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BBHQ Boomer Essays:

The Chicowitz Goes Country

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer’s perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

And then, one night I was watching the Boston Pops on PBS. (Imagine that, huh?) After some light, show music, conductor John Williams introduced Crystal Gayle, who floated on stage, wearing a white, sequined dress, dark hair flowing gently down to her ankles, and sang, “When I Dream.” And that was it.... there I was, reduced to a puddle of warm slobber, staining the living room carpet. I’d become countrified.



If I am nothing else, I am consistent. I am a huge fan of the music of the boomer years: the late 50s, 60s, and early 70s. But this week, I confess to having just a little cowpoke blood running through my veins. (A highly unpleasant thought, is it not?)

It took me a long time to figure out why country (or country/western) music is so popular. Certainly it has nothing to do with the voices of the singers, or the song titles, or the subject matter. There must be something else to it. Now, I have nothing against those of you who ride in the saddle of cornpone - to each his own. I just did not understand how it became so popular so quickly.

When I was a kid, country music songs dealt primarily with chewin' tabaccy, your woman walking out on you, and getting drunk and passing out in the gutter. The country music singers were real cowpokes; you know, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Charlie Pride, Roy Acuff, Chet Atkins, Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl, that ol' pea-picker himself - Tennesee Ernie Ford, Buck Owens and his Buckaroos, and Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs. (Now, if there was ever a perfect name for a country/western group, it is Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs.)

But the market for songs about chewin' tabaccy was kinda' small at the time. Admittedly, getting drunk and passing out in the gutter was gaining in popularity among boomers, but it had not yet reached the level that a lot of people wanted to listen to songs about it. We boomers had our limits.

But something happened in the mid to late 70s. All of the sudden, country/western music was everywhere. And today... why heck, Garth Brooks is the biggest thing in show business!

Oh, wait. Is he still around?

Garth who? Shows you what I know, huh?

Anyway, I have it figured out. In the early 70s, what we call rock and roll music was the thing... THE thing. The acid rockers were pulling it to its limits, the Beatles nearly destroyed it ("Happiness is a Warm Gun"), and Paul Simon was committing songwriting suicide ("Me and Julio down by the School Yard"). But rock was still king.

Then came MTV.

MTV killed rock and roll.

Yep; before MTV, rock music was written to be heard. After MTV, it was written to be seen. And that was the end of it. It was the end of rock and roll as we knew it.

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