Responses to “Is Country Music Dead?”

We had an ice storm in Nashville yesterday and decided it would be prudent to stay home and not risk wrecking our cars. We received more responses from last week’s newsletter than we have ever received from any newsletter. There’s no way we could print all the replies we had to the email from Chris Smith, but we’ll pass on a few of them.

This reply is from Bobby Lee, known to all for hosting the Steel Guitar Forum.

There are all kinds of music being played today. No genre is dying. I think that people who cry “Country Music is Dead” are just going to the wrong places for music. Satellite radio has a lot of fresh new country music. Smaller venues around the country still support touring acts. Many towns around here have a weekly concert night in the park. Every band has music on iTunes, CD Baby, Spotify, etc.

The old channels – AM radio, big record labels – only cater to huge markets. Radio isn’t selling music – they are selling listeners to their customers, who are advertisers. Record labels are in the business of ripping off artists, and their business models are failing. In their last gasp, they push music that attracts the most musically naive listeners.

It’s worth noting that jazz has less than 4% of the music market, but people keep on playing it and jazz fans keep on buying it. There are jazz festivals and jazz clubs all over the world. It shows no signs of dying. You don’t need to be on AM radio and have huge market numbers to keep your music alive.


This one is from Janice Zilm:

Chris Smith sent a very legitimate e-mail about country music. My concern is that steel guitar may go by the wayside as well. When I moved to Nashville in 1995 hoping to “break into” the recording business as well as playing live, I was repeatedly told “steel guitar” is just “too country” for country music. I’m back living in Illinois now, but still have my house in Hendersonville, so I haven’t completely given up.

I play in two Opry shows here – one does all kinds of music, which forces me to invent my own fills and instrumentals. So that is good for my brain. 🙂 The other Opry show is all country which consists of the old and the new country music. The important thing about saying this is, if I don’t keep up and learn the new country as well as the old, I will be out of a job. And I have to admit, I enjoy playing it all.

I believe the industry has tried to draw a younger audience who are looking for modern and less traditional country music. They may have more money to spend? I believe there is a market for both types, and don’t understand why the industry doesn’t take advantage of it.

Janice Zilm

Another, from Dan Fullmer:

“Bobbe: You can pass this on to Chris, about his concerns for real country music today. First of all, it won’t come from Nashville anymore, for whatever reason, but Texas based artists like Tony Booth and Darrell McCall (just to name two) are really putting out some great cd’s. With plenty of fiddle and steel guitar. I’m doing my damnedest to copy all the licks from Jim Loessberg and Johnny Cox. It’s not easy, but it’s a fun challenge and has had a definite influence on my style of playing fills and runs. Regards, Tommy Auldridge.”

“Nashville is really good to you when you die, sometimes radio will lower themselves to play 2 or 3 songs of the “departed”, and then back to the usual drone of word-less and music-less twanged-up phony voices that mean nothing at all….. which should fall totally on deaf ears…..Just a thought. There should be other stations to play this crap. There are radio stations that play Gospel, Rock, Rap, Pop….Why not COUNTRY, and stop trying to pass their mess off as Country. The COUNTRY MUSIC CAPITOL of the world has shot itself in the heart….but the true fans are still hunting Real Country Music. Ron Elliott”

“Being a steel player, of course I agree with Chris. Unfortunately, the record companies produce the music that sells. It’s just business to them, and it’s the younger listeners that go to concerts, not us old fogeys. My daughters(now in their 20s) can still recite lyrics from the great George Strait songs, probably because that’s all they heard growing up in our home, but they wouldn’t attend a Strait concert even if I bought the tickets. Sad but true.

Dan Fullmer”

Ray L. wrote:

“ANSWER: Country music is ONLY DEAD IN NASH,TN. Go to computer & dial in TEXAS for country music. You’ll hear plenty of it there. Ray L.”

Jim Costa wrote:

“Bob…Tell Chris Smith to buy a subscription to Sirius radio and lock the receiver on Willies Roadhouse. He’ll hear all the great country he wants. I did ,I got one for the car and one for the house. Its real country music 24/7. Thanks Willie.
Jim Costa
Mira Loma, Calif.”

Nanette J. Mahler had a lot to say:


I’m not a steel player, but I’m a writer/musician and a friend of Bobbe’s, and I totally agree with Chris. To add to his eloquent treatise, my take on the music industry is twofold:

1. We’ve had a lot of people move into Nashville from California and New York who never understood country music and wanted to change it from the get-go. Their influence in production and performance is leading to the demise of “real” country music. The powers-that-be dictate what gets recorded and what radio will play and so we’re stuck with what we’re fed — so much of which is downright crap. (The same goes for TV and movies.) I don’t even listen to music on the radio anymore, and I dumped cable TV.

2. It’s part of the big picture of the fading of America. The heart of this country is dying right before our eyes, but we’re in denial. We have dumbed down everything from music to education to television programming to real news reporting. The intelligent elite want us to all be the same, look the same, sound the same. And when we won’t conform, they hate us. They want to rule — even in the music business. These people think that country music as we knew it is simple, dull and unintelligent. I feel sorry for them. They have no sense of music, history or truth; it’s all just about the here and now and making a fast buck instead of letting real music sing for decades.

I have a beautiful tube radio from the 1940s on my little 1920s English pub table, and some days I like to eat dinner and listen to the Grand Old Opry coming out of those small, old speakers. At least I can pretend for a few minutes that I’m still in America.

Chris, there are more people out here who agree with you than the recording industry — and the politicians — want to acknowledge. But the powerful people are succeeding in brainwashing the populace. The only thing we can do is try to create our own great music, books, films, etc., and get it out there in any way that we can.

I am so thankful that I know someone like Bobbe Seymour, who is the real deal. He’s a musician’s musician. And one of my favorite Americans. Thanks Bobbe, and Bob, for keeping this newsletter going. I read every one.

Nanette J. Malher
Aviatrix Enterprises”

I can see this newsletter is getting pretty long at this point so depending on the replies I get, I may print some more in the next newsletter.

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2 Responses to Responses to “Is Country Music Dead?”

  1. h. schwartz says:

    yea…. you are ALL correct. The world is CHANGING and its not always COMFORTABLE…. there are many types of music as there are many types of people…PLENTY GOOD COUNTRY MUSIC IS AVAILIBLE…you just have to LOOK for it. ITS not dead and not dying…..but the world turns. Im from NYC and when i go back to visit i can find a country music station to listen to….but you gotta LOOK. see y all in TIMES Square HAHAHAHA LOVE YA HOWEEE

  2. Charlie White says:

    Hi All

    I am an established pro musician in Salford in UK and have played, written, performed, recorded and produced many different ‘genres’ of music for myself and many other artists but a common thread throughout has been the influence of what I like to call American folk music – Carter Family , Guthrie etc to Patton, Son House and pretty much all else before and after! And I just acquired a 1963 Fender 400 PSG with 8 pedals – this is going to be the pivotal sound/instrument on a new set of ‘old school’ Country songs we have written recently – I play Dobro and Lap Steel (6 string) with various tunings so I have slight start but I know it’s going to be a steep (but hopefully fast) learning curve – real Country music is alive and kicking here I the UK! BUT I am aware that not being from the USA and having lived through the last 30 years of music our ‘version’ will be different in direct comparison to early – mid 1900’s stuff – but as long as we try to the embed the ‘spirit’ of those times and recordings without merely replicating them, I think we will have achieved our aim!
    In fact I’m revisiting Hank Williams at this very moment!

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