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This Country's Bigger Than Texas
This article was written in 1991, and only published privately. Some of the people I talk about have died in the ensuing years, so please take this into consideration if it sounds like I don't have my facts straight.
The people who don't realize the magnitude of Country Music that is sweeping the nation, and has been for over 20 years, will find an indepth study in the music of LIFE in this article. We examine two Country songs, This Country's Bigger than Texas by Gene Watson and Mother Country Music by Vern Gosdin, from the early '90's, when Garth Brooks was just coming on the scene, and fitting because he has just been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"YOU COULD KNOW AS MUCH ABOUT A STRANGER"
GENE WATSON is another great
who's been long under-rated, much
like Vern Gosdin.
He's been "RAISIN' CAIN IN TEXAS"
so long "NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW."
I'll bet he feels like he's been doing a
No wonder he's asking, "SHOULD I GO
HOME OR SHOULD I GO CRAZY?"
Am I starting to get to you? If you're starting
to re-member some of these songs, how about,
"LOVE IN THE HOT AFTERNOON?" "PAPER
ROSIE?" "THE OLD MAN AND HIS HORN?"
"COWBOYS DON'T GET LUCKY ALL THE TIME?"
Gene Watson sang "PICK THE WILDWOOD FLOWER"
and "I DON'T NEED A THING AT ALL." He knew
"WHERE LOVE BEGINS"...! with the "BEDROOM
BALLAD" and "NOTHING SURE LOOKED GOOD ON YOU."
More recently he's had "THE JUKE-BOX PLAYED ALONG"
and "ACROSS THE GREAT DIVIDE." And now he's come
out with "THIS COUNTRY'S BIGGER THAN TEXAS."
Hearing this song for the first time, my instincts told me,
this song should be a hit. This is one hell of a song.
BUT... I heard it for two weeks, then nothing. What's
happening? Here's a voice of pure raw emotion. Here's
a song with pure proof of what Country is. Are we letting
this great singer drift into obscurity?
Let me tell you what I know about Gene Watson.
He's from Texas, and used to be an autobody man.
That's right - "YOU COULD KNOW AS MUCH ABOUT
"BIGGER THAN TEXAS" should not be his
NOBODY DON'T LIKE VERN!
HAZEL SMITH (Country Music Maagazine July - August 1990)
"'CHISLED IN STONE', the classic Vern Gosdin album on
CBS that I have raved about, has been certified GOLD, according
to the powers that be at RIAA. Congratulations are in order
for the great Vern Gosdin. This should have happened for
Vern two decades ago. Also, congrats to BOB MONTGOMERY,
who dared to 'do Vern' when even Vern was ready to hang up his
show biz hat."
GEORGE JONES called Vern personally to tell him CHISLED IN
STONE was his favorite album. Vern's response to this was it
made him feel good, "because one thing about Jones, to get him
excited just about takes an Act of Congress."
A favorite song of JOHN JORGENSEN of the Desert Rose Band
is DO YOU BELIEVE ME NOW, Vern Gosdin.
RADNEY FOSTER (Foster & Lloyd)
"Vern is one of the greatest white singers alive!"
T. GRAHAM BROWN
"Vern is great. He's always treated me with a lot of
respect. CHISLED IN STONE is a high-water mark for him."
TOM T. HALL
"Vern's a great guy. Kind of quiet. He's just had open heart
surgery - he's doin' well. He wrote a whole album about his
divorce. Maybe he can get some (songs) out of a heart attack."
"I like Vern's singing. He's one of the handful of singers
with soul in his voice."
"GOOD MORNIN' AMERICA!
How are you? Don't you know me?
I'm your native son..." "WRONG!"
I'm EVERYBODY'S SCREWED-UP
Tom T. Hall called K.T. Oslin,
"Everybody's screwed-up sister."
K.T. called herself a 'Border-line
fool in her song, "Eighties Ladies."
"She burned her bra...burned her
candle at both ends...and crossed
the border every chance she got."
Well, I'm one of those 'Eightiess Ladies', too,
and Tom T. just helped me put it in perspective.
My brother, Butch, wrote a letter, in which he
stated, "Country Music makes me sick." My son,
Tracy, echoed his statement.
Fine. This article is for you, and anyone else
that feels this way. Part of my love affair with
life is my love of Country Music. All I ask is that
you read this article with an open mind. "PUT
YOURSELF IN MY SHOES."
Somewhere in the mid-sixties, Butch, turned me on to Neil Diamond. He also introcuced me to headphones that I used to lisen to 'The Solitary Man.' I was amazed how the sound seemed to go into my head instead of just my ears. Today I keep my headphones handy, and when a certain song catches my fancy, I plug them into my radio and listen through them to really get into a song.
Whether you know it or not, Country Music is sweeping the nation. Gene Watson tells us, "THIS COUNTRY'S BIGGER THAN TEXAS! It's bigger than Nashville, Tennessee! It reaches border to border. It stretches sea to sea. This Country's got no boundaries!"
With the utmost simplicity, this song tells us what Country Music is. In a taxi in Manhattan, "from the radio came gliding, a sliding Nashville pedal steel", or a couple with seemingly nothing in common until "the Juke-box started playing, just your average Country song" and they danced all night long.
Country Music is a common thread, found in even unlikely places (Manhattan) that brings people together, even the most unlikely, and forms a common bond, if even for a fleeting moment. Country Music is the most common AND the most versatile of music forms. It begins with a beat (his fingers danced upon the wheel), then a catch phrase and a deeper lyric line that triggers an emotional response. An indepth study of Country Music is comparable to studying psychology. It reaches the common man in a method he can understand and serves to tickle his intellect.
To say Country Music makes you sick, is to say Life makes you sick. Because Country Music is taken from the pages of life. Every emotion you have ever experienced, every thought that has ever danced in your head, every pain you have ever felt, has, at one time or another, been said in a song.
COUNTRY MUSIC PERSONIFIED
"THIS COUNTRY'S BIGGER THAN TEXAS" brings to mind another song that gives even more depth to the meaning of Country Music and expresses what Country Music makes me feel.
Vern Gosdin personified Country Music in 1977, with his haunting rendition of "MOTHER COUNTRY MUSIC." That was the year of my divorce, after a 17 year marriage, so consider this as you listen to these words. "When my mind is all a'clutter from livin' day to day... When I'm deep in disappointment and cannot face the night... You helped me through the darkest nights when I thought I was alone... And when my heart is broken and everything goes wrong..."
Now let me put this song back together for you. "Your music's like a river I can gently float away... Your music lifts me up and takes me closer to the light... It helps to ease my mind when I hear it in your song... There's a refuge for my troubles in your song..."
I didn't mean to pick this song apart - it sounds better the way it was written, but parts of it have different meanings for me. "And when I found a new love, you gave me a love song." For my late husband, Stan, and me, it was, "WE'RE NOT EXACTLY STRANGERS" you and I. I've already loved you in my mind." Since we'd known each other for years, any wonder why this song became 'our' song? Another song that had special meaning for us was Anne Murray's, "YOU NEEDED ME." "I cried a tear, you wiped it dry. I was confused, you cleared my mind... You gave me strength to stand alone again, to face the world out on my own again. You put me high upon a pedestal. So high that I could almost see eternity. You needed me..."
"MOTHER COUNTRY MUSIC" let your sad songs roll. You nurtured me in childhood. You're a haven for my soul."
Let me show you what I grew up on.
"SMOKE, SMOKE, SMOKE THAT CIGARETTE!" This was sung by Tex Williams in 1947. I'm not sure if I remember this version, or if Merle Travis, who wrote it, released it himself in the '5O's. But I do remember these songs by Merle Travis - "SO ROUND, SO FIRM, SO FULLY PACKED!" "DIVORCE ME C.O.D.", AND "DARK AS A DUNGEON."
"IF YOU'VE GOT THE MONEY, I'VE GOT THE TIME!" Lefty Frizzell. Also by Lefty, "ALWAYS LATE" (which was often referred to around our house.) "GONE, GONE, GONE", and "LONG BLACK VEIL."
"YES, SIR, THAT'S MY BABY", Roy Acuff. Also, "THE GREAT SPECKLED BIRD" and "THE WABASH CANNONBALL."
When Lonzo and Oscar sang, "I'M MY OWN GRANDPA", it set us all wondering how that could possibly come about! "SLEEPIN' AT THE FOOT OF THE BED" was popular when all three of us girls still slept in one bed. I don't know how the folks ever managed to buy all three of us a 'Hollywood Bed' at the same time, but I sure appreciated it.
Some of these, and a passel of songs by Homer and Jethro, like "HOW MUCH IS THAT HOUND DOG IN THE WINDOW" were the novelty songs. But then we had the songs of "THE WILD SIDE OF LIFE" (Hank Thompson) who also gave us "A SIX-PACK TO GO." "I've got time for one more round and a six-pack to go." "HONKYTONK MAN" (Johnny Horton) "I'm a Honkeytonk man, and I can't seem to stop. I love to give the girls a whirl to the music of the ole Juke-box. But when my money's all gone, I'm on telephone, singin', 'Hey, hey, Mama, can your Daddy come home?'"
We had Faron Young telling us, "I'M GONNA LIVE FAST, LOVE HARD, DIE YOUNG, AND LEAVE A BEAUTIFUL MEMORY." Something happened to his philosophy, 'cuz he's still here, but that's good! But he's left a beautiful memory for me. I never dreamed when I was a kid listening to his song, that I'd ever meet the man, not only once, but twice. I spent a memorable day with 'The Singing Sheriff', and his 'Deputies' and Billie Jo Spears in 1974 - and then had the opportunity to see Faron again in 1976. The impressive thing of all of this was - he remembered me!
I think if there ever was a song that STANDS as a tribute to the Honkey-tonk life, it was "THERE STANDS THE GLASS, that will ease all my pain..." (Webb Pierce)
Kitty Wells took offense to Hank Thompson saying, "I DIDN'T KNOW GOD MADE HONKY-TONK ANGELS", and came out with, "IT WASN'T GOD WHO MADE HONKEY-TONK ANGELS", as you said in the words of your song. Too many times married men think they're still single that has caused many a good girl to go wrong." This also gave her the first number one record sung by a woman!
In the same vein, Hank Locklin sang, "PLEASE HELP ME I'M FALLIN'" and Skeeter Davis sang, "I CAN'T HELP YOU DARLIN', 'CUZ I'M FALLIN', TOO."
There were more love songs... Don Gibson gave us the incredible, "I CAN'T STOP LOVING YOU," and, of course, Hank Williams', "I CAN'T HELP IT IF I'M STILL IN LOVE WITH YOU", was only one of his 'Love - Pain' song. And if we stop and think of something incredible, George Jones hit the Country Music scene in 1955 with, "WHY, BABY, WHY." Then he told us how things would be when we were through living in our "TENDER YEARS," and even gave us a disertation on his pappy's "WHITE LIGHTININ' " in a song that sounded somewhat akin to what emerged as Rock 'N Roll. Yet, George is still out here telling us he's glad "THERE'S STILL A FEW OLD COUNTRY BOYS AROUND."
COUNTRY MUSIC IS FOR THE BYRDS
Elvis Presley is the undisputed King of Rock N' Roll. Really? Carl Perkins was singin' "BLUE SUEDE SHOES" long before Elvis was. That's mostly because he wrote the song. And do you remember, "ROCK AROUND THE CLOCK?" Seems like Bill Haley and the Comets did that 'Before Elvis.' Now, I'm not trying to take anything away from Elvis, he certainly left us a legacy, but I believe Bob Dylan did more to change the direction of music than Elvis did.
Yes, I embraced Rock N' Roll when it was new. First, because it was more accessible, and second, because it didn't sound a whole lot different than the Country Music I already loved. It was when Rock N' Roll changed and became Rock, Hard Rock, Acid Rock, that I went back to Country.
From the Grateful Dead, 3 Dog Night, Led Zepplin, Motley Crue, The Byrds... the 'Greatful Living' grew...
The night the music died, one light remained. Waylon Jennings, The Ramblin Man - Outlaw - Highwayman - origional Cricket, was not on the plane that crashed, taking the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper, J.P. Richardson.
Waylon, and those who wanted to do Country but were influenced by Rock N' Roll, shook up the complacent Country Music Industry and woke it up to the New Traditionalists. I'm talking about Conway Twitty ("ONLY MAKE BELIEVE"); Kenny Rogers (The New Christy Minstrels - The 1st Edition); ("YOUNG LOVE") Sonny James; (England) Dan Seals; Billy 'Crash' Craddock; Billy Joe Royal; ("WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN'") Jerry Lee Lewis... did I mention The Byrds? Oh, yeah. Chris Hillman, of The Byrds fame, is now Chris Hillman of the Desert Rose Band, who are now singing to us from their "PAGES OF LIFE!"
Today, the wealth of newcomers, who have descended on the Country Music Scene, and who have been influenced by ALL of this, is astounding! If you have never heard THE KENTUCKY HEADHUNTERS - or have to ask, "Who's GARTH BROOKS?" - you HAVEN'T been listening. And you have no opinion!
RUNNING FROM THE DEVIL - REACHING FOR THE STARS
The amazing thing about relating to others why you feel as you do about certain things, is self-discovery. I have consciously chosen Kris Kristofferson as a mentor, and I truly believe he is one of the all-time greatest songwriters. I have been challenged by Sonny James, and emerged successful. I have drawn inspiration from Marvin Rainwater. I have been impressed by Faron Young, not as much by his greatness, as his humility.
The need to 'reach for inspiration' as Randy and George sing today (Travis and Jones), whether consciously or unconsciously, is in all of us. I discovered, as in the words of a song by Kris "...teaching me that YESTERDAY was something that I never thought of trying." Until now, I did not know what a tremendous impact one of Marty Robbins' songs made on me, buried deep in my subconscious, incredibly guiding me over the years.
I have always loved Marty Robbins, from "IF YOU CAN'T TAKE ME AS I AM, THEN I'LL GO ON ALONE", (1952) to "SINGIN' THE BLUES" (1956) and "A WHITE SPORT COAT AND A PINK CARNATION" (1957) and his mammouth Grammy winner, "EL PASO" in 1959.
As much as I loved his music, I have never bought even one album of Marty Robbins', yet he touched my life in many ways, and I feel a sadness that I never met him. Even the time of his death will live in my memory. My husband, Stan, bore an uncanny resemblance to Marty. Stan was gravely ill when Marty died, December 8, 1982, yet he was upset at Marty's death. "Oh, I really liked him." he said. We sat together and watched Ronny Robbins on TV, in a tribute to Marty, sing his father's song, "MY WOMAN, MY WOMAN, MY WIFE." Stan died 6 days later.
"...And then the Story of my Life will start and end with... My Woman, My Woman, My wife."
But it was 1958 when Marty released this song: "SOME DAY I'M GONNA WRITE THE STORY OF MY LIFE." It was this song - this song - that planted the desire to write into my subconcious. In addition, the desire to make my life something worth writing about. I cried when this realization hit me. I was totally overwhelmed that the power of this one song has been working on my life since 1958! There. This is why I love "MOTHER COUNTRY MUSIC," who "nurtured me in childhood"... and truly knows "no boundaries," not even those of mind or time.
Copyright Vista 15 1991
THIS COUNTRY'S BIGGER THAN TEXAS
I guess you can't have everything go right... You have to click on 'watch on you tube' for my title song... please do, but then come back for the rest... Thank you.
[Check it first. This time it worked.]
MOTHER COUNTRY MUSIC
Gene Watson and Tiana Dreymor
Vern Gosdin and Tiana Dreymor
Bless my heart... I had the same shirt on in both interviews...
Bless HIS heart. Vern Gosdin left this world on April 28, 2009. Rest in Peace, Darlin'.