Photo courtesy of johnnycash.com
Where do you get your love for country music? Mine came from my mom. From the time I was a little girl the musical sounds of Ernest Tubb, Patsy Clinic, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard are just a few of the artists that created music in our house, played on a turn table fitted into an old wooden stereo set up that took up quite a large amount of space. I can close my eyes and envision my mom dancing in the sunlight of an open window, a breeze blowing the curtains as she sang along.
My mom’s favorite artist of all time was Waylon Jennings. I think, back in the day, I could sing all of his songs word for word since she had them on repeat day after day. Sadly, my mom never had the chance to meet Waylon, but I had the pleasure of taking her to see him live for the first time. The glassy eyed joy in her eyes was worth so much more than the price of admission to the show. My mom had health problems that prevented her from attending many live concerts and I had to borrow a wheelchair just to take her to see Waylon, but you know, most of us that love live music, go despite our limitations. We push through it, just to be in that crowd, feeling the excitement, the anticipation and the rush we all feel when our favorite artist takes the stage and looks out onto his audience and hit’s that first note of a song we all recognize.
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Like most kids of the 80s I listened to rock music, mostly soft rock, but I kept my country music roots alive with artists such as Alabama, Keith Whitley, Barbara Mandrell, Reba McEntire and The Judds. I spent umpteen hours listening to Randy Owen sing to me on the radio as I cruised the four lanes with my friends, on a cassette tape stuck in one of those old large cassette decks or a record. These days people listen to their favorite tunes on their phone and computers. Artists are much more visible today. There are many outlets for us to hear their music, and watch their videos, making them come alive for us in ways older folks could never even imagine. There is good and bad in that. I think there was something special in the anticipation of waiting for a new single or album to drop that was fueled by the excitement of marking the date on the calendar and standing outside the record store that day to get your copy, only to rush home and put it on the turn table and listen to it over and over again to memorize the verses while reading along on the album sleeve that often provided us with the lyrics. These days there are always leaks on YouTube from someone posting a live version heard in a concert. That didn’t happen back in the day. We had to actually wait for the new music to be released.
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I listen to a variety of music genres these days, new country, 80s, etc. I have a playlist that has Ed Sheeran, Laine Hardy, Elton John, Billy Joel, John Denver, just to name a few. But I would have to say that my favorite singer is Jake Owen. I love his beachy country vibe, especially his older recordings. I am sure if anyone bothered to look at my face while I stand in the crowd at one of his concerts, that my face mimics my moms, the same face she made as she looked at Waylon’s, with adoration and gratitude just to be standing in that crowd, especially if you put in the time and hard work to achieve the coveted, front row, at the barricades position. Ironically, during sound check and the acoustic portion of his concerts, Jake usually plays some of the classic tunes of my childhood, especially Waylon, who he has mentioned repeatedly being one of his favorites, and he has a W for “Waylon” tattooed onto his arm for proof. I guess in some ways I have come full circle. A sort of tie with my mom that I had no idea would exist back then.
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I think we all have our own story we could tell on how we came to love country music, but one thing for certain is we do love it. Country music tells a story. It can break your heart, help you fall in love, or get you up out of your seat to dance. It will evoke a response in a way other genres do not. It will transport you to another time and place and even let you see the face of someone, long gone, when you close your eyes and remember. Music is not just noise, it is a part of life and part of the air we breathe. It is our happy place and source of joy!
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*Featured image courtesy of johnnycash.com