Jesus, take the wheel– Country music has done run itself off into a ditch.

The hollow Country/Pop crossover stars of today are more L.A. than Nashville. They make Garth Brooks look like Hank Williams. Video killed the AM radio star. Henry Horenstein’s Portraits of Country Music 1972-1981 is a hugely inspiring photographic archive that perfectly captures the days when Country was C-O-U-N-T-R-Y. The artists talked the talk, and walked the walk. They had personality, talent, were characters, and yes– could be a bit corny as well. But in retrospect, that too is part of the charm and allure. So take a spin. Each brilliant Horenstein capture is better than the last, and makes me pine for simpler times– not to mention an icy cold can of Schlitz.

15 July 1972, Billerica, MA — Don Stover was a bluegrass banjo picker from White Oak, West Virginia. He came to Boston in 1952 with the Lilly Brothers from nearby Beckley and they played together for over eighteen years at Boston’s Hillbilly Ranch. Stover had great influence on a generation of important young banjo pickers. He influenced Bill Keith who introduced chromatic scales to bluegrass as a member of Bill Monroe’s band and Bela Fleck, a bluegrass and jazz-fusion star. — Image by © Henry Horenstein


1972, Boston, MA — Porter Wagoner Sitting on a Piano Playing Guitar (nice Nudie suit Porter) — Image by © Henry Horenstein


15 July 1978, Boston, MA — Lilly Brothers reunion show at the Hillbilly Ranch. The term “Honky Tonk” strictly refers to the type of bar that became popular after prohibition ended in the mid 1930’s. These bars were a little seedy and usually located on the outskirts of town. Honky tonks were a haven where a band could learn and hone its skills. — Image by © Henry Horenstein*

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“I’ve always been crazy– but it’s kept me from going insane.”

–Waylon Jennings


No one personified the hard-living, honky tonk, maverick life as much as Waylon Jennings did. Born in Littlefield, Texas, in 1937, he played bass with rock-and-roll legend Buddy Holly in the 1950s, roomed and misbehaved with Johnny Cash in the 1960s, and had dozens of top-ten hits along the way—including 1978’s “Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” But it was as an “Outlaw” that Waylon made his biggest contribution. Along with co-conspirators Willie Nelson, Tompall Glaser, Billy Joe Shaver, and others, the Outlaws streamlined arrangements, eschewed clichéd lyrics, and modernized country music by looking back to its soulful roots and mixing in a shot of rock-and-roll.  Waylon Jennings, Performance Center, Cambridge, MA, 1976  –Image by Henry Horenstein


Circa 1974, College Station, TX — Willie Nelson thrills a young crowd 40,000 strong as he opens his ‘July 4th Picnic’ in College Station, Texas. Crowds of over 150,000 were expected during the three day weekend music fest. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS


Circa 1969, Cummins, Arkansas — Singer Johnny Cash as he chats with some of the inmates and guests during his visit to Cummins Prison in Arkansas.  April 10, 1969. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

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