During the Great Depression, a man named Charley Pride was born in Mississippi as one of 11 children to his sharecropping parents. The year he was born, The Dust Bowl would ravage 300 million American acres, forcing hundreds of thousands of migrants to California in search of income.
As a boy, Pride was introduced to country music by his father and later learned guitar. Though he loved music, he dreamed of playing professional baseball, which he successfully did for much of his 20s in both Negro and minor leagues. After being cut by the Cincinnati Reds farm team in Missoula, Montana, Pride worked in construction and a metal factory for many years. He also played semi-pro ball on the side and made double his salary by singing to the crowd before games. Years later he cut a demo at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, the same recording studio that put Elvis on the map. Sometime later, country superstar Chet Atkins heard the demo and signed him to a contract. With over 30 number one hits, he would become the second most successful RCA musician in history (after Elvis).
But fame quickly forced him to confront his outsider status. This is how he confronted it, according to Wikipedia. “In the late summer of 1966, on the strength of his early releases, Pride was booked for his first large show, in Detroit’s Olympia Stadium. Since no biographical information had been included with his songs, few of the 10,000 country fans who came to the show knew Pride was black, and only discovered the fact when he walked onto the stage, at which point the applause trickled off to silence. “I knew I’d have to get it over with sooner or later,” Pride later remembered. “I told the audience: ‘Friends, I realize it’s a little unique, me coming out here—with a permanent suntan—to sing country and western to you. But that’s the way it is.’ ”
I love that quote as much as I love Pride’s music and character. This is my favorite song of his.
My family and I recently returned from a weeklong road trip along U.S. Route 50 through Nevada. Famously dubbed “the loneliest road in America” by an unnamed AAA agent, the highway is as beautiful as it is devoid of life.
My column on the experience will publish next week. But one of the highlights was undoubtedly listening to rural country radio through much of it. And by rural I mean no more than four FM stations at any time; two of which were gospel, one talk radio, and one country.
Because our rental car’s auxiliary music jack didn’t work, these are the best songs we listened to while cruising through the beautiful Great Basin of Nevada: Continue reading…
I can count the number of country albums I like in the order I discovered them on one hand: Patsy Cline’s greatest, Garth Brooks Ropin’ the Wind, Hank Williams’ greatest, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, and Jimmy Buffett’s greatest (if you can call that country).
Truth be told, I think the genre may be the second most cliche and boring kind of music ever, after industrial, of course (with exception to Pretty Hate Machine and Downward Spiral).
But I digress. I now have a new favorite country album: Brad Paisley’s This is Country Music. Whether you like country or not, know this: Brad Paisley is a phenomenal musician, songwriter, Telecaster guitarist, and one of the best lyricists in modern music. Of any genre. Seriously, he could give Brandon Flowers a run for his poetic memory. He’s that good.
So if you ain’t scurred to try new things, click on the above link. Not only will it make you want to buy a 10-gallon hat and a pair of wranglers, I’m pretty sure one of the following eight highlight tracks will speak to you when listened to in their entirety: This is country music, A man don’t have to die, Camouflage, One of those lives, Toothbrush, Love her like she’s leaving, New Favorite memory, and Don’t drink the water.
For reals, this album is stacked. It’s in my running as album of the year. No lie.
UPDATED: In less than three hours, Smooth Harold reader Whit identified it! Thanks, Whit.
My memory and Google skills are failing me. After searching for an hour last night, I was unable to recall this really good sad song I heard last week. Some identifying attributes:
- Sung by a man.
- Not outright country, but I remember a little twang in it. Definitely a slow song.
- The man is singing to his wife, who has left him (again) at the worst of times, leaving him with the kids even.
- The song may or may not reference poverty, job, loss, etc, making the heartbreak all the more painful.
- A car or reference to “driving away’ may or may not be involved.
- I know the guy says something to the effect that he is truly heartbroken, especially by the timing of the women’s departure.
It’s one of the best sad songs I’ve ever heard. Any ideas, Internet?
In case you’ve forgotten, the US economy is ginormous. Strange Maps tells why:
Although the economies of countries like China and India are growing at an incredible rate, the US remains the nation with the highest GDP in the world – and by far: US GDP is projected to be $13.22 trillion (or $13,220 billion) in 2007, according to this source. That’s almost as much as the economies of the next four (Japan, Germany, China, UK) combined.
For even more context, click on the above US state map renamed for countries with similar economy sizes. Amazing…
Hat tip, USA.