Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly: Country Music's Struggle for Respectability, 1939-1954

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In this book, Jeffrey J. Lange examines the 1940s and early 1950s as the most crucial period in country music's transformation from a rural, southern folk art form to a national phenomenon. As he analyzes the recordings and comments of each of the subgenre's most significant artists, including Roy Acuff, Bob Wills, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams, and Red Foley, he traces the many paths the musical form took on its road to respectability.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly is a very good summation of country music's history during the crucial years from 1939 to 1954. Lange does a particularly good job in exploring the tensions that accompanied the efforts made by entertainers and fans to create a musical product that would be both popular and roots-based. That struggle, of course, is still very much a part of the country music scene today."—Bill C. Malone, author of Don't Get above Your Raisin’: Country Music and the Southern Working Class

"A lively, readable collection of well-written and researched essays about Country Music within the context of America's history."—Southern Scribe

"[A] welcome and revealing book."—David Cantwell, No Depression

"Jeffrey Lange describes this cultural evolution with clarity and an abundance of detail."—American Studies

"This clearly argued, well-researched addition to the scholarly literature on country music will appeal to scholars and fans of country music. Lange is sensitive to issues of race, class, and gender, and he provides a solid historical context for the forces that shaped country music's transformation between 1939 and 1954."—Alabama Review

"This is a text that will serve as a valuable reference book for anyone interested in locating the details behind the performers and recordings that made country music popular during the World War II and post-World War II eras."—Georgia Historical Quarterly

"Smile When You Call Me a Hillbilly ranks as the single most in-depth and detailed study of country music during World War II and the immediate postwar period, and as such, it is a welcome addition to the growing body of literature on the history of country music. Southern historians and country music scholars will appreciate Lange’s efforts."—Atlanta History

"[Lange] wears his quantification lightly, a very pleasing attribute, and mirrors in a way the achievement of his subject: using modern methods without losing track of the story that forms the power of the phenomenon."—Arkansas Historical Quarterly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820326238
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 336

Meet the Author

Jeffrey J. Lange currently teaches history at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois.

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Table of Contents

1 Radio barn dances, schoolhouse shows, and "hillbilly" domestication : progressive country music in the prewar era 19
2 The great breakthrough : World War II and the national acceptance of country music 67
3 The Southwestern component : Texas swing, Western swing, and urban country music 89
4 Alternative string bands and old-time revivalists : the postwar traditionalists 129
5 Country music at the dawn of the sunbelt era : honky-tonk and the promotional blitz 159
6 The sophistication of country music : the rise of country pop in the postwar decade 198
7 Across the great divide : country blues renaissance and the centralization of country music 221
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