Another Take on “Is Country Music Dead?”

Randy Meeker sent us this insightful email. Enjoy …

“Another take on “Is Country Music Dead?”

Real Country music is alive and well, it just doesn’t get the attention¸ airplay, TV shows, Radio coverage that it used to. And probably rightly so. The music has changed, as have the instruments we each play have improved. I play pedal steel, lap steel, straight steel and dobro. I also have or do play guitar, baritone guitar, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass guitar, mandolin, some double bass, keyboards, and whatever else I can get my hands on.

I love country music, and Americana music, and bluegrass and folk and classic rock, blues and jazz. Does Pedal Steel fit into those genres? You betcha! – however, other instruments sometimes fit better. Music, by its nature, is ever evolving as the genres have to be to accept new submissions into their fold.

What may not have grown or changed is the music fan’s acceptance of those fundamentals. Sometimes as we mature, we focus in on what we like, what speaks to, what expresses how we are feeling down to a point of a single artist or a single group of like artists. Nothing else will satisfy these discriminating listeners. Cross-Over marketing is trying to blend the hype and crowd of aging Rock and Roll markets with the fundamentals of good country (songwriting, vocal mixes that you can hear the words) and penetrate the market of the baby boomers, gen X’ers and more as the demographic and purchasing trends are ever changing.

Add to this that the model of music distribution has completely changed, there are few Big Label promotion campaigns and now the world of Indie Songwriter, Singer, Performer targeting YouTube, iTunes, Reverb Nation and all the other media sources that are web based, there is shrinking need for physical media when so much of people’s musical content is streamed via on-line sources.

All these changes actually have changed the game in favor of country artists, no longer do you have to put up with the antics, shenanigans and shams of Music City. You can grab your computer and put down your own cuts, buy studio quality sidemen online, you can fly your music to a producer that can tweak and twist it around, mix it down and put together an amazing product without having to cough up a ton cash.

However¸ if you want the best, you will still have to travel to Nashville to get the A+ players, pay them triple scale, find a producer that can convince them to work on your project, and rent some very expensive state of the art studio time to get a product that sounds just like all the other songs being produced today. Some things do not change. There is just so much more available today.

Go for it, Life is short, Play Loud!

Randy Meeker”

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Listen To Steel Guitar Music Streaming 24 Hours A Day!

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM
Closed Sunday

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Steel Guitar Amp Survey

This is Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter.

We thought it might be fun to have a survey and some feedback on designing a solid state amp. So we’re going to start with two basic formats and you guys can fill in the blanks such as wattage, speaker size, features such as built in effects like delay, reverb or Dobro simulator.

So here is our foundation. What would you like to see in a combo amp and then what would you like to see in just a head. In other words, if you could build your own amp, what would you like to have in it?

Remember, we’re talking a solid state amp, not a tube amp. Let us know your thoughts by replying (via email) to this newsletter. Reply to

Workshop survey. We’d also like to see who would be up for a spring clinic here at the store. Let us know what dates you think would be best and what subjects you’d like to see covered and we’ll do our best to put it together.

I recently purchased a Peavey Powerslide for my own use and I’m very pleased with it for the price, the features and I think it’s a great deal. So we decided to start stocking them in the store. If you’re in need of an inexpensive non-pedal steel, please check out the Powerslide. I think you’ll be as pleased as I am.

I look forward to hearing all your suggestions about how you would design a solid state steel guitar amp, both combo and head only.

I also wanted to include one more reply we got to the email Chris Smith wrote. Here it is.

“Hi Bob–enjoyed Chris’s rant, and without casting any aspersions on him or anyone else subscribing to the ‘country is dead’ school of thought, would like to point out (as a life-long country music listener, as well as a devoted guitarist and steel player for the past 50 years) that all music changes and evolves–it’s just natural. You can’t fight it, but you can analyze what’s going on, and even–dare I say it? –enjoy it. Country had a huge peak, to the point where, growing up in my native Maryland (barely in the South) we heard Patsy Cline, George Jones, and dozens of others spilling over from the country stations to mainstream. Wonderful! A truly golden age of country, and every song had steel guitar…until they didn’t.

Strings came in. Fiddles disappeared. Giant obnoxious unison tag lines began sprouting up all over the place, a trend that still goes on, and still makes me wince in annoyance. Really, do we need a fuzz guitar, steel, and fiddle all playing the same line because, darn it, the notes are JUST THAT GOOD? I don’t think so.

But in reality, without throwing dirt on Darius, who’s a nice guy and doing his best, just because you don’t hear what you love on the popular country channels, it doesn’t mean it’s gone–just gone underground. There are some wonderful artists out there, making superb music, with straight-from-the-heart songs, and even accompanied by steel (I know, cause I’m playing with some of them)–people like Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Sara Watkins, and even John Reilly. Hidden treasures, and maybe they’ll never have a hit, but who cares? It’ll be our little secret. What’s more, steel has found its way out of the country closet, and into mainstream music. I can’t tell you how many sessions I’ve done in Los Angeles for indie rock, folkies, or blues musicians where they MUST HAVE either dobro, pedal steel, or lap steel. It’s a bonanza! Hang in there, and be positive–look for the positive signs of the survival of true country, avoid the modern equivalent of what used be (and I’m dating myself here) The Archies , and dig for the real thing–it’s still there, in every town, waiting to be nurtured and loved. By folk like us!

Listen To Steel Guitar Music Streaming 24 Hours A Day!

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM
Closed Sunday

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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.

Listen To Steel Guitar Music Streaming 24 Hours A Day!

Steel Guitar Nashville
123 Mid Town Court
Hendersonville, TN. 37075
(615) 822-5555
Open 9AM – 4PM Monday – Friday
Second and Third Saturday each Month Open 9AM – 2PM
Closed Sunday

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