Although consumers could purchase records in the s, the Great Depression shuttered records. Radio waves were free, after all, and neighbors willingly allowed friends and family to listen in. She recalled putting the radio on a window sill in their FSA camp housing so their neighbors could listen in.
Men wrote male performers, tending to ask for help getting started in the music business; women wrote in intimate terms, hoping to establish personal relationships with those same stars. By , listeners like my grandmother regularly tuned in with their friends to the more than five hundred barn dance radio programs like the Grand Ole Opry that employed thousands of female and male performers, both locally and nationally.
Sold as a stable cast of characters because of their authentic rural or mountain roots, some, especially comedians, were able to cross those gendered boundaries with ease and impunity—and for a lot of laughs—without upsetting these stalwart notions of authenticity. The comedy team Shorty who was five feet, two inches tall and Little Eller who was six foot, four inches tall performed on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance in Kentucky, and their physical stature—their respective heights seemed to suggest an equal flip of gender roles—undermined the very roles barn dance stages were creating.
The end of rationing, and the more common appearance of jukeboxes after World War II ended, catalyzed a resurgent record industry, causing the demise of barn dance radio by World War II had limited the sale of records because the federal government rationed shellac, a waterproofing agent that was also a prime ingredient in making records. The strike against recording companies from to because of disputes over royalties required union musicians affiliated with the American Federation of Musicians to boycott recording new music and work exclusively on the radio.
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Once the strike ended, recorded music once again flourished. Television and its phenomenal success required radio in general to reinvent itself the now common dee jay format emerged in this era while requiring barn dance performers to transition to records as rock and rollers, especially Elvis Presley, who sold records to an increasingly younger demographic. The shift in platform, or how consumers heard the music, also warranted a musical name change from old-time favorites or hillbilly music to country and western music.
It was in this transition from barn dance radio to country music that the first histories of the industry were displayed e. In fact, it was just one of many examples of the industry p.
Rodgers based her claims on the biography she wrote entitled My Husband, Jimmie Rodgers Men were defined as the commercially successful recording stars or successful music innovators; women were the noncommercial support system, confined as they were to the home. Moreover, because the first historians—including most notably Charles Wolfe—were able to conduct oral interviews with old-time stars in the s and s, these gendered assumptions at times could color how the interviews were conducted and memories recorded.
Scholars thus created a unique gendered stage, down to the very primary sources used to construct our histories, that has shaped how we understood the industry and its development. It included the assumptions of a social historian educated in the s; namely, that men were the main actors of history.au.vowebisumece.tk
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If, p. By declaring her the rare exception, she proved the male rule. Malone was primarily tasked with proving that his subject had legitimacy as a field of study. Records thus became the common source, even though they tended not to be purchased during the Great Depression and were restricted during World War II. This also made Billboard magazine and its recording charts the bible of commercial recording success and an essential source to some scholars.
Lightfoot, this meant tracking down old radio performers and doing extensive interviews with them, eventually publishing them in the myriad small scholarly journals such as the John Edwards Memorial Foundation Quarterly or Old Time Country that focused on old-time performers. The oral interviews especially are foundational primary source texts for scholars of gender who wanted to document the performance of gender in the early radio days.
For others, like Charles Wolfe, it meant extending the Malone narrative to explain why women were or were not commercially successful in their oral interviews.
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Few have done more than Charles Wolfe in tracking down old-time stars and interviewing them, or collecting and keeping old industry journals like Country Song Roundup. His enormous collection, now in the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, promises to be a major contribution to the study of country music, a contribution that will either equal or more likely surpass the John Edwards Memorial Foundation collection that is now part of the Southern Folklife Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Conducted in April , the interview with McCluskey and her husband, Bill—himself a National Barn Dance performer—is a wonderful look into the golden age of barn dance radio and the p. The Girls were real, genuine Westerners although born and raised in Illinois because they wore real fringed vests and cowgirl hats and yodeled as if crooning to the cattle on the range or listeners in their radio audience.
While the Girls did do some recording, most of their work was on radio, which promised a steady and stable weekly salary in Chicago, a city with a large migrant population eager to hear songs that sounded like home. No, we never thought that. We were very fortunate really from the time we started singing, we were never out of a job if we wanted to work, and we never had to look for a job.
Dollie took it up on her own, I had already started working as a salesgirl when I was fourteen and then I went with her on my lunch hour for an audition at Camwax in St. She was more aggressive with it than I was and the harmony just came naturally to me so we started singing together and everything progressed from there.
Western Music and Its Others: Difference, Representation, and Appropriation in Music
Other interviews with major radio stars—in particular the five interviews with Lulu Belle Wiseman that Lightfoot conducted between and and published in and —moved beyond the assumption that few women participated in the industry and that those who succeeded needed to act aggressively to make it in an exclusively male world. Her wide-ranging and extensive interviews with Lightfoot described how she navigated the barn dance stage and the fraught relationships based on gender and class that ultimately led to real commercial success.
In other words, the Lightfoot interviews allowed Wiseman to include commercial success as a female trait.
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Other authors incorporated these documents and some of their underlying narrative into their work, feeding on each other in a manner that reinforced some of these initial gendered assumptions. Where did their commercial success come p. Gendered constructions—men as commercial, women as not—simply did not work here.
Scholars thus crafted a language that limited women to a domestic sphere, away from the public work that men did, without recognizing that those links with the domestic sphere actually opened up a space for musical, commercially successful women on stages. Women who did venture beyond those confines were cast as feminists who wanted to aggressively reshape and remake the industry for other women, with no influence on men. To account for their rarity, Malone argued when the first edition did not have similar text that,. Public performances of all kinds were dominated by men, and the physically aggressive skills of fiddling, banjo playing, and the like were felt best confined to male participants, particularly when displayed at such rowdy events as country dances or fiddle contests.
Women certainly played banjoes, fiddles, and other instruments at home and some of them, such as Samantha Bumgarner and Eva Davis, even appeared as instrumentalists on early commercial recordings , but few men were willing to compete against the ladies in any kind of public arena, and the women were encouraged to keep their talents noncompetitive and at home. Women in this edition of Country Music, U. The first edition did not have this language nor this index issue. Authenticity was its own commercial construct that had been wielded in subtle ways, Richard Peterson and Joli Jensen argued, but neither tended to recognize the intrinsic links between authenticity narratives and their potentially stabilizing effect on a gendered and raced and classed stage.
Certainly, there were outliers who crossed boundaries—Loretta Lynn as hard-core; Eddy Arnold as soft-shell. In its initial incarnation in the s, the Nashville Sound seemed to veer too much from its country roots toward a pop music that catered to an audience becoming ensconced in new suburbs. Moviemakers and pop culture writers created their own gendered stages as they recovered Cline and other female performers in the s.
Cline was particularly known for her aggressiveness and her willingness to thumb her nose at female conventions, allowing these pop culture scholars to cast her as a feminist. I disagree with the characterization that an assertive personality made one a feminist. But Cline was one who pushed the boundaries that encircled her as a woman, without an eye toward collapsing them for other women, and willingly challenged Bradley and others in building her career. Scholars followed these feminist premises, particularly Mary Bufwack and Robert K.
Oermann, whose work, Finding Her Voice , came out in Encyclopedic in nature, Bufwack and Oermann asked where the women were but did not ask how stage shows created ideas of femininity and masculinity. Other scholars, myself included, then asked why women were there. Radio mothers were especially effective in declaring radio therapeutic in an era of unemployment and depression, making the products that sponsored them, for example, Alka Seltzer, seem like therapeutic and not crass commercialism. A gendered double standard seems to have guided them.
Management, almost exclusively male, turned a blind eye toward male performer indiscretions with alcohol or with extramarital liaisons, for example; female performers, however, could not smoke in public, could not drink, and their sexuality was ruthlessly controlled, lest that behavior give lie to that virtuous stage.
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Men—as the universal sex—did not have a gender; only women did, hence the language performers and women performers that tended to reinforce men as the universal sex. But the biography-by-biography model that so dominated the country music model had to p. We asked, how was music gendered in relationship to country music and what were the consequences? The contributors argued that gender on country music stages marked the genre boundaries of the industry, and that country music, as a cultural force, helped define—and then was defined by— contemporary cultural and historical contexts.
While we attempted to move beyond the tendency to assume gender and women were synonymous, there was a relative lack of work on men in , as acting and therefore creating ideas about masculinity. Others have begun to deconstruct masculine roles on stage and have done a better job of linking those masculine roles to the audience that consumes the music. Ching argued that hard country was and is a relatively marginalized style that valued words sung by an untrained, but lonesome-sounding voice.
Working class men, whose lives had been destabilized by p. At the same time, women were pseudo feminists whose increasing economic contribution to the working-class family still made them long for a past where they could fulfill the role of the nurturing mother. Some of the most recent work still participates in the recovery of women who have been erased from gendered scholarly stages, but with a sophistication that links authenticity narratives to the construction and questioning of gender roles.
More recent, very exciting work collapses the standard stage binary of male—female, particularly as scholars begin to assess country music from a LGBTQ lens.
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