STUDY QUESTIONS, MUSIC 117
History of Country Music, Winter Semester 2019
Wednesday 1/23: (A) The Nashville Scene and (B) MuzikMafia Intro
Lecture A) Music City U.S.A.: The Nashville Scene
1. Where is Nashville, and what is its music industry’s impact (in $$$) on the Middle Tennessee economy?
Nashville is a vital music scene city located in Middle Tennessee. The music scene at Nashville has created an approximate of 54,000 jobs and contributes more than six billion dollars annually to the city’s economy.
2. How is Nashville musically diverse in terms of the following areas:
(a) The District
This part of Nashville has many music venues which include the Honkytonk area. The District also has many bars that are frequented by tourists located at the Lower Broad. These bars are even live music venues which include Legend’s Corner, Ryman Auditorium and Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge is one of the famous bars among country music fans. The bar was home to a significant number of many commercial country music artists such as Willie Nelson and Jim Reeves. The Grand Ole Opry was also performed in this part of Nashville between 1943 to 1974.
The Country Music Hall of Fame was moved to Sobro which means ‘South of Broadway’ in the early 2000s. The Bridgestone Arena is also located in this part of town which is a premier concert venue. Multiplatinum artists perform in this venue because of its capacity to hold large numbers of music fans. There are also many popular clubs located in this area which are live concert venues such as The Station Inn, Mercy Lounge, Bluesboro and The Bar Car. These bars play a variety of music genres ranging from rock, rap and hip hop.
This area is home to Gaylord Opryland Hotel which is one of the most prominent hotels in America. Other popular facilities include Grand Ole Opry House, Roy Acuff Theater, Texas Troubadour Theatre and the Gibson Bluegrass Showcase. This area of town has been the home of the new Grand Ole Opry House since 1974.
(d) Music Row
This is the part of town where most of the commercial music is produced. Some significant labels with production houses in the area include Sony Music and Warner Bros. It is the center of the commercial music industry in Nashville. It houses major music labels, indie labels, music publishing houses and music licensing firms.
(e) The Demonbreun Street Roundabout
This area was known as Kitsch until the year 2000. The Country Music Hall of Fame used to be located here and hosts many tourist shops that would sell t-shirts and souvenirs. A musician named Pino Squillace travelled to Texas because he wanted Demonbreun Street to adopt the Sixth Street in Austin. He advocated for a “twenty hours plan” that would have the street busy throughout the day with time for music allocated as well. There are also many famous clubs in the area such as Tin Roof, Dan McGuiness Pub and Two Doors Down. The area is frequented by tourists, college students and music industry personnel especially during the day making it a diverse crowd.
(f) The Rock Block
The Rock Block was especially famous during the 1970s and 1980s as it was home to the rock music scene in Nashville. Some popular clubs in the area include Exit/In, Gold Rush and the End that catered for the counterculture in Nashville during the 70s. Genres of music that are usually played in these venues include punk rock, rock and reggae
This includes scattered clubs throughout Nashville such as the Bluebird Café. The establishment is known for the numerous singers and songwriters who have performed or visited the café since 1985. Music genres played in this café include blues and classic rock. Another popular venue is the Boardwalk Café frequented by singers and songwriters.
3. What is Nashville’s musical history in terms of the following styles:
Nashville is popularly known for its commercial country music.
(b) art music, dance bands, and jazz
Nashville is home to many universities for African Americans. Fisk University is one of America’s first all-black institution dating all the way back to 1866. The university is home to the pioneer African American Acapella groups in the history of America. The Collegians were voted the best dance group in 1949, and they were from Nashville.
(c) rhythm and blues
Nashville had a thriving rhythm and blues scene from the mid-1940s. This kind of music was primarily performed by African American artists and in the locale with plenty of African Americans which was in The District. The music was played in venues such as The Bijou Theater and on radios such as WLAC and WSOK. In the 1940s and 1950s, WLAC had more reach compared to country music radio by reaching more than 15 million people each night. Examples of famous artists who performed in Nashville include Jimi Hendrix, Etta James, Ray Charles and Sam Cooke
(d) rockabilly, rock, punk rock, and new wave
In the 1950s rockabilly artist Elvis Presley used to perform frequently in Nashville. Exit/In featured many famous artists in the scene such as Jimmy Buffet, Willie Nelson, John Hiatt, Guy Clark and John Prine in the 1970s. In the 1980s The Rock Block featured some famous artists such as Fats Domino, Dizzy Gillespie, The Police, Billy Joel, R.E.M. and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.
(e) rap and hip-hop
This scene began in the mid-1980s in Nashville. One of the most prominent groups in that period was The Large Brothers. During the mid to late 1990s, popular groups included Drop Car Full of White Boys, Count Bass D and Chance. Venues such as The Bar Car and RocketTown played and featured a lot of this music genre.
4. What is an “hegemony,” and how does it apply to the current Nashville music scene?
This is a cultural theory popularized by an Italian cultural theorist called Gramsci. Defined it means, a process in which a controlling authority exerts power over a subordinate entity in a way that seems logical and natural. It is a way for the controlling authority to maintain or sustain its power. The controlling authorities are major record labels and the radio, and they exert their influence over musicians or bands that are subordinate entities. To have a platinum status as an artist one has to undergo a process of recording a demo, have it mixed and mastered and shared in clubs as well as attend the radio seminar at Nashville. The next step is being scouted by someone from a major record label where the musician puts up a showcase. The next stage is an interview at the record label house where the executives give the musician a record label if they are pleased with their music. The next step is the contract negotiations on issues such as advances. The subsequent process is the production of the album after which the label decides if it is sellable or not. If they do not like the record, the music may be shelved, and the musician may be released from their contract. The label may release a few tracks from the album to measure the reception, and that determines the number of copies that will be printed and shipped. The music label may decide it is not the right time to release that album and may shelve it and maintain the rights to that music. It is then apparent that the label controls the entire process. The problem is that talented musicians do not need major record labels to sell their music, but these entities have already secured the power.
Lecture B) Intro to the MuzikMafia (2001-2004)
1. When did the MuzikMafia form and why?
The MuzikMafia was formed in 2004, and it was a collective of artists. There are nearly 30 artists that are associated with MuzikMafia. It represented the diversity of the music at Nashville. It is a distinct musical community that developed from a stylistically diverse Nashville scene into a social collective and commercial enterprise, both of which emphasize musical excellence and promote musical and artistic diversity
(a) Who are its “godfathers”?
The “godfathers” are the individuals who are responsible for forming MuzikMafia and include Cory Gierman, Kenny Alphin, John Rich and John Nicholson.
2. Where and when was the MuzikMafia’s first performance?
The first performance was at a venue called the Pub of Love on 23rd October in the year 2001.
3. In our lecture recording, we will listen to several songs by selected MuzikMafia artists. What styles are prominent in each?
(a) Big & Rich, “Rollin’ (The Ballad of Big & Rich)” (2004)
The spoken prelude can be compared to the style in gospel music. The intro has a rock n roll style which is a heavy rock sound from the 1970s. The third style is old school hip hop which includes some Spanish. There are a lot of references from old country music.
(b) Gretchen Wilson, “Redneck Woman” (2004)
The style of the song is hardcore country music style. The text has a sense of pride with imagery of being in a working class.
(c) Chance, “I Came to Drink” (2002)
The artist refers to his style as southern hip hop with elements of both country music and hip hop. The verses are in hip hop while the chorus is country music. There are a lot of country and hip hop cultural references in the text.
(d) Dean Hall, “The Sky is Cryin'”
The style of music in this song is blues. He combines elements of rock in the song.
(e) Shannon Lawson, “Smokin’ Grass” (2002)
The artist has a bluegrass style in his song. The text in the song employs humor, and in the crowd, there are elements of diversity.
(f) Jon Nicholson, “Hero” (2002)
The artist grew up listening to country, gospel, soul, punk and rock that are styles used in this song.
4. Who is Rachel Kice, and what does she do on stage during MuzikMafia performances??
She is a graphic artist that paints with music. She paints during shows and uses music as her inspiration. She makes good money from those paintings that are bought in many places in America.
5. What are some other Nashville locales that have hosted MuzikMafia performances?
6. What changes have the MuzikMafia undergone since its inception in 2001?
They changed their location of performance to The Tin Roof then to Two Doors which were both spacious and more commercial. In May 2003 performances stopped because artists such as Big & Rich, Gretchen, Nicholson and Otto got record label deals. The change of venues attracted different types of crowds. In January 2004 moved to Dan McGuiness Pub from their old site. This change attracted major recording artists to visit the shows. MuzikMafia then moved to Mercy Lounge and Bluesboro clubs throughout the rest of the year respectively.
(a) Was caused drastic changes in the MuzikMafia specifically in 2004?
The drastic changes in 2004 were caused by MuzikMafia getting fired from a lot of scheduled performances because they were loud and the nature of their clientele was also noisy. The musicians also planned house parties where people drunk for free, as a result during performances the sales on alcohol were low which meant losses for these clubs. The live performances can also be described as organized chaos on stage due to the lack of order. The commercial success of the artists in MuzikMafia contributed to the drastic changes in that year.