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Country Music Hall of Fame,
Class of 1962

It’s difficult for the modern-day country fan – or even one grounded in the half-century-old Nashville Sound and even older electrified honky-tonk style as I am – to appreciate the appeal and popularity of Roy Claxton Acuff back in the day. I’ve mentioned before the taunt Japanese soldiers issued to American G.I.’s in the Pacific: “To hell with FDR, to hell with Babe Ruth and to hell with Roy Acuff.”

If all you know of the King of Country Music is his work on Hee Haw, he’s worth some study. Which is what Nathan Rabin, head writer for the website A.V. Club and a hip-hop specialist, did recently as part of his “immersing himself in the canon of country music, a genre he knew little about, but was keen to explore.” Here’s his take, an urban music fan’s view of pure hillbilly, performed by the man who 17 years later would become the Hall of Fame’s first living member.

About the record: Columbia 20003 and 36586, recorded Aug. 2, 1945, at the studios of WBBM Radio in Chicago. Released the following month. First LP appearance was on Songs Of The Smokey Mountains, Columbia HL-9004, released 1949.

Roy Acuff’s Hall of Fame profile.

Next up: Tex Ritter

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June 1

Why today? Sixteen stars are mentioned in this 1961 hit; 15 of them have ascended to Hill-Billy Heaven. The one who’s still with us is celebrating a birthday. Happy 84th, Andy Griffith.

About the record: Capitol 4567, recorded Jan. Feb. 3, 1961, at the label’s studios in Hollywood. Released that spring, eventually reaching No. 5 on Billboard‘s country chart. First LP appearance was on 1961’s Hillbilly Heaven, Capitol ST-1623.

At the time this song was recorded, six of those 16 luminaries were already dead: Will Rogers, Carson Robison, Jimmie Rodgers, Wiley Post, Hank Williams and Johnny Horton. The rest, the song says, were listed in “the big tally book” of the heaven-bound over the next hundred years: Red Foley, Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry, Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Eddie Dean (who cut “I Dreamed Of A Hill-Billy Heaven” in the mid-’50s), Griffith, Roy Rogers and Ritter himself.

If you Google those folks, you’ll find that not all were hillbilly singers — Post, for instance, was a noted pilot who was flying the plane that crashed and killed him and humorist Rogers. And Griffith, of course, was comedian and actor who at the time was in the second season of his eponymous hit TV show. It, and he, had not become cultural icons yet, so I’ve always thought it interesting that he’d show up in this updated version of the song. Somebody had taken some prescient pills, I guess.

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Oct. 2: A 1950s ditty celebrating a decades-strong “gang of fellers from down at Nashville” kicked off an ambitious triple album released on this date in 1972. It combined country rock’s The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and a stellar cast of aging hillbilly luminaries.

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These are the first couple of weeks of posts of what I originally called “3 Chords and a Tweet.”  Tweet, because I had envisioned this as a Twitter feature. But I found it works better on Facebook, where I had a little more room. Then came the brainstorm:  On a blog, I’d have all the room I want.  So, here we are. Anyway, this post will catch you up on what’s come before. Enjoy.

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August 2020