Nashville, Don't Touch My Country Music
February 2, 2007 6:33 AM   Subscribe

Dim Lights, Thick Smoke, and Loud, Loud Music Photgrapher Henry Horenstein's Honky-Tonk: Portraits of Country Music, 1972-1981 captures a sound in transition. This evocative collection of informal, black-and-white portraits of country musicians and fans in bars, backstage, and on the road illustrate a decade when smoky roadhouses and venerated venues began to give way to the more mainstream Countrypolitan or "Nashville" sound. Seminal artists like Mother Maybelle Carter and Bill Monroe mingled backstage with shinier newcomers like Dolly Parton and Anne Murray. But even as the commercial sound was dominating, youngsters mixing with old-timers sparked the first wave of old-time/bluegrass revival, and some of the artists who got started then still carry the torch for a non-Nashville sound today. In this online exhibit you can watch it all unfold.
posted by Miko (30 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Great find - thank you!
posted by speug at 6:58 AM on February 2, 2007

Anne Murray...okay, there goes any hope of getting work done today.
posted by pax digita at 7:13 AM on February 2, 2007

Awesome site. There is nothing about this picture of Waylon that isn't the very essence of cool. That is a great picture of Dolly too. If you can look at that and not fall in love then you are obviously a communist.
posted by ND¢ at 7:29 AM on February 2, 2007

Incredible find! Thanks. I just ordered this book for my father for his birthday after seeing this post. I grew up on all of this amazing music and these fascinating artists. So many crazy stories there if you dig a little.
posted by Shfishp at 8:00 AM on February 2, 2007

This picture sums up all you really need to have a good time: cold beer, a good lookin' girl, a hot car and bluegrass. Good find.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:06 AM on February 2, 2007

Miko, thanks for the post. Wonderful!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 8:23 AM on February 2, 2007

Curley Ray Cline:
Curley Ray once turned down the Rolling Stones' request to play fiddle on their song "Honky Tonk Woman," because "If people bought that record they wouldn't buy mine."
(Why managers were invented.)
posted by pracowity at 8:41 AM on February 2, 2007

This is great.
posted by dan g. at 8:46 AM on February 2, 2007

1f2frfbf: I loved that pic, too, because it could have been taken last summer at any number of festivals, and looked exactly the same.
posted by Miko at 9:07 AM on February 2, 2007

(Yep, like I predicted...ODing on wistful nostagia while listening to "Snowbird" for like the 47th time while I look at the falling snow outside office window)
posted by pax digita at 9:27 AM on February 2, 2007

Miko: I had to double check to see that it wasn't a two year old picture of me...
posted by 1f2frfbf at 9:30 AM on February 2, 2007

Anne Murray's not the same when she's not on 8 track in my mom's old Buick Regal. But there I go again.
posted by yerfatma at 9:37 AM on February 2, 2007

I listen to a number of these artists (Waylon, Emmylou, the Carter Family). So why is when someone says "country music" I immediately think of these two?

Probably because this is what I thought country music was growing up.
posted by dw at 9:53 AM on February 2, 2007

This rocks. I spent 1990-1993 as a country radio DJ in a past life...
posted by mrbill at 9:56 AM on February 2, 2007

I sent his page to my wife and she is in "goat-ropin" heaven. Thanks, Yeeee-HAW.
posted by winks007 at 9:59 AM on February 2, 2007

Wow, Hank Williams Jr., pre-beard-and-sunglasses. I read that he started wearing them to cover up scars from a car crash..
posted by mrbill at 10:00 AM on February 2, 2007

Quality post. Thanks.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:02 AM on February 2, 2007

mrbill, Hank Jr. actually injured himself rock climbing and yes, he sports the beard/shades/10-gallon hat to cover up the fact that surgeons basically had to reassemble his face. Pre-accident Hank was quite the looker.
posted by joseph_elmhurst at 10:12 AM on February 2, 2007

dw: hee hee! Or more appropriately, hee haw.
posted by Miko at 11:14 AM on February 2, 2007

Thanks Miko,*lovely pics!

*Side note: If you haven't listened to Miko's album Both Ends of a Gun yet, go! Now! I'm still kicking myself for having missed it when it was first posted to MePro!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:39 AM on February 2, 2007

Did somebody mention Hee Haw?

♫Where, oh, where are you tonight?♫
♫Why did you leave me here all alone...♫


(A dad and a kid clown around with it a little)
posted by pax digita at 12:13 PM on February 2, 2007

Hello, Darlin'

Excellent find. Thank you.
posted by grabbingsand at 12:32 PM on February 2, 2007

Right on. Nice stuff. Hey y'all!
posted by realcountrymusic at 12:55 PM on February 2, 2007

Hank Williams jr rock climbing? I thought he got drunk and fell off a cliff in his back yard.
posted by nyxxxx at 1:53 PM on February 2, 2007

Which part of Hee Haw were you watching, anyway? Dolly Parton, Tonya Tucker, Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, Chet Atkins, etc...

Actually, I watched it some when I was a kid, and my own memories are the deliberately silly stuff. I only found the musical performances when I looked for other things on youtube. And now I can't find the really astonishing and impressive thing I found a few months ago, dammit.
posted by dilettante at 3:13 PM on February 2, 2007

Well, as a kid in Tulsa country was what the unwashed lower class listened to; we "true" city kids had new wave, 80s metal, and the Zep-Floyd-Eagles mix on KMOD. Hee Haw was the epitome of "hick" culture. I think we all already felt stigmatized by being from Oklahoma, so pushing country away was part of that divestment.

It wasn't until I left Tulsa that I learned about KVOO, Bob Wills, and all the other country music history in that town. It really took Lyle Lovett andUncle Tupelo and Neko Case to get me back into Waylon and Willie and Jerry Jeff and Buck Owens and Johnny Cash.

But, yeah, it was "hick" music. I just mainly remember Minnie Pearl and Grandpa Jones (and Buck Owens' red-white-and-blue guitar).
posted by dw at 3:55 PM on February 2, 2007

Great stuff, Miko. I had hair like that back then too. Agh. Saw many a great country act. Love Porter Wagoner with Dolly Parton. Why isn't Charley Pride on that list ¿
posted by alicesshoe at 4:21 PM on February 2, 2007

Often photo collections of this kind seem like somebody just pointed a camera at a bunch of famous people, but these are brilliantly simple photographs, a wonderful look back at those days. Thanks Miko. Whether he's shooting the well-known or a soulful nobody playing harmonica, Horenstein really got the job done. Even without any music, you can tune into what it must have sounded like in a place like this. And how wonderful it is to have music that can accommodate people as disparate as Waylon Jennings and Doc Watson.

I spent a lot of time backstage 30+ years ago, and I agree with what Horenstein says in his notes: Photographing musicians these days can be difficult. There is more awareness of the value—promotional and monetary—of a photograph than there was when I was taking these pictures in the 1970s. Today, many musicians won't let you photograph them unless they have approval rights over what's to be used. They may also try to restrict your rights so you can't use the photograph to produce "product," such as posters, that might compete with their own merchandise. I am hardly an objective source, but I think this attitude is very shortsighted.

It makes me think of a night long ago when I was in the halls underneath a hockey arena, after a J. Geils concert, and Peter Wolf came walking by and saw me standing with a borrowed camera. Coming over, he said, "You want to take some pictures? Sure, let's see how they come out." Not very well, as it happened, because the camera shutter turned out to be broken, but that was the atmosphere back then. The well-known musicians pictured here were smart enough to welcome Horenstein into their lives, their dressing rooms, and he certainly made the most of his opportunity.
posted by LeLiLo at 5:20 PM on February 2, 2007

If we're doing You Tube country music favourite clips, here are mine:

Jimmie Rodgers, Ernest Tubb and, live from the Opry Food Court, a Man named Green and the Gold to Hold.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:38 AM on February 3, 2007

Agh! Here's the Ernest Tubb.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:52 AM on February 3, 2007

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