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Hillbilly Maidens, Okies, and CowgirlsWomen's Country Music, 1930-1960$
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Stephanie Vander Wel

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780252043086

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252043086.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 28 June 2022

Early Country Music

Early Country Music

The Crossing of Musical Hierarchies on Chicago’s WLS

(p.19) 1 Early Country Music
Hillbilly Maidens, Okies, and Cowgirls

Stephanie Vander Wel

University of Illinois Press

Chapter 1 explores the theatrical context of 1930s country music on radio, specifically daily and weekly shows, including the National Barn Dance, on Chicago’s WLS. Similar to vaudeville, radio programmed the diverse strands of vernacular expression with music (including Western art music) that pointed to the high and popular aesthetics of the middle-class mainstream. With an emphasis on reception, this chapter demonstrates that listeners debated the merits of early country music as well as other musical styles and genres with a class-based understanding of aesthetics. The syncretic nature and theatrical characters of early country music (such as the singing mountaineer, the crooning cowboy, and the rustic buffoon) fit radio’s attempts to negotiate the crossing and blurring of the serious and the popular, the urban and the rural, and the sentimental and the parodic. Thus, through the technology of radio, early country music first secured a place in the American consciousness by rubbing against other styles and genres that transgressed cultural and musical divides.

Keywords:   Chicago, radio, WLS, National Barn Dance, vaudeville, parody, sentimentality, popular music, Western art music, country music

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