Twang Is Not A Color

Laurie Paulik | February 22nd, 2010

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on the website, and has been reprinted here with permission. This comprehensive look at race relations in country music was written prior to the rise of Darius Rucker as a hitmaker. The 9513 would love to hear your comments about race in country music today, and about whether or not you think Rucker’s success has opened doors for other African American country singers.

They giggled and reached out, trying to touch the big, shiny buckle. The hat too. For sure, they’d never seen anyone like him before. But there he was, one of their own, singing that hillbilly stuff and looking like he rode into town on Trigger.

They were only children but society’s prejudices had already seeped in and stolen something from them. Brothers didn’t dress like cowboys and they didn’t sound like that.

“I just love country music and I’m sharing country music,” said aspiring black recording artist Carl Ray. “I’m part of the process of change. It’s almost like a Martin Luther King movement without the crowds.”

But what’s to change? After all, Charley Pride broke the racial barrier long ago, didn’t he?

From 1966 to 1989, the hits never stopped. Twenty-nine songs made it to #1 on the charts. And after Charley, there was, well, there was — who?

Country music today remains the most homogeneous of all musical genres. The industry’s myopic vision regarding minority artists not only thwarts the hopes and dreams of individuals, it disenfranchises African-American listeners.

Most damaging of all in the long run, business decisions made on Nashville’s Music Row perpetuate the idea that country music fans respond first to what they see, and secondarily to what they hear.

Image is undeniably important in today’s country music scene as evidenced by the marginally talented, but good-looking, artists who’ve achieved success. However, in implying that black is an image white country music audiences cannot embrace, the industry has managed not only to misread its audience and lose potential new stars, but to negate its own history.

African-American influences in country music can be documented at least as far back as the 1920s. Harmonica ace, DeFord Bailey, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 1926. “Whites and blacks in rural communities in the South played in stringbands,” said Frankie Staton, head of the Black Country Music Association. “Jimmie Rodgers, the father of country music, learned guitar from black laborers he worked with.”

Robert Johnson was a black blues musician and contemporary of Jimmie Rodgers. Retrospective boxed sets of music from both artists are available today. “If you go back and play those two boxed sets, they’re not very different from each other in sound. And you begin to understand, first hand, why they call country music the white man’s blues,” said Tom Roland, music columnist for the Nashville Tennessean. “Hank Williams was taught by a black street musician called Tee-Tot. In fact, the near inseparability of early country music and early blues is now documented in a 3-CD compilation released by Warner Bros. in 1998. Called “The Black Experience: From Where I Stand,” the album presents 52 black artists’ contributions to country music and includes not only African-American artists primarily known for their contributions to the blues, but those such as Charley Pride and Cleve Francis, who identified themselves solely as country artists.

Though many African-Americans have contributed their talents to country music, only Charley Pride has ever achieved true and lasting success. His career is even more remarkable when one considers that he entered country music in 1966 during a period of great racial unrest in this country.

Why was he successful when all others have failed?

“Charley Pride made it because Chet Atkins stood up for him,” said the BCMA’s Staton, “They didn’t put his face on his album covers. They put out this album by a brother and nobody knew he was black.”

Roland agrees, “They didn’t send out any publicity photos, which is unusual. The idea, I’m sure at that time, that an African-American artist might even be trying, was absurd. He was really country, particularly when he started. He was called ‘Country’ Charley Pride the first few records. And, in fact, though Jack Clement was producing him, they put the names of four different producers on the records, the first couple of albums, just so people would know that there were a number of high-powered executives who all believed in this performer.

“So, radio stations were playing his records before they discovered his ethnicity and, at that point, how do you get off the record? How do you pull it without labeling yourself a racist? So, it was kind of shrewd on RCA’s part because once they’re on it, they can’t just jump back out.”

The approach taken by RCA in launching Charley Pride’s career indicates that executives feared racism in their audience and media outlets. It will never be known whether Pride would have succeeded had he been presented as other artists of the day were. The instant communication of today’s world, as well as the business climate in Nashville today, ensures that no new careers will ever be launched that way.

While one can list some of the reasons Charley Pride succeeded, explaining why all other African-American artists have failed to establish themselves is a much trickier proposition.

Everybody a Follower

Ultimately, is it, as Ed Benson of the Country Music Association said in a recent article, a question of money and luck not race? Is it true that if one black singer becomes a star, every label will want to have one?

Roland noted that the copy-cat mentality has precedence in Nashville. Teenager Lila McCann was signed to a recording contract soon after 13-year-old LeAnn Rimes topped the charts. Prior to the success of Alabama in the 1980s, few groups were heard on country radio. After their debut, the airwaves were filled with the sounds of Exile, Restless Heart, Southern Pacific, The Desert Rose Band, and others. The achievements of George Strait, Garth Brooks and Clint Black ensured that, for a period of time, every male artist signed was a physical mirror of those kinds of artists, with the hat and the Wranglers.

But how does one become that first black star since Charley Pride to break racial barriers? Opinions vary. Intangibles mount. Certainly the equation is not quite as simple as stated by Benson. Overt racism, economic racism, marketing, talent level, business sense and the hallowed need to “pay dues” all may play a role.

Economics and Marketing Segmentation

It’s the subtle racism pervading Music Row marketing and promotion decisions that can be most damaging. Roland said it can take anywhere from $500,000 to a million dollars to put out the first album by an artist and industry executives are understandably skittish when it comes to investing that amount of money. Decisions made concerning African-American artists may involve racism but it is more likely that the labels don’t totally believe mostly white audiences are going to accept black performers.

The industry needs to overcome its fear and market those artists to all country music listeners, black and white alike.

“Marketing segments people, said Roland. “It used to be you could listen to one station and hear Jim Reeves, and the Beatles and Frank Sinatra all on one station. That would be impossible today. People are niched and segmented…and one of the first segmentations that people did was based on gender and skin color. I think from a musical standpoint, using skin color as a way to separate people into styles probably creates an artifical difference that doesn’t necessarily need to play out.”

“Country music is only marketed to white people, but black people listened to the Grand Ole Opry and liked what they were hearing,” Staton said. “Looking at last year’s BCMA showcase, probably 60-70% of those in attendance were white. I know a lot of young black kids that love LeAnn Rimes. Black women under 25 especially like country music.”

African-Americans comprise 12%-13% of the total U.S. population. A recent marketing survey, Simmons Study of Media and Markets (1993, 1994) showed that between 17 and 24% of African-American adults, eighteen and older, in major markets, listened to country radio. Working with the above figures, the country music industry projects that approximately 2% of their total listening audience is black. Though this seems a small number, most African-Americans listening to country are females between the ages of 18 and 44, a very desirable marketing demographic. The industry’s failure to market to blacks means that current listeners with buying power are ignored. It also indicates that record labels have, for the most part, discounted the possibility of gaining a larger share of the African-American listening audience.

And how do African-American listeners feel about country music?

Jackie Nelms has been listening for over 20 years. “To me, country and western is like the blues. It’s about hard times, losing somebody, being out of a job. That’s what I relate to.” She enjoys the older artists as well as ’90s artists such as Alan Jackson, Lori Morgan and Vince Gill. “When Billy Ray Cyrus made that ‘Achey Breaky Heart’, the rap was that he didn’t pay his dues and he just happened to get lucky. But to me, he appealed to the womenfolk. I saw all colors liking that, myself included.”

Nelms loves country music but agrees record company executives fear white audiences will reject black performers. “They don’t think that whites will accept African-Americans singing country. That’s the reason I think they got together on a lot of different music a few years ago when they had duets between blacks and country and western singers. (Rhythm, Country & Blues, MCA, 1994).

Learning the Ropes

African-Americans have faced many of the same problems other artists experienced when trying to break into the business, although the problems were magnified with few predecessors, or mentors and lack of any kind of network.

Ray was philosophical and drew upon his own experiences as he commented, “The lack of blacks overall really making headway is because a lot of them just stay in their little country towns and don’t branch out. A lot of that is economics for them. They can’t afford websites. They can’t afford posters. They may not have the right pictures. They don’t know how to do some of these things.”

Indeed, when Ray made appearances at 1998’s International Country Music Fan Fair, he himself had few promotional items and little knowledge of what was needed. Only his first CD, recorded locally in Broken Arrow, Okla., was available for sale. Ray has since acquired a publicist, a website and well-designed promotional material, all essential items for any artist trying to break into the business.

The Black Country Music Association, headed by Frankie Staton, and located in Nashville, provides a forum for and gives visibility to credible black artists. By assembling a network and building an infrastructure previously lacking, it gives African-American performers a place to turn to for advice and education in the music business.

“Frankie’s been through a lot,” said Roland. “She knows what other people are facing and now there’s somebody willing to say, okay, this is what you’re up against, and give somebody a realistic view..not only of the upside but the down side.”

While there is now an organization to aid new black artists, it remains up to the individual to lay the groundwork for future success. Ray spoke of the need to pay dues and establish credibility by working the local communities and circuits to build an audience. “They can’t deny you if you’re selling records, and they can’t deny you if you’ve got an audience,” said Ray. “When opportunity knocks, and you come to the table, they see you as someone who already has an engine in place for success.”

Is the Talent There?

“Frankly, I’ve heard some of the stuff, some of the music that’s being put out, and people are saying, ‘Get behind this African-American singer,’ and a lot of times the artistic qualities are not quite there, and what do you do with that?” asks Tom Roland.

He spoke about a recently established record company and the new artist and single release it was promoting, “I had no idea she was a black singer. I liked the first two lines and then there was this thing she did with her voice that was incredibly annoying and I didn’t want to deal with it. Then you find out (she’s African-American) and well, there you go. Unfortunately that’s sometimes it. The quality is not there.”

In discussing the woman’s record company, Roland said, “They have the equipment…and they certainly have the money but the money is not well spent. It’s spent on somebody who’s not ready to be a recording artist yet. What do you do with that? If I’m a radio station, I’m not going to play it, and I don’t think you should play it just because the artist is African-American.”

Trini Triggs is currently the only African-American with a recording contract. It appears he has the talent level needed to succeed.

Trini auditioned for Mike Curb (of Curb Records) and sang acapella. As soon as he was done singing, Mike Curb wanted to sign him,” said Susan Collier, publicist for Triggs. “Trini broke a record in Radio & Records magazine (which contains weekly country music chart compilations). He broke LeAnn Rimes’ record for charting with the least amount of reporting stations. His record was eight reporting stations, LeAnn’s was 19. Normally there needs to be 30 or 40 stations before you chart on Radio & Records.”

“Everybody loves him,” Collier added, “he is so charismatic.”

Carl Ray has collaborated with Johnny Nash and other mentors and works diligently at the craft of songwriting. He is constantly trying to improve his vocals and said, “If you’re a tenor, you have to be really good in order for them to sit and listen to you. Otherwise they’ll put you in the category of the other ‘hat’ singers, so you’ve really got to step up to the plate.”

The Path to Success – The Need to Be Different

“This business is tough enough whether you’re white, black, green or yellow. Whether you’re in country or rhythm and blues,” observed Ray. “The competition is stiff. You’ve got to find anything you can just to get in there and be different. Whether that’s your personality, whether that’s your music, whether that’s your relationships, you’ve got to find a way to do it.”

To get a feel for the magnitude of the problem, Roland suggests heading out to a large record store and imagining you’re an artist with one CD. As you look over the rows and rows of albums by all the different artists in all the different genres, try to figure what you could do to make your music stand out enough that someone will find it and buy it.

The need to be different, then, is important for any aspiring artist. For African-Americans entering the country music field, their color is already a visible difference. Thus, most black performers find themselves balancing the need to be different with the need to fit in. In order to establish their credibility within the industry and with audiences, they often approach the business as traditionalists in both image and style.

For male artists, (female artists’ images are much less restrictive), the traditional country music image, since the days of the early westerns, has been entwined with that of the cowboy. In order to prove they belong in country music, male artists often feel they must adhere to the cowboy look as presently defined by such artists as George Strait, Mark Chesnutt, Alan Jackson, etc. This approach is probably sound and may even be critical.

“I think a label would sign a black or hispanic artist with talent as long as they look like Roy Rogers with dark skin,” said long-time white country music fan, Kim DiLoreto. “Most of my favorite country singers do have that look. George Strait, Gary Allan, Chris LeDoux. It has more to do with Wranglers and Reistol hats than with skin color.”

As Collier pointed out, referring to Trini Triggs, “The look and the sound is both very traditional.”

It is in the sound that tradition becomes more problematic. Black artists have often chosen to compose and present songs that are, stylistically, of the honky-tonk sub-genre of country music, the sub-genre labeled as “traditional country” in today’s country music field.

Though many listeners would be grateful for that approach, the current artists who are most successful, such as Garth Brooks and Shania Twain, are those who have broken with the traditional sound. Indeed, the newest group to achieve mega-success, The Dixie Chicks, have pursued a pop-country sound.

Any African-American artist, attempting a career in country music, must make a difficult choice. Choose the traditional sound, and one almost ensures limited success in today’s musical climate. Head in the direction of pop-country, and one loses not only credibility as a country music artist, but probably the very reason for pursuing this difficult career in the first place.

Face to Face

So where do things stand, and what is the day-to-day reality? Carl Ray says he’s not discouraged in pursuing his career. Frankie Staton of the BCMA is, overall, somewhat optimistic, “I see a change in attitudes – a very slight change. The world’s changing and Nashville has to change too.”

Are things changing or are they not? What happens when African-American artists meet their audiences? For one thing, audience composition hasn’t changed much. Cheryl Harvey Hill, publicist for Carl Ray, noted, “We were at a KVOO radio station listener appreciation party. Carl was the only black and there were 5,000 people there. The interesting thing was, there were no blacks in the audience. It was well-publicized that Carl was going to be there, so you’d think that blacks would come just to see a black country music singer.”

Jackie Nelms said, “It’s hard for a person to make it inside as far as performing. That’s where the barrier is because the audience is not going to be a mixed audience. I would like to go (to concerts), but I don’t think I’d feel comfortable there at all.”

How do those white audiences react to African-American performers? “Trini’s been very accepted,” said Susan Collier, Triggs’ publicist. “At all of the shows, Trini’s gotten great feedback, and long autograph lines.”

Hill agreed, “People have lined up for up to two hours just to shake Carl’s hand. When they hear him sing, they are amazed. The comment I hear most at concerts is, ‘Wow, he doesn’t sound black!’ From small children to senior citizens; I see people hug Carl who I am sure have never even touched a black person in their life before. And now they are not only hugging him, but they are willing to wait in line for hours to have their picture taken with him.”

“That’s what music does,” said Hill. “Music erases the color. As soon as Carl starts singing, he is a country music singer who just happens to be black, not a black man who sings country music.”

Now, that’s country music.

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  1. Marge
    February 22, 2010 at 7:00 am

    I don’t think color has anything to do with being a singer. Either you can sing or you can’t. I didn’t know Darius came from Africa…I thought he was American!

  2. Paul W Dennis
    February 22, 2010 at 8:09 am

    The fact that Nashville is marketing a visual image instead of the music is a major problem.

    Although initially RCA used some slight-of-hand in marketing Charley Pride, that disappeared with the release of his first album, COUNTRY CHARLEY PRIDE, which had his photo onthe front cover. After that it was the music and the voice that kept him on top for the next 18 or so years.

    Back when Charley was being marketed, it was not necessary for a country artist to be pretty or handsome to succeed. Today it’s essential and since the market is largely white, the perceived- white ideal of attractiveness is what is being sold

  3. Nicolas
    February 22, 2010 at 9:00 am

    There’s a black girl (Haeley Von) who made it through to the Top 24 this year on American Idol that sings country stuff, and so far she’s my favorite… can’t wait to see what she sings tomorrow night!

  4. Andrew
    February 22, 2010 at 9:36 am

    I agree with Paul that the focus on image is a big problem. Darius Rucker was fortunate in that he was able to fit with Nashville’s marketing and already had a few hits under his belt with Hootie and the Blowfish.

    Interesting that the article talks about Trini Triggs like it does. I recall the first time I saw his video for “The Wreckin’ Crew” on GAC, I thought it odd to see a black singer dressed like George Strait, but I enjoyed the song enough that I didn’t care. At that time I was excited about him and couldn’t wait to buy his CD. But it never materialized and he disappeared.

  5. Josh
    February 22, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I forget the name of the woman, but she was recently on CMT and GAC…had that one up-beat, great song that really attracted me to her voice. She’s African-American herself but I perceive her as being a success nowadays. Hopefully we’ll be hearing more from her. Darius Rucker should take helm and lead other Black artists into the foray of country music. I personally have had problems with Country Music in this regard only: scanning rows of CD albums to choose from any store and seeing white.

  6. TobySooner
    February 22, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Josh, could that be Rissi Palmer…”Country Girl”

  7. nm
    February 22, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Well … it’s true that there was no photo on the cover of the demos that got sent out for Charley Pride. But there weren’t photos on the covers of any of the demos that got sent out then. There was no particular trickery or manipulation going on. At least, that’s what Jack Clement says, and you think he’d know. (He also says that he wishes he had thought of something like that, but that since photos were never involved it wasn’t relevant.)

    I think that market segmentation is a problem for attracting a visible black audience to country music (and therefore a big enough pool of talented black country singers that they can’t be ignored), but I kinda sorta think that the industry as a whole has just written that part of the population off. And it would be work to get it back. And I don’t see the industry inviting these artists to network, you know?

  8. Bob
    February 22, 2010 at 11:44 am

    Rissi Palmer’s self-titled debut cd came out in October of ’07 and the 2 singles, “Country Girl” and “Hold Onto Me” both failed to make it into the top 40. I have the cd and I think it’s great. My wife and I saw her perform at the Bluebird Cafe last summer and she sounds as good live as on her cd. She seemed very comfortable performing and has a good sense of humor.

    To my knowledge, none of the major country music blogs – Country Universe, My Kind of Country, Roughstock or the 9513 – reviewed her cd. I do recall seeing one review but I can’t recall the name of the blog. I think they knocked her for covering the R&B hit “No Air” and said she wasn’t country enough.

    There’s another African-American female country singer who sounds real good – Miko Marks. I think she’s from California.

  9. Greg
    February 22, 2010 at 12:11 pm

    I know this may be a slight off topic, but it did raise my inquiry about the subject. It reminds of the “rumour” that took place when Sugarland switched from a threesome to a duo, when allegedly the 3rd member was dropped due to the fact that she was an open lesbian. Would that be another example of discrimination in Country Music? Just a general inquiry, and in no way am I stating that Sugarland dropped her due to the fact that she was gay.

    Also, Darius Rucker is non-white, but is accuring great success right now. But is that due to his history as starting out as a Hootie or based upon music?

    I would also like to know some statistics, as in how many african-american (or any other race for that matter) have actually tried the country music business. If we could know how many people of other decent attempted to make it into country music and were declined.

  10. Razor X
    February 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    When is the focus going to shift back from what an artist looks like to what he or she SOUNDS like? I don’t care what any singer looks like. I don’t care if there are dozens of successful minority acts, or if there are none.

  11. Rowena Muldavin
    February 22, 2010 at 12:45 pm

    I do two radio shows, one on the internet called All Things Country for Heartland Public Radio on HPR1,, and Twang, a live show on KCSN, 88.5fm in Northridge, CA (Los Angeles area), KCSN also streams on the internet.

    My shows are a mix of new and old, and I am grateful for the opportunity to play not only our Country legends, but to showcase the many independent artists who are recording what we call the “real deal,” e.g., Becky Hobbs, Dale Watson, Miss Leslie, Amber Digby, Ron Williams, Liz Talley, Jake Hooker and many, many more. I play several African American artists and am always looking for more. And every year I do a special month long tribute to African American Country artists, and include Country covers by those artists known in the worlds of R&B and rock. In addition to Carl Ray, Trini Triggs, Rissi Palmer. Vicki Vann, Stephen Pride and Miko Marks, there is a wonderful artist, Mike Johnson, who is an incredible songwriter and yodels like nobody’s business. There is a fellow named Scott Eversoll who will knock you out if you’re a lover of the George Strait/Alan Jackson/Mark Chesnutt sound and there is a guy from the Caribbean, L.M. Stone, who sounds a lot like the Possum himself, George Jones–not by design, he just has this terrific voice.

    If anyone reading this post knows of other African American artists, or any others for that matter who are recording songs in the manner of true Country music, please let me know at It is so true that Twang is not a color.

  12. Hubba
    February 22, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    the blame for the fact that there aren’t more minority country singers lies squarely on the Nashville establishment, and not to take anything away from Darius Rucker, but he certainly seems to be a “glass case Negro” (“break in case of emergency”, and pardon my vulgar terminology.)
    I love Darius Rucker, always have. I love Charlie Pride. I love Otis Redding and Brook Benton. And I find the fact that Nashville believes the only Black performer I will listen to is a former hitmaker to be highly insulting.

  13. Nicolas
    February 22, 2010 at 1:22 pm

    @Greg: ” Just a general inquiry, and in no way am I stating that Sugarland dropped her due to the fact that she was gay.”

    Actually, its the other way around; she left because the group had such success and she though that she’d tarnish it. And then she made a big deal because Jennifer & Kristian were getting all the money n she wanted her fair share because she thought of the name “Sugarland” in the first place, so she’s just a greedy cow in the end.

  14. Matt B.
    February 22, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    I hope ‘the tide’s a changing’ but until a new artist breaks through without having a prior history (like Darius) I think the industry won’t follow with more black artists.

    Like Razor, I could care less what the artist looks like or what their skin color is but sadly many people do.

  15. Troy
    February 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Sometimes I think these thing are looking to closely at statistics. Surveys aren’t that reliably any way.

    “African-Americans comprise 12%-13% of the total U.S. population. A recent marketing survey, Simmons Study of Media and Markets (1993, 1994) showed that between 17 and 24% of African-American adults, eighteen and older, in major markets, listened to country radio.”

  16. Troy
    February 22, 2010 at 2:25 pm

    Sometimes I think these thing are looking to closely at statistics. Surveys aren’t that reliably any way.

    “African-Americans comprise 12%-13% of the total U.S. population. A recent marketing survey, Simmons Study of Media and Markets (1993, 1994) showed that between 17 and 24% of African-American adults, eighteen and older, in major markets, listened to country radio.”
    Where the survey was done could have large impact. If it was done in the south in rural area than maybe those numbers are right but I don’t think that the whole African-American from around the country.
    Also, just because a person of that race listen to country music doesn’t mean thats the type of music that they would want to be. I listen to R&B music but that wouldn’t be the genre I would pursue. How many African-American are actually pursuing a career in Country music? That number is never given.
    Like in the NBA compared to % there must be something wrong that African-American are by large the majority of players are African-American. There are a lot of white people that watch basketball. When it comes down to how many African-American are trying to get a job in basketball i bet the % are about right. That is just the way it happens sometimes.

    Sorry for the post above this for some reason when I clicked tab in submitted it.

  17. Nicolas
    February 22, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    I hope Darius has opened the door for some African American females in country, because Rissi Palmer is good and its a shame she didn’t do well. The country girl on American Idol this year is a black girl, Haeley Vaughn, and I love her. So, I’d really like to see her do well.

  18. Rick
    February 22, 2010 at 7:59 pm

    One black gal who just keeps plugging away trying to get noticed by country radio is Rhonda Towns. As hard as it is for new female artists to get embraced at Top 40 country radio, being non-white is just another obstacle but Rhonda seems determined to keep pursuing her dream.

    I got to see Star De Azlan perform live a couple of years ago and she really impressed me. I guess its equally tough for talented Latina’s to break the radio barrier as well and that’s a shame. CURB is doing a horrible job with Star, and if she’s still with that label should leave.

    I really don’t think that skin color matters to the vast majority of Top 40 country radio listeners these days. The contemporary pop-rock country scene has attracted pop and rock oriented fans that regularly embrace artists of all colors and ethnicities and don’t give it a second thought. On the other hand black artists with a pronounced “negro dialect” in their vocals could face a cultural resistance, but that’s a whole different matter from skin color alone. Cowboy Troy’s music was what kept him off country radio, not that he was black. On the other hand how can one explain the success of Colt Ford though? Hmm…

  19. Nicolas
    February 22, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    Rick: “CURB is doing a horrible job with Star, and if she’s still with that label should leave.”

    I’d imagine so, heck they won’t even get new Jo Dee Messina music out!

  20. Jordan Stacey
    February 22, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    @Rick glad to see somebody mention Rhonda Towns I lover and Star De Azlan, Trini Triggs is pretty good too. I find it a real shame that these really talnted artists get ignored. I love music and want to get in on the industry, but things like this make it hard for me to make a case for myself when people ask me why I want to work in a dying racist industry, Being Native American a lot of my friends and family wonder why I’d like to go work in an industry that rejects minorities. Crystal Shawanda is another example, I don’t know why RCA didn’t try another single as she had major potential to be something big. Was there ever another Native country singer? (Ricky Lynn Gregg is the only other I can think of)

  21. Steve Harvey
    February 22, 2010 at 11:17 pm

    Charley Pride worked because people heard the music before they knew he was black. Darius Rucker worked because he’s Hootie.

    You’re not going to make the former work these days.

  22. luckyoldsun
    February 22, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    I respect Charley Pride’s accomplishments, but I don’t much care for his music. I sometimes have a sense when listening to him that he’s pandering to white racists by playing the happy-go-lucky black stereotype.

    My favorite black country singer in the wake of Charley Pride was Stoney Edwards. His records like “She’s My Rock,” “Jeweldene Turner.” “Hank and Lefty” and “Mississippi, You’re On My Mind” are stunning. He deserved more success than he had.

  23. waynoe
    February 23, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Did the same writer also address why, with few exceptions, that rap music is dominated by the African-American artists? Now we hear that Music Row is racism?

    I know, let’s have a congressional hearing and impose quotas. Good grief!

  24. sam (sam)
    February 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    If Waynoe intends to imply that claims of racism in country music are dubious because rap is dominated by African American artists, I would disagree. It is quite likely that the same forces of racism which leads country music to be dominated by white artists leads to rap music being dominated by African American artists.

    Racism is certainly not the only explanation for the absence of black Americans in mainstream country music, but it is at minimum a very plausible one. Moreover, the article, while by no means the final say in these mattters, is a thoughtful attempt to discuss these matters. Its an article that deserves serious thought, not apparently dismissive and seemingly irrelevant commentary such as “I know, let’s have a contressional hearing and impose quotas. Good grief!”

  25. LYNN
    March 9, 2010 at 3:31 pm

    DIXIE BROWN is a WONDERFUL country singer! She happens to be Black. So what! I love MUSIC when it is sung well. RACE doesn’t matter.

  26. josh
    May 10, 2010 at 12:19 am

    i have a question, what is twang ?

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  • Paige: Oh damn. :( I never commented here and I haven't been listening to any music at all since Thanksgiving (it …
  • Dave W.: Just read the news here. Will miss E145 very much - love this site. All the best to you Juli …
  • Leeann Ward: Oh, dang! This is real. Farewell to the most generous, informative, quality, intelligent, consistent, ethical country music blog! You …
  • bll: Thanks Juli for all the great articles and information; you'll be missed by me and I suss several others. Best …
  • Both Kinds of Music: I hope people appreciate the irony that one of the best "Americana" albums is titled Metamodern Sounds in COUNTRY Music.
  • Barry Mazor: I would not rule out that possibility..There's a different set of voters involved..
  • Dana M: Does anyone else think that Brandy Clark actually has a good chance of winning since this isn't a country awards …
  • Juli Thanki: UPDATE: Brandy Clark got a Best New Artist nom. BEST AMERICANA ALBUM: Rosanne Cash -- The River & The Thread John Hiatt -- Terms …
  • luckyoldsun: Glenn Campbell is great and I'd love to see him get an award, but the words of that song may …
  • Casey Penn: Juli, it was an honor to write for you here on You're good at what you do, and The …

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