(Read today's none-Country Western Reader Mail in the separate document here.)
BOTH COUNTRY AND WESTERN
Re: Clinton W. Taylor's America's Hit-Kickers:
Taylor is a man of many talents. What a treasure trove of country western a lot of the country doesn't know exists. I'll be looking them up. While my own knowledge of contemporary CW is limited, I always admired Bob Wills, as much for his business suit and hat as his musical skill. Most of the CW ladies today sound like screech owls in distress to me, particularly the one that lets "freedom ring" at about 750 decibels. Besides, it seems to me a country western singing girl ought to look a little country and sound a little country. Like Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline.
I wonder how songs like "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition," "Comin' In On a Wing and a Prayer" or "White Cliffs of Dover" would be, if written in support of our current war? The Wing and a Prayer one would incite war protesters to demand better aircraft wings so our military wouldn't have to pray. But what morale boosters the Andrews Sisters must have been with "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy" and "Apple Blossom Time"! Neither could we have a BWBugle Boy today. "He was the top man at his craft, but then his number came up and he was caught in the draft..." There were hundreds of good war songs and the sillier the better. There was one that went:
Eager Beaver's got him a twelve hour leave, hoya hoya
Lookin' like Christmas, happy as New Year's Eve --"
[starts out optimistic but it winds up]
She's mad, lockin' the door
No more "too-joor" l'amour
Ain't it a shame
He got the wrong dame
Because the night is damp, (damp, damp, damp)
He's overdue at camp
And he's twenty-two miles from town.
Poor politically incorrect Spike Jones would have a rough go with a remake of "Right in the Fuhrer's Face" for Saddam. A ditty like that would be more demoralizing than the Spider Hole Portrait.
No Big Bands. No girl singer with a gardenia in her hair to warble "He Wears a Pair of Silver Wings" or "I'll Walk Alone." No Bob Hope USO shows. I am sure Wayne Newton is doing his patriotic best, but Hope was a tough act to follow. Nothing personal about Wayne, but if God wants to really punish me, instead of sending me to Hell, He can put me in an elevator going nowhere for all eternity with Eddie Fisher singing "O, My Papa" and Wayne singing "Danke Schoen" piped in.
Now that I think on it, WWII songs were more about "love on hold" than love of country. Still they served a purpose. All that pent-up emotion on both sides of the war. Made 'em want to win it and get back home. CW songs boost morale and remind of that we have a country and a way of life that are worth the fight. They cheer the troops and annoy the libs.
-- Diane Smith
South San Francisco, California
Mr. Taylor's list is not quite complete. I would add some of the following selections:
1. The Minutemen by Stonewall Jackson. This nailed the profound anti-Americanism of the so-called anti-war movement from the start of the first verse.
They march in line to carry signs
protesters one and all
They'd rather go to prison
than to heed their country's call
get out of here
get out of there
let's have an end to war
I'm glad they weren't around to say
get out of Valley Forge.
The third verse ends with a plaintive prayer:
Dear Lord I have one little Prayer
I Pray in years to come
don't ever let these kind of people
serve in Washington.
Old Stonewall recorded this four years before Merle Haggard recorded "Fighting Side of Me."
2. "Stars and Stripes On Iwo Jima" by the Sons of the Pioneers. A cover of song Bob Wills did a few months earlier. You dance better to Bob's version but this is a better vocal.
3. "Each Night At Nine" by Floyd Tillman. Originally recorded in 1944, this song is a vivid reminder that we live in a freedom because rough armed men stand guard and are prepared to take violent action against those who would harm us.
4. "No No Joe" by Hank Williams Sr. Old Hank tells Joe Stalin where to get off.
5. "Stalin Kicked The Bucket" by Johnny Dilks. The happiest song ever written about Stalin.
-- Fredrick P. Baughman, EWC, USN (ret)
Chula Vista, California
I'm disappointed that you neglected to list Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA."
Greenwood never had the list of hits that the other singers had, but you've got to admit that "God Bless the USA" strikes a patriotic red-state chord deep within conservatives.
-- Michael McClain
San Antonio, Texas
I am disappointed that the author left off Lee Greenwood's song "God Bless the USA."
-- Steve Simpson
Raleigh, North Carolina
I am assuming that you left "God Bless the USA (Proud To Be An American)" by Lee Greenwood off the list since no one needs to be reminded of the qualities of that song.
-- Troy Harmon
Albuquerque, New Mexico
What a great column about conservative country songs by Clinton Taylor. I know that no such list could be exhaustive, but he skipped some artists who deserve mention, and I humbly suggest a few additions:
Alan Jackson -- the guy defines "regular American guy." If his songs aren't about conservative values and doing the right thing I don't know which ones are (and I'm ignoring his cheating songs). With songs like: "Drive," "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)," "Where I Come From," and "I'll Try," you've got to have him on the list -- even if he is likely a Yellow Dog Democrat.
Hank Jr. -- Come on. "I've Got Rights" may be a vigilante song, but how can you not love a song with lyrics like:
I went down to the Mary Carter paint store
I said give me one of them Smith and Wesson magnum forty fours
Cause there's a man that the law let loose and justice was not done
When the trial was over he had the nerve to say that's the way it goes I said well hoss you better get you some corks
Cause you're gonna have to plug up a few holes
And you've also got to include George Strait -- GW played "Heartland" at half of his 2004 appearances. Throw in "Love Without End, Amen" too as a start.
Randy Travis's "Three Wooden Crosses" will bring tears to most eyes, and Aaron Tippin's "Where the Eagles Fly" may be cheesier than Toby's "Red, White, and Blue" but there's a reason G. Gordon Liddy plays it on his show.
Finally, the old cowboy -- Don Williams. "Good Ol' Boys Like Me" is a classic.
Those are my suggestions from here in Nashville, Tennessee -- Music City, USA.
-- Christopher D. Booth
I got married in Madill and we had a catfish lunch afterwards and the country waitress gave us a cold bottle of champagne. I (age 15) listened to Eddie Arnold on a juke box in East Moline, Ill., right at the Mississippi River's edge -- "Cattle Call." I can still sing it. I saw him in person a few years later in 1950 when I was stationed at Kelly AFB as a new AF Pilot just out of the Aviation Cadet Class of 50A -- soon found myself flying Douglas A-26s in low level night destruction missions in Korea.
God Bless the heroes of country and western music and God Bless all of my lost comrades who gave their ultimate in WWII, Korea, 'Nam and all the ones thereafter.
-- Jack Vandevoort
I'm disappointed that Clinton W. Taylor omitted from his list of examples of great country songs with great conservative ideas the Johnny Cash classic "The One On The Right Is On The Left," the last verse of which warns entertainers about the dangers of getting involved in politics. It reads:
Now this should be a lesson if you plan to start a folk group
Don't go mixin' politics with the folk songs of our land
Just work on harmony and diction
Play your banjo well
And if you have political convictions keep them to yourself
-- J. Rodgers
Fairfax County, Virginia
Clinton Taylor's article on patriotic country music made for great reading and it brought back lots of warm memories. An old favorite patriotic number I loved was "There's a Stars Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere." But I don't know where I would place it on Mr. Taylor's fine song list.
-- Stan Welli
I am really not that big of a country music fan. My wife and I do enjoy some of the music. My wife loves everything Willie Nelson sings, (I think we'll pass on the gay cowboy ditty). We are aware of Willie's liberal bent and his sordid past with drugs, etc. But there is just something about his voice that drives my wife crazy.
I myself like Merle Haggard. One of the best examples of Hag's deep rich voice is found in "Going Where the Lonely Go." His duets with Willie are some the best cuts Willie ever recorded.
I see Mr. Taylor has spent some time in Madill, Oklahoma. Every year we spend a couple of weeks at the Lake Texoma State Resort and drive into Kingston almost every day. Madill is just down the road. They have some of the best restaurants in the lake area. They also have a nice airport if you are a pilot. We often talk of retiring in that area.
-- Chuck Chase
My only quarrel with the author of this article is that he limited it to 15 songs and some of the ones that never fail to move me were not included. I shall not name them, as that would then incite another reader to write lamenting others that were not included and the ensuing string of letters would be unending, I fear.
As for Mr. Judge, he is an artsy, f*rtsy snob who takes himself way, way, waaaaay too seriously. He needs to relocate to France. He would feel right at home as they also are snobs that take themselves way too seriously.
-- Ken Shreve
I probably became a committed conservative while watching PBS. (How many of us can claim that?) Shortly after Ronald Reagan took office, I watched a PBS special of Merle Haggard giving a concert at the White House. He had received a pardon from RR, you know. Anyway, he sat there in the White House at the end of our long national malaise and sang "Are the Good Times Really Over." I was only about 10 years old, but it made a distinct impression on me. I was already a fan of The Hag, but after that I became an even bigger one. I could add a few of his songs to your list -- as I'm sure you could as well: "Workin' Man Blues" (my personal favorite), Mama Tried, Do They Ever Think of Me, Soldier's Last Letter (a cover of an ET song, I believe).
As to your larger point about conservative values in country music, I think a big part of the reason for such a strong conservative strain within that genre is that so much great country music deals with the theme of redemption -- the recognition of our need for it, the search for it, the finding of it. It is hard to think of a more conservative theme than that. By the way, for my money, the best country song ever is (with apologies to Mr. Haggard) Johnny Cash's "Sunday Morning Comin' Down" (written by Kris Kristofferson). The song gives a clear and powerful illustration of a man coming to the end of his rope and realizing his complete and total helplessness. Despite the line about wishing to be stoned, this song wouldn't be out of place in church. Put it together with "Amazing Grace" and you have a pretty profound sermon.
Thanks for the article. I really enjoyed it.
How are we going to make all 15 songs into one CD? Somehow this could be put together and we need it now!
-- Dwight M. Doolan
Clint Taylor replies
Thanks to all who wrote in, and who suggested additions to my list. When I wrote this I was hoping to hear about some gems I'd missed. As it is I could easily have written up the top fifty conservative country songs but that would have run a bit long. These 15 songs should indeed fit perfectly on one CD if you feel like searching around and downloading them.
Several people have complained about my omission of Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A," and there's a case to be made for its inclusion based on its importance in the Gulf War. On the other hand, while I'm a big fan of Greenwood's "Driving Down a Dusty Dixie Road," "God Bless the U.S.A." just never did it for me.
I'll talk more about the article with Cam Edwards at NRA News (broadcast live on nranews.com) at about 4:20 p.m. Eastern Time today (Monday), and maybe we'll play a few of the songs.
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