Tuesday, July 31, 2007
Gotta Love That Classic Honkytonk
There's no music more satisfying to me right now than classic 50's Honkytonk. Born in the grimy roadhouses of the Deep South, this music was hard country (called "hillbilly" in its day), spare, stripped down, and sung with an unapologetic twang. Honkytonk lyricists dealt with drinking, fighting, cheating and the guilt that inevitably followed. It's pure and unaffected, completely Southern and blue collared.
I've created mix tapes of the great honkytonkster anthems to listen to in my car... that way I can imagine it's 1951 and I've stepped into a roadhouse in southern Oklahoma and plopped down next to the Wurlitzer jukebox. Here's one of the songs that might have been playing: "In The Jailhouse Now," by the great Webb Pierce, backed by the eventual king of the spoken word trucking song, Red Sovine. It's country schadenfruede, an "I told you so" tune with a buoyant call and response chorus and the kind of close harmonizing that never goes out of style.
At this point, drums were still way too "black" for a white country song. All the rhythm came from guitar strumming. When the white boys like Elvis finally added drums, you got rock and roll, and the rest is history.