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SPIGOLON: Some music doesn’t sound like the old stuff but I hope it keeps evolving

October is Country Music Month in America.

I didn’t make that up. 

If you’ve listened to some modern country music, you may wonder why. 

Why there’s not a hip-hop month or rock music month or some other month honoring a music genre is beyond me.

Modern country music is rooted in everything from the mountain hymns and traditional songs of the Appalachian Mountains, to the smooth Nashville Sound, the beat-driven sounds of the San Joaquin valley in California, and Austin, Texas.

All of that meshed together to form today’s country music, which is not everyone’s favored brand of the musical genre defined as country.

There are people who are traditionalists in whatever they are passionate about, whether it’s music or religion or something else. 

In country music, I generally prefer the classic sound of the 1950s and 1960s rather than the newer, rock-oriented songs. 

I can’t explain it other than it had a distinct sound. No overdubs, no rock guitars mixed with fiddles and steel guitar burred somewhere down in the mix. The Bakersfield sound of Merle Haggard and pre-”Hee Haw” Buck Owens. The “Nashville Sound” era that produced the likes of Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Don Gibson, Patsy Cline and more. 

I found out from one of our columnists that President Richard Nixon first proclaimed October as national Country Music Month.

According to radio station WNYC, one of Nixon’s accomplishments during his ultimately ill-fated presidency (he resigned in 1974 amid the Watergate scandal) was his request to the American people in October 1970 to mark October as Country Music Month.

Nixon, a Californian, apparently had loved country music since the year before when fellow Californian Merle Haggard’’s “Okie From Muskogee” became the top song on the Billboard country charts. 

The then-president had first gained fame as a congressman from California during hearings seeking out Communists in the U.S. government in the early 1950s. President Dwight Eisenhower chose Nixon as his vice president in 1952 and he served two terms with “Ike.” Nixon unsuccessfully attempted to succeed the World War II hero in 1960 but won election in 1968 amid the political turmoil and cultural changes of the late 1960s.

You think the country is divided politically now? Try 1970.

The Vietnam War was in its sixth year and the country was split between the generations in their approaches to everything from the war to Civil Rights. Protests seemingly were part of the curriculum for college students. At one college, Kent State University in Ohio, members of the Ohio National Guard in May 1970 fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine students.

“Okie from Muskogee” is the first-person listing of the conservative values the singer held and a celebration of how small-town values differed from those in California (sound familiar?).

The lyrics told of being opposed to hippies’ illegal drug use, and wearing of Roman sandals rather than “manly footwear” like boots. The singer opposes anti-war demonstrations on college campuses, and young men burning their draft cards during the height of the Vietnam War at a time when they were still being conscripted and sent to fight an increasingly unpopular conflict.

In the song, which was recorded live and features a roaring crowd, the singer favors waving “Old Glory down by the courthouse” and drinking illegal “white lightning” — homemade corn liquor — rather than using illegal drugs.

Although he later said “Okie” was written to parody those who forthrightly believed in what he described, Haggard would follow it up with “Fighting Side of Me” which left no doubt where the singer of the song stood on those who downgraded America.

Anyway, though some of the music was birthed during that tumultuous time, traditional country had a distinct sound and attitude that many rock bands would try to duplicate — the most successful being bands like The Eagles.

Such rock and pop groups drew their inspiration from the roughhewn sounds of Owens and Johnny Cash — who both had distinct sounds and personalities.

But The Eagles showed a rock band willing to experiment and being very successful in the process.

Now, we’re seeing the same kind of merging of different cultures and musics. Each kind of music features a range of sounds which often blur the lines between the genres.

I prefer the old sounds but I have no problem with the new sounds, either. 

The pop music of the 1950s led to the rock music of the 1970s and beyond. The soul music of the 1960s and ‘70s led to modern hip-hop, in many ways.

Like a river, if a musical genre or anything else never moves forward, it gets stagnant.

I like a certain era of music but who’s to say the modern era is bad? I hope music keeps evolving and more lines get blurred, if it sounds good.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The News. Reach him at