four + six) that is repeated in its entirety to complete the verse. 41. Jocelyn R. Neal describes a similar lack of phrase symmetry in an analysis of the Carter Family’s 1935 recording of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” in her dissertation, “Song Structure Determinants: Poetic Narrative, Phrase Structure, and Hypermeter in the Music of Jimmie Rodgers” (PhD diss., University of Rochester, Eastman School of Music, 2002), 59–62. 42. The almost complete avoidance of scale degree six in this song also makes it possible to hear it in CG Aeolian (which would include As) instead of CG Dorian (which contains AG). Both Aeolian and Dorian are common modes in traditional music. The progression of CG minor, E major, B major, CG minor (i–III–VII–i) accompanies the first four measures of the chorus, followed by another change from B major back to CG minor. This progression is repeated again in the second half of the chorus, and then twice more for each verse. All of these features—modal scale and harmonies, and repetitive harmonic structure and melodic contour—reference the sounds of early ballads and banjo tunes. 43. Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 113. 44. Ibid., 10.

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Kate Heidemann 45. Fox, Natural Acts, 139. 46. Parton, Dolly, 51. 47. Ibid., 59. 48. Ibid., 58. 49. Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 55. 50. “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” composed by Loretta Lynn, released in 1966. “You’ve Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me),” composed by Don Trowbridge, released 1968. “One’s On the Way,” composed by Shel Silverstein, released 1971. “The Pill,” composed by Loretta Lynn, released 1975. 51. Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 117–18. 52. Ibid., 118. 53. Mary Robertson interview by Jacquelyn Hall, August 13, 1979. Southern Oral History Program Collection. 54. Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 36. 55. Ibid., 93. 56. Carol Offen, “The Big Speakout: L’il Darlin’ Know the Score,” Country Music 2 (July 1974): 43. 57. “Just Because I’m a Woman,” composed by Dolly Parton, released 1968. 58. Pamela Wilson, “Mountains of Contradictions: Gender, Class, and Region in the Star Image of Dolly Parton,” in Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky Tonk Bars, ed. Cecelia Tichi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 104. 59. Parton, Dolly, 275–76. 60. Lynn, Coal Miner’s Daughter, 105. 61. Parton, Dolly, 240. 62. Pamela Fox discusses the central role of motherhood in several country stars’ autobiographies (and Parton’s disinterest in this role) in her chapter “Coal Miner’s Daughters: Women (Re)Write Authenticity in the Country Music Autobiography,” in Natural Acts, 113–44. 63. Parton, Dolly, 88. 64. Ibid., 221.

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“Backwoods Barbie”: Dolly Parton’s Gender Performance leigh h. eDwArDS

Dubbed everything from a “hillbilly Mae West” to an “iron butterfly” over the course of her five-decade career as a singer and songwriter, Dolly Parton is the female country superstar with the most conspicuously gendered image. Her media image includes her elaborate appearance as well as her well-known “authenticity” narratives of growing up poor in the East Tennessee foothills and using her virtuoso talent to succeed in the music business. Part of that image is her presentation of sweet sincerity underlying the glitzy exterior. Infamous for her signature look, which includes big blonde wigs, extensive makeup (that she claims never to remove), long fake nails, plastic surgery implants, and custommade, often rhinestone-studded dresses, Parton purposely resembles a living country Barbie doll. When she makes her trademark jokes, such as, “It takes a lot of money to look this cheap,” or tells stories about losing a Dolly lookalike contest to a drag queen who “played Dolly” better than she does, Parton frames her own gender performance as being highly staged.1 Because her enactment of excessive femininity is exaggerated to the point of parody and camp, Parton emphasizes the idea that gender roles are artificial in the sense that they are socially constructed, made up of each society’s changing ideas and stereotypes about gender rather than some inherent, supposedly natural gender role. Ranging from the so-called “girl singer” on The Porter Wagoner Show (1967–74) to her “Backwoods Barbie” persona (for her song and album of the same name [2008]) and more recent variations, Parton has navigated gender role expectations in country music in ways that reflect on gender in the genre’s history and in Southern regional culture and American popular culture more generally.2 In her persona, Parton fashions a complex mixture of the artificial and the genuine, insisting that her appearance is “fake” but her “heart is real.” In a typical formulation, she sings: “I’m just a backwoods Barbie in a push-up bra and heels / I might look artificial, but where it counts I’m real.”3 Balancing “fake” and “real,” exaggerated appearance versus sincere personality, Parton plays on both aspects of her gender performance in her media image. She continues to expose 189

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the artificiality of gender through her charismatic excessiveness. While she is, of course, not the only performer to turn herself into a parody of a sex object in a way that both banks on gender stereotypes and critiques them, her folksy country “town tramp” persona is distinctive, constructed with a knowing wink, and we are all in on the joke with her. Parton’s gender performance constitutes a critical gender parody that is transgressive and that questions gender codes in country music. Scholars such as Sheila Whiteley, Pamela Wilson, and Pamela Fox have all argued that Parton’s exaggerated performance of emphasized femininity as a knowing parody highlights the artificiality of gender constructions.4 However, they also point to the limits of her gender transgressions. Whiteley insists that Parton’s gender parody does not threaten dominant gender codes precisely because of its emphasized femininity content. Wilson acknowledges Parton’s critique of gender codes, but contends that she is ultimately trapped by her own sexual objectification. Fox likewise maintains that Parton’s gender critique is fatally undermined by the class stereotypes she sends up. I argue here, however, that Parton is at times more subversive than that. I demonstrate that not only does Parton’s gender parody foreground the idea of gender as socially constructed, it is also in some contexts truly transgressive, in the sense that it makes a substantive critique of gender norms that is not coopted or contained. My discussion is in keeping with recent work in the field that disputes the older assumption that country music has a strict gender binary, and instead shows that gender as a category has been much more fluid and complicated than critics once thought.5 As I will demonstrate through historicized textual analysis of her oeuvre and image, the way Parton’s gender critique works is to combine a privileged version of femininity with a marginalized one, and in so doing, to uplift or recuperate the less culturally validated version of femininity. For example, she shockingly mixes the country music trope of the innocent and virtuous “mountain girl” with what she calls her “town tramp” or “hillbilly white trash” persona. In juxtaposing the two, she reveals both to be artificial images and uplifts the demeaned, “fallen woman” image, in effect making a critique of how the “hillbilly tramp” stereotype has been used to reinforce gender and class hierarchies. More generally, in different ways at specific moments in her career, Parton also mashes up emphasized femininity with some performances of gender that are more critical of those stereotypes.6 As she combines the two, she uses the privileged version of femininity to question how the marginalized one has been stigmatized. While she markets a version of herself as a sexualized object, playing into dominant gender stereotypes, she at the same time embraces subordinated, campy versions of femininity. One of her signature lines speaks to her sense of camp gender performance in her own look: “I’ve always said that if I hadn’t been a woman, I would have been a drag queen.”7 Parton thus inhabits both dominant 190

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and marginalized gender roles at the same time. Through such complex negotiations of gender expectations, she gains cultural capital. Parton’s media image uses elements of camp, burlesque, satire, parody, and irony to critique gender. Her “Dolly Parton” character is a flexible discourse that she adapts to different audiences and socio-historical contexts, generating multiple significations. Because her gender performance is complex and depends on context, I am not arguing that it is always subversive, because some of her enactments could reinforce stereotypes. Nevertheless, I do see substantial transgressive elements in some of her uses of her persona. Her star image does not simply profit from the gender codes she parodies; it also destabilizes them, particularly because her camp and artificial elements have only increased over her career. Her complicated engagement with feminist camp and gay camp speaks to how camp can have very complex cultural politics, sometimes used in service of political critiques and sometimes appropriated by mainstream culture.8 Camp can be defined as a style and a performance mode in which a performer presents exaggerated, over-the-top, ostentatious, theatrical artifice meant to be amusing to a sophisticated, in-the-know audience precisely because it is framed as tacky, trashy, or outlandish. Examples include drag queens and female, female impersonators whose excessive performances of femininity are parodies. However, just because camp is cheesy and can be consumed ironically does not mean camp performers and audiences are not serious about and deeply invested in the styles, behaviors, and subcultures they reference in the camp performance. When Parton presents herself as a country drag queen she would be an instance of what Susan Sontag termed “deliberate camp,” because Parton knowingly performs a tongue-in-cheek, exaggerated femininity, one that she describes as tacky or trashy.9 However, just because she is doing a sendup of what she calls the “town tramp” or “poor white hillbilly trash” does not mean she is delivering ridicule via outlandish stereotypes. Rather, as I will demonstrate, she is making a marginalized image of femininity visible, because she parodies the stereotype but is nonetheless engaging seriously with it. Additionally, I show how her approach to gender politics is always tied to her autobiographical authenticity narratives. For example, she often calls her approach working-class “Appalachian feminism” rather than aligning herself with the middle-class liberal feminist movement (particularly in the 1970s when she and many of her peers, like Loretta Lynn, refused to identify with that movement), and she thus frames her feminism as popular rather than elite.10 Parton’s gender performance also illuminates two other key issues: the status of long-running authenticity narratives in country music, and the evolution of star discourse in American popular culture. With her fake-real narratives, Parton’s formulation of authenticity is a conscious mix of the artificial and the 191

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genuine. It is distinctive because she draws so much attention to her own artifice. In press interviews Parton has for decades emphasized her fake/real binary rhetoric. She sets up that kind of authenticity and uses it to help her navigate a still male-dominated industry. She uses “fakeness” as an entry point to the genuine, which she frames as her own “true” self that shines through underneath the makeup. Her fake-real rhetoric references the well-established tension between the manufactured and the genuine in country music’s authenticity narratives.11 Using a gendered star image that is at once artificial and true, Parton speaks to the genre’s contradictions: country music has always been commercial, yet nostalgia persists for the supposedly “pure” or non-manufactured.12 Country music has long expressed yearning for an agricultural, premodern past even as it takes its place as a part of mass culture that is furthering the demise of that agrarian culture.13 Constructions of authenticity in the genre involve a perceived tension between artistic purity and the market: a seemingly organic rawness versus commercial sheen, an anti-modern nostalgia for rural agrarianism versus modernity, and the commercialization of mass media.14 As I will discuss more fully in the final section of this essay, Parton’s star persona resolves this tension between fake and real, manufactured and authentic, mass culture and folk culture, by explicitly combining the two. Her image makes both things true at once. The most artificial persona is also the most genuine. Critics have shown that it is a common dynamic for popular musicians in their star image to enact a tension between artifice and authenticity.15 But the way each artist does so is distinct and does its own cultural work. If twentiethcentury star images attempt to resolve the ideological contradictions in capitalism and modernity, as Richard Dyer has argued, then we might understand Parton’s star image as one that tries to assuage the tension between the market and authenticity, mass culture and folk culture, by joining them.16 With her extensive presence in new media, she also fits into an updated, twenty-first-century version of stardom and authenticity in the digital era, which prizes emotional realism in the midst of obvious fakery, as well as performances of the self as a character and the idea of multiple selves being the model for identity.17 In recent years, her savvy use of social media, from her Twitter feed to her Facebook page to her Dolly iPhone app, reveals how she has adjusted her persona to a new media context, using digital media to reach her active fan base. When many of the major record labels did not want to release her music at this later stage of her career, Parton started her own independent label, Dolly Records, in 2007, and her own music website (DollyPartonMusic .net), calling herself “Digital Dolly.” Her use of an image manager (an employee charged with overseeing all aspects of her media image and sparking further fan engagement with it) reflects a media convergence moment of participatory fan 192

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culture, as old and new media combine, content moves across multiple media platforms, and online fans become more active and seek out the culture they want to consume. Parton’s persona has become a flexible marker of kitsch cool, as new generations of fans “play Dolly.”

Backwoods Barbie Image As she has developed her persona over her long career, Parton has established herself as country superstar as well as a crossover success, with film and television appearances adding to her fame. She was castigated for going from Nashville to Hollywood, from traditional country into pioneering country pop in the late 1970s into the 1980s. After her mainstream pop stardom faded, she turned back to traditional country in the 1990s. As part of the Americana roots music movement during that period, she released three critically acclaimed folk albums. Seen as a forerunner in popularizing country music, she has shown her versatility in traditional as well as country-pop styles. Parton has also been viewed as a pioneer in terms of women’s roles in country music, from her long span of hit-making success to her determination to control her own career. Parton has regularly engaged recurring gender tropes in country music, as in her album of country standards with Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette, Honky Tonk Angels (1993). Some of her songs, such as “Jolene” (1973), in which the speaker begs the “other woman” not to take her man, have famously been interpreted as affirming gender stereotypes. However, some of Parton’s songs also explicitly critique stereotypes, including “Dumb Blonde” (1967), “Just Because I’m a Woman” (1968), “The Bargain Store” (1975), “Eagle When She Flies” (1991), and “Travelin’ Thru” (the pro-transgender song she wrote for the film Transamerica [2005]). Some of Parton’s musical performances have helped blaze the trail for greater access and agency for female singers. As Jocelyn R. Neal has demonstrated in her book on Jimmie Rodgers, Parton’s cover of Rodgers’s “Mule Skinner Blues” (1970) signaled a new and somewhat higher degree of agency for women in country music at that time, in the context of second-wave feminism.18 Gendered power dynamics are evident in some of the crucial moments in her music career, such as her decision to go solo and leave her collaboration with Wagoner, and his three-million-dollar lawsuit against her in response. She uses a careful negotiation of gender role expectations in order to gain greater economic agency; for instance, she insists on retaining ownership of her songs against those who would try to take them from her, as Elvis Presley did when he unsuccessfully tried to buy her rights to “I Will Always Love You” (1974) as a prerequisite for performing a cover of it. She remade an existing amusement park into Dollywood and revitalized the economy of her impoverished, rural Smoky 193

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Mountain home region. When she started her own record label in response to indifference from major labels, she argued that in the new popular music economy, which depends on active online fans, some major labels are the ones who risk becoming irrelevant, not her.19 Parton shares some broad similarities with other female country stars across time, including Loretta Lynn’s popular feminism and Appalachian workingclass songs; Tammy Wynette’s early “girl singer” image in her appearances on The Porter Wagoner Show; Tanya Tucker and Dottie West’s highly sexualized images; Barbara Mandrell and Crystal Gayle’s crossover careers; Reba McEntire’s multimedia superstar “show queen” image; Emmylou Harris’s affiliation with traditional music; and Gretchen Wilson’s references to “trash” in her “redneck woman” trope. Others have also obviously combined country’s gender performance tropes such as the so-called “girl singer” accompanied by the male “stage chaperone” (figured as family member or bandleader), the mountain girl and sentimental mountain mother, the country sweetheart, the Western cowgirl, the female comic rube, and the crossover glamour queen.20 However, none have, like Parton, mashed them up with a highly elaborate “hillbilly Mae West” burlesque version of the “town tramp.” Parton is unique in the way she deconstructs competing gender tropes by juxtaposing them in her persona. As an example, let me elaborate here on Parton’s consistent mixture of two specific tropes—the chaste mountain girl and the town tramp—and their cultural history. Parton began toying with aspects of the “trollop” look onstage during high school. She used elements of it during her Porter Wagoner Show years, then amplified it as a sexualized image during her crossover period starting in the late 1970s. That mixture continued to evolve over time. Parton returned to it in a more subdued way during her 1990s postcrossover return to country music and her turn to bluegrass. Since the 2000s, as she has recorded an eclectic range of albums (including country, folk covers, and patriotic songs), she has accentuated the camp and parodic elements to a greater degree. The mountain girl singer aspect of Parton’s performance contains elements of the longer-running tropes of the mountain girl and mountain mother, gendered country performance tropes that emerged during barn dance radio in the 1930s, based on idealized portraits of Appalachia by local color writers like Emma Bell Miles at the turn of the century.21 Kristine McCusker has shown how barn dance radio executives fashioned the chaste mountain girl as a variation on the earlier musical trope of the sentimental mother; here, the mountain girl could signify as a future mountain mother. Appalachian mountain culture was idealized as premodern and pure, somehow free from the corruptions of modernity. The mountain female figure was framed as the keeper of the folk tradition, and she also served as moral guardian to legitimate both radio’s entrance 194

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into the private home and women being on the stage or on radio, a counter to the long-running association of women on the stage or in the theater audience with prostitution and indecency. Parton links to this trope in a variety of ways in her mountain music, her lyrics, and her life story of growing up one of twelve children, the daughter of a struggling sharecropper. She stresses how her mother preserved and passed on to her folk songs and ballads. She includes some celebrations of pastoral nostalgia (“My Tennessee Mountain Home” [1973], “Tennessee Homesick Blues” [1984], and “Back Home” [1973], among many others). Likewise, she has songs about mountain men who migrated to cities and were nostalgic for home (“Appalachian Memories” [1983] and the later version “Smoky Mountain Memories” [1994], which Parton advertises as based on her father’s sojourn working in a Detroit factory before returning home to them). However, she also critiques that pastoral nostalgia (“In the Good Old Days [When Times Were Bad]” [1968]). In her press interviews, she insists she did not leave the mountains behind but rather took them with her around the world. She claims that she still sees herself as that young mountain farm girl, impoverished and hard-working but happy in family, home, and nature.22 She is also often framed in the press as a metonymy for the entire Smoky Mountain National Park and region (even more so since she was named park ambassador in 2008), her life story becoming linked to the pastoral nostalgia for the area. As for her overtly sexualized, town tramp imagery, it is highly unusual for a female country superstar to bring prostitute imagery into her stage persona, which Parton explicitly did when she began widely circulating in press interviews the story of her modeling her look on a prostitute in her hometown. Describing how she was inspired by the makeup and clothing style of women her mother called “‘strollops’” or “strumpets and trollops,” Parton explains that she admired them because “They had blond hair and wore nail polish and tight clothes. I thought they were beautiful.”23 But she is quick to domesticate that sexualized image, singing that it is merely a “country girl’s idea of glam” (“Backwoods Barbie”), making it a story about impressions and ideas she had as a girl growing up in the mountains. In a slightly different version of her origin story, she has also claimed: “I kinda patterned my look after Cinderella and Mother Goose—and the local hooker.”24 Her mash-up of Mother Goose and a prostitute seems calculated to shock, and Parton implies broader cultural links between them involving stereotypes of women. Parton undermines traditional stereotypes of women that are based on a virgin-whore dichotomy because she combines elements of both in her persona. Because she tackles the “fallen woman” trope directly by using prostitute imagery, Parton’s work actually questions gender categories in a substantive way rather than simply playing with them for cultural capital or profit. By bringing the pure woman and the fallen woman 195

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images together, Parton makes the two equal, meaning that she shows that both are stereotypical images, equally socially constructed fabrications, and equally deserving of attention, giving the ostracized fallen woman the chance to speak and be represented just as much as the pure woman. Parton thus transgresses the binary opposition. Parton fits into a longer history of the hillbilly trope in country music. However, she provides a novel take on that trope when she critiques the stigmatization of fallen women and of the working class, because she takes the common mountain girl trope of Appalachia (idealized as premodern purity with women as the keepers of a folk culture tradition) and ironizes it by combining it with a gendered town tramp image, her “white trash hillbilly tramp” (which she plays as feminist camp). Thus, she makes a class critique by embodying a denigrated hillbilly trope. But in a more unusual dynamic, she adds a gender critique, because when she mixes the hillbilly with a fallen-woman tramp image, she makes the hillbilly tramp into her own trope, which she recuperates from negative connotations in a way that is distinctive. She dramatizes that idea as a recurring theme in her many songs decrying double standards, the demonization of female promiscuity, and the denigration of prostitutes, from “Just Because I’m a Woman” (1968) to “Blue Ridge Mountain Boy” (1969). Her use of camp aspects in that performance also moves beyond mere gender parody and is subversive. For example, the mountain girl trope in literature and popular culture led to a folk image of “contemporary ancestors,” in which mountain people were imagined as part of an older, simpler time, even though they were still living; Appalachia stood in for a lost, idealized past, with the living representatives positioned as quaint throwbacks.25 In addition to critiquing that pastoral nostalgia in some of her songs, Parton brings the “contemporary ancestor” fully into the present by merging it with all the contemporary references in her image, such as glamorized mass media elements—her mountain girl is also a modern star. In a camp recycling of images from the past, she does not allow the mountain girl to remain “past,” nor the hillbilly tramp to remain “low.” Parton even turns her own past into parodic camp as critique. Her “Backwoods Barbie” video (2009) dramatizes her childhood fascination with elaborate makeup and clothes, her lyrics justifying her look as a country girl’s youthful dream of what is glamorous. She defends her ridiculed “trash” image in the present by saying she dresses like that because she is staying true to her roots when she was a young mountain girl who dreamed of looking pretty and thinking the “town tramp” was an ideal of beauty; so by repeating that image in her own star persona, Parton suggests she is upholding that original childhood dream. When Parton tells those girlhood tales, she repeats her own authenticity narrative in which she associates her “trash” look with childhood innocence and the pure mountain girl trope; she thus uses her own autobiographical stories 196

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to defuse put-downs of her image that position her in terms of negative rural southern white working-class stereotypes. But her use of her life story to defend her look also gets campy. In her autobiography and in press interviews, she says she first teased her hair up high during high school in the early 1960s in order to get attention by following popular styles.26 When the teased hair went out of style within a couple of years, she retained that outmoded style as her gimmick to get attention, because it made her look different from everyone else. She later purposefully wore shoes and clothes that she says were ostentatiously marked as being from earlier decades. As camp performers often do, Parton knowingly recycles an earlier style to draw attention to the artifice of it as a style. In the 2010s Parton retains the mountain girl mixed with the hillbilly hooker, and does so in a much more campy way than she did five decades ago. Parton clearly could choose to change her look at any time, but she does not do so; her consistency is part of what Jimmie N. Rogers terms country music’s “sincerity contract,” which entails “staying true” to one’s roots and not “selling out.”27 In a famous 1977 interview with Barbara Walters, when Walters asked how she reacts to people thinking her look is a joke, Parton replied that the joke was “on the public,” because she knew exactly what she was doing in constructing the image, and she could change it at any time. Thus, she continues to recycle elements of her own past style as part of an artificial camp image. As Parton engages in this kind of complicated retrieval of her own past, and as she becomes emblematic of an idealized Appalachian folk past, she merges it with mass media images and the trappings of modernity. Thus, her star image speaks to how popular culture responds to modernity. Though mass media turns music into a commodity, popular music is not wholly determined by its commodity status. It can also be a site of generative historical meaning for artists and audiences. As George Lipsitz has demonstrated, popular culture uses historical discourse to generate a sense of memory and continuity in response to modernity’s break with the past, as when postwar twentieth-century mass culture fixated on the very loss of folk culture that it was accelerating. Indeed, Lipsitz believes that popular music can serve as “a repository of collective memory” and profoundly expose “the tension between music as a commodity and music as an expression of lived experience.”28 At times, Parton and some of her audiences could be seen to engage in this kind of generative process, using mass media to ponder the loss that mass culture furthers. Her song “Applejack” (1977), and her use of older country icons such as Kitty Wells, Chet Atkins, and Minnie Pearl to sing backup on it, enacts this kind of meditation. Her lyrics express nostalgia for the figure of an apple-picking, banjo-playing mountain man who is now gone (“All I have are memories, old Applejack is gone”), but she uses her music as mass media to recreate and remember this symbolic figure (one she said she based on a real man she knew growing up) and his folk culture. 197

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A closer reading of the “Backwoods Barbie” video can demonstrate this kind of multilayered signification. As Parton sings about growing up poor and wanting to be pretty like Barbie or models in catalogues, the video depicts a childhood Parton (a role performed by a young blonde actress) as a mountain girl playing outside an approximation of Parton’s Tennessee Mountain Home. The environments appear in black and white, while the images of Parton as the girl and as the adult are in vibrant full color, underscoring “Dolly” as spectacle. The young Parton plays with makeup she culls from nature, picking berries for lipstick and blush, and burnt matches for eye shadow (a direct reference to stories Parton recounts in her autobiography). A mother figure, pictured in black and white, looks on with amusement from the front porch. The video juxtaposes shots of the girl with a sequence of Parton walking outside that same mountain home. She is dressed in a highly campy mountain girl outfit: a tight-fitting, low-cut red gingham shirt, dangling suspenders, red gingham-trimmed pedal pusher jeans (a campy recycling of a 1950s style), red gingham-trimmed fiveinch heels, and purposefully exaggerated makeup (even more than usual). The video intercuts with these images another sequence of Parton walking down Hollywood Boulevard, stepping on the stars of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, wearing a leopard-print, low-cut minidress and long, sheer pink robe as her makeup and clothing visually reference a streetwalker. She passes by street performers, including a gold-painted man doing robot dances, a young female street busker with a guitar, a mime, a contortionist, a juggler, and celebrity blogger Perez Hilton, who visually references gay camp. Like her, they appear in color against the black-and-white backdrop. The implication is that Parton the musician singing as she walks down the street is enacting a performance character, just like they are, and they are all performers together. She stops at the display window of Frederick’s of Hollywood, her sad look critiquing any degradation of the lingerie-clad mannequins or use of them as stereotyped symbols of fallen women. Parton’s lyrics cajole: “I’ve always been misunderstood by how I look / Don’t judge me by the cover, ’cause I’m a real good book.” She insists that she is not as “shallow as she looks” and even “Backwoods Barbies” “deserve a second chance.” The video ends with a doubled image, Parton in color in the foreground, the Tennessee Mountain Home in the background in black and white, the mountain mother on the front porch. The combination underscores the idea that Parton takes her girl self with her, and confirms her link to the pastoral nostalgia of the sentimental mountain mother figure and the Tennessee Mountain Home. Parton as character is both the daydreaming girl and the woman, juxtaposing the culturally validated pure childhood innocence expected of girls with the marginalized “trashy” grown-up singer. Parton uses the privileged gender performance trope (angelic mountain girl) to salvage the denigrated one 198

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(streetwalker). Again, her juxtaposition reveals them to be equally constructed gender performances. Through her mass media popular culture expression, Parton articulates her own history and links it to a larger history: a mountain past that functions as an imagined community and an idealized region. However, it is precisely because of modernity and mass culture that “Dolly Parton” as multimedia superstar can never fully return to that past—either her own or the mythic one she inscribes by using idealized images of Appalachia, because she is too famous to “go home” again to childhood innocence. Though Parton wrote the song “Backwoods Barbie” for the 9 to 5 Broadway musical (2008), she infuses aspects of her own autobiography here and in the sixteen other new songs she wrote for the show, merging the “Doralee” character with Parton’s own life narratives to a greater extent than in the earlier film version, which was famous for slamming workplace discrimination and sexual harassment. Linking herself and Doralee, Parton asserts: “It’s all about people judging you by how you look. The way I look is just a country girl’s idea of glam. In 9 to 5, they make fun of Doralee because they think she looks like a tramp and has to be sleeping with the boss, who pretends she is.”29 Defending her image against stereotypical assumptions, Parton also has compared herself to the Barbie image, playing both sides of that stereotype by upholding the objectified image but emphasizing that it is artificial. Discussing the song “Backwoods Barbie,” Parton says: “We released it as a single on Barbie’s 50th birthday. It couldn’t have been better timing. Me and Barbie look pretty good for our age—I’m a bit older—and we’re both made out of plastic.”30 The mountain girl/town tramp image is of course not the only one Parton has deployed, and her other personae display their own gender and genre tensions. When Parton broke from Porter Wagoner as a producer and moved to have a solo career at RCA in 1976,31 her album New Harvest . . . First Gathering (1977) not only marked a transition point as she worked toward the pop crossover of such hit albums as Here You Come Again (1977) and Heartbreaker (1978), she also used it to change her imagery, replacing her Travellin’ Family Band with the rock-oriented Gypsy Fever Band and using gypsy imagery, including head scarves over her wigs and hoop earrings, for a short time. As part of her crossover effort, she highlighted in press coverage that her wigs and look were a promotional tactic, so that no one would mistake it for ignorance. In an interview from Time magazine about her 1977 tour for New Harvest . . . First Gathering, Parton explained, pointing to her wig: “It’s a gimmick. . . . It takes pure gall to go around under this. I always had a big hairdo. When the style went out, I still loved it. Wigs are great. I can get ready in 15 minutes, faster than any woman I know.”32 Her experimentation with this different look (still evident in footage from her first variety show, Dolly! [1976–77]) marked her changing performance persona during this period, as she aimed for a more rock-oriented 199

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persona. Meanwhile, responding to harsh criticism for “leaving country music” and having “gone Hollywood” when she hired Los Angeles manager Sandy Gallin, Parton insisted, “I’m not leaving country, I’m taking it with me to new places.”33 It is important to attend to how Parton developed her town tramp image as a knowing gimmick. As part of Parton’s nuanced, layered star image, she uses her “trash” elements as a rhetorical tool and style, melding them with other gender performance codes to develop a flexible repertoire. Parton developed her image with a cognizance of other options, from the movie stars she admired for their Hollywood feminine glamour to the other country stars she watched. She was aware of female stage personae such as the demure, gingham-clad country sweetheart Kitty Wells. Likewise, she observed the rockabilly of Brenda Lee, a model of teen star success who took the masculine rebellion and overt sexuality of rockabilly in the 1950s and 1960s and re-contained it with her cutesy littlegirl image (witness Dolly’s first record, “Puppy Love” [1959], a novelty rockabilly youth number she wrote with uncle Bill Owens). The point is that Parton’s image articulation is figurative, rhetorical, and knowing, and suggests a complex engagement with irony and parody. My reading here is in line with Barbara Ching’s calls to address country music’s complexity and use of figurative language, not to consign it to simple transparency or literal realism.34

Camp and Gender Politics Parton’s use of feminist and gay camp introduces a particularly subversive element into her gendered imagery. She does not simply turn gay camp into a commodity to sell, nor does she depoliticize it. Rather, Parton links it to her gay rights advocacy. Her media image bucks heteronormativity; in her autobiographical narratives she has described her marriage as open. When asked by reporters about a rumor of bisexuality, she has denied the rumor and has critiqued homophobia. She has publicly supported gay marriage, and she has a planned dance album and a song, entitled “Just a Wee Bit Gay,” with content supporting LGBT rights. Parton can be seen as a version of feminist camp and her performance includes some aspects of a female, female impersonator trope (a woman playing an exaggerated drag version of a woman). 35 She references not only drag queens but also exaggerated parodies of femininity, such as her explicit nods to Mae West, whom she cites as an influence.36 Parton is explicitly transgressive in some contexts, as when she wrote and performed the Oscar-nominated pro-transgender song “Travelin’ Thru” (2005) for the soundtrack of the movie Transamerica. Nodding to her mountain girl authenticity trope, Parton references “I Am a Pilgrim” and the folk ballad “The 200

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Wayfaring Stranger,” using a folk ballad style for that stanza, which includes the lines, “Like the poor wayfaring stranger that they speak about in song / I’m just a weary pilgrim trying to find my own way home.” She thus accentuates her own song’s links to folk tradition. She sings from the point of view of the film’s transgender protagonist, and the music video draws analogies between her made-up appearance and the character’s by intercutting images of her singing with film footage of the character. In the song’s lyrics and performance, Parton merges her own authenticity narratives with advocacy for transgender rights and acceptance for people “as they are,” once again using a dominant discourse to legitimate a marginalized one. She also folds that stance back into her own authenticity narrative of being true to her core self in spite of her “fake” appearance (her term). Parton thus projects multiple performances of subjectivity, playing a dominant rhetoric of the core expressive self against a subordinated rhetoric of fragmented, postmodern multiple selves. Her advocacy of human rights here is not simply due to a profit motive and is not entirely re-contained within dominant rhetoric. Parton uses an exaggerated trash parody that signifies within a country music performance context as parody. In her study of feminist camp, Pamela Robertson argues that camp can be both critique and containment and can take past taste and recode it in new contexts, re-historicizing it as a form of what she calls “productive anachronism” and “recycling.”37 Parton references her own past (“a country girl’s idea of glam”) and authenticity narrative to ground a parody that was always about recycling out-of-date styles as camp and exaggerated artifice (her knowing use of outdated teased hair, dresses, and shoes) as an attention-grabbing style. I read that movement as liberatory, emphasizing the denaturalization of gender codes through excessive repetition and undermining them through hyperbolic style. The cultural politics of Parton’s use of camp depend on the context, just as the political effects of camp more generally, as David Bergman asserts, vary by context. 38 For example, Parton’s camp in moments of knowing cornpone humor can signify in a country music context as a burlesque of the rube, a comic figure meant to poke fun at rural stereotypes. The rube functions as an exaggerated “other” who assuages class anxieties in working-class and middleclass audiences trying to access a middle-class norm. Parton does a sendup of the rube character with her knowingness similar to Mae West’s burlesque of the 1930s, critiquing the put-down or othering of the rube. Other moments of Parton’s camp could also link to an older vaudeville tradition of bodily exaggeration (which was also imported into barn dance radio) as a way to comment on norms, in which very tall or very large performers as visual departures from norms parodied the norm and critiqued it through the “freakish.” Parton repeatedly invokes the term “freakish” to refer to her exaggerated bodily appearance, 201

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but her knowing camp performance rescues the “freakish” other from elitist denigration. She dramatizes this dynamic, for example, in her mountain carnival sideshow setting for her “Better Get to Livin’” (2007) music video, and in her joining the ranks of street performers and some “circus freaks” on Hollywood Boulevard in the “Backwoods Barbie” video. Parton’s appearances on The Graham Norton Show epitomize her gay camp significations. Norton idolizes her (as evidenced by the fact that the Duchess of York once presented him with a lock of Parton’s hair on a velvet pillow). In one segment on Norton’s explicitly gay camp subculture British talk show, Parton emerges from a wedding cake structure dressed in a dominatrix-style leather minidress and wearing a boy-tie for Norton, as she tells him. There to promote her bluegrass album Little Sparrow (2001), Parton sings her song “Marry Me,” a combination of bluegrass and mountain folk. She mixes camp, her “blue mountain” music, and her white trash hillbilly tramp parody together all at once. Norton cheerfully plays up the camp aspect, square-dancing with her while she sings. In the interview segment, he uses exaggerated style to enact camp and parody. He gives her a large pillow shaped like breasts that he had set with rhinestones especially for her; she plays along with the joke, and they both wear pillow breasts, campily exaggerating how Parton’s body is fetishized. The moment reads as the kind of critique Robertson ascribes to feminist camp, exaggerating stereotypical femininity in order to create ironic distance from it.39 The segment also focuses attention on Dolly impersonators, toying with the idea that the original and the copy are indistinguishable and equally artificial. Parton says she is honored that both “boys and girls” dress up as her, because if she “hadn’t been a girl” she “would have been a drag queen for sure.” Norton replies that she would have made a “really good one.” He pokes fun at Dolly impersonators as kitsch, testing whether Parton can recognize herself versus impersonators on a website. Going to outlandish hyperbole, Norton holds up a Dolly phone that is a stuffed bear designed to look like her, with a phone embedded in the stomach. He playfully calls a Dolly impersonator and asks her to critique unknowingly the actual Parton’s own voice, and the woman judges what she hears (Parton herself) a bad impression. Norton then calls a Kenny Rogers impersonator (on a Kenny bear phone) and has the two impersonators sing “Islands in the Stream” (1983) together over the phones. Parton herself finally breaks in to sing the song for the two struggling impersonators, yet they still cannot believe it is her. Norton has to convince them. In the rest of the interview, Parton combines campy jocularity with some often-repeated life stories. Parton here performs both irony and sincerity, with the substantiveness of her music thrown into greater relief by the stylized artificiality of her appearance and the interview’s camp elements. The staging implicitly critiques laws prohibiting gay marriage, with Parton singing “Marry Me” to Norton (who is an 202

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out, gay celebrity camp icon). Norton references the Parton drag queen rhetoric. She says she dressed up “like a boy” just for him, laughing: “You said you were looking for a blond boy.” In reply, Norton points to her chest and says she cannot pass as a boy, saying “I appreciate the effort” but “do you know, I don’t think you’re still fooling anyone, Dolly.” Likewise, another episode, “Graham Goes to Dollywood” (2001), depicts Norton’s Dollywood visit. He embraces the kitsch there (noting a drive-through wedding chapel in Pigeon Forge), rides a rollercoaster with fifty Dolly impersonators, and sings the duet “Islands in the Stream” with Parton while floating down a river with her. In one sequence, he gets a faux wedding picture made with her. He has her don a southern belle dress, while he wears a Confederate soldier uniform. After their wedding picture is taken, he rhapsodizes that he has “died and gone to heaven.” The “wedding” photograph contains multiple layers of camp, including an implicit subcultural tourist amusement at southern stereotypes and the costumes as “poor taste,” which reinforces dominant stereotypes of the South. Meanwhile, the sequence foregrounds the idea that the two are already in drag even before donning the period costumes, a camp dynamic that critiques normative gender codes. Norton layers in more drag performance when he switches their hats in one picture, with him in the bonnet and Parton in the soldier’s hat. These references signify alongside Parton’s familiar image of the parodic tramp. Norton references the familiar Parton tropes of astute businesswoman and advocate for her region, as he describes what Parton has done for her “home region” with Dollywood. The layers of gay camp here are strikingly complex. Parton’s camp in the Norton setting plays differently from her camp in other contexts, which is not always subversive. For example, Parton did not signify transgressively when she wore a garish train conductor outfit to open a trainthemed rollercoaster at Dollywood, or donned a gingham Mother Hubbard bonnet and dress to an event for her Imagination Library child literacy program. Likewise, her costumed gaudy red, white, and blue 1940s style dress and hat in the video for her patriotic song “Welcome Home” (2003) is not a critical parody; rather, it references a history of earlier military efforts and civilian support, reaffirming that imagery. Consistently, her exaggerated style draws attention to itself as artificial and parodic, yet she deploys sincerity by combining her camp image with her authenticity narratives. Her performances are at once cheesy and hip, ridiculous and satirical, ironic and sincere. She continually combines both dominant and marginal gender codes into a flexible rhetoric through which she appeals to multiple audiences at once, such as Norton’s core gay camp audience alongside traditional bluegrass fans, many of whom would have multiple identifications and wide-ranging tastes of their own and could not necessarily be “typed” by group in their fandom. 203

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Of course, not all audiences will recognize Parton’s multifaceted camp. On a Larry King Live interview (2010), King asked if she worries she might have been a bad role model for “goddaughter” Miley Cyrus, who at the time was receiving bad press for her risqué performances as a teenage singer. Parton replied that she hoped not, since that was not her “message,” and she hoped singers did not think they had to look “trashy” to get ahead. Parton distances her own camp performance from the kind of objectified image that reinforces stereotypes, the implication being that Cyrus misunderstood her star text if she missed the parody. However, of course, Parton herself cannot control the multiple meanings audiences take from her.

Authenticity Narratives Parton makes her gender imagery cohere by using her life story, a strategy that brings us back to the larger issue of authenticity discourse in country music. Of course, “authenticity” is an arbitrary, socially constructed category, and popular media debates about what counts as authentic music can illuminate the current cultural values and cultural taste hierarchies at play in each context. In Parton’s case, her rhetoric often downplays her potentially incendiary messages by contextualizing them in terms of her autobiography as an authenticity narrative. When asked to discuss feminist messages in her music, Parton often frames them merely as “country girl” wisdom in response to her life experiences with the gender role expectations of southern white working-class femininity. In her autobiography, she jokes that her response to male chauvinism in the east Tennessee mountain culture she experienced growing up involved her own “early Appalachian feminist” tactics.40 As Parton frequently speaks out for social justice, advocating women’s rights, racial equity, and gay rights, her statements are striking for how she anchors them in her own discourses of authenticity, perhaps making them seem more genuine to some audiences by framing them in terms of her sincerity as well as her rural, working-class background. Likewise, she calls her business acumen “good ol’ horse sense,” downplaying her economic power by framing it in domesticated rhetoric, the common sense of mountain folk.41 In effect, Parton has actually found new ways to reconcile country music’s tension between folk culture and mass culture by combining the two or having some aspect of her performance establish a relationship or resolution between the two. Parton’s work and media image evoke both mass and folk culture elements, balancing them in her oeuvre and media persona. She also implicitly builds a relationship between folk and mass culture by using her autobiography to argue that the manufactured mass culture components of her performance emerge from an indigenous folk culture origin. 204

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As a genre combining elements of folk culture and mass culture, country music is of course not unique in linking the two, but it does have its own distinctive variation on that mixture, as it developed from vernacular culture passed from person to person and evolved into mass culture produced and mediated via mass communication technology. It expresses a nostalgia for its folk culture roots, for a pastoral, premodern purity, even as it traffics in mass communication technology and is comprised of commodities and the products of the mass culture industry, as when we see highly commercialized singers producing mass-marketed country songs who nevertheless wear cowboy hats as props to establish “authenticity” and sing about their nostalgia for a “simpler” agrarian way of life down on the farm. The genre scripts that purity narrative onto idealizations of a rural, pastoral, agricultural way of life, yet stages that nostalgic fantasy via mass media, the very form that helps perpetuate the conditions of modernity that the country genre expresses alienation from in its search for the folk and the pure. Of course, the purity versus the market rhetoric is only true in perception, not historical reality. As historian Bill C. Malone has shown, folk music did involve commercial relations and was always simultaneously folk and popular, and it was the song collectors and academics in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries who imposed a conception of a somehow “pure” folk music in opposition to commercial music.42 Benjamin Filene has demonstrated how folklorists and music industry executives created a “folk” distinction that was subjective and reflected their cultural values at the time.43 Thus, the distinctions between the categories of folk culture and mass culture are arbitrary and can blur quite easily. Parton provides a fascinating case study for understanding this folk/mass culture tension because she is one of the most commercially successful country musicians of all time. She generates a great deal of mass culture in the form of mass-marketed products, from albums to tours to Dollywood. Yet, at the same time, she uses her life story to insist on her organic connection to the folk music roots of country music. In a move that brings folk culture into a relationship with mass culture, Parton imagines an indigenous, folk source for her love of highly artificial glamor images. Returning to the “Backwoods Barbie” music video example, it is significant that Parton finds “natural,” “authentic” inspiration for her love of makeup (a girl finding berries in the woods for blush to make her “country girl’s idea of glam”). She adds to that a mass-culture inspiration (Hollywood models, women in catalogues). In the midst of this layering of mass culture and autobiography, Parton writes the song as an unadorned, straightforward, traditional country music song rather than country pop, and she musically references the folk roots of the country genre. Her song mixes folk and mass culture just as her rhetoric 205

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tries to balance them, resolving the folk/mass (real/fake) tension by claiming both things are true: she is both real and fake at the same time. She suggests there is a folk origin to the mass culture aspects of her work, implying that the two categories are related and spring from the same organic folk sources. One specific example of how Parton links her “authentic” autobiography to those parts of her performance aligned more closely with the genre’s folk culture roots is the release of her autobiography, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business (1994), as part of the promotion for her folk songs album, Heartsongs: Live from Home (1994). In that book, Parton exclaims, “I’ve been waiting all my life to do an acoustic album of the songs I grew up lovin’ and singin’. The album has songs from the old world—England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales—as well as songs from the Smokies and some that I have written that were influenced by all these places.”44 Parton here gives her version of country music’s origins as influenced by European folk music merged with American immigrant folk cultures. She highlights the album for its connection to her autobiography: “It’s the album I hope and believe I will be most remembered for, and it goes nicely with this story of my life.”45 Parton thus links her folk music and her life story in her claims for authenticity. Her bluegrass and folk albums were received as part of the Americana roots music movement and a renewed interest in folk music beginning in the 1990s. During that time, she released three bluegrass and folk albums: the bluegrass album The Grass is Blue (1999); Little Sparrow (2001), which included bluegrass as well as traditional Appalachian folk (her “blue mountain” music); and the folk and bluegrass album Halos & Horns (2002). All three heavily referenced her own autobiography in order to claim authenticity. Instead of being a case of the folk being corrupted by the mass, her oeuvre demonstrates that the mass has the folk in it, both the real and the fake, both the authentic and the manufactured, and Parton’s work, in effect, questions the distinctions between those categories. Cultural critics Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel famously argued that popular music, particularly youth culture, is both art and commodity, writing that “teenage culture is a contradictory mixture of the authentic and manufactured: it is an area of self-expression for the young and a lush grazing pasture for the commercial providers.”46 That complex mixture means we must analyze the interplay between those dynamics in each case, just as we must analyze the interplay between the mass and the folk. Even though a piece of cultural expression has been commodified or commercialized, communities and listeners still make meaning out of it in unpredictable ways that are not entirely controlled by the culture industry. There is no strict dichotomy between the mass and the folk but instead a far more complicated interaction between the two. Each case study can be revelatory in terms of how these forces work, how the two categories intersect, and how each artist 206

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struggles with them, which tells us a far more nuanced and interesting story about country music and popular culture. Parton’s work is transgressive not simply because she exposes gender as a set of socially constructed practices and behaviors (hers is more elaborate, but everyone else’s is just as artificial as hers), but because her gender performance is deeply contextualized in terms of country music themes and history. Instead of leaving her trapped in the stereotypical imagery of class and gender that she invokes (her “poor white hillbilly trash” image), Parton’s enactment of gender troubles its categories and constructions and illuminates larger issues of authenticity and the market, the folk and the mass.

Notes 1. Dolly Parton, Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 309. 2. Following popular music studies, I use the term “genre” to refer to the category of country music, although musicology terminology would refer to it more specifically as a “style” of vernacular music. See William Echard, Neil Young and the Poetics of Energy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005), 43–45. 3. Dolly Parton, “Backwoods Barbie,” Velvet Apple Music, BMI, 2008. 4. Sheila Whiteley, Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity, and Subjectivity (London: Routledge, 2000); Pamela Wilson, “Mountains of Contradictions: Gender, Class, and Region in the Star Image of Dolly Parton,” in Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars, ed. Cecelia Tichi (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998), 98–120; Pamela Fox, Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009). 5. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold, ed., A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004); Fox, Natural Acts; Kristine M. McCusker, Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008); Barbara Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001); Cathy N. Davidson and Jessamyn Hatcher, ed., No More Separate Spheres! (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002). 6. For an overview of emphasized femininity as a gender stereotype, see R. W. Connell, Masculinities, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005); Michael Kimmel, The Gendered Society (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000). 7. Parton, Dolly, 309. 8. David Bergman, ed., Camp Grounds: Style and Homosexuality (Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994), 14. For example, camp performance such as drag in gay male subculture has been appropriated by mainstream culture, which coopts and undermines the mode’s political critiques. For background on the history and meaning of camp, see Pamela Robertson, Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna (Durham, NC: Duke

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Leigh H. Edwards University Press, 1996); Andrew Ross, No Respect: Intellectuals and Popular Culture (New York: Routledge, 1989); Susan Sontag, “Notes on ‘Camp,’” in Against Interpretation (New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1966 [1964]), 275–92; Moe Meyer, ed., The Politics and Poetics of Camp (New York: Routledge, 1993); Esther Newton, Mother Camp: Female Impersonators in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). 9. Sontag, “Notes.” 10. Critics have often read popular feminism in Parton’s pro-women songs and industry practices; see Jocelyn R. Neal, The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers: A Legacy in Country Music (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009); Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann, Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800-2000 (Nashville: Country Music Foundation/Vanderbilt University Press, 2003); David Fillingim, Redneck Liberation: Country Music as Theology (Macon: Mercer University Press, 2003). 11. Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best; Richard Peterson, Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997); Joli Jensen, The Nashville Sound: Authenticity, Commercialization, and Country Music (Nashville: Country Music Foundation/ Vanderbilt University Press, 1998); Aaron Fox, “The Jukebox of History: Narratives of Loss and Desire in the Discourse of Country Music,” Popular Music 11 (1992): 53–72; Diane Pecknold, The Selling Sound; The Rise of the Country Music Industry (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007); McCusker and Pecknold, A Boy Named Sue. 12. While rooted in folk culture, country music has always been commercial from the start; thus the market-versus-purity binary in country music authenticity narratives is a fantasy not based on historical fact. Bill C. Malone, Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers: Southern Culture and the Roots of Country Music (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2003), 68; Aaron A. Fox, Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004). 13. Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best; Jensen, The Nashville Sound, 15; Pecknold, The Selling Sound. 14. Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best; Peterson, Creating Country Music; Jensen, The Nashville Sound; Pecknold, The Selling Sound; Fox, “The Jukebox of History,” 54. My use of the term “modernity” refers to the conditions of social life stemming from the rise of capitalism and industrialization. 15. P. David Marshall, Celebrity and Power (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 186, 198; Barry Shank, “‘That Wild Mercury Sound’: Bob Dylan and the Illusion of American Culture,” boundary 2 29, no. 1 (2002): 97–123. 16. Richard Dyer, Stars (London: British Film Institute, 1998 [1979]); Richard Dyer, Heavenly Bodies: Film Stars and Society (London: British Film Institute, 1986); Richard Dyer, “A Star is Born and the Construction of Authenticity,” in Stardom: Industry of Desire, ed. Christine Gledhill (London: Routledge, 1991). 17. Su Holmes, “‘All You’ve Got to Worry About Is the Task, Having a Cup of Tea, and Doing a Bit of Sunbathing’: Approaching Celebrity in Big Brother,” in Understanding Reality Television, ed. Su Holmes and Deborah Jermyn (London: Routledge, 2004), 111–35. 18. Neal, The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers. 19. In an interview, Dolly explained her rationale for starting her own independent label: “I put it on my own label because many of the majors really didn’t want me because of my age,

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Dolly Parton’s Gender Performance thinking I was over. But I feel different about that. I figured the major labels are pretty much a thing of the past anyway, kind of like they thought I was. The way music is being played today, why not make all the money, if there’s any money to be made. I’d rather have all of something than some of nothing. So I hired Danny Nozell to help manage me and all the things concerning me with all the new ideas. And with his knowledge of the new age and the team that he’s put together, I just didn’t see how I could miss.” “Dolly Parton Releases New Single,” Country Standard Time, 28 (August 2007), www.countrystandardtime.com/news/newsitem .asp?xid=867&t=Dolly_Parton_releases_new_single, accessed February 2, 2011. 20. For an overview of female images in country music performance, see Bufwack and Oermann, Finding Her Voice. 21. Bufwack and Oermann, Finding Her Voice; McCusker, Lonesome Cowgirls and HonkyTonk Angels; Malone, Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers; Bill C. Malone, Country Music U.S.A.: A Fifty-Year History (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968); Peterson, Creating Country Music. 22. Dan Rather interview, Unspoiled Country, TNN, 1998, www.youtube.com/watch?v= PZcBvqd93ZQ, accessed February 2, 2011. 23. Bufwack and Oermann, Finding Her Voice, 366. 24. Ibid., 363. 25. McCusker cites Dorothy Scarborough’s use of this term in A Songcatcher in the Southern Mountains (New York: Columbia University Press, 1937); McCusker, Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels, 14. 26. Notably, one such press account is in the Andy Warhol interview with her, which speaks to pop art and his fascination with her kitsch excess. Maura Moynihan and Andy Warhol, “Dolly Parton,” Interview (July 1994): 36. 27. Jimmie N. Rogers, The Country Music Message: All About Lovin’ and Livin’ (New York: Prentice Hall, 1983). 28. George Lipsitz, Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990), 3, 22. 29. Harry Haun, “Dolly Does Broadway,” Playbill for 9 to 5: The Musical (2009), 6–7. 30. Ibid. 31. Parton’s break from Wagoner can be dated from either 1974 when she left his show and released “I Will Always Love You” or from the end of her contractual arrangement with him as her producer in 1976. See Chet Flippo, “Dolly Parton,” in The Encyclopedia of Country Music, ed. Paul Kingsbury (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 406. 32. “Music: On the Rock Road with Dolly Parton,” Time, 18 April 1977, www.time.com/time/ magazine/article/0,9171,914918-1,00.html, accessed February 2, 2011. 33. Parton, Dolly, 186. 34. Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best. 35. Robertson, Guilty Pleasures. 36. Notably, she has used Mae West imagery in such performances as her 1985 Real Love tour with Kenny Rogers and in her film role as a madam in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). Having long expressed a desire to play West on film, Parton even signed to play her in an ABC television biopic in 2003, although ABC later cancelled the project. 37. Robertson, Guilty Pleasures, 142.

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Leigh H. Edwards 38. Bergman, Camp Grounds, 14. 39. Robertson, Guilty Pleasures, 145. 40. Parton, Dolly, 56–57. 41. Bufwack and Oermann, Finding Her Voice, 362. 42. Malone, Singing Cowboys, 68. 43. Benjamin Filene, Romancing the Folk: Public Memory and American Roots Music (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2000). 44. Parton, Dolly, 311. 45. Ibid. 46. Stuart Hall and Paddy Whannel, The Popular Arts (London: Hutchinson, 1964), 269–83, especially 276.

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Kitty Wells, Queen of Denial georgiA chriStgAu

[Kitty Wells] sort of had a conventional life in a way [although] I think that’s a superficial view. I think anybody who’s been a partner in a show business couple in country music in the ’50s and’ 60s, that had to be a very gypsy lifestyle. But because they were southern and Christian and conventional on the surface, I think people just overlooked what might be interesting about her. —Laura caNtreLL 1 It’s hard for a woman, especially traveling with a lot of men. Dolly and Loretta had it harder than me because they had to go out alone. Johnnie and I were always together. He looked after me. —KItty WeLLS 2 “Kitty Wells” is a sad song . . . but Kitty, she’s really happy. She’s a country girl, raised up like myself. Real hard. —JohNNIe WrIght 3

According to myth, Kitty Wells, who died in July, 2012, at 92, was a semi-retired housewife when success came calling in 1952.4 Not a lie, exactly, but it was just as true that she was a 32-year-old artist and wife with three children who finally got the break she deserved. Girl singer, guitarist, partner, working mother, deejay, opening act, headliner—Wells was all of these at one time or another before “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” turned her into an overnight sensation.5 Her persona was old-fashioned even when it was new. Over six decades of being on stage, the dresses got fancier, but not more revealing. She attended church and always came home to Nashville, one of the few country greats who was actually born there. Wells took her success as a country music star literally; when the press asked why she worked so hard, she’d answer quietly but firmly, that she owed it to her fans: “They paid for our home,” she’d point out, a ranch-style house small by country star standards in suburban Madison where she and her husband, Johnnie Wright, raised their family and also where they died, eight months apart.6 211

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In her first publicity photo, taken in 1943 for radio station WNOX in Knoxville, Tennessee, Wells chose a traditional look that was more girl than woman. Covered toe to neck in a floor length pioneer dress, her curly black hair hidden under a bonnet, she was copying the “Little Sunbonnet Girl” Linda Parker, stage name of Jeanne Muenich, the “quintessential wholesome performer” of early 1930s barn dance radio.7 Five years later she would become well known enough to perform with Johnnie Wright and the Tennessee Hillbillies on opening night for the Louisiana Hayride’s first live broadcast in 1948. She had rethought her appearance some. Now she was a slightly older-looking country girl at a Sunday church picnic, her dresses calf-length cotton gingham, her hair framing an open, heart-shaped face. This was the persona she brought with her four years later to the Grand Ole Opry. The Wrights had moved back to Nashville for his career but wound up staying for hers. Wells’s conservative style and demeanor, honed during the couple’s sixteen years as itinerant musicians, stood up well to the male competition once she was in the spotlight. In fact, it was essential to her remaining there.8 She vied for top billing without trying to be one of the boys. She didn’t wear pants or cowboy boots. Johnnie Wright—husband, sideman, songcatcher, and the love of her life—did that. Theirs was one of the longest celebrity marriages ever—nearly seventy-four years. Her youthful appearance and solid partnership with Wright said she was both young and old, both feminine and sexually unavailable. These were the conditions under which male performers accepted her sudden but undeniable popularity. She was not threatening, so she slipped in. In 1952, that pivotal year her life as a journeyman musician ended and her career as a star began, Wells was older than Patsy Cline would ever be—and from an older generation. Cline, like Loretta Lynn, was born in 1932. Lynn remembered teaching herself to sing and to play the guitar at home by listening to the songs of her hero and inspiration on the radio: “Betty Sue (Lynn’s daughter) says she can remember being a little girl and hearing me imitate all the Kitty Wells records and asking her, ‘How did that sound?’”9 Although both country stars’ “performances of southern female identities mediated between the past and the present for their audiences,” by 1962, when Lynn announced herself as Wells’s heir apparent with the smash hit “Honky-Tonk Girl,” she had figured out how to both pay homage to and distance herself from her idol.10 She was also the “Blue Kentucky Girl,” and of course, the “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” She appropriated the moniker of “girl” but shed the housewife image that Wells had labored under so effectively for so long, and that had both protected and limited her. But fifty years later, that image still obscures Wells’s sovereignty. Between 1952 and 1971, Wells had hits for twenty consecutive years, ranking fourth among her peers, and the only woman in the top ten.11 She trailblazed many “firsts” for other women as Nashville was emerging as the geographic 212

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center of country music. Crowned the “Queen of Country Music” in 1954, she was arguably its first live-to-tell female star.12 But she never did. There’s no autobiography, no biopic, and not much discourse. So Wells remains something of a mystery. Although she was ahead of her time, she denied any intentional part in the emergence of women in country music, let alone the resurgent women’s movement that in some ways her career anticipated. So our feelings are something of a mystery as well: we may praise her or ignore her, but her legacy, once quickly acknowledged, reduces us to awkwardness. It’s all we can do to say thank you. Like many hardworking artists who spend most of their lives in cars and on buses and airplanes, she was a dull interview; she passed the task to others, or gave stock answers that reduced her story to a breathless narrative about an aw-shucks housewife whose fame jes’ grew. The most damaging of these is the legend of how she ever came to record “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.” This story, smooth as stone after sixty-five years of retelling, loses sight of any agency Wells might have had over her own life and future. The housewife trope that held Wells’s professional and personal life together diminishes her now. Her characterization as a reluctant star crashes us into the dead end of long-held stereotypes about women and achievement. Think of her instead as a woman who always worked either one or both of two jobs: singer and mother. Not retired, semi, or aw-shucks. None of those. Rather than see “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” as an unexpected, almost-didn’t-happen event, consider that for Wells and her musical life partner and husband, Johnnie Wright, recording that song was the next logical step in the progress of their two-career family. A tireless work ethic in service to the music she loved and a commitment to her art were lifelong traits cultivated in the early years, 1935–52. Interviewed in 1993 for a televised tribute to the women of country music, Wells and her contemporary Jean Shepard were asked to compare more modern performers with those of their day. Shepard began, “These gals nowadays kinda tickle me. They get on a bus and ride a smooth interstate to show dates. We had to squeeze six in a station wagon, along with my big bass fiddle—and drive that way for hours on end.”13 Wells offered, “Some of [them] I don’t believe will have the stamina that some of us artists had when we first started out. I think you really had to love the business to stay in it. ’Cause it’s not an easy life and you had to work hard, doing the radio shows and going out and making personal appearances.”14 And she did love it, and put up with it, in equal measure: Wells’s no-nonsense approach to her talent was shaped by early influences: “Well, I first grew up listening to the radio, Texas Daisy and Texas Ruby, Patsy Montana and the Carter Family, Sara and Maybelle Carter. There weren’t too many girls in the business . . . that was about the extent of women in the country field. There 213

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weren’t too many songs written for girls, either. I listened mostly to the men. We sang a lot of their songs, but I always sang them my way.”15 Kitty Wells was born in 1919 to a music-loving family, only she was not Kitty Wells yet. She grew up as Muriel Deason. Her father, Charles (Carey) Deason, was a brakeman and guitar player like his idol, Jimmie Rodgers. Deason performed at local square dances before the railroad job, which of necessity took him away from home often.16 Gospel songs came from her singing and pianoplaying mother Myrtle, and were the first songs she learned. She sang them in church when she was fourteen.17 Her mother tutored Wells in both religious and secular music. “I began going to the Opry with my mother when it first opened. I was just a little girl,” she remembered. (She was six.) “To me, the performers on stage seemed larger than life. I thought that I’d be like my mother; that is, grow up, get married, and raise a family—and not have a career.”18 A friend’s boyfriend taught her basic guitar chords as a teenager; when her father heard her play, he gave her his instrument to keep as her own, and never picked it up again.19 Carey never lived to see his daughter become a star; he died the year she returned to Nashville, 1951, and Myrtle moved in to help raise her grandchildren.20 Wells quit school before she completed ninth grade, lived for a time with an older sister who had become too ill to care for her three children, and got a job at Washington Manufacturing, a shirt factory.21 At fifteen, she formed the Deason Sisters with her cousin, Bessie Choate. For their first live broadcast on a local radio station they chose a song about a man and a woman rockin’ and rollin’ popularized by the Carter Family called “Jealous Hearted Me.” It was deemed inappropriate for two teenaged girls and the station cut their mike. But so many callers complained that soon the Deason Sisters earned a regular fifteen-minute gig during the station’s rush-hour slot: 6 a.m.22 Live radio appearances become a staple for the performer before, during, and after she began making records. Johnnie Wright started dating Wells when she was sixteen and they married two years later, in October 1937. Her musicality sparked his own, not the other way around, he said: “I remember how she used a Case knife, rubbing it over the strings, much as they did on a Hawaiian guitar or a dobro. I was impressed!”23 But since female performers were rare and female headliners rarer, when Wright joined they became Johnnie Wright and the Harmony Girls. Bessie Choate had been replaced by Johnnie’s sister, Louise, who had married Johnnie’s musical partner, Jack Anglin. The next band went through several iterations, starting as Johnnie Wright and the Tennessee Hillbillies. Wells recalled: “Neither of us then ever thought of quitting our regular jobs to try and make a living at playing music. But we were playing now and then at night and on weekends around Nashville, entertaining in schoolhouses or for special events . . . [anyplace] that we could get back in to spend the night and to get some rest.”24 214

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Pregnant, Wells worked until her due date and gave birth to a girl in October 1939, taking a temporary respite of sorts. “I was just singing maybe on Sundays. I didn’t work out every night. We would sing together on Sundays at some of the parks. (She and Louise Wright became the Wright Sisters.) Ruby was still small and I didn’t like to leave her, but we could take her with us to the parks. That way I could work a little bit. I didn’t start singing regularly with the band until 1943.”25 At the start of the new year in 1941, the Wrights and the Anglins decided to try to make music their living on the road. With a homemade trailer for the instruments hitched to the back of their car, the couples’ first trip outside the state took them 460 miles to Greensboro, North Carolina. Ruby Wright was fourteen months old. Recalls Johnnie: “It was really a hard thing to decide. Kitty and I, we talked and talked on it. We had Ruby now and [leaving Nashville] would mean selling everything we owned, just to get the money to travel with.”26 They moved eight times in the next eight years, and had two more children— one before Wells went back to work full time, and one after.27 Crisscrossing the South, pursuing the careers of Johnnie & Jack, as the duo had begun to call themselves, and their various bands, the couples chased the dream through Georgia, West Virginia, Tennessee, and back to Nashville for an aborted Opry stint.28 They performed on radio programs, and at schoolhouse concerts, road shows, and state fairs.29 Work and family were constants, show business a distant third: the women changed into costumes in their car, or behind a makeshift curtain in a hall, gym, or church, if the gig was indoors. Living arrangements were iffy because most boardinghouses didn’t allow women or children. When they rented two rooms in Charleston, Johnnie remembered, “It wasn’t so bad. I put the mattress on the floor for Jack and Louise. Then Kitty, Ruby, and I slept on the box spring on the bed.”30 Two months after their second child was born in the spring of 1942, they moved to Knoxville for half a year until the realities of World War II intervened: the draft (Jack Anglin went, but Wright’s growing family kept him out of the service) and gas rationing.31 But by June 1943, Wright had decided to replace Anglin temporarily and not lose momentum. Band member Ernie Ferguson, who had found work in a munitions plant, stipulated that rejoining the Tennessee Hillbillies would not cost him a salary cut. The band was actually making money. Of Wells’s role he remembered: “It was then, too, that Kitty was back singing with us. She had that little tremor to her voice and I think that’s what sold her. Anyway, she started to draw more mail than anyone on the show. Still, she didn’t go out on the road too much because of Ruby and Bobby” (the Wrights’ children).32 When a WNOX station manager also noticed the increasing popularity of Muriel Deason Wright and suggested a name change, they chose Kitty Wells, taken from a traditional song and a favorite of Johnnie’s. They played a midday radio show and “hit the road nights and weekends.”33 After their third child 215

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was born prematurely in the summer of 1945, Wells cut back again on out-oftown gigs, hiring a sitter for local gigs:34 “For a time I . . . just stayed home. The reason was that I got real sick and we didn’t know exactly what caused it, or whether it might be from all that traveling.”35 Later that year the band headlined a new radio show, traveling 360 miles to Raleigh.36 When Jack Anglin returned from the war the following January, he, Louise, and Kitty reunited with the band there. The next year the Nashville Opry offered them a spot on three conditions: drop the “hillbilly” from their name, fire the one-armed banjo player, and do not bring the girl singer.37 The Opry’s constraints raised Wright’s ire: “I never did like for people to say ‘You gotta do this’ or ‘You gotta do that!’ . . . And if you don’t do it, to have them raise cain with you or reject you!”38 It did not work out. Instead, Shreveport would prove to be the “cradle to the stars” that advertisements promised. Appearing as Johnnie & Jack and the Tennessee Mountain Boys on the Louisiana Hayride on opening night in 1948, they were already famous and solvent enough to hire a housekeeper, live in an actual house, and stay put for most of the next four years.39 The pairing of the Wright-AnglinWells team with the Hayride was almost as serendipitous as Wells’s pairing with nascent producer Owen Bradley would be four years later, and led to recording sessions with RCA for both Wells, as a solo artist, and the band—in Atlanta, Georgia, 800 miles away. At the Hayride they became close to hopefuls such as Webb Pierce, who would become a top charting artist in 1950s Nashville, and with whom Wells would record several duets. They also befriended Hank and Audrey Williams; six months after Wells recorded “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” in 1952, Hank Williams would be dead.40 The difference between the long years before Wells’s signature single and the long decades to come is in the details. It is no coincidence that she advised women starting out in the business, “Make sure your family’s behind you.”41 Louise Anglin, the children’s beloved “Aunt Easy,” divided the child care responsibilities with Myrtle Deason when Wells was on tour. But when they were not in school, Wells wanted the kids with her. “If they don’t go, I don’t go,” she would say.42 Before and after fame, home was a constant; maybe it was a moving target, but it was there. All three children recorded, and son Bobby eventually joined the band. One grandson took a permanent seat driving the tour bus. Not that it was easy, Wells recalls. “A lot of times when we got in [from a show] I’d have to stay up with Sue [her youngest daughter], ’cause the other two were in school . . . if she didn’t sleep when we got in I’d have to stay with her. The men folk and Johnnie did the driving so I guess that was my part.”43 Wells’s hands-on care of her children while she worked does not signal a lack of drive or initiative, but the opposite: life had given her career a boost, and she was not going to blow it. The RCA recording sessions in Atlanta took place in January 1949 and March 1950.44 While Wells’s opinion of the outcome of these recordings has sometimes 216

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seemed dismissive, as a professional she was reconsidering next steps. Was her career slipping backwards when she wished it would go forward? Was this when she decided to make a push to become a more secular artist? “So, I recorded for RCA while I was down there [in Shreveport, Louisiana], same time Johnnie & Jack was recording, and of course the songs didn’t do very good. They were mostly religious and semireligious songs. I grew up singing gospel songs and I used to sing and play around at prayer meetings and places like that when I was growing up.”45 Although the eight sides, or four singles, did not do much commercially and the label dropped her, “[w]hile we were still in Shreveport, Johnnie had made me make a demo record, and he sent it to Paul Cohen [in Nashville], who was then our man from Decca.”46 Wright was not too preoccupied with what would become the only commercially successful recording of his younger years—Johnnie & Jack’s “Poison Love,” a chart hit for fourteen weeks in 1951—to ignore his wife’s career, either. It was where they were headed anyway.47 In January 1952 the Wrights quit the Louisiana Hayride so that Johnnie could perform at the Opry on the strength of “Poison Love.”48 Only a few months before “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels,” this period has been portrayed as a decisive one in Wells’s “retirement,” as in, “She had pretty much decided to retire again, stay home with the children, and begin their new life in Nashville.”49 To Ken Burke’s conclusion that Wells “still thought of music as a sideline,” Wells added: “When we left Shreveport . . . I had just decided that I was going to quit and stay at home with the children because the records I had recorded didn’t get played very much, and they weren’t in the record shops.”50 Nevertheless Wells knew that Johnnie had followed up on her demo: “One night Johnnie and Jack were playing at the Ernest Tubb Record Shop Midnight Jamboree and happened to see Paul [Cohen]; Johnnie asked him if Decca was interested in recording me and he said ‘Yes,’ in fact he had a song that he’d like us to listen to see if we’d want to record it.”51 As their two careers spiraled upward simultaneously, Wright’s moment of fame did not overshadow his love and respect for his wife’s talent or ambition. Interviewed by Nicholas Dawidoff at home in the 1990s, a retired Wells summed up: “We always worked together, Johnny and I. I always let Johnny handle the business. He promoted me more than he did himself.” Still, when the couple showed Dawidoff a full-scale replica of the kitchen from their first home in Nashville, circa 1937, installed in a little “museum” on their property, he “asked how a singer felt about being honored with a kitchen, and the way she responded made it clear that a woman wasn’t wrong to look at Kitty Wells’s life and conclude that she could do most anything she chose. ‘I’ve always loved to cook. . . . I don’t cook so much anymore, but I always cook Christmas dinner. I still enjoy singing, too. I got to do both. Sure did.’”52 In remembering his part in curating the Country Music Association’s 2009 retrospective on Wells’s life and career, Michael McCall reflected: “Kitty Wells 217

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reminded me so much of my grandmother, who was from Kentucky. They even looked alike. She was about five years older than Kitty, but had that same mix of traditional housewife yet a firm resolve and an inner strength that led her to express her feelings directly while making sure to stay gracious about everything. I thought that must’ve taken a lot of character but I also always wished she could break out of the role she felt she had to fit.”53 Publicity shots from the 1950s pushed the image of Wells the homemaker: in one favorite she’s standing in her living room, as a smiling Johnnie, seated in an easy chair, lifts his feet to let her vacuum the rug. Fan magazines happily conflated housework and destiny: “DJs and fans alike thought Kitty was the decade’s best female performer, but the writers felt compelled to obscure her musical identity with her identity as a wife and a mother. The commercial success of this identity is evident; Kitty portrayed herself (and then was portrayed) as a homemaker, and she made money this way. Similarly, her fans chose to identify with her as a homemaker. The interacting forces behind the identity’s success were inseparable.”54 As late as 1969, the press stuck to its mixed message of her achievement outside the home and her place in it. Given her unprecedented fame as a female country musician, Wells’s publicists struggled with the conflicting tensions of her success up against dominant notions of femininity. In navigating these tensions, her promotional material simply juxtaposed illustrations of Wells’s fame with her homemaker identity. In an article that featured one of Wells’s recipes, the piece pointed to the reality of the performer’s life as a renowned country musician holding the title of “Most Days On the Road.”55 Over time the housewife label that originated as a promotional tool got hammered into history as fact that became code for Wells’s supposed female traits such as compliance, obedience, passivity, even indifference. From an otherwise thoughtful Kitty Wells overview in a seminal 1993 encyclopedia article, we learn that she was a “dutiful housewife” and an “unpretentious homebody.”56 A few years later two historians differed on the gender implications of Wells’s choices in style and persona: one dismissed her as “dowdy,” while the other offered a theory that her deference was critical to her success: “[She] stayed jake with the good ol’ boys and made it as a country singer in part because she seemed too placid to be much competition for anybody. She was a devoted wife and mother who didn’t drink or smoke, took a Bible with her on the road, and carried herself, the popular Tennessee governor Frank Clement observed, in ‘the finest tradition of Southern womanhood.’”57 At the least, connecting Wells’s “seeming placidity” (note qualifier) with her ability to fit into the dominant male culture addressed the question of how Wells, as a woman, rose to the top on the strength of “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” when no other woman had come close until then. This 218

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was progress—even though “placid” suggests the opposite of someone so tough and committed. As Nicholas Dawidoff observed, in her youth Wells embodied the symbolic duality between the hard worker and the sentimentalized traditional woman: “[S]he had to accentuate her own outsider status . . . to assure her fans and colleagues that she privately remained an emblem of (or at least professed allegiance to) their mythologized rural past even as she frequently performed as its antithesis in her music—and as a hard-working singer herself further threatened to expose the obsolescence of such gendered imagery. (Even her stage name was borrowed from an old folk song, ‘Sweet Kitty Wells,’ reaffirming her ties to tradition.)”58 At the same time, though, the emphasis on Wells’s placidity asserted something that had been said before: that as a young woman, the “hard-working singer” lacked the drive to become an artist. After marrying aspiring musician Johnnie Wright at the age of eighteen, she assumed she would simply settle into life as a homemaker and mother and initially did so, performing only sporadically with her husband’s act.59 Before fame, Wells symbolized a mythological past. After it, she seemed to embody a mythological present. In the 1950s, the housewife image—stayat-home, semi-retired, devoted, and dutiful—implicitly countered the soaring divorce rate and the upheaval in women’s roles since World War II, when they had joined the workforce in unprecedented numbers, only to find upon the return of veterans that their jobs were no longer secure. Anything that disturbed a woman’s adjustment into her postwar role as a housewife was thought to be a problem, said feminist Betty Friedan, who came of age during this era. Having an education, becoming politically active, asserting individuality, and particularly, working at a career were all unfeminine, she recalled. In the women’s magazines, you solved your problems by dyeing your hair blond or having a baby.60 Wells did not advocate for change for women, but as a working mother she lived it, and it was this duality, key to her identity as a transitional figure, that she offered to the outrage expressed in Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side of Life.” As a married woman with a family, Wells was safely out of Thompson’s line of fire, which was directed at a younger protagonist, a single woman who—heaven forbid!—hung out in bars. In its putdown of women and its sarcastic swipe at religion, “I didn’t know God made honky-tonk angels,” Thompson’s provocative lyric seemed to be begging for a fight. But instead of doing battle, the answer song “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” retreated to the assertion that men were responsible for women’s downfall, taken from the archetypal turn-of-the-century ballad, “She’s More to be Pitied Than Censured.” In it a stranger, a “shamed lassie,” sits alone in a Bowery concert hall, near death. At the next table a group of men make fun of her, until an “old woman” scolds that she needs their sympathy, and points out that she was led astray by a man.61 219

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Thompson replaced this tale of woe with a sharply observed narrative of the men and women of his time. No longer a stranger, he recasts the woman as the fiancée of the protagonist—an intimate. She not only leads a wayward life, but prefers it to his love. It is her fault that she is lost, not his. She has chosen her own downfall; she is on her own. Angry, not preachy, “The Wild Side of Life” changed the dynamic of songs about fallen women by assuming the point of view of a spurned man, tapping into the male energy of honky-tonk music that filled barrooms and crossed state lines in the 1940s. That transition was wild all right, especially for women. Female performers tried bravely to fit in, but their careers short-circuited, or they quit after they had families, or softened their message to sound sweeter and more compliant.62 In such a charged atmosphere, the woman who talked back to this generation of men would have to be an unusual mixture of old and new: someone unthreatening, but who could not be patronized; someone who could keep her cool and be the grownup. This woman was Kitty Wells. To an extent, it was true that, even as Wells became best known for songs that voiced the desires, laments, and indignation of the honky-tonk angel, as a female entertainer she could never risk blurring the line between her “real” and her performative selves. She ushered in a different mode of sincerity for women trespassing into honky-tonk musical territory.63 But Wells was also a good actress. “Putting over a song is a lot like being in a play,” she told biographer Walt Trott, “You’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and put your whole heart into it.”64 Singer Chely Wright, panelist at the Country Music Hall of Fame’s exhibit honoring Kitty Wells in 2009, admired her directness: “Most female singers my age who came to Nashville, so many of them said they grew up on Patsy Cline. I did grow up listening to her. But I was more taken by Wanda Jackson and Kitty Wells. I liked the girl singers, as they would say, who just sang it right at you. You felt like it was your girlfriend sitting right next to you saying, ‘This is what I got to tell you.’ I feel like Kitty Wells did that in an unparalleled fashion.”65 Adds artist Laura Cantrell, whose CD tribute Kitty Wells Dresses was released to coincide with the Country Music Hall of Fame’s retrospective: “She’s not the flashiest singer. She’s not someone who is now remembered as one of the great vocalists. I always thought she was very underestimated. She was emotional . . . but with this underlying restraint. When you pair that up with the material she was doing in the early ’50s, which was very frank and very refreshingly open . . . on matters of the heart or domestic matters, that was a pretty potent combination.”66 Wells may have demurred in terms of fashion, deferred to her husband when possible, equivocated about her role as a trailblazer, and accepted and even participated in promoting herself to her public as a reluctant star who would rather be home. But her most effective use of modesty was as an artistic device. Her 220

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voice, according to a Newsweek reviewer, was “clear and tart, her delivery without a hint of artifice,” making it easier for the listener to identify with each song’s character and her predicament.67 Her persona may have suggested that she was sweet and shy, but her singing did not. That steel blade of a voice conveyed a maturity and temerity hard to dismiss or ignore. Confident but not flashy, plaintive but not beseeching, Wells tapped into a rich vein of fans whose loyalty went deep. They heard the grit and forbearance of her experience when she sang to them—and about them. For women, she was a role model who expressed both fidelity to family values and frustration toward them. A transitional figure, she symbolized changing times: as a musician who stuck fiercely to tradition in her band; as the career wife in an otherwise traditional marriage, and as the voice of the women in her songs who predated the feminist revival but who nonetheless expressed the universal desire of women to be heard.68 Surrounded and supported by loved ones, Wells possessed a personal stability that is rare in performers—or anyone. Hardly demure, as a singer she projected a toughness and stamina honed by sixteen years’ worth of experience as a professional musician. Her talent lay in her ability to refit feminine stereotypes into tools of power and strength. She would not make waves and she would open doors: this was the contradiction upon which Wells built her reputation. Through 1966 Wells had thirty-six singles in the Top 20, twenty of them in the Top 10.69 She was the only woman in the top ten charting country artists through 1970, with fifty-six—nearly twice as many as the only other woman in the top twenty-five, Jean Shepard, who had thirty.70 As the singles proliferated, so did the diversity of the female characters they personified. Wells became a spurned lover here, a homewrecker there. She projected empathy for bar babes and divorcees who, previously, men had only shamed, pitied, or jeered at. She gave the kind of woman she wasn’t a voice. The home, not the honky-tonk, became the battleground when she portrayed wives, which she did often: loyal or disloyal, patient or practical, forlorn or fed up, even angry lifers and cynical divorcees. Thus Wells rose to the challenge of her career: to become, in her music, both the woman who stayed at home and the one who left, without making either one sound like a lie. Less than six months after giving a man his comeuppance for destroying a woman’s virtue in “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels,” Wells switched places and became the honky-tonk gal presenting herself as she is in “I Don’t Claim to be an Angel.” If she asserted territorial rights over her man in “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” she distanced herself from a fatal attraction in “There’s Poison in Your Heart.” She broke off a dead-end affair in “I’ve Kissed You My Last Time,” dared a man to be faithful in “I’m Counting on You,” and lamented the one who got away in “Searching.” The duets with Red Foley, one of the 1950s’ 221

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most popular male vocalists, also skyrocketed: five of these charted during the same four-year period, expanding Wells’s persona even further. They were starcrossed lovers in “One by One,” a Top 15 hit for an impressive forty-one weeks; Wells played an unfaithful wife returning to a distant family in “A Stranger in My Home,” and together they sentimentalized a lifelong union in “As Long as I Live.” Answer songs “consistently respond to a prior text already embedded in a gendered ideology that the ‘answer’ song cannot help but reproduce as well.”71 As Pamela Fox says, “I’m Paying for that Back Street Affair” vividly exhibits what she labels the “potential” of the form, which, limited by its “binary structure . . . cleverly incites yet also forbids response.”72 “I’m Paying for That Back Street Affair,” a followup to her first hit single that shot up to the Top 10 as well, answered the Webb Pierce hit “Back Street Affair.” My ear says it goes farther than simply, as Fox suggests, “affirming the woman’s ignorance of her lover’s marriage.”73 In the original, a married man complains to his sweet young thing, blames their breakup on neighborhood gossip, and imagines, when it cools off, the bliss of their reunion. But in Wells’s comeback, the female protagonist slams the lover first for lying about his wife’s infidelity, then using it as a justification for their fling; now the wife and girlfriend are peers wronged by the same guy. What women contributed to the dialogic between the genders in country music was their ability to express opinions at all. The topic of sex may not have been approached head on, but implicitly it was everywhere: in “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On,” for example, a woman compares herself to a beaten horse for having been used by her trifling man, then as a parting shot, points out that he’s “lost his loving touch.”74 Regarding marriage, a common stance among the many wives Wells personified was this: it may not make me happy (anymore), but it does guarantee certain rights and privileges so I’m not going anywhere. “I’d Rather Stay Home” plants the feet of a scorned wife firmly on her own territory. Given the option to “run around,” she prefers to remain where she feels she belongs and in the role her vows have committed her to for life—a stance either submissive or bold, as you wish, but a stance nonetheless. By the time Wells recorded “A Woman Half My Age” in 1966—fourteen years after her first hit single, this one stayed on the charts for three months—her trademark reserve barely concealed the keening anger of a wife beckoning her wayward husband home to “turn this sordid page” (her husband’s dalliance with a younger woman) of their marriage.75 The commercial resonance of this song was especially poignant given that, professionally speaking, Wells was fighting the same battle as its protagonist. If in the 1950s, her age had made her less threatening to an industry that prided itself on directing women—especially younger women—away from the spotlight, it was no longer an advantage. That may be why Wells finally gave up some candor when a reporter wanted to know how it felt to be on top again when “Heartbreak, U.S.A.” hit #1 and stayed there 222

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for twenty-three weeks, just as Patsy Cline was in her ascendancy.76 She spoke much more directly than usual of her stoic character and what it meant to her success: “I guess it’s like all things in the world, a woman usually has a little harder time of it than a man. . . . Everybody is braced for you to use the fact that you’re a girl as a way to get along and, in some ways, resent it. . . . Even if you never take advantage of the situation. It’s as though they expect you to break out in tears just to get your own way.”77 Wells saved a few sides for wives who were loving and grateful, too. After all, that was where she was coming from when “It Wasn’t God Who Made HonkyTonk Angels” pierced the heavens. She believed that a married woman was better off than a single one, and should try to stay that way. A strong marriage gave her life meaning off stage and on. Johnnie Wright stood behind, in front of, and next to his wife throughout their lives as a couple. I like to think that in her huge repertoire, there was one song especially directed at him. “The Things I Might Have Been,” recorded in 1952, compared two “helpless souls,” both female stereotypes, whose lives were changed by the love of a good man: one was the lost bar babe, the other a “poor stay-at-home.” Men wrote most of the lyrics that established Wells as the female voice of country music.78 But that does not mean they were not right on at least some of the time, or that as a couple Kitty Wells and Johnnie Wright did not break the mold. Wells was never a “helpless soul,” although her respect was clear when she invested this “poor stay-at-home” with an eerie prowess. Wells’s persona may have been passé even when it was new, but many of her songs still mesmerize. The first one that intrigued me, “I Gave My Wedding Dress Away,” takes its urgency from a tormented family dynamic straight out of the traditional Appalachian music playbook. Initially I thought this self-loathing lament smacked of an antifeminist tirade, yet I could not stop listening to it. Wells’s bedrock delivery directed me toward the argument of the protagonist, who, the day before her wedding, lets her sister marry the groom. She is the other woman in this narrative; little sis marries “my Jim” because, in a pathetic act of self-sacrifice, the bride orchestrates her own jilting. Yet she argues, convincingly, that if she loves them both, she is in a unique position to step aside. By so doing she becomes powerful; instead of despairing, she is able to do something good. It is a classic tale of a woman’s sacrifice for the good of others, of a mother figure taking the hit for the indiscretions of others. Outdated concepts perhaps, but they buzz around my head when I listen to Kitty Wells. I think she sang about them because they were outdated then too, and she did not want that to be true. She was old school, no doubt. Describing the watershed moment that was “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” to the press for four decades turned Wells into an expert at distancing herself from history. She deferred to her fans, her husband, her 223

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A&R man, her producer, her luck. She wished away her agency in ever recording the song in the first place. When asked how she feels about the singers who have credited her with opening the doors to women in country music, she is characteristically modest. “Well, I appreciate them saying that. I think that I was just fortunate enough that I got that answer song. I think anybody else could’ve taken the same song and made a hit out of it. But I really appreciate the compliments they give me.”79 The story of Wells’s initial indifference to “It Wasn’t God Who Made HonkyTonk Angels” has been told, retold, and reduced to a powerful metaphor about women and passivity.80 Examined slowly from start to finish, it reveals how popular culture created the myth of Kitty Wells as a “semi-retired housewife”: the one just about to vacuum the living room rug when she hears herself on the radio belting out the seminal song that will change her life, and barely looks up from her chore. The legend begins with an encouraging Johnnie and an oppositional but obedient Wells. As historian Charles Wolfe describes it, “Kitty was lukewarm about [the song], and Johnnie only slightly more enthusiastic, but he urged her to try it.”81 Next is the part of Wolfe’s narrative most often quoted, although not in its entirety: “Kitty was settling in to become a housewife again, and was thinking that the $125 union scale she got for the record was all she would get from it.”82 Here Wells’s lack of drive is demonstrated by her preference for remaining a housewife, but one with a slight edge as a trade unionist. Back then both roles fell within acceptable norms. Somewhat less acceptable is Wells’s complete quote: “at least we’ll get union scale out of it—that’s more than I got from RCA.”83 This sarcasm about her initial experiences with recording suggests unfulfilled expectations not only of RCA, but perhaps of herself as well. Maybe her reticence about “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” suggests only that the veteran performer was hedging her bets. She did not want to get burned twice. But chance it she did, recording in May 1952, and by the end of the summer it had sold 800,000 copies—a phenomenal hit for anyone, but especially for a woman. The only spin Wells provided the press, however, was more indifference. The often-repeated story usually skips past the “union scale” anecdote above to claim she knew nothing of its popularity, not even caring to see if Decca had released it. Enter an old friend, the less talented but more colorful and erratic Audrey Williams, to help Wells finish her tale and come to terms with celebrity. “Audrey had been down to Montgomery, and she said, ‘Girl, you’ve got a hit on your hands. Every station I’ve had on coming home from Montgomery was playing your song.’”84 The wife of Hank Williams Sr., an experienced traveler, and a familiar name to millions of households, Audrey schooling out-of-touch, stayat-home Kitty—a plausible ruse, since they were friends from Shreveport days, but still a ruse. After twenty years of hard living, most of it on the road; raising 224

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a family; pushing both her own and her husband’s careers forward; returning to her hometown after four years at the Hayride, much of it with top billing; and recording “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels,” which any seasoned professional might have guessed had the approximate topical value of dynamite: we’re expected to believe that she didn’t even turn on the radio? Please. Kitty Wells’s composure and restraint were legendary. She often said it was embarrassing to be voted number one year after year, “when there were other good singers such as Goldie Hill, Skeeter Davis, and Jean Shepard.”85 The industry seemed poised to dismiss her as well, almost as soon as she became famous. Radio listeners responding to a poll crowned her the “Queen of Country Music” in 1954, but it was deejay and songwriter Fred Rose’s imprimatur that made it stick. Before there was any real competition, they seemed to be saying the contest was over and done. Wells’s stardom was transforming, introducing women—married, single, in or out of love—to country music fans through a single voice. Despite her extensive repertoire and impressive longevity, however, her image remained comfortably within acceptable gender boundaries. The gingham party dresses and sensible shoes of her first Opry appearances put her in a party mood, but her look was more Carter Family than cowgirl. Offstage publicity photos taken to enhance her housewife persona soon after her fame spread, on the other hand, portray a self-aware woman, happy and confident. No one looks this good in a shirtwaist print and a string of pearls without thinking about it. Still, she did her best to tone down and conceal. Maybe that’s why a candid side view in the studio of Wells at work, sharing a mike with duet partner Webb Pierce, seems so intimate. Hands clasped chastely behind her, she has tilted her head so far to the left that she seems about ready to nuzzle into his neck. The popular-culture blender of the 1950s mixed in a wild variety of women’s personas. Consider the chance meeting of Wells and Marilyn Monroe, who had a walk-on part on a 1956 television segment of the Grand Ole Opry’s Purina Show. A good sport and brave, Wells managed an undramatic rendition of “Searching” as the featured musical guest, but when the two women were switched “by mistake” courtesy of comedian Rod Brasfield, Wells, with a little shrug and maybe a giggle, walked off to the rear of the stage to sit on a hay bale holding her can of sponsored Coca-Cola. Brasfield, meanwhile, engaged Monroe in a few bars of “I Saw the Light” as she let him teach her to “dance” in his prison-stripe bathing suit. The punch line, as Brasfield picked up a piece of meat from a barbeque grill: “It’s amazing how much better chicken is today than it was back in grandma’s day.”86 The conservative values the Wrights had espoused were growing less current, not only around Wells as a role model but in the band’s musical leanings. At the vortex of the storm that became the Nashville Sound, they were the ones who stayed behind, insisting for example on a strict “no drums” policy in the 225

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recording studio until they could no longer hold out. In 1969 the Wrights tried a “wholesome” family TV variety show, but it was short-lived.87 When Wells finally got into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1976, she all but endorsed the long delay with her sincere reaction that so many others were as deserving as she.88 Meanwhile, popular culture got busy ignoring Wells amidst the resurgent interest in country music’s women generated by three films. The previous year director Robert Altman had released Nashville, a threehour epic with twelve characters—not one of whom even hinted at Wells as a prototype. Featured are an aging male star, Haven Henderson (Henry Gibson), who is corrupted by stardom and political ambition, and a younger, beloved female singer with fainting problems, Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakely). Anyone resembling Wells would never have fit in with that cynical crowd, although the Blakely character was thought to have been based on Loretta Lynn.89 Because the actors in the wonderful biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter released in 1980— Sissy Spacek as Loretta Lynn and Beverly D’Angelo as Patsy Cline—did their own singing, it would have been tricky to write in a part for Wells, although you can hear “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” coming through a car radio faintly in an early scene.90 The biopic Sweet Dreams offers two curiously elliptical references to Wells: in an early scene when they first meet, Charlie Dick (Ed Harris) flirts with Patsy Cline (Jessica Lange), by challenging, “You ever hear Kitty Wells? You can’t sing as good as her.” Then near the film’s tragic climax, when her producer, Randy Hughes (David Clennon), discusses how well sales are going, and asks, “Do you want to be the next Kitty Wells?” she scoffs, “Hell no, I want to be the next Hank Williams.”91 Throwaway lines though they may be, their purpose is to titillate the audience, as Cline’s death is imminent. She was often compared to men because she was outspoken, used profanity, and was unrepentant about her philandering and hard living.92 That’s why she prefers being compared to a legend (man) whose fast life led to his death, and whose status in “hillbilly heaven” by the mid1980s was equal to her own, rather than to Wells, who was uncontroversial.93 Still, it hurts a little that the script buries Wells in the process. Although Wells’s longevity allowed her to enjoy recognition of her achievements, she was never one to bask in the limelight. In 1989, on tour in Texas, a reporter asked if she had any regrets: “It’s not an easy life, but I don’t know of anything I’d rather have done.”94 Each time that she was awarded, recognized, or celebrated, her nonplussed reaction to “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels” was unchanged. To the end she remained uncomfortable acknowledging her influence, except in the politest way possible. It could not have been the first time when he asked her if she felt she represented all women when she sang. “Well, no, I’ve never given it much thought, but I suppose you’re right,” she answered.95 She was seventy years old. Good to know. 226

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Notes 1. Allison Stewart, “Be Specific: Interview with Laura Cantrell on her Kitty Wells Tribute Album,” Click Track: Washington Post Pop Music Blog, June 2, 2011, www.washingtonpost.com/ blogs/click-track/post/be-specific-laura-cantrell-on-her-kitty-wells-tribute-album/2011/06/02/ AGqhkHHH_blog.html, accessed January 3, 2014. 2. Walt Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels: The Life and Legend of Kitty Wells, Johnny Wright— and Chronicling the Career of Johnny & Jack (Nashville: Ambrose, 1987). 3. Nicholas Dawidoff, In the Country of Country: People and Places in American Music (New York: Pantheon, 1997), 69. 4. For examples, see Bill Friskics-Warren, “Kitty Wells, Trailblazing Country Singer, Dies at 92,” New York Times, July 17, 2012, A23; Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 90, 93. 5. Friskics-Warren, “Kitty Wells,” A23. 6. The spelling of Johnnie Wright’s name varies. He told biographer Walt Trott, “It’s J-O-HN-N-I-E on my birth certificate,” but in 1961, when Wells signed with Decca, the label misspelled his name as “Johnny.” “I just went along with it,” he explained in 1987. “When I autograph now, I use the y, but I like it better with an i-e.” (Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 34). Here, his name will be spelled according to his preference except in quoted material or publication titles. 7. Kristine M. McCusker, Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2008), 28. Stephanie Vander Wel observes the same likeness to make her argument that “Wells positioned herself in a rural mountain culture of the nineteenth century, the bucolic past.” Stephanie Vander Wel, “I Am A Honky-Tonk Girl: Country Music, Gender, and Migration,” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2008), 227–28. 8. Or, as Pamela Fox put it in Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009): “At a time when country music was dominated by male artists, she found a niche in part because she paradoxically signified ‘Victorianinfluenced old-country culture’ and thereby posed no seeming threat to either the industry or conventional gender codes” (94). In an endnote Fox credits Robert K. Oermann in “HonkyTonk Angels: Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline,” in Country: The Music and the Musicians, ed. Paul Kingsbury and Alan Axelrod (New York: Abbeville Press, 1994) and Dawidoff in In the Country of Country with similar ideas. 9. Loretta Lynn with George Vecsey, Coal Miner’s Daughter (Chicago: Henry Regnery, 1976), 64. 10. Vander Wel, “I Am A Honky-Tonk Girl,” 200. 11. Joel Whitburn, Top Country & Western Records 1949-1971 (Menomonee Falls, WI: Record Research, 1972), 149. 12. Bill Friskics-Warren, “The Undisputed Queen,” (Nashville) Tennessean, August 27, 1999, 27. Song publisher Fred Rose first called Wells the “Queen of Country Music” in 1954, when Wells and Red Foley scored her second #1 hit, “One by One.” 13. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 103. 14. “Eddie Stubbs’ Tribute to Kitty Wells,” WSM Online, July 23, 2012, www.wsmonline.com/ watch-listen/tributes-archives/, accessed January 3, 2014. 15. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 18. 16. Charles Wolfe, liner notes, Kitty Wells: The Queen of Country Music (Bear Family Records, BCD 15638), 2.

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Georgia Christgau 17. Vander Wel, “I Am A Honky-Tonk Girl,” 211. 18. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 4. 19. Ibid., 7. 20. “Mrs. Deason, Mother of Kitty Wells, Dies,” (Nashville) Banner, September 19, 1967. 21. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 6. 22. Mary A. Bufwack and Robert K. Oermann, Finding Her Voice: The Saga of Women in Country Music (New York: Crown, 1993), 177. 23. Ibid., 16. 24. Ibid., 32. 25. Wolfe, liner notes, Kitty Wells, 3. 26. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 36. 27. Ibid., 36. 28. Wolfe, liner notes, Kitty Wells, 4. 29. Ibid., 2. 30. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 38. 31. Ibid., 43. 32. Ibid., 51. 33. Ibid., 52. 34. Ibid., 56. 35. Ibid., 66. 36. Ibid., 56. 37. Ibid., 58. 38. Ibid. 39. Ibid., 65. “For what would be a four-year working relationship, Kitty and Johnny rented a house in Shreveport. They hired a housekeeper, Dora Gardner, to help tend their children, Ruby, Bobby, and Carol Sue.” 40. Ibid., 68. 41. Ibid., 13. 42. Clara Heironymus, “Kitty Wells’ Secret—Personality Projection,” (Nashville) Tennessean, November 15, 1959, 14. 43. Ibid. 44. Wolfe, liner notes, Kitty Wells, 4. 45. Ken Burke, Country Music Changed My Life: Tales of Tough Times and Triumph from Country’s Legends (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2005), 283. 46. Ibid., 283. 47. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 85. 48. Wolfe, liner notes, Kitty Wells, 4. 49. Ibid. 50. Burke, Country Music Changed My Life, 283. 51. Wolfe, liner notes, Kitty Wells, 4. 52. Dawidoff, In the Country of Country, 70. 53. Michael McCall to author, e-mail, July 1, 2012 (in author’s possession). 54. Emily C. Neely, “Charline Arthur: The (Un)Making of a Honky-Tonk Star,” in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold (Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2004), 56. 228

Kitty Wells, Queen of Denial 55. Vander Wel, “I Am A Honky-Tonk Girl,” 230. 56. Bufwack and Oermann, Finding Her Voice, 176. 57. Richard A. Peterson, Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 153; Dawidoff, In the Country of Country, 66. 58. Dawidoff, In the Country of Country, 94–95. 59. Fox, Natural Acts, 94. 60. Bufwack and Oermann, Finding Her Voice, 175. 61. Ibid., 178. Bufwack and Oermann’s excellent discussion of “She’s More to Be Pitied Than Censured” inspired me to investigate Wells further, and should be read on its own merits. 62. I have not mentioned her anywhere else, so I will here: Had Charline Arthur, ten years younger than Wells, lasted instead of burning out, the trajectory of women in country music in the 1950s would have developed more rapidly. 63. Fox, Natural Acts, 94. 64. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 173. 65. Michael McCall, “Finding Her Voice: Kitty Wells and her Country Sisters,” Country Music Hall of Fame, http://countrymusichalloffame.org/past- programs/view/78?month=04&d ay=25&year=2009, accessed January 3, 2014. 66. Stewart, “Be Specific.” 67. David Gates, “Country’s First Queen,” Newsweek, August 12, 1985, 60. 68. Vander Wel, “I Am A Honky-Tonk Girl,” 234. Vander Wel cites Peterson as validating Wells’s commitment to “hard country” in Creating Country Music as well as Charles Newman, who, in a 1964 issue of Country Song Roundup, applauded Wells for “refusing modern accompaniment of any kind.” 69. Whitburn, Top Country & Western Records 1949-1971, 81–82. 70. Ibid., 149. 71. Fox, Natural Acts, 93. 72. Ibid., 92. 73. Ibid., 98. 74. Billy Wallace and Kitty Wells, “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On,” performed by Kitty Wells, Kitty Wells: The Queen of Country Music (Bear Family Records BCD15638, 1993). 75. Whitburn, Top Country & Western Records 1949-1971, 82. 76. Ibid., 82. None of her other singles reached #1 except “It Wasn’t God Who Made HonkyTonk Angels,” for a sixteen-week run in 1952. 77. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 159. 78. “The Things I Might Have Been,” for instance, was written by Robert and Richard Sherman. 79. Burke, Country Music Changed My Life, 283. 80. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 93. 81. Wolfe, liner notes, Kitty Wells, 4. 82. Ibid. See also Friskics-Warren, “Kitty Wells”; Dawidoff, In the Country of Country, 67. 83. Johnnie Wright and Kitty Wells interview by Eddie Stubbs, August 2005 (Frist Library and Archive, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Nashville). 84. Friskics-Warren, “The Undisputed Queen,” 21. 85. Bufwack and Oermann, Finding Her Voice, 179. 86. Grand Ole Opry Purina Shows, 1959 (VHS recording), audiovisual collection (Frist Library and Archive). 229

Georgia Christgau 87. Bill Friskics-Warren, “The Undisputed Queen,” 28. 88. Trott, The Honky Tonk Angels, 159. 89. Nashville, dir. Robert Altman (Paramount, 1975). 90. Coal Miner’s Daughter, dir. Michael Apted (Universal, 1980). 91. Sweet Dreams, dir. Karel Reisz (TriStar, 1985). 92. Dawidoff, In the Country of Country, 72. 93. Ibid., 77. Cline died in a plane crash in 1963, which also killed Hughes and two musicians. 94. Jim Beal Jr., “Sounds,” San Antonio Express News, February 24, 1989, 26. 95. Ibid.

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Gender Deviance and Class Rebellion in “Redneck Woman” nADine hubbS

In 2004 Gretchen Wilson exploded onto the country music scene with “Redneck Woman.” The blockbuster single led to the early release of her first CD, Here for the Party, and propelled it to triple platinum sales that year, the highest for a debut in any musical category. “Redneck Woman” shot to #1 faster than any country track in the previous decade and held the top spot for five weeks. Wilson garnered a raft of distinctions, including a Grammy for Best Country Song and Best Female Vocalist honors from both the Country Music and American Music Awards. The record was a milestone in country music and in the career of Wilson, who went in a few weeks from struggling Nashville unknown to top-selling Nashville star. In the process, the “Redneck Woman” she had created with cowriter and MuzikMafia crewmate John Rich became not only her signature song but her star persona. Redneck Woman was the tag line that served to introduce Wilson in public appearances and media features. The neck of her guitar even proclaimed “REDNECK” in mother of pearl inlay. More than a nickname, the handle keyed to a network of images, attributes, and attitudes that Wilson represented and that, for fans, represented her in an essential way. Loretta Lynn was the Coal Miner’s Daughter, Johnny Cash the Man in Black, and now Gretchen Wilson was the Redneck Woman. Anyone curious about the meaning of any of these monikers could simply listen to the eponymous song. All three songs have served as identity totems for their singers and the fans who have embraced them. All are first-person narrations on themes that have been prevalent in postwar country music, including an identification with humble folk—both the materially impoverished and the socially scorned. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (a #1 hit in 1970) poignantly chronicles the singer’s hardscrabble family origins in a Kentucky holler. Its message is familiar to country fans: We were poor, but we had love—of God and each other. The narrator in “Man in Black” (a #3 hit in 1971) explains that he shuns color in his dress to protest poverty, hopelessness, and lives lost to war and imprisonment. That song’s lyrics invoke another champion of the downtrodden, Jesus. The persona 231

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in “Redneck Woman” acknowledges her own scorned status but frames it with neither poignancy nor righteous protest. Her statement is a defiant apologia for herself and her redneck sisters and their “trashy” social position. Wilson’s breakthrough single, with its extraordinary reception and success in the country music market, remakes white working-class female identity through language, sound, and images and in relation to middle-class/workingclass, male/female, and individual/communal affiliations. It is an identity bereft of cachet, or “cultural exchange-value,” according to the British sociologist and theorist Beverley Skeggs, whose work powerfully illuminates the cultural terrain on which the song is produced and received. Skeggs offers a theory on the workings of the contemporary Western political and symbolic economy—a cultural system that elevates stories of individual subjects and rewards those who can access, use, and display the right identity attributes. The winners are those who are positioned to access other subjects’ “properties”; these powerful actors can “use the classifications and characteristics of race, sexuality, class, and gender as resources” by borrowing them, fluidly and according to the circumstances, from the subject positions to which they are seen to belong. Such self-resourcing takes place in a modern neoliberal context of “propertized personhood.” Here, exchange value attaches, not only to objects or the labor that transforms them into possessions (as in Marx), but to “the cultures, experiences, and affects of others” that entitled subjects use as resources for middle-class self-construction.1 Less entitled subjects, however, are limited in their ability to trade and convert their characteristics and classifications “because they are positioned as those classifications and are fixed by them.” So, while the criminality that attaches to white working-class males and the cool that attaches (among other characteristics) to their black counterparts can be detached and deployed as resources by white middle-class men to enhance their cultural power, the source-subjects are pathologized and essentialized by their criminality and cool. In another example, from the workplace, straight male managers who perform feminine caring enhance their symbolic value and power, but women in the same role are essentialized, perceived as simply being themselves, and derive no special rewards. Indeed, they may be penalized for their (presumed) tendency to caring when toughness or another quality is called for. Certain selves are fixed in place so others can be mobile.2 Skeggs’s analysis underscores the salience of the symbolic in contemporary cultural and economic processes and the emphasis, in prevailing perspectives, on individual agency to the exclusion of prior structural and systematic conditions in society. “Structural inequality is moralized as a pathological effect of the inability to display the correct subjectivity, to resource oneself effectively in a moralscopic economy of recognizable visible difference.”3 232

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Skeggs also identifies a particular type of misrecognition operating here, a kind of reverse misrecognition. Misrecognition, in the usage of sociologist and theorist Pierre Bourdieu, is a spurious attribution of natural, hence legitimate, privilege and power to the privileged and powerful, in which the energies and efforts that endowed an individual with knowledge and talents (e.g., family expenditures and sacrifices and elite education in the child-rearing practice the sociologist Annette Lareau calls “concerted cultivation”) are hidden, and an individual is credited with superior innate gifts. Skeggs’s point is that the reverse process also occurs. Subjects inscribed by racial, gender, sexual, and/or class stigma who lack privilege and power “do not have to achieve immorality or criminality; they have been positioned and fixed by these values.” Skeggs flags this process as another form of misrecognition, “not a hiding of the operations of the powerful, but a hiding of the systems of inscription and classification (which work in the interests of the powerful).” She notes that the powerful hide the illegitimacy of their claims to power not only through Bourdieusian misrecognition, which falsely naturalizes their superior position, but through their “access to systems of symbolic domination, which impose fixity onto those from whom they draw and claim moral distance” and thus establish social power. These symbolic systems of inscription, value, and exchange are central to “how differences (and inequalities) are produced [and] lived.”4 An ethnographic study of white working-class women by Skeggs found the women’s position to be severely limited in the prevailing symbolic economy. They are inscribed with certain cultural dispositions, but none that inspire borrowing by others. Their subject-resources are assessed as fixed and worthless, having use-value only to themselves and perhaps their communities, and no exchange value in the cultural marketplace. Consequently, the women face restrictions on their economic value and their sense of individual value. Skeggs writes of her research subjects that a “daily struggle for value was central to their ability to operate in the world and their sense of subjectivity and self-worth.”5 Her analysis offers a frame for understanding the phenomenal popularity of “Redneck Woman,” particularly among fans its chorus calls out as “redneck girls” (“Let me get a big hell yeah from the redneck girls like me”). The record uses self-resourcing techniques and songcraft to affirm the distinctiveness and legitimacy of the Redneck Woman, and does so in solidarity with redneck men. Indeed, the track trades on the only exchange value Skeggs locates in white working-class identity, male criminality, through allusions to hardcore rock and country icons. “Redneck Woman” positions itself on the hard side of a hard/soft country duality identified by Richard Peterson as a perennial dialectic in commercial country music, with gendered roots in earlier male public (barn dance) performance and female domestic vocal (parlor) performance, 233

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respectively. The song invites comparison with postwar hard country, which the scholar and critic Barbara Ching analyzes as a “burlesque abjection” of culturally low, ineffectual white masculinity defiantly enacted against the foil of “women and conventionally successful men.”6 “Redneck Woman” is also defiant but directs its defiance exclusively at the dominant middle-class culture. It offers moments of burlesque in lyrics touting the narrator’s unrepentant year-round Christmas displays, barefoot baby-toting, and preference for cheap Walmart lingerie. But it stakes serious claims for her resourcefulness, country affiliations and tastes, desirability, and especially, agency. Indeed, the song de-essentializes and thus remakes a subjectivity long disowned and devalued in the dominant culture and once labeled the “Virile Female”—by proclaiming it deliberately chosen. This remaking calls upon popular music’s capacity to model and create social identity.7 And it begins at the song’s title, with its juxtaposition of clashing identities.

Framing the Redneck The first of these identities, “redneck,” is conspicuously classed, but its workingclass valence is also marked in terms of race—white; locale—provincial; and sex—the “redneck” label conventionally attaching to maleness and connoting a rough style of masculinity, often, but not exclusively, southern.8 Several scholars have noted the emergence in the 1970s of a redneck pride phenomenon in the United States, with roots in country music. Peterson documents an early redneck pride moment beginning in 1973, and involving a spate of country songs over the next few years, that helped to redefine the word redneck and make it into a label voluntarily claimed and positively associated with “an anti-bourgeois attitude and lifestyle.” Country music historian Bill Malone sees in Jimmy Carter’s 1976 election the dawn of a more “benign” view of the South, accompanied by a shift in meanings: “‘Redneck’ seemed somehow to be overcoming the association with racial bigotry from which it suffered in the early 1960s, and instead was now being used to describe white working-class males. It became a proud self-designation for many white southerners and by the early eighties was appearing frequently in country songs.” In fact, these changes extended beyond the South, at the least to the industrial Midwest and other destinations of the many white southerners who migrated north in the twentieth century. Thus the cultural anthropologist John Hartigan notes, in connection with his ethnographic work in Detroit, that by the late 1980s terms like redneck, hillbilly, and country boy were claimed with pride and used almost interchangeably to connote “working-class lifestyle and consciousness.”9

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By the early 1990s the comedian Jeff Foxworthy had taken up the torch of redneck pride. Foxworthy launched a thriving redneck comedy industry in US popular culture and in 2000, with three fellow comedians, brought the phenomenon to its apex in the Blue Collar Comedy Tour. At the core of Foxworthy’s franchise is an ever-growing list of jokes in the form, “If ____, you might be a redneck.” In live performance Foxworthy’s redneck-revealer lines elicit enthusiastic response from his nearly all-white audience, who generally appear to be, like Foxworthy himself, at least once removed from redneck identity. His stand-up comedy expanded the visibility of redneck reclamation and advanced a commercial and cultural redneck pride movement that inspired identification, however ironic, with a persona elsewhere despised and unfashionable. Foxworthy and company’s runaway popularity lent “redneck” a brand currency that undoubtedly helped set the stage for “Redneck Woman.” Here, however, redneck identity was decidedly male. All four comedians on the 2000 Blue Collar tour were male, and their humor centered on a male redneck subject. Foxworthy’s “you might be a redneck” gags often hinge on a reference to the redneck’s wife or girlfriend or otherwise conjure a male subject implicitly via compulsory heterosexuality (“If you go to the family reunion to meet women, you might be a redneck”). The redneck’s maleness is also explicit in the Carterera context described by Malone and in some late-twentieth-century literary examples given in the Oxford English Dictionary under the term redneck: 1978 J. UPDIKE Coup v. 192 Her momma’s a washrag and her daddy’s a redneck. 1974 New Yorker 25 Feb. 102/3 He seems Southern redneck—a common man who works outdoors in the sun—to the soul.10

Prior to the 2004 release of “Redneck Woman,” then, a turn-of-the-millennium redneck craze had brought to a head three decades of redneck pride. It created an audience for representations of redneck identity perceived as funny or telling while retrenching its maleness. Gender is thus foregrounded in “Redneck Woman” beginning with the title, where cross-paired identities create a stereotype-jolting effect like that of “female surgeon” or “lady plumber.” Here begins too the foregrounding of class, and its entanglement with gender. Listeners are likely to be drawn into “Redneck Woman” by the implications of the title, including the implication that the song might shed some light on its genderand class-freighted contradictions. And it does, through both music and lyrics, in ways that we will examine in some detail. Before opening that examination involving interlinked issues of gender, class, and country music, it will be useful to engage some existing dialogues around and within these three domains, as found in scholarship and in country songs themselves.

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Class (Un)Consciousness and Country Music Denial of class difference runs high in American society. Several decades’ sociological research has documented a tendency “for all but the very rich and very poor to define themselves as middle class.”11 This probably reflects the historical success of US labor unions, which, as the historian Jefferson Cowie notes, “fostered a relatively affluent industrial working class, which often passed in American political discourse for the amorphous ‘middle class.’” Since 1973, that working-class affluence has passed: “Weekly earnings of non-supervisory workers increased 62 percent between 1947 and 1972 before stagnating indefinitely thereafter.”12 But still the middle class is “almost a national category,” in anthropologist Sherry Ortner’s words. Polling in late 2008 showed that even among Americans with annual family incomes over $150,000, 33 percent self-identified as middle class, and 41 percent of those with annual family incomes under $20,000 (below the federal poverty line) self-identified as middle class.13 Ortner traces the emergence of this labeling tendency to a postwar “national project” she calls the “middle-classing of (white) America.” Directed at improving working-class minds, skills, and consumerism through the G.I. Bill and other programs, its rationales included defense of capitalism against communist encroachment, defense (in the wake of Nazism) of the populace against ideological vulnerability, and deflection of “the class consciousness and incipient class warfare” that had arisen during the Great Depression. Indeed, amid the economic crisis and populist-left political actions of the 1930s, working class was a designation that many Americans wore proudly. The phrase “middle-classing of (white) America” contains a racial qualification, and it is an important one. Historian and political scientist Ira Katznelson has shown that pre- and postwar federal social initiatives, including Fair Deal and New Deal policies and the G.I. Bill, strategically excluded African Americans at the behest of the powerful southern Democrats. Lawmakers from Jim Crow states favored various dodges and loopholes to exclude African Americans from social benefits—for example, the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act excluded maids and agricultural laborers and so, effectively excluded African American workers from its important reforms. By these means, the legislators preserved a poverty-wage black service class in the South. In assuaging the southern white politicians, the US government excluded African Americans from the nation’s earliest, transformative program of affirmative action, and thus engineered a postwar prosperity in which inequality between blacks and whites actually grew.14 Katznelson’s work can shed light on the mutual entanglement of race and class in the results of what Ortner calls the postwar US middle-classing project. In Ortner’s account, the results included “obscuring the older middle class/ 236

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working-class boundary, especially among white people,” and the transformation of class, with its linkages to communism, into “a kind of dirty word.” Within the national discourse the class boundary was “largely replaced with a race boundary; and everyone white—with a few virtually invisible ‘exceptions’ at both ends—became, or imagined themselves to have become, middle class.” One might add that race and class were conflated, such that people of color were assumed to be poor and working class, and white people middle and upper class.15 These class-confused notions persist in the United States generally. But might we not expect things to be different in country music, given its legendary links to the white working class? Peterson addressed this question in his 1992 essay “Class Unconsciousness in Country Music.” He contends that country music engages with and celebrates working-class topics but does so, across all its thematic genres, in a way that is politically regressive and fosters “class unconsciousness.” Describing the latter as a “fatalistic state in which people bemoan their fate, yet accept it,” Peterson echoes countless critiques of country music as impotently whiny and self-pitying. Reading fatalistic acceptance and hence class unconsciousness in songs that fail to call for collective action against the capitalist owners, Peterson aligns his analysis of country music with the orthodox Marxian notion of working-class consciousness, a recognition of one’s group membership and economic interests that finds its definitive expression in proletarian uprising.16 In the course of his discussion, Peterson reckons that country music offers fewer songs about American-dream upward mobility than what he calls “poverty pride,” which asserts that it is better to be poor than rich. This message indeed surfaces often in country (e.g., “Coal Miner’s Daughter”), whether the reason offered is that of avoiding emptiness and misery, staying humble and real, or that poverty is better in God’s eyes. Elsewhere, examining representative country songs’ treatment of nation, race, gender, region, rurality, and religion, Peterson concludes of each topic that it is a distraction serving to “deflect . . . considerations of class” and “the emergence of class consciousness.” Similarly, when noting the 1980s advent of a country music trope he dubs the “tribute to working people,” Peterson underscores its failure to “highlight exploitation or identify an exploiter.” Overall he finds that class consciousness in country songs, once evoked, is “diffused” or “explicitly dissipated.”17 This analysis neglects to consider that country music might be engaged in sophisticated artistic processes—here, involving meanings beyond the literal surface sense of song lyrics.18 By contrast, the American cultural scholar George Lipsitz echoes Dorothy Horstman’s observation about Hank Williams—that “part of his appeal to audiences came from his ability to infuse songs about failed romance with the injuries of class.” In Horstman’s attuned reading, “a tragic love affair, then, is the final insult—and perhaps the focus for economic and social 237

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frustrations it would be unmanly to admit.”19 This suggests, contra Peterson’s implication, that country may not just fool itself out of sheer false consciousness into locating power struggles and economic frustrations in heterosexual gender wars, thus pissing its revolutionary impulse down its leg. Rather, Hank Williams uses deliberate displacement and poetic figuration to register social and economic woes without alienating audience sympathies. An axiomatic assumption operating throughout Peterson’s analysis is the notion that class consciousness should incite the working class to revolution, overthrowing the capitalist system. If Peterson never questions this tenet, others have done so. By 1914 Max Weber had scrutinized the “direct and immediate” link many Marxists then assumed between class and class consciousness, calling it a “pseudo-scientific operation.” Neo-Marxist scholars from the “historical sociology camp” (in Ortner’s terms) have argued that “we should stop looking at what the working class has only infrequently done, which is become conscious of itself as the vehicle for revolutionary social change . . . [and] look at the extraordinary range of ways in which it has formulated and expressed a distinct identity and a distinct relationship to the rest of society.” British class scholars Valerie Walkerdine and Helen Lucey call the expectation for proletarian revolution a projected fantasy of the middle class and charge that the white working class has been abandoned by the popular Left for its failure to realize this fantasy.20 Despite various compelling critiques of the classical Marxist conception of working-class consciousness, Peterson neither defends nor questions its use as his central premise. His thesis that country music demonstrates class unconsciousness can thus be readily dispatched by all but those who hold that a conscious working class would, by definition, unite to overthrow capitalism. Malone has directly contradicted the assessment of class unconsciousness in country: “Modern country work songs do not dwell exclusively on nostalgia or pride; they sometimes bristle with anger and class consciousness. They express resentment, not radicalism. Although problems abound, the ‘enemy’ remains ill-defined.”21 Malone’s phrase “resentment, not radicalism” recalls that “fatalistic state” Peterson calls class unconsciousness, “in which people bemoan their fate, yet accept it.” Malone’s usage, however, neither trivializes nor condemns country expressions of resentment-sans-radicalism but grants them legitimacy. Such expressions are further legitimated by Ortner’s identification of class in the national discourse as “almost entirely a matter of economic gradations of goods and privilege” and “embedded in narratives of snobbery and humiliation,” or, as Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb put it, “the hidden injuries of class.” Class formation is fought out, not in any “Marxist narrative of irreconcilable differences” between capital and labor (in Ortner’s words), but rather “at the level of

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the symbolic.” The focus here—as in “Redneck Woman”—is not on production, but on consumption and symbolic exchange in capitalist society.22 Bourdieu’s writings on class cultures illuminate the cultural logic at work in so-called poverty pride songs—and indeed, in the mechanisms of workingclass formation. Bourdieu argues that subordinate groups often internalize the limits of their position in society and thus exercise “the choice of the necessary.” They exclude from consideration those aspirations and actions that are improbable for members of their group, “either totally without examination, as unthinkable, or at the cost of the double negation,” which inclines subjects “to refuse what is anyway refused [to them] and to love the inevitable,” a “virtue made of necessity.”23 Country songs present an endless array of foreshortened working-class tastes and “choices,” a love for “the inevitable” including modest or impoverished life conditions, low-status Walmart wardrobes, and being labeled “redneck.” Recent research offers further perspectives on value, taste, and choice in the working class. Experiments by Alana Conner Snibbe and Hazel Rose Markus suggest that working-class individuals focus less than middle-class individuals on choice and control over the external world, and more on personal integrity and self-control.24 Notably, “Redneck Woman” speaks to both perspectives. The song’s narrator also addresses a reigning social condition in the United States, the separation and mutual opacity of the classes (which political anthropologist James Scott has referred to as “class apartheid”), when she points out to the listener who “might think I’m trashy, a little too hardcore” the codes and values proper to her “neck of the woods,” where she’s “just the girl next door.”25 In the context of radically separate social and cultural spheres, country music’s working-class reputation and focus often inspire alienation and revulsion in middle-class audiences. But the working class has its own views and values, separate from and unrecognized by the middle-class system of values and symbolic exchange, and (as Bourdieu demonstrates) dominated by it. Ethnographic research by Michèle Lamont shows that American workingmen place moral value above economic value and so, in the terms of their own value system, place themselves above the middle class. This can suggest a subculturally productive function of country’s poverty pride songs (We were poor, but we had love) having nothing to do with revolution—that of affirming collective self-worth against the dominant culture’s devaluations of the working class. Aaron Fox also posits a transformative process of affirmation whereby country’s abject status in the dominant culture allows it to be alchemized into sublime pleasure in the shared social rituals of the honky-tonk, which entail music, dancing, alcohol, cigarettes, and working-class sociability. Fox suggests that for working-class devotees, the honky-tonk’s inversion of hierarchies of

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musical value, of country from (dominant-cultural) bad to (subcultural) good, implies a similar reversal in the socially prescribed realm of human value.26 All of this links to Wilson and “Redneck Woman.” The song is a gender-inclusive statement of redneck pride and a call to twenty-first-century working-class consciousness, fine-tuned to distinctions of consumption and self-construction and their social, economic, and affective reverberations. It exemplifies Bourdieu’s scenario whereby the “object” of sociology’s classifications produces her own “classifying operations” and articulates a polemical view of the other class. For example, the lyric in verse two classifies lingerie consumers in terms of Victoria’s Secret versus Walmart types and scoffs at those who would pay twice as much at Victoria’s Secret for “the same damn thing” Walmart sells, just for the status marker of a “designer tag.” Such attention to details of clothing and style has long been feminized, trivialized, and readily condemned as a dissipation of revolutionary impulse. As the British historian Carolyn Kay Steedman points out, however, fashionable clothing is a necessity for women and girls’ entry into the social world and historically has been an object of working-class women’s desires and labors. She contends that the desire and envy of poor and working-class women for “decent clothes” is nothing less than political, a contention borne out by “Redneck Woman.”27 The narrator expresses her interest in attractive clothes in tandem with disdain for the social and cultural tyranny of designer labels, empty status markers of bourgeois individualism, premised on a distinction between the individual and the (here, Walmart-clad) masses.

The Multimedia Creation of Gretchen Wilson’s Gender and Class Persona Historians and critics of country music have devoted considerable attention to the ways in which country artists convey sincerity and biographical authenticity, or realness, through their songs and public personas. Peterson has examined the creation of country music as a process of “fabricating authenticity,” and Jimmie N. Rogers has written of the “sincerity contract” in country as the expectation for rapport between a credible, straightforward artist and her or his audience. The latter ideal finds illustration in Wilson, who since 2004 has cultivated an image as a real “Redneck Woman” along the lines sketched in her song. We see her in the video muddin’ on a four-wheeler and elsewhere, in ads and media reports, modeling jeans and lingerie beside a shiny new Chevy pickup; hanging out with “ol’ Bocephus,” Hank Williams Jr.; and wielding her “REDNECK” signature guitar. All these images encourage us, particularly through gender and class signifiers, to understand Wilson as one and the same with the “Redneck Woman” of her song.28 So does the biographical information that circulated in the press and 240

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media and in the lyrics of the track “Pocahontas Proud” upon the release of her debut album. It emphasized the singer’s background as the child of a teenage mother; a resident of trailer parks in rural Pocahontas, Illinois; an eighth-grade dropout who went to work tending bar in a rough country dive. “At fifteen I was tending Big O’s Bar / I’d sing till two a.m. for a half full tip jar . . . / And I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let ’em down,” she sang in “Pocahontas Proud.” The elaboration of Wilson as Redneck Woman continued with the 2007 release of an autobiography (with co-author Allen Rucker) titled Redneck Woman: Stories from My Life. In early 2010 Columbia Nashville issued Gretchen Wilson: Greatest Hits with a rusting, battered mobile home pictured on the cover. And two months later Wilson announced her fourth studio album, I Got Your Country Right Here, as the first release on her own label, Redneck Records. The track “Redneck Woman” asserts multiple affiliations of gender and class, as well as race and taste, through its many shout-outs. These include name-checks and musical references to a pantheon of male hard country and rock gods, along with a few marketplace endorsements (beer, Walmart) and dis-endorsements (Barbie, champagne, Victoria’s Secret), all defining a distinct “Redneck Woman” identity profile. Wilson invokes the southern-rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd, self-proclaimed “American Bad Ass” Kid Rock, “King of Country” George Strait, “Redneck Fiddlin’ Man” Charlie Daniels, hard country icon Hank Williams Jr., and one woman: Tanya Tucker, the so-called “bad girl of country” and the only iconic female star associated with the 1970s Outlaw country movement.29 Each chorus ends with a “Hell yeah” performed in slightly ragged unison by what we might call the “regular folk’s chorus” (here, sounding young and female), a feature of various country songs in the new country era, including well-known hits: Brad Paisley, “Welcome to the Future” (2009) and “Alcohol” (2005); Toby Keith, “Get Drunk and Be Somebody” (2006) and “I Love This Bar” (2003); Martina McBride, “This One’s for the Girls” (2003); and what may be the prime instance, Garth Brooks, “Friends in Low Places” (1990). The chorus represents collective buy-in around the song’s message and promises to enfold the listener in the warmth and vitality of communal embrace—or from another listener perspective, threatens to obliterate the individual distinction that underwrites middle-class subjectivity. Several sonic signifiers further define the “Redneck Woman” and mobilize a kind of musical cross-dressing. Wilson leads into the “hell yeah” section of each chorus with bravura full-voice high notes evoking hard rock and heavy metal male vocality à la Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and AC/DC. These vocals are coupled at the octave below (e.g., 1:09–13), a muscular gesture that recalls Kid Rock’s 2003 hardcore anthem “Son of Detroit” and the 1973 hard rock classic “Radar Love.” The fiddle in “Redneck Woman” is also referential, its sound and style evoking Charlie Daniels (e.g., 0:54–1:09, 2:30–42).30 And there is an arresting moment when the instruments drop out to underscore Wilson’s kicking 241

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things up a notch (2:48–50), echoing uses of the same technique by Lynyrd Skynyrd in the legendary extended guitar solo of “Free Bird” and by Skynyrd’s own heroes, the Allman Brothers, in “Whipping Post.” Listeners use popular music for affective and identificatory purposes, to touch places inside and to project signals outside. Relatedly, we might expect the musical references in “Redneck Woman” to operate on a special level, more subliminal and embodied than that of the verbal shout-outs. They might also inspire particular admiration from fans by virtue of the skill and craft involved in creating them, especially in a working-class context where “walking the walk” commands more respect than “talking the talk.”31 Wilson’s track extends an established genre of self-mythologizing hard country song comparable to the rap genre that the musicologist Adam Krims designates “Mack” rap (historian Adam Gussow traces both genres to the same centuries-old American braggadocio tradition). In Mack rap, an emcee, characteristically male, struts his sexual prowess and wealth.32 In the hard country version, a male singer boasts about his class-outlaw excesses, touting his toughness, fearlessness, or indifference; his bad habits of choice; and maybe a favorite car, truck, bike, or freight train. Examples include Merle Haggard’s “Mama Tried” (1968), David Allan Coe’s “Son of the South” (1986), and Hank Williams Jr.’s “My Name Is Bocephus” (1987). Another example is Kid Rock’s “Son of Detroit,” an adaptation of Coe’s “Son of the South” that compares with “Redneck Woman” on several counts. Rock claims both “redneck” and “pimp” identities and name-checks Hank Williams Jr., Run-DMC, Lynyrd Skynyrd, ZZ Top (also invoked in the guitar riffs), himself, and “Willie, Waylon, George and Merle” to define a special Detroit hybrid persona rooted in both country and hip hop, white “hillbilly” and African American urban cultures.33 The track also specifies the narrator’s preferences in booze: “I like my whiskey straight up daiquiris / make me ill.” And booze leads to ride. The line “I’m a drink a couple dozen beers, / go out and jam some gears” is followed by references to the narrator’s “west coast chopper,” “pickup truck,” “four wheelin’,” and street racing. Wilson’s declarations are similarly macho. Her name-checks overlap Kid Rock’s and assert a similar hardcore patrilineage. She declares her own intolerance for prissy drinks with “I can’t swig that sweet champagne / I’d rather drink beer all night.” This leads her to specify her haunts and her ride: “In a tavern or in a honky tonk / Or on a 4 wheel drive tailgate.”

Virile Female Past and Present My close attention to Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” and the cross-gender elements in her performance and image construction is not meant to suggest that 242

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the persona she conjures is new or unprecedented. On the contrary, Wilson breathes new life into an old gender-class identity with an established cultural presence. It was much the same identity that R.J. Reynolds market researchers defined in 1989 and dubbed the Virile Female. RJR had commissioned a study for a marketing strategy targeting young white working-class (and apparently provincial) women, a highly profitable segment for rival Philip Morris’s Marlboro brand.34 Although its ads have featured rugged males exclusively since the birth of the Marlboro Man cowboy image in the 1950s, in 1989 Marlboro was the best-selling cigarette among young female smokers in America. It still is, surely helped by the fact that Reynolds’s planned Dakota cigarette never materialized. The company abandoned the campaign in early 1990, when a Washington Post reporter exposed “Project V.F.” just weeks after the tobacco giant touched off a furor with its launch of Uptown, a cigarette aimed at African Americans.35 Following its fatal disclosure, details of Reynolds’s Virile Female report were disseminated, now with a novelty-infotainment slant, to Harper’s Magazine and National Public Radio audiences. In these audiences, the mere phrase tractor pull can elicit a chuckle, serving to distance one from the class and taste community evoked thereby. But the central exhibit offered for armchair anthropologists was more fascinating still: a familiar species of gender-crossed working-class female newly named and classified.36 “Redneck Woman” both conforms and talks back to long-standing perceptions of working-class women as excessively or inappropriately gendered. Historical and pop-culture examples of “hard” women among provincial poor and working-class whites include Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley, Li’l Abner’s Mammy Yokum, Loretta Lynn’s persona in “You Ain’t Woman Enough” (1966) and “Fist City” (1968), and Tanya Tucker’s Outlaw country persona in the 1970s and 1980s. Masculine or butch personas among queer women bear long associations too with working-class identity. Real-life and fictional examples include the female invert as viewed by nineteenth-century sexologists; 1940s and 1950s lesbian bar culture as chronicled by Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline Davis; lesbian butches and transmen as represented in Joan Nestle’s and Leslie Feinberg’s writings; the late Brandon Teena, fictionalized in Boys Don’t Cry (1999); and a 2001 study by sociologist Sara Crawley confirming the prevalence of working-class identity among late-twentieth-century US butch lesbians.37 As these examples might suggest, gender is contingent on class. Workingclass women “have always been positioned at a distance” from femininity, a historically specific construction that was indicatively bourgeois from its eighteenth-century beginnings. And at the working-class and rural intersection staked out in “Redneck Woman,” gender skews masculine, by comparison to urban norms, for males and females alike. Urban styles of femininity, including male effeminacy, can be conspicuously extravagant in rural American contexts. 243

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This has implications for rural queer men, as some writers have noted, and for both queer and straight women. Given the relative masculinity of rural gender norms, many rural queer women are prone to find themselves less conspicuous than they would be in the city. By the same token, rural straight women are prone to confuse urban tourists, who sometimes conclude from the women’s gender styles that they must be lesbians.38

The Working-Class Female Predicament The persona under discussion appears so gender-crossed and extraordinary from a dominant-culture perspective that it has been dubbed the Virile Female. But this identity seems more normal among young female country artists. In 2005 Jo Dee Messina scored a #1 hit by striking a flinty pose toward an ex in “My Give a Damn’s Busted.” Her cocky, taunting persona in the track and video suggests an aspect of the Virile Female unnoted in Reynolds’s marketing report but foregrounded a few days after its exposure, in a Washington Post column titled “Cigarettes and Virile Chicks.” “I went to high school with girls like this,” recalls the author, a self-described “Chaucer major.” “We called them ‘hitter chicks,’ because they liked to hit people, and I adored them for their wild ways.” He describes the Virile Females of his 1960s adolescence as Marlboro smokers who were savage in fistfights.39 The tough persona portrayed and exoticized here resonates with “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “Fist City,” and other examples previously cited. A few months after “My Give a Damn’s Busted” broke the charts, even Carrie Underwood, an icon of wholesome and glamorous femininity, joined the V.F. club. Following her American Idol victory and conquest of country and Christian radio with the inspirational megahit “Jesus, Take the Wheel” (2005), Underwood’s next #1 single was “Before He Cheats” (2006), a revenge song that has the narrator keying her unfaithful man’s “four-wheel drive” pickup and whacking it with a “Louisville Slugger.” This latter sends glass shards flying in the video, which cuts between the cheater’s seduction scene with the other woman and the singer’s cool, unflinching delivery of a verbal and vehicular thrashing. Underwood’s persona here is downscale and belligerent. She appears throughout much of the video in heavy blue eye shadow and a faded black slitneck tee, shoves strangers in the alleyway without a glance, and imagines her romantic rival performing “white trash . . . karaoke.” Her choreography includes menacing looks, sneers, and a “chicken head” gesture now associated with Jerry Springer Show guests, and glass shatters spontaneously wherever she walks. Underwood’s publicity has never cast her in the Virile Female mold, and her fashion-model looks and frequent magazine cover appearances have helped 244

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prevent anything too hardcore or “real” from sticking to her celebrity image. But her foray into Virile Female territory in “Before He Cheats” was well received by country fans and seemed only to bolster her credibility as a country artist amid her stylish image as a TV, newsstand, and musical crossover star. Reaching back over a half-century, we might draw a further comparison with “Redneck Woman”—though not on Virile Female grounds. Kitty Wells was censored by country radio and by NBC and its Grand Ole Opry broadcast because of the perceived radicalism of the message in her own career-making megahit, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.” A riposte to Hank Thompson’s plaint against a good-timin’ woman who left him to return to “The Wild Side of Life” (1952), the song became country’s first #1 single, and first million-selling record, by a female solo artist.40 In fact, the lyrics of “Honky-Tonk Angels” presume conjugal heterosexuality and a traditional wifely role for women, while the tune reprises Thompson’s (which in turn reprises “Great Speckled Bird” and “I’m Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes”). But the song’s criticism of male social-sexual irresponsibility and privilege in defense of “us women” was heard as threatening in 1952 (“Too many times married men think they’re still single / That has caused many a good girl to go wrong”). However demure, Wells’s track seems no less feminist than Wilson’s boisterous 2004 celebration of “redneck girls like me.”41 Both artists were popular icons for female audiences in their respective moments. Both of their records were apologias for the same figure of sexually imperiled subjectivity: the white working-class woman. But the songs deploy different tactics. “Honky-Tonk Angels” makes a gender-separative appeal, blaming men for some women’s loss of middle-class respectability and thus ultimately affirming bourgeois values. By contrast, “Redneck Woman” makes common cause with redneck men and draws on cherished symbols of good ol’ boy ideals and prerogatives to articulate its manifesto, a cross-gender, macho-affirmative rejection of the very standards of hegemonic middle-class femininity. Notably, the emphasis on class defiance in Wilson’s song does not undermine its feminist thrust. Indeed, this set-up jibes with contemporary intersectional feminism: the “Redneck Woman” insists that we apprehend her situation as concurrently working class and female. Wilson asserts the superior sexiness and late-capitalist savvy of the “Redneck Woman,” a monogamous object of heterosexual allure in impostor lingerie from Walmart. Directing its most explicit critique at middle-class cultural style and social supremacy, the song makes its feminist case—verbally, visually, and musically—through masculinity rather than against it and so, links with a central theme in postwar country music, insofar as it rehearses and props up the terms of white working-class manhood. I will return shortly to white working-class manhood, following further discussion of white working-class womanhood vis-à-vis “Redneck Woman”—in 245

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the song, the artist-image, and the audience, and in the interpretive light of social theory. Ortner observes “a general tendency for working- . . . class culture to embody within itself the split . . . between the working and the middle class.” This split is reproduced in working-class contexts as “a typology of ‘styles’ . . . the action seekers versus the routine seekers, . . . the respectables versus the undesirables, . . . [and] overwhelmingly . . . women are symbolically aligned . . . with the ‘respectable,’ ‘middle-class’ side of these oppositions and choices.”42 In other words, women in working-class culture are assigned the role of middle-class moral conservator/killjoy.43 This is illustrated in countless country songs and parodied in the “Redneck Woman” video when Wilson wades into the cluttered living room of a mobile home, dominated by a flat-screen TV and two inert men. As she gathers up empty longnecks, casts a disapproving glance, and snatches away one fellow’s fat cigar, we see that the good ol’ boys are Kid Rock and Hank Williams Jr. in cameo appearances. Of course, these are the heroes in Wilson’s song, the guys she stands with, not against. The gender conflict is thus revealed as a send-up, and class solidarity is reinforced anew. Now, we might see working-class womanhood, as described by Ortner, in terms of a potentially even exchange: on good days you are the very emblem of respectability; on bad days, by the same token, you are a killjoy drag. But that schema operates only within working-class culture. In the dominant middle-class frame, working-class women signify disrespectability, with real-world consequences. A study by the social psychologist Bettina Spencer found both women and men, liberal and conservative, more likely to assume it was “her fault” when given evidence indicating that a rape victim was working class than when the evidence pointed to a middle-class woman (here, too, clothing signifies and is political).44 Skeggs’s research shows that in our culture’s symbolic economy the working-class woman personifies the “slut,” and so functions as ground to the middle-class figure of respectability. In fact, respectability exists only as a function of class distinction. It emerged historically as “a property of middle-class individuals defined against the masses.”45 This class-gender backdrop is precisely what “Redneck Woman” plays out against. The record’s lyrics and video images show keen awareness of the pathologizing and abjection of working-class women and men and insist on a kind of reverse valuation. “Redneck Woman” attests for its audience that “the privilege of the dominant classes is that they possess social legitimation which is based on the power of the dominant to impose, by their very existence, a definition of what is valued and authorised which is nothing other than their own way of existing—they are at ease in the social world because they determine the legitimated way of existing in it—it is a self-affirming power.”46 You can find working-class social and cultural affirmation in many postwar country hits, including (to name just a few) Lefty Frizzell, “Saginaw, Michigan” 246

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(1964); Johnny Cash, “Oney” (1972); George Jones and Tammy Wynette, “(We’re Not) the Jet Set” (1974); Dolly Parton, “9 to 5” (1981); Reba McEntire, “Fancy” (1991); Aaron Tippin, “Working Man’s Ph.D.” (1993); Montgomery Gentry, “Something to Be Proud Of ” (2005); Eric Church, “How ’Bout You” (2006); and Jason Aldean, “Amarillo Sky” (2007). But fans’ record-breaking response to “Redneck Woman” evinces the musical and stylistic appeal with which its message and rhetoric projected a young white working-class female persona that country audiences circa 2004 could embrace, and that sounded the right note for their catharsis and identification. “Redneck Woman” offers catharsis to working-class listeners through acknowledgment of and ammunition against the “rejection of self ” that arises from everyday encounters with the dominant culture, a “grasping at a conscious level what has always been known at an unconscious level—that to be what you are is ‘not good enough.’”47 Knowing that you are deemed wrong or inadequate by others’ standards does not necessarily make you want to be like those others. The working-class women in Skeggs’s ethnography were ambivalent toward the prospect of attaining the definitively middle-class attribute of respectability.48 More pointedly, “Redneck Woman” rebukes a downward gaze, challenging the “you” who “might think I’m trashy.” But ultimately the song too seems ambivalent, more intent on trashing the dominant culture’s ideal of respectability than extending such respectability to its cast-off “trash.” This is not to suggest that “Redneck Woman” lacks cultural ambition or productivity. In its celebration of the Virile Female, the song produces a persona resistant to the twofold trap in which working-class women symbolize a revered-and-resented middle-class respectability within their own class, even as they embody disrespectability for the middle class. Rebellion in “Redneck Woman” against both straitjacketing options is flagged in the video, by Wilson’s parody of the aspirational house-proud scold and affirmation of her one-of-the-boys affinity with Kid Rock and Bocephus, and in the lyrics, when the narrator champions her sub-bourgeois wardrobe choices and refutes the charge that she’s “trashy” or “too hardcore” by invoking her own community standards, according to which she’s “just the girl next door.” These features of female working-class subjectivity illustrate Ortner’s observation that class conflicts in America are largely denied and often displaced to gender and sexuality.49 Labeling a woman as “slut” is a quintessential instance. It is a class insult misleadingly delivered into the realm of sexuality and gender. In alleging impropriety on the part of an individual woman it denies the structural, classed basis of the judgment. We have begun to learn in recent years how gender intersects with race and must be understood differently across different racial and ethnic locations. But we still have much to learn about the effects of class in relation to gender. These too are interwoven with race, ethnicity, geography, and other factors, as we can see in the case of Elvis Presley. 247

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Illegible Subjects (Conclusion) In a 1992 essay, the literary and cultural critic Marjorie Garber placed Elvis Presley alongside Rudolph Valentino and Liberace as a matinée idol who appropriated feminine dress and self-presentation to enhance, paradoxically, his heterosexual appeal. On the analysis of historian Michael Bertrand, however, Presley’s persona traversed not any gender boundary, but class-specific racial boundaries. In his flashy suits and jewelry, pompadour, and aura of cool, the white working-class Memphian drew on mid-century southern (and, we might add, urban) black working-class style, in which impeccable suits, coiffed hair, and manicures heightened heterosexual masculinity and asserted individuality without threatening a segregated social order. Noting that poor whites and African Americans constituted “two underclass groups the southern elite lumped together as lazy, dependent, and biologically inferior,” Bertrand posits that Elvis “appropriat[ed] this form of machismo for the same reason that black men utilized it”; that is, “to demonstrate his manhood within a society in which his dignity and self-respect . . . [had] been under constant assault.”50 This analysis suggests the importance of class perspective in conjunction with racial and regional perspectives for understanding the workings of gender and sexuality around Presley’s celebrity persona. Like Presley, Wilson and her Redneck Woman persona are illegible beneath a bourgeois gender lens: each one appears as deviant (to invoke a term of great institutional authority in Presley’s time). Multiple factors—including Wilson’s iconic status among country fans, the broader history of the Virile Female, and the defiantly anti-bourgeois message of “Redneck Woman”—point to the need for another analytics, one that would acknowledge and investigate the class complaint at the center of the song. It would reckon with Wilson’s various male identifications as well as her claim, “In my neck of the woods I’m just the girl next door.” Examining “Redneck Woman” in relation to the provincial white working-class world referenced in its music and lyrics yields perspective on the track’s message and its eager embrace among fans. Presley’s sensational public persona appropriated cultural resources from his class, gender, and regional peers across society’s color line—from working-class southern black male counterparts. Wilson’s “Redneck Woman” persona appropriates cultural resources from her class, racial, geographic, and vocational peers across the gender line—from working-class and rural-identified white male rock and country icons—while reaffirming her heteronormativity through stereotypically gendered images: lyrics on courting her man’s desire and propping a baby on her hip, video cuts to female cage dancers and trailer park moms. “Redneck Woman” thereby puts a new spin on an old, tainted identity, the Virile Female, and most strikingly, manages to forge an appealing persona out of white 248

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working-class female subjectivity. Undoubtedly the persona thus created does not appeal to everyone, but any cultural instance that generates positive or even neutral interest in white working-class womanhood merits notice. Skeggs notes that forms of self-resourcing and -marketing that were once the stuff of celebrity are now “a responsibility of the neoliberal individual.”51 In this context, the appreciative reception of “Redneck Woman” surely reflects its deft rebranding of denigrated, essentialized white working-class female subjectivity. Operating on a cultural landscape where choice defines the empowered neoliberal subject, the narrator attests that she chooses her working-class, redneck affiliations with hard country and rock artists, beer over champagne, discount intimates, and déclassé front-yard spectacles. To this extent, “Redneck Woman” might be heard as staking a claim for power and authority on the terms of the dominant culture. Of course, the song does not take up the values of middleclass neoliberal self-exchange. It affirms working-class identification and ideals, giving voice to perceptions of the middle class as snobbish, elitist, competitive, pretentious, and morally lacking by comparison to working-class values of family attachment, loyalty, personal sincerity, and honor.52 “Redneck Woman” thus scores its symbolic victory over the class status quo, directing new-bourgeois self-resourcing techniques to anti-bourgeois ends in a gendered declaration of working-class consciousness lasting three and a half minutes, and—who knows?—perhaps beyond. Notes 1. Beverley Skeggs, “Uneasy Alignments: Resourcing Respectable Subjectivity,” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10, no. 2 (2004): 296, 293; Beverley Skeggs, Class, Self, Culture (New York: Routledge, 2004), 153. 2. Skeggs, “Uneasy Alignments,” 292–93 (emphasis in original); Skeggs, Class, Self, Culture, 55, 153. 3. Skeggs, “Uneasy Alignments,” 296. 4. Skeggs, Class, Self, Culture, 4 (emphasis mine). An early US review of Bourdieu’s work locates the original source of his formulation of misrecognition in a 1973 French journal article by Bourdieu, Luc Boltanski, and Monique de Saint Martin; see Paul DiMaggio, “On Pierre Bourdieu,” American Journal of Sociology 84, no. 6 (1979): 1464, 1466. On concerted cultivation see Annette Lareau, Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race, and Family Life, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, [2003] 2011). 5. Skeggs, Class, Self, Culture, 2. 6. Richard A. Peterson, Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 137–58; Peterson’s account builds on Bill C. Malone’s identification of the two historical practices in Country Music U.S.A., 2nd rev. ed. (Austin: University of Texas Press, [1968] 2002). Barbara Ching, Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country Music and Contemporary Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), 30, 4.

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Nadine Hubbs 7. Geoff Mann is among those who argue that popular music is no mere reflection but a powerful producer of society and subjectivity. He further argues that country contributes to the US production of particular, racialized kinds of subjectivity in “Why Does Country Music Sound White? Race and the Voice of Nostalgia,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 31, no. 1 (2008): 83–84. 8. See Patrick Huber, “A Short History of Redneck: The Fashioning of a Southern Masculine Identity,” in Southern Cultures: The Fifteenth Anniversary Reader, ed. Harry L. Watson and Larry J. Griffin, with Lisa Eveleigh, Dave Shaw, Ayse Erginer, and Paul Quigley (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008), 303–27. 9. Richard A. Peterson, “Class Unconsciousness in Country Music,” in You Wrote My Life: Lyrical Themes in Country Music, ed. Melton A. McLaurin and Richard A. Peterson (Langhorne, PA: Gordon and Breach, 1992), 57–58; Bill C. Malone, Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002), 46. On northern migration see James N. Gregory, The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005); James N. Gregory, “Southernizing the American Working Class: Postwar Episodes of Regional and Class Transformation,” Labor History 39, no. 2 (1998): 135–54; John Hartigan Jr., Odd Tribes: Toward a Cultural Analysis of White People (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 124. This was also the moment of Ernest Matthew Mickler’s bestseller White Trash Cooking (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1986), but as Hartigan notes, “white trash” retains deep stigma and contempt and has not found redemption even in country music, “a domain of popular culture . . . where the badge of social scorn is often worn proudly” (124). 10. S.v. “Redneck,” Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1989). 11. Thomas J. Gorman, “Cross-Class Perceptions of Social Class,” Sociological Spectrum 20, no. 1 (2000): 100; Sherry B. Ortner, Anthropology and Social Theory: Culture, Power, and the Acting Subject (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 71. 12. Jefferson Cowie, Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class (New York: New Press, 2010), 28. 13. Pew Research Center, “Middle Class, by the Numbers” (October 6, 2008), http://pewre search.org/pubs/983/middle-class-by-the-numbers, accessed October 29, 2011. 14. Sherry B. Ortner, New Jersey Dreaming: Capital, Culture, and the Class of ’58 (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003), 28. Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in Twentieth-Century America (New York: W. W. Norton, 2005), shows also that the G.I. Bill excluded southern blacks by delegating benefits administration to local governments. Allan Bérubé, Coming Out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two (New York: Free Press, 1990), reveals the history of “blue” discharges, neither honorable nor dishonorable, whereby US World War II military veterans were denied the benefits of the G.I. Bill, and he notes that these were issued to African American veterans in addition to veterans alleged to be homosexual. 15. Ortner, New Jersey Dreaming, 28. On this race-class conflation, see Kirby Moss, The Color of Class: Poor Whites and the Paradox of Privilege (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003), 34–35 and elsewhere. 16. Peterson, “Class Unconsciousness in Country Music,” 60. 17. Ibid., 60, 48, 50–51, 55, 59, 36, 47.

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Gender Deviance and Class Rebellion in “Redneck Woman” 18. I further discuss similarly reductive assessments of country music and argue that they help produce social classes through a mechanism whereby country music is associated with the working class, and middle-class individuals frequently declare musical tastes encompassing “anything but country.” See Nadine Hubbs, Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014), chapter 1 and elsewhere. 19. George Lipsitz, Rainbow at Midnight: Labor and Culture in the 1940s (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, [1981] 1994), 28–29; Dorothy Horstman, Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, rev. and expanded ed. (Nashville: Country Music Foundation, [1975] 1996), 140. 20. Anthony Giddens, “The Class Structure of Advanced Societies,” in Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective (3rd ed.), ed. David B. Grusky (Boulder: Westview, 2008), 133–34 (citing Max Weber, “Class, Status, Party”); Ortner, Anthropology and Social Theory, 23–24; Valerie Walkerdine and Helen Lucey, Democracy in the Kitchen? Regulating Mothers and Socialising Daughters (London: Virago, 1989), 13–14. See also Lipsitz, Rainbow at Midnight, 9. 21. Malone, Don’t Get above Your Raisin’, 48. 22. Ortner, New Jersey Dreaming, 41; Richard Sennett and Jonathan Cobb, The Hidden Injuries of Class (New York: Vintage, 1972); Skeggs, Class, Self, Culture, 5; Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1984), 372. 23. Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, trans. Richard Nice (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 77 (italics in original); Bourdieu, Distinction, 177. 24. Alana Conner Snibbe and Hazel Rose Markus, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want: Educational Attainment, Agency, and Choice,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 88, no. 4 (2005): 703–20. 25. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (Yale University Press, 1990), 133. 26. Skeggs, Class, Self, Culture, 153; Bourdieu, Distinction; Michèle Lamont, The Dignity of Working Men: Morality and the Boundaries of Race, Class, and Immigration (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2000). See also David Fillingim, Redneck Liberation: Country Music as Theology (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2003); Aaron A. Fox, “White Trash Alchemies of the Abject Sublime: Country as ‘Bad’ Music,” in Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate, ed. Charles J. Washburne and Maiken Derno (New York: Routledge, 2004), 29–46. 27. Carolyn Kay Steedman, Landscape for a Good Woman: A Story of Two Lives (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1986), 121. 28. Peterson, Creating Country Music; Jimmie N. Rogers, The Country Music Message, Revisited (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1989), 17 and elsewhere. See also Amy Green, “Even with Fame and Riches, Wilson Says She’s Still a ‘Redneck Woman,’” CMA Closeup News, February 15, 2005, www.gactv.com/gac/nw_cma_close_up/article/0,,GAC_26068_4729456,00 .html, accessed February 21, 2007. Wilson has now recorded more titles and appeared with guitars other than her “REDNECK” acoustic but has not dropped the tag. 29. With reference to Tucker, “bad girl” carries connotations of sexual disrepute that our society ascribes exclusively to women and particularly those of the working class. The singer was notorious for having been censored by country radio stations in 1974, when she was fifteen,

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Nadine Hubbs in her #1 hit “Would You Lay with Me (In a Field of Stone),” and for her intergenerational relationship in the early 1980s with the country star Glen Campbell. 30. Song timings sync with the video at www.cmt.com/videos/gretchen-wilson/141009/ redneck-woman.jhtml, accessed June 25, 2013. 31. Many country songs rehearse the notion that “walking the walk” and not merely “talking the talk”—i.e., action, not lip service to one’s accomplishments or intentions—is the social and moral measure of a person, and empirical research identifies this as a salient social value in the working class. For example, Michèle Ollivier, “‘Too Much Money off Other People’s Backs’: Status in Late Modern Societies,” Canadian Journal of Sociology 25, no. 4 (2000): 441–70, found that electricians admired skilled trades and professions and deemed them useful by contrast to managerial/white-collar occupations, which they acknowledged as prestigious but sometimes characterized as “overblown” or “overpaid.” Professors’ assessments of occupations, however, accorded with the status and pay they conventionally garner and typically invoked no usefulness standard. Karen Walker, “‘Always There for Me’: Friendship Patterns and Expectations among Middle- and Working-Class Men and Women,” Sociological Forum 10, no. 2 (1995): 273–96, found (what I am calling) “walk the walk” values in working-class friendships, which tended toward reciprocity and interdependence with regard to material goods and services (this friendship ideal finds perfect illustration in Tracy Lawrence’s 2007 #1 hit “Find Out Who Your Friends Are”). Middle-class friendships showed no such patterns of material exchange and reciprocity, were focused on shared interests and leisure, and served to enhance individuality. 32. Adam Krims, Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000); Adam Gussow, “Playing Chicken With the Train: Cowboy Troy’s Hick-Hop and the Transracial Country West,” Southern Cultures 16, no. 4 (2010): 41–70, argues that such stylized braggadocio fused black and white cultural influences long before the country-rap hybridity of MuzikMafia’s Cowboy Troy. 33. Track 9 on the Kid Rock CD is “Hillbilly Stomp,” co-written by Rock. As John Hartigan shows, “hillbilly” functions in Detroit as a rhetorical identity that distinguishes “between proper and improper behavior for whites” (34) when the latter threatens to blur the color line. Still actively in play around Detroit, this hillbilly identity connects to a history of black and white southerners’ migration to the city dating to the 1920s; John Hartigan, Racial Situations: Class Predicaments of Whiteness in Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999), 26–37. Rock’s cultivation of a public identity with linkages to hillbilly and white trash identities connects him to moral impropriety and racial ambiguity, both of which seem desirable for purposes of edgy-outlaw and hip-hop redneck image. Cultural significations here are complex, given that redneck, white trash, and hillbilly identities are popularly linked to both racial blurring (especially white trash) and racial bigotry (especially redneck). Rock himself (né Robert J. Ritchie, son of a prosperous auto dealer in Detroit’s northern exurbs) flaunts the Confederate battle (a.k.a. “Rebel”) flag even as he provides the face of what he calls “rap rock” and fronts his racially mixed band Twisted Brown Trucker. 34. According to the Washington Post, R.J. Reynolds market research defined the “virile female” in these terms: young white female with high school education at most; service or factory worker; likes “partying” and “cruising”; significantly male identified: into boyfriend and whatever he is doing, including hot rod shows, tractor pulls, and concerts, especially by

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Gender Deviance and Class Rebellion in “Redneck Woman” all-male groups; smokes Marlboros. Michael Specter, “Marketers Target ‘Virile Female’: R. J. Reynolds Plans to Introduce Cigarette,” Washington Post, February 17, 1990, A1. 35. Edith D. Balbach, Rebecca J. Gasior, and Elizabeth M. Barbeau, “R. J. Reynolds’ Targeting of African Americans: 1988–2000,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 5 (2003): 824. 36. “Stalking the Virile Female,” Harper’s Magazine (May 1990): 26–27. Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (New York: Routledge, 1992), 156–57, also refers to Reynolds’s Virile Female episode in a discussion of gendering and eroticism in past and present images of smoking, and flags its mention in a column (featuring self-distancing tractor-pull levity) by William Safire, “On Language; Virile Women Target Tobacco Men,” New York Times Magazine, March 11, 1990, 18. National Public Radio is now known as NPR. 37. For related discussion of Hollywood’s mannish portrayals of hillbilly women, including Yokum and Calamity, see J. W. Williamson, Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), esp. “Mannish Misfits,” 242–47. On butch and gender-queer women see Lillian Faderman, “The Contributions of the Sexologists,” in Surpassing the Love of Men: Romantic Friendship and Love between Women from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: William Morrow, 1981), 239–53; Elizabeth Lapovsky Kennedy and Madeline D. Davis, Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community (New York: Routledge, 1993); Joan Nestle, ed., The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader (Boston: Alyson, 1992); Leslie Feinberg, Stone Butch Blues: A Novel (Los Angeles: Alyson, [1993] 2003); and Sara L. Crawley, “Are Butch and Fem WorkingClass and Antifeminist?” Gender and Society 15, no. 2 (2001): 175–96. Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender, 99–101, 105, recaps the classed history of femininity. 38. Among the accounts Will Fellows collected from Midwestern rural gay men who moved to the city are some respondents’ reports that they were struck by the effeminacy of urban gay men, a trait they had not necessarily expected: Farm Boys: Lives of Gay Men from the Rural Midwest (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996). See also David Bell, “Farm Boys and Wild Men: Rurality, Masculinity, and Homosexuality,” Rural Sociology 65, no. 4 (2000): 547–61, among other studies. 39. Tony Kornheiser, “Cigarettes and Virile Chicks,” Washington Post, February 23, 1990, B2. 40. Emily C. Neely, “Charline Arthur: The (Un)Making of a Honky-Tonk Star,” in A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004), 48–49. 41. My use of “feminist” here does not presume that these artists would embrace the label to describe themselves or their political outlooks. As Malone notes, few female country artists are “overt feminists”; Country Music U.S.A., 431. In various instances since the 1970s, feminist has been shown to be primarily a white middle-class identification, which women outside this social group have tended to avoid. But such facts must not be taken to mean that middle-class women’s perspectives are more feminist than those of working-class women. Indeed, my book cites research suggesting just the opposite: see Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, chapter 3, “Coda: Feminism beyond the Label,” 129–30. 42. Ortner, Anthropology and Social Theory, 28. 43. Cf. Merle Haggard, “I Can’t Be Myself (When I’m with You)” (1970); Montgomery Gentry, “She Don’t Tell Me To” (2006).

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Nadine Hubbs 44. Bias was greatest among male and conservative subjects in Bettina Spencer, “Classism in the Court System: Perceptions of Low-Income Rape Victims,” paper delivered at the conference “How Class Works,” Stony Brook University, June 2008 (in author’s possession). 45. Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender, 3; see also Ortner, Anthropology and Social Theory, 34. 46. Elizabeth McDermott, “Telling Lesbian Stories: Interviewing and the Class Dynamics of ‘Talk,’” Women’s Studies International Forum 27, no. 3 (2004): 184. This passage cites Bourdieu, Distinction, and can be read as a gloss of a central revelation of that study. 47. Diane Reay, “Dealing with Difficult Differences: Reflexivity and Social Class in Feminist Research,” Feminism & Psychology 6, no. 3 (1996): 452. 48. Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender, 3. 49. Ortner, Anthropology and Social Theory, 26. 50. Garber, Vested Interests, 353–74; Michael T. Bertrand, “I Don’t Think Hank Done It That Way: Elvis, Country Music, and the Reconstruction of Southern Masculinity,” in A Boy Named Sue, ed. McCusker and Pecknold, 84, 76, and 75. 51. Skeggs, Formations of Class and Gender, 56–57. 52. Lamont, The Dignity of Working Men, 97–131, 146–48.

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seleCted BiBliography Akenson, James E. “Australia, the United States and Authenticity.” In Outback and Urban: Australian Country Music, vol. 1, ed. Philip Hayward, 187–206. Gympie, Qld.: Australian Institute of Country Music, 2003. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso, 1991. Auslander, Phillip. Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture. New York: Routledge, 1999. Austin, Tony. Never Trust a Government Man: Northern Territory Aboriginal Policy 1911–1939. Darwin: Northern Territory University Press, 1997. Awkward, Michael. Soul Covers: Rhythm and Blues Remakes and the Struggle for Artistic Identity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. Baker, Sarah Louise. “Bardot, Britney, Bodies and Breasts: Pre-teen Girls’ Negotiations of the Corporeal in Relation to Pop Stars and Their Music.” Perfect Beat 6:1 (July 2002): 18–32. Barker, Hugh, and Yuval Taylor. Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music. New York: W. W. Norton, 2007. Beal, Bruce A., and Richard A. Peterson. “Alternative Country: Origins, Music, World-view, Fans, and Taste in Genre Formation.” Popular Music and Society 25:1–2 (2001): 233–49. Beckett, Jeremy. “Colonialism in a Welfare State: The Case of Australian Aborigines.” In The Future of Former Foragers in Australia and Southern Africa, ed. Carmel Schrire and Robert Gordon, 7–24. Cambridge, MA: Cultural Survival, 1985. Bell, David. “Farm Boys and Wild Men: Rurality, Masculinity, and Homosexuality,” Rural Sociology 65:4 (December 2000): 547–61. Bell, Diane. Daughters of the Dreaming. North Melbourne: Spinifex Press, 2002. Berndt, Ronald M., and Catherine H. Berndt. The World of the First Australians: Aboriginal Traditional Life: Past and Present. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1996. Bertrand, Michael T. “Race and Rural Identity.” In The Hayloft Gang: The Story of the National Barn Dance, ed. Chad Berry, 130–52. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008. Berube, Allan. Coming Out under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two. New York: Free Press, 1990. Born, Georgina, and David Hesmondhalgh, ed. Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000. Brackett, David. Interpreting Popular Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995. Breen, Marcus, ed. Our Place, Our Music: Aboriginal Music: Australian Popular Music in Perspective. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1989. Bufwack, Mary A., and Robert K. Oermann. Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 18002000. Nashville: Country Music Foundation Press and Vanderbilt University Press, 2003. Butler, Judith. Excitable Speech: A Politics of the Performative. New York: Routledge, 1997. ———. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of “Sex.” New York: Routledge, 1993.

255

Selected Bibliography ———. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990. Ching, Barbara. Wrong’s What I Do Best: Hard Country and Contemporary Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001. ———. “Going Back to the Old Mainstream: No Depression and the Construction of Alt.country.” In A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music, ed. Kristine M. McCusker and Diane Pecknold, 173–99. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2004. ———. “Acting Naturally: Cultural Distinction and Critiques of Pure Country.” In White Trash: Race and Class in America, ed. Matt Wray and Annalee Newitz, 231–48. New York: Routledge, 1997. Ching, Barbara, and Pamela Fox, eds., Old Roots, New Routes: The Cultural Politics of Alt.Country Music. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008. Clarke Kaplan, Sara. “Souls at the Crossroads, Africans on the Water: The Politics of Diasporic Melancholia.” Callaloo 30:2 (Spring 2007): 511–26. Clendinnen, Inga. Dancing with Strangers. Melbourne: Text Publishing, 2003. Coates, Norma. “(R)evolution Now? Rock Music and the Political Potential of Gender.” In Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, ed. Sheila Whiteley, 50–64. London: Routledge, 1997. Cohen, Norm, and Anne Cohen. “Folk and Hillbilly Music: Further Thoughts on Their Relation,” JEMF Quarterly 13 (Summer 1977): 50–57. Cohen, Sara. “Men Making a Scene: Rock Music and the Production of Gender.” In Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, ed. Sheila Whiteley, 17–36. London: Routledge, 1997. ———. Rock Culture in Liverpool: Popular Music in the Making. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991. Connell, Bob. Masculinities. Cambridge and Oxford: Polity Press, 1995. ———. Gender and Power: Society, the Person and Sexual Politics. Cambridge: Polity Press, 1987. Cooper, Sarah. “Introduction.” In Girls! Girls! Girls! Essays on Women and Music, ed. Sarah Cooper, 1–5 . New York: New York University Press, 1996. Corin, Amy R. “Queer Country, Line Dance Nazis, and a Hollywood Barndance: Country Music and the Struggle for Identity in Los Angeles, California.” In Country Music Annual 2000, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson, 141–50. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000. Corn, Aaron. Dreamtime Wisdom, Moderntime Vision: The Aboriginal Acculturation of Popular Music in Arnhem Land, Australia. Darwin: North Australia Research Unit, 1999. Cornwall, Andrea, and Nancy Lindisfarne. “Introduction.” In Dislocating Masculinity: Comparative Ethnographies, ed. Andrea Cornwall and Nancy Lindisfarne, 1–10. London: Routledge, 1994. Corrêa, Roberto. A Arte de Pontear Viola (The Art of Picking the Viola). Brasília, Brazil: Projeto Três Américas—Associação Cultural, 2000. ———. Viola Caipira, Série Folclore Brasileiro –1. Brasília: Viola Corrêa Produções Artísticas, 1989. Cowie, Jefferson. Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class. New York: New Press, 2010. Crafts, Susan D., Daniel Cavicchi, Charles Keil, and the Music in Daily Life Project. My Music. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1993.

256

Selected Bibliography Crawley, Sara L. “Are Butch and Fem Working-Class and Antifeminist?” Gender and Society 15, no. 2 (April 2001): 175–96. Cusick, Suzanne G. “On Musical Performance of Gender and Sex.” In Audible Traces: Gender, Identity, and Music, ed. Elaine Barkin and Lydia Hamessley, 25–49. Zürich: Carciofoli Verlagshaus, 1999. Davies, Helen. “All Rock and Roll is Homosocial: The Representation of Women in the British Rock Music Press,” Popular Music 20, no. 3 (2001): 301–19. Dawidoff, Nicholas. In the Country of Country: People and Places in American Music. New York: Pantheon, 1997. de Souza, Okky. “Oura Na Garganta: A Riqueza do Interior Impulsiona as Duplas Sertanejas na Conquista do Público das Grandes Cidades” (“Golden Throats: The Wealth of the Interior Propels Sertaneja Duplas in the Conquest of the Big Cities”). veja (May 19, 1999). Dent, Alexander S. River of Tears: Country Music, Memory, and Modernity in Brazil. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009. ———. “Country Brothers: Kinship and Chronotrope in Brazilian Rural Public Culture.” Anthropological Quarterly 80:2 (Spring 2007): 455–95. Dibben, Nicola. “Representations of Femininity in Popular Music.” Popular Music 18, no. 3 (1999): 331–55. Dickinson, Chris. “Country Undetectable: Gay Country Artists.” Journal of Country Music 21, no. 1 (1999): 28–39. Dougher, Sarah. “Authenticity, Gender, and Personal Voice: She Sounds So Sad, Do You Think She Really Is?” In This Is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project, ed. Eric Weisbard, 145–54. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. Douglas, Susan. Where the Girls Are: Growing Up Female with the Mass Media. New York: Times Books, 1994. Dunbar-Hall, Peter, and Chris Gibson. Deadly Sounds, Deadly Places: Contemporary Aboriginal Music in Australia. Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2004. Dunbar-Hall, Peter. “Site as Song—Song as Site: Constructions of Meaning in an Aboriginal Rock Song.” Perfect Beat: The Journal of Research into Contemporary Music and Popular Culture 3:3 (July 1997): 58–76. Edwards, Leigh H. Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. Ehrenreich, Barbara, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs. “Beatlemania: A Sexually Defiant Consumer Culture?” In The Subcultures Reader, ed. Ken Gelder and Sarah Thornton, 523–36. London: Routledge, 1997. Ellis, Catherine. “Country Music,” “Gospel Music,” and “Music.” In The Encyclopedia of Aboriginal Australia, vol.1, ed. David Horton, 236, 421–22, 740–44. Canberra: Aboriginal Studies Press, 1994. Ellison, Curtis W. Country Music Culture: From Hard Times to Heaven. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1995. Everett, Walter. The Foundations of Rock: From Blue Suede Shoes to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Feder, J. Lester. “‘Song of the South’: Country Music, Race, Region, and the Politics of Culture, 1920-1974.” PhD diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 2006.

257

Selected Bibliography Feigenbaum, Anna. “‘Some Guy Designed This Room I’m Standing In’: Marking Gender in Press Coverage of Ani DiFranco.” Popular Music 24, no. 1 (January 2005): 37–56. Feld, Steven. “Communication, Music, and Speech about Music.” In Music Grooves, ed. Charles Keil and Steven Feld, 77–95. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. Feld, Steven, and Aaron Fox. “Music and Language.” Annual Review of Anthropology 23 (1994): 25–54. Fillingim, David. Redneck Liberation: Country Music as Theology. Macon: Mercer University Press, 2003. Foster, Pamela. My Country, Too: The Other Black Music. Nashville: Publishers Graphics, 2000. Fox, Aaron A. Real Country: Music and Language in Working-class Culture. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. ———. “White Trash Alchemies of the Abject Sublime: Country as ‘Bad’ Music.” In Bad Music: The Music We Love to Hate, ed. Charles J. Washburne and Maiken Derno, 29–46. New York: Routledge, 2004. ———. “‘Alternative’ to What? ‘O Brother,’ September 11th, and the Politics of Country Music.” In Country Music Goes to War, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson, 164–91. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2005. ———. “Split Subjectivity in Country Music and Honky Tonk Discourse.” In All That Glitters: Country Music in America, ed. George Lewis, 131–39. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993. ———. “The Jukebox of History: Narratives of Loss and Desire in the Discourse of Country Music.” Popular Music 11/1 (January 1992): 53–72. Fox, Pamela. Natural Acts: Gender, Race, and Rusticity in Country Music. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2009. ———. “Recycled ‘Trash’: Gender and Authenticity in Country Music Autobiography.” American Quarterly 50:2 (June 1998): 234–66. Freire, Paulo de Oliveira. Eu Nasci Naquela Serra: A História de Angelino de Oliveira, Raul Torres e Serrinha (I Was Born Off in Those Hills: The History of Angelino De Oliveira, Raul Torres, and Serrinha). São Paulo: Paulicéia, 1996. Frith, Simon. Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1996. Gaunt, Kyra D. The Games Black Girls Play: Playing the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006. Gay, Leslie C, Jr. “Acting Up, Talking Tech: New York Rock Musicians and Their Metaphors of Technology.” Ethnomusicology 42, no. 1 (Winter 1998): 81–98. Goodwin, Charles, and Alessandro Duranti. “Rethinking Context.” In Rethinking Context: Language as an Interactive Phenomenon, ed. Alessandro Duranti and Charles Goodwin, 1–42. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Graham, Allison. Framing the South: Hollywood, Television, and Race during the Civil Rights Struggle. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003. Green, Douglas B. Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy. Nashville: Country Music Foundation Press/Vanderbilt University Press, 2002. Gregory, James N. The Southern Diaspora: How the Great Migrations of Black and White Southerners Transformed America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005.

258

Selected Bibliography ———. “Southernizing the American Working Class: Post-war Episodes of Regional and Class Transformation.” Labor History 93:2 (May 1998): 135–54. Grier, Miles Parks. “Said the Hooker to the Thief: ‘Some Way Out’ of Rockism.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 25:1 (March 2013): 31–55. Gussow, Adam. “Playing Chicken with the Train: Cowboy Troy’s Hick-Hop and the Transracial Country West.” Southern Cultures 16:4 (Winter 2010): 41–70. Halberstam, J. Jack. Gaga Feminism: Sex, Gender, and the End of Normal. Boston: Beacon Press, 2012. ——— (Judith). Female Masculinity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. Hale, Grace Elizabeth. Making Whiteness: The Culture of Segregation in the South, 1890–1940. New York: Vintage, 1999. Hamilton, Annette. “A Complex Strategical Situation: Gender and Power in Aboriginal Australia.” In Australian Women: Feminist Perspectives, ed. Norma Grieve and Patricia Grimshaw, 69–85. Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1981. ———. “Dual Social Systems: Technology, Labour and Women Secret Rites in the Eastern Western Desert of Australia.” Oceania 51:1 (September 1980): 4–19. Harbert, Benjamin J. “Editor’s Introduction.” American Music: Special Issue on Women’s Prison Music 31:2 (Summer 2013): 127–33. Harkins, Anthony. Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. Hayward, Philip, ed. Sound Alliances: Indigenous Peoples, Cultural Politics and Popular Music in the Pacific. London: Cassell, 1998. Hemphill, Paul. The Nashville Sound: Bright Lights and Country Music. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1970. Henriques, Julian. “The Jamaican Dancehall Sound System as a Commercial and Social Apparatus.” In Sonic Synergies: Music, Technology, Community, Identity, ed. Gerry Bloustien, Margaret Peters, and Susan Luckman, 125–38. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008. Henry, Murphy. Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2013. Herzfeld, Michael. Cultural Intimacy: Social Poetics in the Nation State. London: Routledge, 1996. Hight, Jewly. Right by Her Roots: Americana Women and Their Songs. Waco: Baylor University Press, 2011. Horstman, Dorothy. Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy. Nashville: Country Music Foundation, 1996 [1975]. Hosokawa, Shuhei, and Hideaki Matsuoka. “On the Fetish Character of Sound and the Progression of Technology: Theorizing Japanese Audiophiles.” In Sonic Synergies: Music, Technology, Community, Identity, ed. Gerry Bloustien, Margaret Peters, and Susan Luckman, 39–50. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2008. Hubbs, Nadine. Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2014. Huber, Patrick. “A Short History of Redneck: The Fashioning of a Southern White Masculine Identity.” In Southern Cultures: The Fifteenth Anniversary Reader, ed. Harry L. Watson and Larry J. Griffin, with Lisa Eveleigh, Dave Shaw, Ayse Erginer, and Paul Quigley, 303–27. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008.

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Selected Bibliography ———. Linthead Stomp: The Creation of Country Music in the Piedmont South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2008. Hughes, Charles. Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015. ———. “‘You’re My Soul Song’: How Southern Soul Changed Country Music.” In Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, ed. Diane Pecknold, 283–305. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. Isenhour, Jack. He Stopped Loving Her Today: George Jones, Billy Sherrill, and the Pretty-Much Totally True Story of the Making of the Greatest Country Record of All Time. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2011. Jensen, Joli. “Taking Country Music Seriously: Coverage of the 1990s Boom.” In Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones, 183–201. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. ———. The Nashville Sound: Authenticity, Commercialization, and Country Music. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 1998. Jensen, Kelly. “‘Back in My Day, Son’: Dialogical Constructions of the Cowboy Code of Justice.” Journal of Popular Culture 42:1 (February 2009): 90–102. Johnson-Grau, Brenda. “Sweet Nothings: Presentation of Women Musicians in Pop Journalism.” In Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones, 202–18. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. Jones, Steve, and Kevin Featherly. “Re-Viewing Rock Writing: Narratives of Popular Music Criticism.” In Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones, 19–40. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. Kane, John. “Racialism and Democracy: The Legacy of White Australia.” In The Politics of Identity in Australia, ed. Geoffrey Stokes, 117–31. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Katz, Mark. Capturing Sound: How Technology Has Changed Music. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapovsky, and Madeline D. Davis. Boots of Leather, Slippers of Gold: The History of a Lesbian Community. New York: Routledge, 1993. Kramer, Michael J. “Rocktimism?: Pop Music Writing in the Age of Rock Criticism.” Journal of Popular Music Studies 24:4 (December 2012): 590–600. Krims, Adam. Rap Music and the Poetics of Identity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000. Kruse, Holly. “Abandoning the Absolute: Transcendence and Gender in Popular Music Discourse.” In Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones, 134–55. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. LaChapelle, Peter. Proud to be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to Southern California. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. Laing, Dave. “Anglo-American Music Journalism: Texts and Contexts.” In The Popular Music Studies Reader, ed. Andy Bennett, Barry Shank, and Jason Toynbee, 333–39. London: Routledge, 2006. Lasch, Christopher. The True and Only Heaven: Progress and Its Critics. New York: W. W. Norton, 1991. Leach, Eva Elizabeth. “Vicars of ‘Wannabe’: Authenticity and the Spice Girls.” Popular Music 20:2 (May 2001): 143–67. Lees, Gene. You Can’t Steal a Gift: Dizzy, Clark, Milt, & Nat. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. 260

Selected Bibliography Lemish, Dafna. “Spice Girls’ Talk: A Case Study in the Development of Gendered Identity.” In Millennium Girls: Today’s Girls around the World, ed. Sherrie A. Inness, 145–68. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998. Leonard, Marion. Gender in the Music Industry: Rock, Discourse and Girl Power. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2007. Leppert, Richard, and George Lipsitz. “‘Everybody’s Lonesome for Somebody’: Age, the Body, and Experience in the Music of Hank Williams.” Popular Music 9:3 (October 1990): 259–74. Liberman, Kenneth. Understanding Interaction in Central Australia: An Ethnomethodological Study of Australian Aboriginal People. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1985. Lipsitz, George. Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. Lomax, John III. Nashville: Music City, USA. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1985. Lowe, Melanie. “‘Tween’ Scene: Resistance within the Mainstream.” In Music Scenes: Local, Translocal, and Virtual, ed. Andy Bennett and Richard A. Peterson, 80–94. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2004. Lund, Jens. “Fundamentalism, Racism, and Political Reaction in Country Music.” In The Sounds of Social Change: Studies in Popular Culture, ed. Serge Denisoff and Richard A. Peterson, 79–91. Chicago: Rand McNally, 1972. Lysloff, Rene T. A. “Musical Life in Softcity: An Internet Ethnography.” In Music and Technoculture, ed. René T. A. Lysloff and Leslie C. Jay Jr., 23–63. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. Magowan, Fiona. “‘The Land Is Our Märr (essence), It Stays Forever’: The Yothu Yindi Relationship in Australian Aboriginal Traditional and Popular Musics.” In Ethnicity, Identity, and Music: The Musical Construction of Place, ed. Martin Stokes, 135–56. Oxford: Berg, 1994. Malone, Bill C. Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2002. ———. Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1993. ———. Country Music U.S.A.: A Fifty-Year History. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1968. Malone, Bill C., and Judy McCulloh, ed. Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1975. Mann, Geoff. “Why Does Country Music Sound White? Race and the Voice of Nostalgia.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 31:1 (January 2008): 73–100. Martins, Jose de Souza. “Música Sertaneja: A Dissimulacão na Linguagem dos Humilhados.” In Capitalismo e Tradicionalismo: Estudos Sobre as Contradicões da Sociedade Agrária no Brasil. (“Música Sertaneja: Alienation in the Language of the Humble.” In Capitalism and Traditionalism: Studies of the Contradictions of Agrarian Society in Brazil.) São Paulo: Livraria Pioneira Editora, 1975. Martins, Sergio. “Beibe, Ai Lóvi Iú: Banidas da Mpb por Duas Décadas, Versões Voltam a Fazer Sucesso” (“Baby, I Love You: Banished from Brazilian Popular Music Decades Ago, Cover Songs are Back”). veja (June 7, 1999). McCann, Bryan. “Catching ‘If I Catch You.’” Pop Matters (2012). www.popmatters.com/pm/ feature/158666-catching-if-i-catch-you/, accessed September 6, 2012. McClary, Susan. Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality. Minneapolis: University of Minneapolis Press, 1991. McCusker, Kristine M. Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels: The Women of Barn Dance Radio. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2008. 261

Selected Bibliography McCusker, Kristine M., and Diane Pecknold, ed. A Boy Named Sue: Gender and County Music. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 2004. McGrath, Ann. “‘Black Velvet’: Aboriginal Women and their Relations with White Men in the Northern Territory 1910-1940.” In So Much Hard Work: Women and Prostitution in Australian History, ed. Kay Daniels, 233–97. Sydney: Fontana/Collins, 1984. McGuire, Danielle L. At the Dark End of the Street: Black Women, Rape, and Resistance—A New History of the Civil Rights Movement from Rosa Parks to the Rise of Black Power. New York: Random House, 2010. McLeod, Kembrew. “* ½: A Critique of Rock Criticism in North America.” Popular Music 20:1 (January 2001): 47–60. ———. “Between Rock and a Hard Place: Gender and Rock Criticism.” In Pop Music and the Press, ed. Steve Jones, 93–113. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002. McPherson, Tara. Reconstructing Dixie: Race, Gender, and Nostalgia in the Imagined South. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003. Meintjes, Louise. Sound of Africa! Making Music Zulu in a South African Studio. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2003. Mellard, Jason. Progressive Country: How the 1970s Transformed the Texan in Popular Culture. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2013. Miller, Karl Hagstrom. Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010. Miller, Kiri. Playing Along: Digital Games, YouTube, and Virtual Performance. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Mitchell, Tony. Popular Music and Local Identity. Rock, Pop, and Rap in Europe and Oceania. London and New York: Leicester University Press, 1996. Mockus, Martha. “Queer Thoughts on Country Music and k.d. lang.” In Queering the Pitch: The New Gay and Lesbian Musicology, ed. Philip Brett, Elizabeth Wood, and Gary C. Thomas, 257–74. New York: Routledge, 2006. Morton, David C., with Charles K. Wolfe. DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Country Music. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1991. Myers, Fred. Pintupi Country, Pintupi Self: Sentiment, Place, and Politics among Western Desert Aborigines. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986. Neal, Jocelyn R. Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013. ———. The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers: A Legacy in Country Music. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009. ———. “When Recollection Is All We’ve Got: Analytical Exploration of ‘Catchy’ Songs.” College Music Symposium 47 (2007): 12–22. ———. “The Voice Behind the Song: Faith Hill, Country Music, and Reflexive Identity.” In The Women of Country Music: A Reader, ed. Charles K. Wolfe and James E. Akenson, 109–30. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2003. Negus, Keith. Musical Genres and Corporate Cultures. London: Routledge, 1999. Nestle, Joan, ed. The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader. Boston: Alyson, 1992. Neuenfeldt, Karl. “Songs of Survival: Ethno-pop Music as Ethnographic Indigenous Media.” Australian-Canadian Studies 14:1–2 (1996): 15–31.

262

Selected Bibliography ———. “Yothu Yindi and Ganma: The Cultural Transposition of Aboriginal Agenda through Metaphor and Music.” Journal of Australian Studies 17:38 (1993): 1–11. ———. “To Sing a Song of Otherness: Anthros, Ethno-pop, and the Mediation of ‘Public Problems.’” Canadian Ethnic Studies 23:3 (October 1991): 92–118. Nunn, Erich. “He Ain’t Wrong, He’s Just Different: Willie Nelson’s Queer Outlaws.” Studies in American Culture 34:1 (October 2011): 87–102. ———. “Sounding the Color Line: Race, Music, and American Modernism.” PhD diss., University of Virginia, 2009. Ortega, Teresa. “‘My name is Sue! How do you do?’: Johnny Cash as Lesbian Icon.” South Atlantic Quarterly 94:1 (Winter 1995): 259–72. Ottosson, Åse. “The Intercultural Crafting of Real Aboriginal Country and Manhood in Central Australia.” Australian Journal of Anthropology 23:2 (August 2012): 179–96. Ownby, Ted. “Freedom, Manhood, and White Male Tradition in 1970s Southern Rock Music.” In Haunted Bodies: Gender and Southern Texts, ed. Anne Goodwyn Jones and Susan V. Donaldson, 369–88. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997. Pecknold, Diane, ed. Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. ———. “Making Country Modern: The Legacy of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.” In Hidden in the Mix: The African American Presence in Country Music, ed. Diane Pecknold, 82–99. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2013. ———. “Travel with Me: Country Music, Race, and Remembrance.” In Pop When the World Falls Apart: Music in the Shadow of Doubt, ed. Eric Weisbard, 185–200. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012. ———. The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007. Peterson, Nicolas, and Marcia Langton, ed. Aborigines, Land, and Land Rights. Canberra: Australian Institute of Aboriginal Studies, 1983. Peterson, Richard A. “The Dialectic of Hard-Core and Soft-Shell Country Music.” In Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky-Tonk Bars, ed. Cecelia Tichi, 234–55. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. ———. Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997. ———. “Class Unconsciousness in Country Music.” In You Wrote My Life: Lyrical Themes in Country Music, ed. Melton A. McLaurin and Richard A. Peterson, 35–62. Langhorne, PA: Gordon and Breach, 1992. Porcello, Thomas. “Music Mediated as Live in Austin: Sound, Technology, and Recording Practice.” In Wired for Sound: Engineering and Technologies in Sonic Cultures, ed. Paul D. Greene and Thomas Porcello, 103–17. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2005. Porterfield, Nolan. Jimmie Rodgers: The Life and Times of America’s Blue Yodeler. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1979. Pruett, David B. “When the Tribe Goes Triple Platinum: A Case Study Toward an Ethnomusicology of Mainstream Popular Music in the U.S.” Ethnomusicology 55:1 (Winter 2011): 1–30. Radano, Ronald, and Philip V. Bohlman, ed. Music and the Racial Imagination. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

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Selected Bibliography Rains, Lars. “The Bear Essentials of Country Music.” In The Bear Book: Readings in the History and Evolution of a Gay Male Subculture, ed. Les K. Wright, 191–98. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Press, 1997. Randall, Alice. “Alice Randall on Linda Martell’s ‘Color Him Father.’” Oxford American (2010). www.oxfordamerican.org/articles/2010/apr/05/alice-randall-linda-martells-color-him -father, accessed March 22, 2011. Reily, Suzel Ana. “‘Música Sertaneja’ and Migrant Identity: The Stylistic Development of a Brazilian Genre.” Popular Music 11:3 (October 1992): 337–58. Robertson, Pamela. Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996. Rogers, Jimmie N. The Country Music Message: Revisited. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1989. Rowse, Tim. White Flour, White Power: From Rations to Citizenship in Central Australia. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Samuels, David W. Putting a Song on Top of It: Expressions and Identity on the San Carlos Apache Reservation. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004. Sanjek, David. “Can a Fujiyama Mama Be the Female Elvis? The Wild, Wild Women of Rockabilly.” In Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, ed. Shelia Whiteley, 137–69. New York: Routledge, 1997. Savage, Steve. The Art of Digital Audio Recording: A Practical Guide for Home and Studio. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. ———. Bytes & Backbeats: Repurposing Music in the Digital Age. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011. Schloss, Joseph G. Making Beats: The Art of Sample-Based Hip-Hop. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2004. Scott, Joan Wallach. Gender and the Politics of History. New York: Columbia University Press, 1988. ———. “Gender: A Useful Category of Historical Analysis.” American Historical Review 91:5 (December 1986): 1053–75. Shank, Barry. “‘That Wild Mercury Sound’: Bob Dylan and the Illusion of American Culture.” boundary 2 29:1 (Spring 2002): 97–123. ———. “From Rice to Ice: The Face of Race in Rock and Pop.” In The Cambridge Companion to Rock and Pop, ed. Simon Frith, Will Straw, and John Street, 256–71. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. ———. Dissonant Identities: The Rock ’n’ Roll Scene in Austin, Texas. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1994. Shugart, Helene A., and Catherine Egley Waggoner. “A Bit Much: Spectacle as Discursive Resistance.” Feminist Media Studies 5:1 (March 2005): 65–81. Shuman, Amy. Other People’s Stories: Entitlement Claims and the Critique of Empathy. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005. Skeggs, Beverley. Class, Self, Culture. New York: Routledge, 2004. ———. “Uneasy Alignments: Resourcing Respectable Subjectivity.” GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 10:2 (2004): 292–93. ———. Formations of Class and Gender: Becoming Respectable. London: Sage, 1997.

264

Selected Bibliography Smith, Graeme. “Australian Country Music and the Hillbilly Yodel.” Popular Music 13:3 (October 1994):297–311. Smith, Suzanne E. Dancing in the Street: Motown and the Cultural Politics of Detroit. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1999. Stillwell, Robynn J. “Vocal Decorum: Voice, Body, and Knowledge in the Prodigious Singer, Brenda Lee.” In She’s So Fine: Reflections on Whiteness, Femininity, Adolescence and Class in 1960s Music, ed. Laurie Stras, 57–88. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2010. Stimeling, Travis. “Narrative, Vocal Staging, and Masculinity in the ‘Outlaw’ Country Music of Waylon Jennings.” Popular Music 32:3 (2013): 343–58. ———. Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive Country Music Scene. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Stras, Lauri. She’s So Fine: Reflections on Whiteness, Femininity, Adolescence, and Class in 1960s Music. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2010. Stock, Jonathan. “Toward an Ethnomusicology of the Individual, or Biographical Writing in Ethnomusicology.” The World of Music 43:1 (2001): 5–19. Thornton, Sarah. Club Cultures: Music, Media, and Subcultural Capital. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press/University Press of New England, 1996. Tinhorão, Jose Ramos. Os Sons que Vêm da Rua, 2nd ed. (The Sounds that Come from the Street). São Paulo: Editora 34, 2005. ———. Pequena História da Música Brasileira: Da Modinha ao Tropicalismo, 5th ed. (A Short History of Brazilian Music: From the Modinha to Tropicalism). São Paulo: Art Editora, 1986. Tosches, Nick. Country: The Twisted Roots of Rock ’n’ Roll. New York: Da Capo, 1996. Turino, Thomas. “Signs of Imagination, Identity, and Experience: A Peircian Semiotic Theory for Music.” Ethnomusicology 43:2 (Spring–Summer 1999): 221–55. Vance, Deborah Clark. “‘Moving Her Hips, Like, Yeah’: Can Miley Survive the Hannah Brand?” In Rock Brands: Selling Sound in a Media Saturated Culture, ed. Elizabeth Barfoot Christian, 57–78. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2011. Wade, Peter. Music, Race, and Nation: Musica Tropical in Colombia. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2000. Walker, Clinton. Buried Country: The Story of Aboriginal Country Music. Annandale, UK: Pluto Press, 2000. Walser, Robert. Running with the Devil: Power, Gender, and Madness in Heavy Metal Music. Hanover, NH, and London: Wesleyan University Press, 1993. Warwick, Jacqueline. Girl Groups, Girl Culture: Popular Music and Identity in the 1960s. New York: Routledge, 2007. ———. “‘He’s Got the Power’: The Politics of Production in Girl Group Music.” In Music, Space, and Place: Popular Music and Cultural Identity, ed. Sheila Whiteley, Andy Bennett, and Stan Hawkins, 191–200. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 2004. Whiteley, Sheila. “Which Freddie? Constructions of Masculinity in Freddie Mercury and Justin Hawkins.” In Oh Boy! Masculinities and Popular Music, ed. Freya Jarman-Ivens, 21–38. London: Routledge, 2007. ———. Women and Popular Music: Sexuality, Identity, and Subjectivity. London: Routledge, 2000. eds. Sheila Whitely and Stan Hawkins. Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender. London and New York: Routledge, 1997.

265

Selected Bibliography Whiteoak, John. “The Frontiers: Early Cowboy Music in Australian Popular Music.” In Outback and Urban: Australian Country Music, vol. 1, ed. Philip Hayward, 1–28. Gympie, Qld: Australian Institute of Country Music, 2003. Williams, Raymond. The Country and the City. New York: Oxford University Press, 1973. Williamson, J. W. Hillbillyland: What the Movies Did to the Mountains and What the Mountains Did to the Movies. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995. Willis, Jon. “Heteronormativity and the Deflection of Male Same-sex Attraction among the Pitjantjatjara People of Australia’s Western Desert.” Culture, Health & Sexuality 5:2 (March– April 2003): 137–51. Willman, Chris. Rednecks and Bluenecks: The Politics of Country Music. New York: New Press, 2005. Wilson, Pamela. “Mountains of Contradictions: Gender, Class, and Region in the Star Image of Dolly Parton.” In Reading Country Music: Steel Guitars, Opry Stars, and Honky Tonk Bars, ed. Cecelia Tichi, 98–120. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998. Wilson, Ronald. Bringing Them Home: Report of the National Enquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from Their Families. Sydney: Sterling Press, 1997. Wolk, Douglas. “Compressing Pop: How Your Favorite Song Got Squished.” In This is Pop: In Search of the Elusive at Experience Music Project, ed. Eric Weisbard, 212–22. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Wong, Deborah. “Plugged In at Home: Vietnamese American Technoculture in Orange County.” In Music and Technoculture, ed. René T. A. Lysloff and Leslie C. Jay Jr., 125–52. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2003. Yarwood, Alexander T. “The ‘White Australia’ Policy.” Historical Studies 10:39 (November 1962): 257–69.

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ContriButors Editor Biographies Diane Pecknold is associate professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Louisville. She is the author of The Selling Sound (Duke, 2007); the editor of Hidden in the Mix (Duke, 2013); and coedited A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music (Mississippi, 2004) with Kristine McCusker. She is currently writing a book on tween girls’ musical cultures. Kristine M. McCusker is professor of history at Middle Tennessee State University. She is the author of Lonesome Cowgirls and Honky-Tonk Angels (Illinois, 2008) and coedited A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music (Mississippi, 2004) with Diane Pecknold. She has a $122,000 NIH grant to write a new book on twentieth-century southern death rituals. Author Biographies Georgia Christgau is an independent scholar, freelance writer and editor, and high school teacher in New York City. Her work has appeared in Creem magazine and the Village Voice, and she has presented at the Experience Music Project Pop Conference. Alexander S. Dent is associate professor of anthropology at George Washington University. He is the author of River of Tears: Country Music, Memory, and Modernity in Brazil (Duke, 2009). His current work explores digital media “piracy,” cellular phone use, and the role of confidence in political discourse. Leigh H. Edwards is associate professor of English at Florida State University. She is the author of Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity (Indiana, 2009) and other work on popular music and media, including her book on reality television and new media. Her current research, entitled Dolly Parton, Gender, and Country Music, will be published by Indiana University Press. Caroline Gnagy is a country music performer and music writer based in Austin, Texas. Under the stage name Caroline Casey, she has played rockabilly and 267

Contributors

Americana festivals throughout the United States and Europe since 2000. She has written for a number of national music publications, as well as the Handbook of Texas Music (2nd ed.). She is the author of Texas Jailhouse Music: A Prison Band History (History Press, forthcoming). Kate Heidemann is visiting assistant professor of music at Colby College, where she teaches courses on popular music and music theory. In her research, she focuses on vocal timbre in popular music, and the relationship between sound and identity in country and soul, and in American popular music in general. Nadine Hubbs is professor of women’s studies and music, faculty associate in American Culture, and director of the Lesbian-Gay-Queer Research Initiative at the University of Michigan. She is the author of The Queer Composition of America’s Sound (California, 2004) and Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music (California, 2014). Jocelyn R. Neal is professor of music and adjunct professor of American studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author of The Songs of Jimmie Rodgers (Indiana, 2009) and Country Music: A Cultural and Stylistic History (Oxford, 2013); and coauthor with Bill C. Malone of Country Music U.S.A. (3rd rev. ed., Texas, 2010). Åse Ottosson is a lecturer and researcher at the Department of Anthropology at the University of Sydney. She has published multiple research articles and book chapters on Australian Aboriginal music, masculinities, and intercultural relations. Her book Making Aboriginal Men and Music in Central Australia will be published by Bloomsbury in 2015. Travis Stimeling is assistant professor of music history at West Virginia University. He is the editor of The Country Music Reader (Oxford, 2015), an anthology of primary source readings in the history of country music, and is the author of Cosmic Cowboys and New Hicks: The Countercultural Sounds of Austin’s Progressive Country Music Scene (Oxford, 2011). Matthew D. Sutton holds a PhD in American studies from the College of William and Mary. His current research project, “Storyville,” examines autobiographies by southern musicians who came of age under segregation. Chris Wilson recently finished his PhD in ethnomusicology at the University of Toronto, with a dissertation entitled “Commerce, Culture, and Creativity: Songwriter Practice and Tactics in Nashville, Tennessee.” He has served as the music 268

Contributors

director (composer, arranger, and conductor) for various musical theaters in Toronto. He is also the band director for a Caribbean-folk and calypso band called Shak Shak, an alt-country band called the Jeremiahs, and leads three ukulele clubs.

269

index Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations.

73–74, 79–80; Northern Territory, 67, 69, 71, 72 Authenticity, vii, viii, xi, xiii, 8, 21, 22, 49, 86–88, 93, 103, 137, 148; as a gendered construct, xi, xiv, 85, 86, 87, 240; Charley Pride and, x, 46, 53, 56; Dolly Parton and, 189, 191–92, 196, 200–201, 203, 204–7; Gretchen Wilson and, 240; Taylor Swift and, 85, 88, 90–91, 94, 95 Auto-tune, 90, 93, 94, 100 Autry, Gene, 48–49 Axé, 38

Aborigines: desert musicians, 64–65, 68, 70–80; “oldfella” country men, x, 70, 71–73, 74; traditional values regarding masculinity, x, 65, 66, 67, 70, 72, 73–74, 76, 78–80 AC/DC, 241 Acioly, Sharon, 38 Acuff, Roy, 45, 49, 61 Adkins, Trace, 13; “Ladies Love Country Boys,” 6, 9–10 Akins, Rhett, 20 Aldean, Jason: “Amarillo Sky,” 247; “She’s Country,” 14 Alexander, Arthur, 148 Alice Springs, Australia, 64, 68, 71, 72, 82 Allman Brothers, “Whipping Post,” 242 Altman, Robert, Nashville, 226 Anderson, Benedict, 26 Anderson, Bill, 57, 59, 152, 157 Anglin, Jack, 214, 215, 216. See also Johnny & Jack Anglin, Louise Wright, 214, 215, 216 Anglos, 147, 148 Appalachia, rural, 167–68, 169, 183; accent, 172; models of femininity, 169, 174–75, 179, 180, 183–84; traditional music, 167, 171, 178 Applebome, Peter, 18 Arnold, Eddy, “You Don’t Know Me,” 109 Arthur, Charline, 229 Atkins, Chet, 52, 149, 175, 176, 197 Atkins, Rodney, “Farmer’s Daughter,” 15 Auratic transference, 114, 115, 124 Australia: Aboriginal rights movement, 68; Central, x, 64, 67–68, 69–70, 72, 77–79; country music tradition, 69–70, 72,

Bahia, Brazil, 37–38 Bailey, DeFord, 49–50, 57 Baker, Louise, 86; “Come On Over,” 102; “Remember That,” 102; “Some Men Don’t Cheat,” 102 Baker, Sarah Louise, 89 Bakersfield Sound, 175, 186 Banks, Victoria, xi, 102, 104, 105–7, 108, 109–11, 112–16, 117–20; “Come On Over,” 102, 113–15; “Remember That,” 102, 109–13, 114, 118; “Some Men Don’t Cheat,” 102, 115–17, 118 Bare, Bobby, 159 Barker, Hugh, 87, 90 Barn dance radio, vii, viii, x, xiv, 128, 136, 137, 194–95, 201, 212 Basland, Carl, 139, 140, 141 Basore, Stu, 177 Before the Music Dies, 85 Bell, Renee, 106 Bentley, Dierks, “Tip It On Back” (video), 7 Benton, Brook, 150 Bergeron, Judith, 140, 143 Bergman, David, 201 Bertrand, Michael, 248 271

Index Bickford, Tyler, 89, 98–99 Big Machine Records, 94 Bill Anderson Show, The, 152 “Black Jack Davy [David],” 12, 13, 24 Black Sabbath, 241 Blue, Ethan, 128; Doing Time in the Depression, 130 Bluegrass music, xiv, 76, 78, 149, 194, 202, 203, 206 Blues music, 46, 51, 130, 131, 142 Bourdieu, Pierre, 47, 233, 239, 249 Boys Don’t Cry, 243 Bradley, Harold, 176 Bradley, Owen, 150, 175, 176, 216 Bramlett, Terrence, 133–34, 141–42 Brasfield, Rod, 147, 225 Brazil, ix–x, xiii, 26–41; college country, 33–37; country cosmopolitan, 26–28; evolution of country music, 28–33, 40–41; rural masculinity, 27, 39, 40–41 Brooks, Garth, 94; “Friends in Low Places,” 241; “Nobody Gets Off in This Town,” 20 Brown, Helen Gurley, 159 Brown, Maxine, 57 Brown, Ruth, 150 Bryant, Audrey, 149 Burke, Ken, 217 Burke, Solomon, 148 Butcher, Sammy, 69 Butler, Judith, 67

Carter Family, 136, 178, 213, 225; “Black Jack Davy [David],” 12, 13; “Jealous Hearted Me,” 214; “My Heart’s Tonight in Texas,” 12, 13 Case, Neko, 94 Cash, Johnny, viii, 45, 57, 61, 126; “Man in Black,” 231; “Oney,” 247 Cash, W. J., 55 Cavicchi, Daniel, 88 Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), 64 Charles, Ray, 48, 148; Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, 162 Chesney, Kenny, 93 Childs, Marlie, 133–34 Childs, Reable (Sapp), 133–34, 135, 137–38, 139, 140, 141, 142 Ching, Barbara, ix, xi, 49, 56, 91, 120, 162, 200, 234; Wrong’s What I Do Best, viii Chitãozinho & Xororo, “Fio de Cabelo” (A Little Strand of Hair), 30 Choate, Bessie, 214 Christgau, Georgia, xiii Church, Eric, “How ’Bout You,” 247 Clement, Frank, 218 Clement, Jack, 52 Cline, Patsy, 70, 86, 166, 212, 220, 223, 226 Coal Miner’s Daughter (movie), 226 Coates, Norma, 87 Cobb, Jonathan, 238 Coe, David Allan, “Son of the South,” 242 Cohen, Paul, 149, 217 Cole, Nat “King,” 48, 56, 60 Colvard, Jimmy, 177 “Come On Over,” 113–14, 115 Connell, Bob, 66 Coon Creek Girls, 136, 138 Cooper, Sarah, 95 Country Music Association, 175, 217 Country Music Hall of Fame, 220, 226 Cowan, Nic, 13; “Wrong Side,” 9 Cowboy Crush, 117 Cowie, Jefferson, 236 Cowriting, 104, 107–8, 116–17, 119–20, 123

Calamity Jane, 243 Camargo, Hebe, 39, 40 Camp, 189, 190–91, 194, 196, 197, 198, 200, 201–4, 207 Campbell, Craig, “Family Man,” 7 Cantrell, Laura, 211, 220; Kitty Wells Dresses, 220 Caramanica, Jon, 88 Carlisle, Cliff, “Black Jack Davy [David],” 12 Carmichael, Al, 85 Carter, Jimmy, 234 Carter, Sara and Maybelle, 213

272

Index Crafts, Susan D., 88 Crawley, Sara, 243 Currington, Billy, “Good Directions,” 6, 10 Cusick, Suzanne, 91 Cyrus, Billy Rae, “Achy Breaky Heart,” 26 Cyrus, Miley, 88, 204

Dyggs, Antonio, 38 Dyson, Bobby, 177 Edenton, Ray, 176 Edgin, Dolores, 177 Edwards, Carl, 21–22 Edwards, Leigh H., xii, xiii; Johnny Cash and the Paradox of American Identity, viii Edwards, Stoney, 58 Ellis, Hattie, 130–31, 132, 133, 142 Ellison, Curtis, 87, 121 Emery, Ralph, 156 Empathetic transference, 111–12, 118 Evans, Sara: “Coalmine,” 15; “Saints and Angels,” 107

Dale, Eleanor, 142 Dalhart, Vernon, “The Prisoner’s Song,” 128, 131 D’Angelo, Beverly, 266 Daniels, Charlie, 9, 241 Davis, Madeline, 243 Davis, Skeeter, 225 Dawidoff, Nicholas, 217, 219 Dean, Jimmy, 59 Deason, Charles (Carey), 214 Deason, Muriel. See Wells, Kitty Deason, Myrtle, 214, 216 Deason Sisters, 214; “Jealous Hearted Me,” 214 Decca Records, 187, 217, 224, 227 Def Leppard, 90 Delmore Brothers, 49 DeMott, Benjamin, 58 Dent, Alexander S., xiii; River of Tears, ix De Oliveiro, Angelino, 28 Dibbens, Nicola, 86 Dickinson, Kay, 99 Dio, Ronnie James, 95 Dolly! variety show, 199–200 Dollywood, 193, 203, 205 Dorman, Harold, 60 Douglas, Susan, 86, 93 Du Bois, W. E. B., 54; The Souls of Black Folk, 45 Dudley, Lillie Mae, 133 Dulaney, Michael, 115–16 Dunn, Ronnie, “Cost of Livin’,” 7 Duplas, Brazilian brother, xiii, 28–29, 30–32, 33, 34, 35, 36, 37 Dusty, Slim, 70, 75 Dyer, Richard, 191

Faubus, Orval, 149 Featherly, Kevin, 86 Feinberg, Leslie, 243 Feminism, 159, 161, 191, 193, 194, 204, 219, 221, 245 Feminist camp, 191, 196, 200–202 Ferguson, Eddie, 215 Fernando & Sorocaba, “It’s Tense,” 34 Flippo, Chet, 4–5, 7, 20 Foley, Red, 51, 221–22; “As Long as I Live,” 222; “One by One,” 222; “A Stranger in My Home,” 222 Forman-Brunell, Miriam, The Girls’ History and Culture Reader, 94 Forró, 36, 38 Foucault, Michel, 120 Four Aces, 175 Fox, Aaron, ix, 66, 87, 91, 170, 239–40; “The Jukebox of History,” 171; Real Country, viii Fox, Pamela, xi, xiv, 46, 88, 147, 164, 190, 222; Natural Acts, viii, 227 Foxworthy, Jeff, 235 Francis, Cleve, 58 Franklin, Aretha, 148 Frere-Jones, Sasha, 89 Friedan, Betty, 219

273

Index Frith, Simon, 100 Frizzell, Lefty, “Saginaw, Michigan,” 246

Hamblen, Stuart, “Texas Plains,” 136 Hamer, Fannie Lou, 151 Hard-core country music sound, xi, xvii, 17, 46, 57, 70, 94, 107, 123 Harkins, Anthony, 156 Harman, Buddy, 176 Harris, Burma, 133, 134 Harris, Emmylou, 194 Hartigan, John, 234 Hay, George D., 57 Hayes, Isaac, 148 Hebb, Bobby, 150 Hee Haw, 152, 158 Heidemann, Kate, xii “Help Me Make It Through the Night,” 72 Hemphill, Paul, 149, 156–57 Henderson, Jim, Pride, 44 Henry, Murphy, xiv Hernsberger, Brandon, 89 Herzfeld, Michael, 40, 103 Hight, Jewly, xiv Hill, Faith, 11, 106; “Mississippi Girl,” 12 Hill, Goldie, 225 Hillbilly, 216, 234, 242, 252; music, xv, 51, 69, 128, 136, 137; persona, 149, 190, 191, 194, 196, 197, 202, 207; women, 156, 189, 253 Hilton, Perez, 198 Hollandsworth, Skip, 140, 141 Honky Tonk Angels (album), 193 Honky-tonks: bar, 7, 50, 52, 53, 86, 91, 107, 135, 176, 179, 184, 221, 239–40, 242; music, viii, xi, 46, 50, 55, 69, 78, 95, 107, 123, 155, 158, 167, 175, 176, 178, 186, 220 Horstman, Dorothy, 237–38 Houser, Randy, “How Country Feels” (video), 11 Hubbs, Nadine: Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, viii, xiv; redneck woman character, 14 Huber, Patrick, 50 Hughes, Charles, 148 Hughes, Jimmy, 147 Hughes, Michael, 121, 124

Gallin, Sandy, 200 Garber, Marjorie, 248 Gaunt, Kyra, 89 Gayle, Crystal, 194 Gentry, Bobby, “Fancy,” 11 Gentry, Montgomery, “Something to Be Proud Of,” 247 Gill, Vince, 94 Gimble, Johnny, 177 Girls of the Golden West, 136 Gnagy, Caroline, xii Good ol’ boy character, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9–10, 15, 17, 19, 20–21, 22, 23; songs, 3–5, 6, 8–11, 19, 20–21, 23 Gordy, Berry, 148 Goree All-Girl String Band, xii, 127, 133, 134–37, 138–39, 140, 141, 142 Goree State Farm for Women, 127, 134, 142 Graham Norton Show, The, 202–3 Grand Ole Opry, 49, 50, 57, 59, 86, 147, 155, 157, 161, 212, 214, 215, 216, 217, 225, 245; Purina Show, 225; radio program, 45, 49, 57, 128, 135 Gray, Dobie, 58 Great Depression, 128, 150, 167, 236 Green, Al, 58, 148 Griffin, Rex, “The Last Letter,” 136 Guralnick, Peter, 48 Gussow, Adam, 242 Guyton, Ruby, 133 Habitus, 52, 53, 54, 59, 95 Haggard, Merle, 54, 73, 126, 242; “Mama Tried,” 242 Hale, Grace, 160 Hall, Raymond E., 131–33; “Gambling Polka Dot Blues,” 132; “Moonlight and Skies,” 131; “Ninety Nine Years Blues,” 132 Hall, Stuart, 206 Hall, Tom T., 155; “Harper Valley PTA,” 146, 154; “Satan Place,” 155

274

Index Hurt, Edd, 88 Huskey, Roy, Jr., 176

Lamb, Charlie, 149 Lambert, Miranda, 6; “Mama’s Broken Heart,” 14–15; redneck woman persona, 14–15 Lamont, Michèle, 239 Lareau, Annette, 233 Lasch, Christopher, 160 Laughton, Herbie, 71–73, 76, 79; Country From the Heart, 83; “An Old Aboriginal Stockman,” 72; “Old Bungalow Days,” 72; “Old Ghan,” 72; “Your Careless Ways,” 72 Lautner, Taylor, 89 Leach, Elizabeth Eva, 86 Leandro & Leonardo, 29, 30 Led Zeppelin, 241 Lee, Brenda, 86, 95, 200 Lee, Peggy, 70 Lemish, Dafna, 89 Lewis, Margaret, 154 Liberace, 248 Lipsitz, George, 197, 237 Lomax, John and Ruby, 130–31, 132 Lost Cause, 17, 25 Louisiana Hayride, 212, 216, 217, 225 Lowe, Melanie, 89 Lynn, Loretta, 54, 55, 57, 70, 88, 153, 154, 166–67, 168, 169–70, 172–73, 174, 175, 176, 179, 180–82, 191, 193, 194, 212, 226, 231; “Blue Kentucky Girl,” 212; Coal Miner’s Daughter (book), 49; Coal Miner’s Daughter (movie), 226; “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” 212, 231, 237; “Don’t Come Home A’Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” 171, 181; “Fist City,” xii, 166, 167, 169, 170–71, 172, 174, 175–76, 177, 178, 180, 181, 182, 243, 244; “Honky-Tonk Girl,” 212; “One’s On the Way,” 181; “The Pill,” 181; “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” 170, 243, 244; “You’ve Just Stepped In (From Stepping Out on Me),” 181 Lynn, Oliver “Doolittle,” 166, 181–82 Lynyrd Skynyrd, 241, 242; “Free Bird,” 242

Ikuntji culture, Australia, 64, 65 Jackson, Alan, 107 Jackson, Wanda, 220 Jennings, Waylon, viii, 55, 242 Jensen, Joli, Nashville Sound, 176 Jim Crow, xii, 47, 147, 158, 160, 161, 162, 236 João Neto & Frederico, 34–35 Johnny & Jack (duo), 215, 217; “Poison Love,” 217; and the Tennessee Mountain Boys, 216 Johnson, Jack, 52, 61 Johnson-Grau, Brenda, 88 Jonas, Joe, 89 Jones, George, 48, 54, 55, 56–57, 75; “(We’re Not) the Jet Set,” 247 Jones, Steve, 86 Jordanaires, 175–76, 177 Katznelson, Ira, 236 Keil, Charles, 88 Keith, Toby, 107; “Get Drunk and Be Somebody,” 241; “I Love This Bar,” 241 Kennedy, Elizabeth Lapovsky, 243 Kennedy, Jerry, 150 Kennedys, “Camelot,” 14 Kid Rock, 241, 246, 247, 252; “Hillbilly Stomp,” 252; “Son of Detroit,” 241, 242 Killen, Buddy, 150 Kincaid, Bradley, 169 King, Larry, 204 Kirby, Dave, 177 Kirby, Jack Temple, 18 Krims, Adam, 242 Kruse, Holly, 87, 88 Ku Klux Klan, 56 La Chappelle, Peter, Proud to Be an Okie, vii Lady Antebelllum, 11, 24; “American Honey,” 12 Lair, John, 138

Macaulay, Alex, 18–19 “Mack” rap, 242

275

Index Magaha, Mack, 177 Malone, Bill, 128, 205, 234, 235, 238, 249, 253 Malone, Kenny, 177 Mandrell, Barbara, 194 Mann, Geoff, 160, 250 Markus, Hazel Rose, 239 Marlboro brand cigarette, 243, 244, 253 Martell, Linda, xii, xiii, 52, 58, 146–48, 149, 150, 152–53, 154, 155, 157, 158–59, 160, 161, 162, 164; “A Bad Case of the Blues,” 158; Color Me Country, 146; “San Francisco Is a Lonely Town,” 158, 159 Martin, Grady, 176 Marxism, 232, 237, 238 McBride, Martina, 94; “This One’s for the Girls,” 241 McCall, Michael, 85, 94, 217–18 McClinton, O. B., 58 McCoy, Neal, 62 McCusker, Kristine, xi, xiv, 169, 194; A Boy Named Sue, vii–viii, ix, xv; Lonesome Cowboys and Honky-Tonk Angels, vii McDaniel, Mozelle, 133, 140, 141, 143 McEntire, Reba, 24, 194; “Fancy,” 11, 247; “Little Rock,” 11 McGraw, Tim, 93, 108 McKenzie, Scott, 159 McLeod, Kembrew, 87–88 McPhatter, Clyde, 150 McPherson, Tara, 160 McRobbie, Angela, 98 Mediation: in Brazilian masculinity, 27; intercultural concept, 65, 66, 67 Mellard, Jason, 165 Memphis, Tennessee, 148, 248 Mendes, Sérgio, 39 Messina, Jo Dee, “My Give a Damn’s Busted,” 244 MGM Records, 147, 149, 156 Miers, Jeff, 90 Miles, Emma Bell, 194 Miller, Eddie, 149, 151 Miller, Roger, “This Town,” 20 Milsap, Ronnie, 62

Minstrelsy, 130, 147, 154 Miranda, Carmen, 40; “Mamãe eu Quero,” 26 Misrecognition, 233, 249 Mitchell, Margaret, Gone with the Wind, 160 Mitchell, Paul, 142 Monroe, Bill, 49 Monroe, Marilyn, 225 Montana, Patsy, 213; “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart,” 136 Moody, Dan, 127 Moore, Justin: “Bait a Hook,” 4, 20–21, 22; “Good Ole American Way,” 7 Moorer, Allison, Miss Fortune, 94 Morace, Ruby, 133, 135, 140–41, 142 Morton, David C., 49, 57 Morton, Tex, 70, 71 Muenich, Jeanne. See Parker, Linda Muscle Shoals, Alabama, 147, 148 Musgraves, Kacey, “Merry Go ’Round,” 19–20 Music in Daily Life Project, 88–89 Music Row, 46, 51, 58, 103, 104, 106, 108, 109, 111, 149, 155; integration, 150 Música caipira, 28, 29–30, 32 Música sertaneja, ix–x, 28, 29, 30–32, 35, 36–37, 38, 40 MuzikMafia, 231 NASCAR, 21, 22 Nash, Ilana, 90 Nashville, x, xi, 44, 51, 52–53, 55, 58, 146, 148, 149, 153, 161, 211, 212, 214, 215, 216, 217, 220; Charley Pride’s career in, 44, 51, 52–53, 54, 55–56, 58, 59; music industry, 3, 44, 94, 107, 148, 150, 155, 231; songwriters, xi, 102–20. See also Music Row Nashville, 226 Nashville Edition, 177 Nashville Sound, vii, 175, 225–26 National Barn Dance, 128, 169 Neal, Jocelyn R., ix, xi, 87, 92–93, 193 Nelson, Willie, 45, 57, 242 Neoliberalism, x, 232, 249 Nestle, Joan, 243 Neymar (de Silva Santos Júnior), 38–40

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Index 9 to 5 (Broadway musical), 199 Northern Territory Aboriginal Country Festival, 72 Norton, Graham, 202–3 Nunn, Erich, xiii

Mountain Memories,” 195; “Tennessee Homesick Blues,” 195; “Travelin’ Thru,” 193, 200; videos, 196, 198, 202, 205; “Welcome Home,” 203 Pearl, Minnie, 147, 197 Pecknold, Diane, xii; A Boy Named Sue, vii– viii, ix, xv; The Selling Sound, vii Perkinson, Robert, 127, 138 Peterson, Richard, xi, 103, 105, 107, 233, 238, 240; “Class Unconsciousness in Country Music,” 237 Phillips, Esther, 148 Phillips, Sam, 51 Pickler, Kellie, 100 Proof, 14 Pierce, Webb, 216; “Back Street Affair,” 222 Pillsbury, Glenn, 95 Pistol Annies, 23, 24; “Hell on Heels,” 11; “Housewife’s Prayer,” 7 Pitbull, 26 Plantation Records, 146, 147, 152, 153, 157, 160 Pocahontas, Illinois, 241 Porter Wagoner Show, The, 189, 194 Poverty pride (Peterson), 237, 239 Presley, Elvis, 48, 51, 175, 193, 247–48 Pretty Woman (movie), 13 Pride, Charley, x, 44–47, 49–60, 70, 148, 149, 152, 154; “Amazing Love,” 46; baseball career, 50–51; “Burgers and Fries,” 46; “Cotton Fields,” 46; “Crystal Chandeliers,” 46; “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger,” 46; “I’m Just Me,” 44, 59; “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” 46; “Louisiana Man,” 46; “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town,” 46, 60; in Montana, 50–51; “Mountain of Love,” 60; Pride, 44, 52, 57–60; “The Snakes Crawl at Night,” 54 Pride, Rozene, 55 Proctor, Rachel, 110, 112, 114, 115

Oakley, Annie, 243 Ortner, Sherry, 169, 236–37, 238–39, 246, 247 Os Dois Filhos de Francisco (Francisco’s Two Sons), 29 Ottoson, Åse, x Outlaw country music, xiii, 46, 63, 161–62, 165, 241, 243 Owens, Bill, 200 Owens, Buck, “Act Naturally,” 46 Ownby, Ted, 55 Page, June, 177 Paisley, Brad, 9; “Alcohol,” 241; “Welcome to the Future,” 241 Paris, Leslie, The Girls’ History and Culture Reader, 94 Parker, Linda, vii, 212 Parton, Dolly, xii–xiii, 39, 54, 88, 153, 154, 155, 166–67, 168–70, 171, 172, 173–74, 175, 178, 179, 180, 182–83; “Appalachian Memories,” 195; “Applejack,” 197; “Back Home,” 195; “Backwoods Barbie,” 189, 195, 199; “The Bargain Store,” 193; “Blue Ridge Mountain Boy,” 196; Dolly: My Life and Other Unfinished Business, 206; “Dumb Blonde,” 193; “Eagle When She Flies,” 193; The Grass Is Blue, 206; Halos & Horns, 206; Heartsongs: Live from Home, 206; “I Will Always Love You,” 193; “In the Good Old Days [When Times Were Bad],” 195; “Jolene,” xii–xiii, 166, 167, 169, 171, 172, 173, 174–75, 177–79, 180, 182, 193; “Just a Wee Bit Gay,” 200; “Just Because I’m a Woman,” 171, 193, 196; Little Sparrow, 202, 206; “Mule Skinner Blues” cover, 193; “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” 195; New Harvest . . . First Gathering, 199; “9 to 5,” 247; “Puppy Love,” 200; “Smoky

“Radar Love,” 241 Radio, ix, xi, 9, 17, 45, 50, 51, 53, 69, 85, 93, 94, 148, 175; Kitty Wells and, 213, 214–15, 216, 225, 245; programming and gender, 4–5, 102, 106, 112–13, 117–18. See also Barn

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Index dance radio; Grand Ole Opry; Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls Ramsey, “Cowboy” Jack, 131 Randall, Alice, 159 Randall, Bob, “Brown Skin Baby,” 82 Rascal Flatts, 93 Raul Torres & Florência, 28 Ray, Ella, 142 Rayner, Duke, 148 RCA Records, 52, 61, 112, 199, 216–17, 224 Redneck blue-blood narrative, ix, 4, 6–14, 15, 18–19, 20–21, 23 Redneck pride, 234–35, 240 Redneck woman persona, 14, 15, 231, 232, 233 Reed, Roy, 19, 20 Reeves, Jim, 75 Reid, Lyndon, 76–78; Make A Start, 78, 83 Reinheimer, Ludwig, 150 “Remember That,” 109–12, 118 “Remind Me,” 8, 8 Reynolds, R. J., virile female market research, 243, 244, 252–53 Rhythm and blues music, 51, 58, 146, 150, 152 Rhythmic Stringsters, 131, 136 Rich, John, 231; “Shuttin’ Detroit Down,” 7 Richochet, “Daddy’s Money,” 11 Riley, Jeannie C., xii, 146–47, 153–54, 155–57, 158, 159–60, 161, 164; “Cotton Patch,” 159–60; The Generation Gap, 164; “The Girl Most Likely,” 154, 155, 157; Harper Valley PTA, 155; “Harper Valley PTA,” 155, 157; “Satan Place,” 155, 157 Riley, Mickey, 156 Rimes, Leann, 86, 95 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 37 Ritter, Tex, 55 Robbins, Hargus “Pig,” 150, 177 Robertson, Mary, 167–68 Rockabilly music, xv, 149, 186, 200 Rodeo: in Brazil, 26, 29, 30, 32, 36; in Texas, 127–28, 129, 131, 134, 135, 138 Rodgers, Jimmy, 48, 70, 126, 128, 131–32, 214; “Mule Skinner Blues,” 193 Rodriguez, Johnny, 49

Rogers, Helen, 142 Rogers, Jimmie N., 87, 126, 197, 240 Rogers, Kenny, 54 Rogers, Will, 49 Rose, Fred, 225, 227 Rosenberg, Neil, 149 Rugg, Hal, 176 Run-DMC, 242 Ruttan, Deric, 105, 122 San Francisco, California, 158–59 Sanjek, David, xv Savage, Steve, 93 Scott, Bonnie, 133 Scott, Hilary, 11 Scott, James, 239 Scott, Joan Wallach, vii Seely, Jeannie, 157 Sennett, Richard, 238 Sertaneja universitária, ix–x, 26, 35–36, 37, 38, 41 Shank, Barry, 50 Shelton, Blake, 13, 23; “Boys ’Round Here,” x, 3, 22, 23–24 Shelton Brothers, “Just Because,” 136 Shepard, Jean, 213, 221, 225 “She’s More to Be Pitied Than Censured,” 219 Shirley B, 149 Shreveport, Louisiana, 216, 217, 224 Shuman, Amy, 111 Simmons, Lee, 127, 139 Simpson, Ashlee, 85 Simpson, Jessica, 112, 113–15 Sincerity contract (Rogers), 87–88, 197, 240 Singleton, Shelby, 146, 147, 148, 150–51, 152–53, 154, 155, 156, 161, 163–64 Skaggs, Ricky, 76, 78 Skeggs, Beverley, 232–33, 246, 247, 249 Sledge, Mississippi, 45, 60 Smith, Mira, 154 Snibbe, Alana Conner, 239 Soft-shell country music sound, xi, xvii, 46, 57, 70, 94, 107, 123 Sontag, Susan, 191

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Index Southern migration, 148, 167, 175, 195, 234 Sovine, Red, 51 Spacek, Sissy, 226 Spears, Britney, 85 Spencer, Bettina, 246 Spice Girls, 86 SSS International label, 152–53 Steedman, Carolyn Kay, 240 Stewart, Rod, “Sailing,” 64 Stimeling, Travis, viii, xi, 161, 165 Stoneman, Roni, 57 Stony Mountain Cloggers, 155 Stover, Jeremy, 20 Strait, George, 241 Stras, Laurie, 100 Styles, Harry, 89 Supremes, The, 148 Sutherland, Gavin, 64 Sutton, Matthew, x Sweeney, Jimmy, 149, 150, 163 Sweeney, Jo Ann, 149, 151, 163, 164 Sweet Dreams (movie), 226 Sweet Home, Alabama (movie), 14 Swift, Taylor, xi, 6, 11, 84; “Change,” 94; Fearless, 89, 92; “Fifteen,” 89; “Forever and Always,” 90; “I knew You Were Trouble,” 90; “I’m Only Me When I’m with You,” 89; “Love Story,” 89, 92; “pitch problem,” 84, 86, 91; Taylor Swift, 89; “Tim McGraw,” 89; at Video Music Awards 2009, 12; “We Are Never Getting Back Together,” 84, 90; “You Belong with Me,” 92

Texas Ruby, 213 Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls, 126–27, 128, 129, 130, 131, 132, 134, 135, 136, 137, 138–39, 141–42 Thompson, Bobby, 177 Thompson, Hank, “The Wild Side of Life,” 219, 220, 245 Thornton, Sarah, 87, 124 Tippin, Aaron, “Working Man’s Ph.D.,” 247 Tishomingo, Oklahoma, 22 Tosches, Nick, Country, 12 Transamerica, 193, 200 Trent, Buck, 177 Tritt, Travis, “Country Club,” 10 Trott, Walter, 220 Tubb, Ernest, 46 Tucker, Tanya, 86, 95, 194, 241, 243, 251–52 Twain, Shania, 94, 106, 107 Twitty, Conway, 54; “Tight Fittin’ Jeans,” 10 Underwood, Carrie, 6, 8, 11, 244–45; “Before He Cheats,” 244–45; “I Ain’t in Checotah Anymore,” 12; “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” 244 Valentino, Rudolph, 248 Vassar, Phil, “Carlene,” 6, 10 Victor & Leo, 35 Viola (ten-string guitar), 28, 29–30 Virile Female, 234, 242–45, 247, 248–49, 252–53 Voice, The, 22 Wagoner, Porter, 54, 154, 189, 193, 199 Walker, Cindy, 109 Wallace, George, 149 Walt Disney Ranch, 22 Warwick, Jacqueline, 86, 100 Watts, Trent, 15 Weber, Max, 238 Wells, Kitty, xiii, 155, 158, 197, 200, 211–26, 245; “As Long as I Live,” 222; “Heartbreak, U.S.A.,” 222–23; homemaker image, 213, 218–19, 221, 224, 225; “I Don’t Claim

Taylor, Yuval, 87, 90 Teena, Brandon, 243 Teló, Michel: “Ai Se Eu Te Pego” (Hey! If I Should Grab Ya), 26, 27, 37, 38, 39–40; “My Humble Residence,” 34 Tex, Joe, 148, 150 Texas Daisy, 213 Texas Prison Echo, 127, 129, 130, 132, 134, 135, 136, 138, 139 Texas Prison Rodeo, 127–28

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Index to Be an Angel,” 221; “I’d Rather Stay Home,” 222; “I Gave My Wedding Dress Away,” 223; “I’m Counting on You,” 221; “I’m Paying for that Back Street Affair,” 22; “It Wasn’t God Who Made HonkyTonk Angels,” 211, 213, 216, 217, 218, 219, 221, 223–24, 225, 226, 245; “I’ve Kissed You My Last Time,” 221; “One by One,” 222; “Searching,” 221, 225; “A Stranger in My Home,” 222; “There’s Poison in Your Heart,” 221; “The Things I Might Have Been,” 223; “Thou Shalt Not Steal,” 221; voice, 221; “Whose Shoulder Will You Cry On,” 222; “A Woman Half My Age,” 222 West, Dottie, 194 West, Mae, 200, 201 Whannel, Paddy, 206 White, Howard, 105 Whiteley, Sheila, 91, 190 Whiteness, 18, 53, 57, 68, 130, 149–50, 152, 153, 158, 160, 161, 162, 236–37; and the racial coding of country music, 49, 57, 149; and the redneck persona, 234 Wilburn, Teddy, 181 Wilburn Brothers, 179, 181 Williams, Audrey, 216, 224 Williams, Buddy, 70 Williams, Don, 39 Williams, Gus, 72 Williams, Hank, 23, 45, 46, 50, 53, 70, 72, 88, 216, 224, 237–38; “Kaw-Liga,” 46; “A Mansion on the Hill,” 12, 13 Williams, Hank, Jr., 23, 240, 241, 246; “My Name Is Bocephus,” 242, 247 Williams, Raymond, 26–27 Williams, Warren H., 69 Wilson, Chris, xi Wilson, Gretchen, 88; Gretchen Wilson: Greatest Hits, 241; Here for the Party, 231; I Got Your Country Right Here, 241; “Pocahontas Proud,” 241; Redneck Woman: Stories from My Life, 241; “Redneck Woman,” 14, 231–32, 233–34, 235, 239,

240–43, 245–46, 247, 248, 249; redneck woman persona, xiv, 14, 194, 231–32, 248 Wilson, Pamela, 190 Winstons, “Color Him Father,” 146 Wolfe, Charles K., xv, 49, 57, 224 Wolk, Douglas, 93 Womack, Bobbie, 58 Woodard, Fay, 133 Wright, Bobby, 215, 216 Wright, Chely, 220 Wright, Johnnie, 211, 212, 214–17, 218, 219, 220, 223, 224; and the Harmony Girls, 214; and the Tennessee Hillbillies, 212, 214, 215. See also Johnny & Jack Wright, Louise. See Anglin, Louise Wright Wright, Ruby, 215 Wright, Sue, 216 Wright Sisters, 215 Wynette, Tammy, 54, 88, 153, 154, 193, 194; “(We’re Not) the Jet Set,” 247 Yearwood, Trisha, 94 Young, Faron, 55–56 Zac Brown Band, 9 Zé Carreira & Carreirinho, 28 Zé Mulato & Cassiano, “Navigator of the Generations,” 30 Zezé di Camargo & Luciano, 29, 31–32, 34, 35; “It’s Love,” 32 ZZ Top, 242

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