Outlaw Country, Part 3: Songs of the New Frontier

We've talked about the way that the drug culture of the 1960s and 1970s was involved in bringing the Outlaw movement to endorse a fair amount of the cultural rebellion of that era.

But there was a tension within the music, which was more likely than rock-and-roll to see the value of the era that was passing.  Above is Willie Nelson and Ray Charles singing a Western-style ballad linked to the earlier time.

There were a lot of songs like that, where the old icons are given again in the terms of the new generation.  The old cowboy movies sometimes featured 'girls of the night,' as for example the spirited young lady who played opposite John Wayne in Stagecoach.  Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson picked this up and put it into one of the more famous songs of this type.

Waylon Jennings was an outspoken advocate of moving on to new ways of doing things.  Too many people were trying to re-live the life of Hank Williams, Sr., and he wanted them to know that he wasn't going to play that game.

But, as Gringo pointed out, it was the same Waylon Jennings who took time to pen this tribute to Bob Wills and the Western Swing movement.

So maybe that's three ways in which the changes that came over country music starting in the late 1960s were different from otherwise similar changes in rock-and-roll.  They remained tied to the gospel tradition  They remained faithful to the American serviceman.  Finally, they retained that supernatural loyalty to the American project -- including icons like the cowboy, the flag, and the ideal of riding free on the new frontier.


raven said...

Thanks for these songs-! It has been a tough week and good music is a balm for the soul.
"Bob Wills is still the King" What a song! and the transition to fiddle and "faded Love" at the end is sweet!
Another transition happened in country music sometime in the 60's- the pedal steel went from a "Hawaiian" sort of sound to pick up a whole new sort of edge, as in this song. I wonder who pioneered that new sound?

"Panhead" - That was sort of poignant for me- the first and last Harley I ever rode was my buddies 49 panhead, a rigid with a 10" over fork. His widow wanted to have it at his funeral , so I rode it over. Scariest thing I ever rode, it would fall into turns like a brick, the only way to ride it smooth was to get on the gas and hope the front tire would hold.

Grim said...

I'm glad you've been enjoying it, Raven. As I'm sure you saw, I put some songs up for you specifically.

I have not ridden a panhead, although I would like to ride one! I've enjoyed the Harleys I've ridden, but the panhead is legendary.

On the other hand, I was surprised how low the center of gravity was on the Road King I rode: it is a big bike, but it feels like a little bike when you need to make a tight turn.

raven said...

Just listened to "Bob Wills is still the King " again --that fiddle at the end- it is not "Faded Love", eh? Very similar but a few note's different.
Anybody want to clue me in?

His panhead chopper was an old school machine, lots of flywheel, very elemental-back yard build, not some polished custom thing. Guaranteed to get attention!
Ya'all should come out to the PNW sometime and ride-lovely country,you can go from ocean to alpine to high desert in a easy days ride.

Grim said...

That sounds like a good time.

I would have thought you were right about the tune. Here's Patsy Cline doing it. I'm going to defer to Gringo for any correction, though. He's got more insight into Western Swing than I have.