Introduction
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xi Introduction Southern Music Since minstrelsy swept the country in the decades before the Civil War, the South has dramatically shaped musical sounds of the United States. Genres as diverse as jazz, blues, and country emerged from the southern heartland in the early twentieth century, influencing music not only in the U.S. but eventually across Europe and then other parts of the world. Despite its origins on opposite coasts, even hip-hop, which today reigns as the most influential form of popular music on the planet, increasingly looks to southern cities like Atlanta, Houston, and Memphis for up-and-coming artists. Southern music has been written about in thousands of books, articles, and record liner notes by authors across the globe. Although most of these writers initially rose from the non-academic ranks, scholarly interest in blues, country, jazz, and other southern genres has blossomed since the late 1960s.1 At times, those interests intersect, for example, in the magazine Oxford American, which devotes one issue each year to southern music. Its contributors include the most respected writers working in the field—people like Peter Guralnick, Tom Piazza, and Charles K. Wolfe—writing on topics as diverse as Uncle Dave Macon and the legendary mid-70s Memphis rock band, Big Star. New digital formats like the online “Digital Southern Music Magazine” Gritz (gritz.net) celebrate “Southern Music, Americana, Country, Southern Rock, Bluegrass, Pickin’, Blues, Gospel & Southern Life.” Published since 1998, Gritz features reviews, articles, gossip, and interviews encompassing artists like southern rocker Marshall Tucker, bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, blues diva KoKo Taylor, and the inimitable Kinky Friedman. Not surprisingly, the internet also hosts sites like www.thesoutherngospel.com and www.bluegrassworld. com that serve as portals to information such as touring schedules, artist profiles , and industry awards for these specific musical styles. Likewise, individual genres of southern music have seen a proliferation of writing, both broad and regional in focus. For example, several dozen books appear every year that address aspects of country music ranging from the trivial to the esoteric, from coffee table photograph collections to important scholarly reference books.2 Meanwhile a smaller number of books, usually written by scholars, focus on the country music traditions of individual states, regions, and even cities. These began with a 1977 survey of country music in the “Volunteer State” by the late Charles Wolfe, covering topics from Uncle Dave Macon to the development of bluegrass and from the Grand Ole Opry to the contemporary Nashville scene. Similar treatments of Kentucky, West Virginia, West Texas, and Atlanta flesh out the picture of country music in discrete regions or past eras.3 Blues has experienced a surge in popular and scholarly interest since the early 1960s when the English magazine Blues Unlimited began publication. By the decade’s end Paul Oliver, also English, published the music’s first comprehensive history, The Story of the Blues.4 Books continue to examine the blues from the broadest to the most narrowly focused viewpoints, ranging from overviews to regional studies. Some cover times and places when blues culture flourished within black American communities, like Chicago in the late 1940s, while others offer intimate accounts of the lives and music of lesser-known players like Sam Myers and Hubert Sumlin.5 In a similar fashion, jazz enjoys an immense body of literature, both academic and popular.6 Books on styles from swing to fusion, and on jazz cities (New Orleans, Chicago, New York) continue to appear in print every year. Moreover, magazines like DownBeat!, first published in 1935, have profiled thousands of musicians.7 The “Ark-La-Tex” and Music Research Within the whole field of writing on southern music, very little addresses the distinct region that radiates from the civic center of Shreveport, dominated geographically by the Red River and a landscape of thick piney woods, and characterized by a cultural mix that is equal parts black and white. The easiest , if not scientific, way to locate the Ark-La-Tex on a map, is to place one end of a protractor on Shreveport, stretch the other end to the distance that INTRODUCTION xii would equal between ninety and a hundred miles on the map and draw a circle . To the west, the Ark-La-Tex extends just past Tyler, Texas, located almost halfway between Shreveport and Dallas. The small city of Natchitoches, Louisiana, delineates the southernmost boundary of the Ark-La-Tex, while Monroe, Louisiana, marks the east. Hope, Arkansas, birthplace of President Bill...


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