Outlaw Country: Part I

So now we're coming to my favorite part of country music -- probably not coincidentally, the stuff I grew up with -- the movement that was called "the Outlaws."

Since Gringo objected to my putting the popular-culture versions of Western Swing ahead of the core of the project, though, I'm going to start off by doing the same thing here.  You've seen the Outlaw movement in its popular, stripped-down form.  (Embedding disabled.)

But it's not just the Dukes of Hazzard.  You saw the stripped, Hollywood version when Burt Reynolds drove a firebird to block for a truck bootlegging beer across the South:

And you saw it when a convoy of trucks stood up to police corruption, led by Outlaw country singer Kris Kristofferson as "Rubber Duck."

So, that's how it became famous:  but now that I look at that, I can kind of see Gringo's point.  Kris Kristofferson is a real Outlaw, and Jerry Reed is too.  And Waylon Jennings sang the Dukes of Hazzard anthem:  and Johnny Paycheck, featured in that first clip, he's as Outlaw as it gets.  But none of this is what is really core to the movement.

What I think is most important to lay down, first, is that the Outlaws also did this:

And this:

So what we're about to explore in the next few posts is how the turmoil of the 1960s got expressed in Outlaw country.  It's a different kind of expression in two ways.  We already talked about Hank Williams' devotion to God and gospel:  we'll find that proves out in Johnny Cash and others, too.

But here also is the second difference.  In spite of the rebellion against corruption by the extant authorities, the Outlaws retained what Chesterton called a supernatural loyalty to the American project.  They didn't like where we were, but they loved America.  They were ready to fight for her.

We'll do some more shortly.


raven said...

I am enjoying this- despite being one of them yankees,(wink) outlaw country , and some of the great country/rock bands are about my favorite music.
Is there such a thing as libertarian country? music that extolls the working class without the usual folky-left calls for Communism?
Songs that recognize we have made a left turn down a dismal highway and the foxes are through the wire? Musicians who have kicked the Hopium habit?

Grim said...

You're in the right place. Merle Haggard alone did many such songs, including these three.

The Outlaw movement is going to contain a lot that you'll like. But it has a dark side, too, so we need to look at it honestly. It'll take a little time to do it all.