This book is the first-ever comprehensive look at the importance of country music in black culture around the world from the 17th century to today. Its 378 pages include more than 450 black people who have played a variety of roles in country music, such as co-creators of the genre, singers, songwriters, musicians, producers, record label owners, radio station owners and personnel, and, most importantly, buying and listening audience.
In revealing the typically overlooked strong relationship between black people and country music, the book also includes a selective discography of nearly 1,500 country recordings black people helped create, including more than 400 Billboard country chart hits, more than 200 Billboard top 10 country hits and nearly 100 Billboard No. 1 country hits.
Other information detailed in the book includes: Louis Armstrong recorded a country album in 1970 and first recorded country in 1930 with the legendary Jimmie Rodgers; DeFord Bailey was one of the most popular performers on the Grand Ole Opry from 1926 to 1941; Chuck Berry wrote 15 Billboard country chart hits and is among five black people inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame; Fats Domino recorded dozens of country songs and earned a spot on the Billboard country chart in 1981; Berry Gordy operated five country record labels as subsidiaries of Motown Records, racking up 36 Billboard country chart hits and launching the career of country star T. G. Sheppard; Louis Jordan & Lucky Millinder and His Orchestra landed on the second-ever Billboard country chart, in 1944, marking them as the first black acts to make the chart; Linda Martell is the first black woman known to perform country music on the Grand Ole Opry, in 1969; Aaron Neville has recorded a body of country music that has earned him a country Grammy Award, an Academy of Country Music Award, Country Music Association Award nominations and a Billboard country chart hit; the Supremes released a country album in 1965; and the Pointer Sisters won a country Grammy Award in 1974.
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I am honored to help bring you this story of black people in country music. As a black woman who has enjoyed country since my childhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a journalist who has written about the country music industry since 1993, I feel it only natural that I should help chronicle for you this important yet largely overlooked aspect of black culture. The depth of feeling I have experienced over the years when I've listened to and sung along with my favorite country songs is difficult to explain. I don't have words that go as deep as my feelings.
One way to at least partially explain my relationship with country came to me several years ago as I was feeling self-centered and vain and intuitively turned on country music as if I subconsciously thought of country as an antidote to focusing on myself. And indeed it is such an antidote for me because the messages in the music tend to be expressed so clearly that listening to it is my way of feeling someone else's experiences as deeply as I feel my own.
In some way I hope this book helps to stimulate pride and validation in the many black fans of country music who have heretofore hesitated to share their musical tastes with others for fear of reproach. While I personally have not been thusly inhibited, I have learned many stories, and share some of them with you here in these pages, of black people who have. Some of the feelings of shame people have expressed are heartbreaking. It pains me to confront the reality that large numbers of black people look to their comrades in color and mass media depictions for cues on what they should do, not do, like or dislike, rather than accepting their independent assessments, based not on color but on personal choice. Nonetheless, whether others in their race are seen embracing country is an undeniable factor in some black people's comfort level with their own embracing of it.
So, for those who need that outside validation, here it is. For those who for other reasons want to broaden their knowledge of black culture to include information about our country roots and branches, again here it is. Regardless of why this information is important to any particular reader, the underlying reality is the same. Country music is part of black culture and it is a part in which many of our forefathers and contemporaries have taken and do take great pleasure.About the Author:
Author Pamela E. Foster is a recognized expert in the field of black people and country music, having written and spoken extensively on the subject since 1993. Among her numerous accomplishments are that she earned undergraduate and graduate degrees respectively at Smith College and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, formerly covered the country music industry for the Nashville Business Journal, won six Society of Professional Journalists Excellence in Journalism Awards and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in investigative reporting. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and now lives in Nashville, where she serves on the faculty at Tennessee State University.
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