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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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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Is Country Music Dead?

This is Bob Hempker. We received this email from Chris Smith and I’m impressed by how eloquently he expressed the frustration so many of us feel. Chris, I wish I had the answers to your questions, but I don’t. We do have a lot of industry people on our mailing list and just maybe some of your concerns might fall on the proper ears and I will certainly pass on any feedback I receive.

Here is Chris’ email.


I am extremely concerned about country music. Is there any way to talk to the record companies and let them know there is a market they are completely missing out on? I turn on the country station today and it’s unbelievable what they have done with country music. I’m hearing a heavy influence of rock and hip-hop with a twangy voice. It’s only a matter of time before they pursue artists that don’t have any twang in their voice and they allow them to do whatever they want and play it on country radio. I am afraid that country music has died. One can listen to the old country music but there is only so much of it to go around. Eventually, you can purchase all that has been made that is qualified to be called country music. Unfortunately, it has become almost impossible to hear a new track that has pedal steel in it that has a instrumental worth listening to. There has to be something that can be done about this. I’m 34 years old and the music I love the most seems to have come to a halt. I know it’s not something new and it has been eroding over time. At least over the last decade and a half. It’s like the year 2000 hit and someone in Nashville said “ok, time to roll up our sleeves and get to work on killing country music.” Jason Aldean is supposed to be the answer for me? Come on. Give me a break. I’m not saying his music is bad by any means but it does not appeal to me. I am educated enough to realize there is a market out there for his music. Why can’t the record labels be educated enough to realize that they are completely missing out on a market that craves new country with tons of pedal steel and fiddle? Most of what I hear today is what I call the background noise you might hear if you went to a club. It’s fine for some settings but when I get in my car or sit in the living room alone at the house, I want to hear something with substance. I want excellent arrangements, addictive melodies and vocals that cannot be duplicated by anyone that can halfway carry a note.

I am terrified that in the future, there really won’t be anything out there that sounds like it could be country music. I fear that singers in the future will say that their influences were Jason Aldean, Taylor Swift, Luke Bryan or Hunter Hayes. To this day, I have not heard one track from any of those artists that comes close to sounding like traditional country.

I am planning to go to the final George Strait concert in June this year in Arlington, TX. I have joked that I am going to the funeral of country music and that I should wear all black. It’s the truth, though. Once Mr. Strait stops cutting new albums, it is over. I am aware that there will still be local bands spread throughout the country that will still be playing country music and perhaps selling it. I am also aware that I can search through the internet until my fingers are stiff to find it. However, I remember a time not that long ago I could hear real country music on the radio. Even better, I could buy those albums back then and really hear something that would blow my mind. Unfortunately, the only new country albums I have bought over the last 4 years have been George Strait albums.

It’s truly sad that the music I love the most has almost died. It’s like a fish out of water. They even have me questioning myself. Am I too old fashioned? Should I be more open-minded? Should I give these modern country artists more of a chance? The answer is NO. I should not have to settle for something I don’t really like. If only I could have a shot at recording albums and having them played on the radio to satisfy the people out there like me. Of course I know that Clay Walker said it best recently. This is not an exact quote but he basically said that anyone who thinks that traditional country will be produced or played on the radio today is kidding themselves.

Where are the singers that were influenced 20 years ago by George Strait, Alan Jackson, Mark Chesnutt, Tracy Lawrence and Tracy Byrd to name a few? I can understand today’s young artists not being influenced by George Jones or Ray Price but the artists from the 90’s had to have had an impact on younger singers today. What happened along the way? Who is in control of this? Is it radio, the labels, a lack of good talent or a mixture of all of it? Does country music need someone’s presence like Gaylord or Roy Acuff in order to remain traditional? It has to involve greed too. They are in business to sell records but I have a news flash for them. They are not selling any of them to me or people like me. I guarantee you that Darius Rucker could not sing a real country song if he had to.

Thank you for your time. I hope you have some answers for me. I’ve been trying to hear someone answer these questions logically. No one has been able to say anything that makes any sense about this except for comparing it to old rock n’ roll. That was killed off just like country music is being killed today. Surely hip hop and rap did not win over the masses.


Chris Smith

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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

Posted in Bobbe's Tips | 3 Comments

Live Steel Music in Nashville

Vic Lawson with today’s newsletter.

I’d like to start with a congrats to Bob Hempker for getting the call to go back to work for Loretta Lynn. Bob plays very well and sure needs to be playing more so congrats Bob!

We often get caught up discussing a select few steel players that “blazed the trail” and that is fine and well deserved, however I would like to talk today about some of the players here in Nashville that are keeping the torch lit every week. I would like to recognize some of those players and say thanks for your passion and loyalty to the genre and instrument we all love!

Let’s start with Rusty Danmeyer. What a player! He works the road with Leann Rimes but you can hear him most every Tuesday and Wednesday night at the Music City Bar and Grill wearing out some traditional country music the way it’s supposed to be played with a great band equally suited for the task, including Eddie Lange on bass. The Music City Bar and Grill is at 2416 Music Valley Dr, Nashville, Tennessee 37214 in the Opryland area where the new Opry House is located.

This brings me to our next player, Eddie Lange. He is not only one of the busiest players in town but one of my favorites. You can catch up with Eddie every Monday night 10PM-2AM and Saturday 2PM-6PM at Robert’s Western World churning out some very nice swing and traditional country with parts played with fiddle, steel and lead guitar. Eddie plays bass with Georgette Jones and played steel for Bill Anderson. Awesome! Robert’s Western World is at 416 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

Next up, Mike “Cookie Monster” Jones he can be spotted at numerous places around town with his signature style. Mike is an “all around” great player and a super nice guy, well worth the effort to listen to every Wednesday night 6PM-10PM at Legends Corner. Cookie is best known for his work with Barbara Mandrell. Legends Corner is at 428 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

And of course you can see the great Randy Beavers from Leann Womack’s band on some Saturdays 6PM-10PM at Swingin’ Doors Saloon, and as usual playin’ his butt off! The Swingin’ Doors Saloon is at 111 4th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37201. It’s just off the corner of 4th and Broadway.

Next up my friend Jay Andrews playing that great sounding Push Pull! IMO Jay has the And of course we can’t leave out the great Mike Sweeney. What else can I say,? Mike is one of the most well rounded players and teachers out there! Mike played steel for Wesley tone on Broadway hands down! You can hear him every Saturday afternoon 2PM-6PM at The Wheel playing some great country music! Jay is known for his work with Johnny Paycheck and Joe Nichols. The Wheel is at 421 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

And of course we can’t leave out the great Mike Sweeney. What else can I say,? Mike is one of the most well rounded players and teachers out there! Mike played steel for Wesley Dennis.

You can see and hear another great player and teacher Doug Jernigan on most Mondays 4PM-8PM at Layla’s Bluegrass Inn. Doug has recorded with Con Hunley, Lorrie Morgan, Charlie Walker, David Frizzell, Keith Whitley and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band to name a few. You won’t be disappointed! Layla’s Bluegrass Inn is at 418 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

Then there is J.R. Merseal playing his Push Pull. J.R. is one of the most creative and entertaining players playing Saturdays at The Second Fiddle 11AM-2PM, then moving across the street to the Full Moon Saloon for a 2PM-6PM shift and he is always worth listening to! The Second Fiddle is at 420 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. The Full Moon Saloon is at 423 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.

Two of my favorite younger steel players Eddie Dunlap with Clay Walker’s band and Tyler Hall who currently plays for Joe Nichols, can be spotted from time to time playing around town.

Let’s not forget about Tommy Hannum, a very creative and well rounded player, you can see him with John England and The Western Swingers at Robert’s Western World every Monday evening. You know Tommy from his recordings with Steve Earle, Jack Ingram, David Allen Coe, Ricky Van Shelton, Mary Chapin Carpenter and on and on. They also play at The Nashville Palace at 2611 McGavock Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37214. Check The Nashville Palace website ( for times.

Then of course, yours truly can be seen every Tuesday 6PM-10PM at The Nashville Palace. Saturday 11AM-2PM at The Stage which is at 412 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. Saturday 6PM-10PM at The Wheel at 421 Broadway, Nashville, Tennessee 37203. And then again Sunday 6PM-10PM at The Wheel rounds out my weekend. Regular readers will have picked up on my work with Joe Diffee and Tracy Byrd.

I’ve included the addresses so anyone visiting with a smart phone can link directly to Google Maps and easily find these locations.

I apologize if I’ve left anyone out!

So you see steel guitar is not fading away thanks to these fine players keeping the torch lit week after week, please try and see and support these guys the next time you visit Nashville. They’ll make your trip worthwhile.

Vic Lawson

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

Posted in Bobbe's Tips | 2 Comments