Wednesday, December 17, 2008

If You Don't Like Hank Williams...

I always get a bit homesick this time of year. (Yeah, that's right, you don't have to be a Christian to miss Christmas--home, family, friends, turkey, all that stuff, it's not the private property of "the chosen," you know. Shame on anyone stupid enough to think it is.)

Anyway, the old saying goes "you can take the boy out of the country, but you can't take the country out of the boy." I grew up listening to my parents' country and western albums. The first album I was ever given, in fact, was by Tex Ritter, a cowboy legend if there ever was one. (For contrast, the first album I ever bought with my own money--given to me by my parents, of course--was The Beatles' Abbey Road.)

It's no secret that I love rock 'n' roll, and regular readers know that my tastes can wander into relatively extreme forms of rock (death metal, etc.). But--and I make no claim to any kind of special insight in this regard--I've always been very aware of the beginnings of any music genre that I happen to like. In fact, maybe being a stereotypical "existentialist," I don't particularly like lumping music into separate categories, preferring instead to appreciate what I perceive to be a certain elasticity between "genres" (it is, though, linguistically useful to be able to say "it sounds like...").

Everybody these days knows (or at least claims they do) about the influence of earlier black music forms (jazz, blues, etc.) on rock 'n' roll. In fact, it's generally recognized that black guys like Chuck Berry and Little Richard invented the form. No fucking shit. Anyone who doesn't know this is a Britney fan or some other form of life (some "stereotyping" is allowed in a non-perfect existentialist world--or something like that).

What is generally less recognized (to my mind, at least) is the influence those cowboy hat-wearing white dudes had in the early days of rock. In fact, why doesn't anyone (except perhaps in musicology journals that nobody who actually listens to music reads) ever give any credit to guys yodeling away on Swiss (or wherever) mountains?

So, we've gone through my whine about Christmas homesickness, to country music, to the roots of rock, to Swiss (or wherever) yodelers. What the fuck am I talking about?

Let's work backwards. I recently (very happily, I might add) discovered the music of Hank Williams III:

[NOTE: You've gotta watch each video to the end. Please.]

You know, being a white guy with a graduate degree in Classics (you had to click to find out, admit it!), people have sometimes found it somewhat odd that the phrase "yippy-yi-yay!" seems to get my blood a-boilin' (the sound of bagpipes has the same effect, go figure). It might be useful here to point out that that phrase is (very) categorically different from, say, "eeeh-haaah!" Just sayin...

Here's Hank III again, stripped of anything "rock":

And here's the one and only Hank Williams. I love all of this stuff. I'm sorry if you don't. Listen to the end for a very beautiful bonus duet.

And so you see, folks, watching YouTube clips makes one a bit homesick and rambly in his speech. It doesn't make him stupid, though. Unless you feel like fighting about it.


  1. Have you heard the rockabilly stuff Bill Haley did before he went into rock n roll? I had a rockabilly mate who had some insanely rare old stuff. My personal fave was called "Stupid Questions".

    Sometimes the line between good ol' boy country and rock is very direct!

  2. Hi Mr. Angry,
    Yes, I've heard some old Bill Haley and it's pretty cool stuff. Don't know that tune, though it sounds like a good one!
    There's some good stuff out there, but a lot of "modern" country sounds like crappy rock (well, so does a lot of modern "rock").

  3. There are two schools of country music-Hank Williams Sr. and Hank Williams Jr.
    I like the former.

  4. My God, Roy Acuff, Hank, and two of the Carter sisters from a time when the music was real.

  5. I really liked this little "essay".
    You're really coming along well, I must say.

    By the way, you jerk; I just found "rockin' in the free world" from the weatherking gig. You suck. If ya put it on line, clue a brother in! It doesn't suck all that bad at all. Color me surprised.


    YELGPB(your ever lovin' guitar playin' buddy)


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