It’s been a strange old week for America and race relations. From my daughter in Baltimore I’ve had a first hand account of the appalling miscarriage of justice that led to the subsequent riots. From the middle of these riots it sounded very scary indeed. Although, as Banksy and my good friend Stuart Cosgrove in his book Detroit ’67 have pointed out, this is nothing new in America.
Strange too that this is the week that finally confirms the appointment of the US’s first female, African-American Attorney General. Loretta Lynch, who was first nominated by America’s first Black president has undergone severe scrutiny by the Senate before they have correctly assessed that she is the best person for the job. And what, I hear you say, has this got to do with country music? Well…nothing and everything I suppose. Nothing – because country, perhaps more than any other musical genre, is largely immune to fashion and political mores and everything because all popular music has been a fusion of the best that African and European traditions have had to offer. What made Elvis Presley popular was the fact that anyone who’d listened to Hank Williams could get it. What made him dangerously exciting was the fact that, in Memphis, he was exposed to B.B. King and Fats Domino.
We’ve often remarked that the tradition of colour radio has largely passed this country by until recent years. We grew up on the Four Tops, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix all side by side. To love one was to love the other equally. In America this is less straight forward. If you lived in certain areas you could access some of the music from outside your own ethnic tradition but equally it’s very common that people I’ve met only encountered the music of their own background.
On Tuesday night on the AC we’ll pay a tribute to a country artist who broke the mould. Schooled on the likes of Ernest Tubb, Pee Wee King, Hank Williams, and Roy Acuff, Charley Pride‘s father ‘disapproved’ of the lyrics and culture of Blues music. Declining the attractions of B.B. King’s Blues Radio Show and, in an interesting contrast to Elvis, he retuned the family radio to WSM and The Grand Ole Opry. It was the music that Charley Pride loved and would eventually record and perform across the world. We’ll tell you more about Charley’s story this Tuesday as he’s coming this way soon.
We’ll also have a brilliant and brand new track from The Barr Brothers, we’ll introduce you to Andrew Combs, hear more from Audrey Rose, Awna Teixera and hear another fine track from our good friends Sara Watkins, Sara Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan.
It all starts at five past nine Tonight (Tuesday) on BBC Radio Scotland. Join me if you can.