PHOTOGRAPHY OF HENRY HORENSTEIN AN AMERICAN ARCHIVE — HONKY TONK

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

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

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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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TAKE THIS JOB AND SHOVE IT! | DAC, JOHNNY PAYCHECK & BIGFOOT MANIA

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“Always go hard and fast enough so that when you hit the ditch,

you can pull out the other side.”

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–Johnny Paycheck

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Country music outlaw Johnny Paycheck– singer of the hit song “Take This Job and Shove It”

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When the legendary Country music tune “Take This Job and Shove It” was released by Johnny Paycheck in 1977, it became a universal fist-pumping anthem for working stiffs everywhere– crossing cultural and geographical divides to unite workers in a time when the country was facing rising taxes, gasoline prices, unemployment (ironic given it’s title), and decreasing employer loyalty.  The song provided a much needed outlet for our frustrations, and said better than any others before just how much we’d like to turn the tables and stick it to The Man. Just walk away with head held high and no looking back.

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“Take this job and shove it.  I ain’t workin’ here no more.  My women done left and took all the reasons I was workin’ for.  You better not try to stand in my way as I’m walkin’ out the door.” Amen.

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Johnny Paycheck– the late 70s poster-child for frustrated and fed-up workers everywhere.

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The song made Johnny Paycheck a household name– and for good reason, because his hard-livin’ badass persona fit the bill perfectly.  So did that of the song’s original writer and Country outlaw legend, David Allan Coe– who saw the fifteen minutes of fame feeding Paycheck’s career more than his own. People say DAC  was more than a little pissed to see Johnny get all the glory, and not throw him a bone for actually penning the tune that had made him a star.  Well, they’d have a chance to share the limelight together a few years later when the movie of the same name was released  and both were given cameo roles.  Only problem was they were both upstaged by– a truck. But not just any truck– we’re talkin’ about Bigfoot.  The first on-screen monster truck that started the national jacked-up 4 x 4 craze that’s still with us.  I remember seeing the flick as a kid and being blown away by the massive, blue F-250 Bigfoot’s size and power…  Johnny who? The attention seemed to change overnight to— Take This Truck and Crush It.

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Bigfoot’s stardom skyrocketed while Johnny Paycheck and DAC both ran into trouble after trouble– ultimately resulting in prison time.

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THE NASHVILLE PORTRAITS, PART II | PHOTOGRAPHY OF JIM McGUIRE

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Chet Atkins– Known as “Mister Guitar,” Atkins was a trailblazer who is widely credited for the creation of the so-called “Nashville Sound.” One of the most influential and best-loved guitarists in the history of the instrument, he became the president of RCA Records and produced many classic country albums. — 1976 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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John Prine–  Country/folk singer-songwriter originally from Illinois, has achieved critical and commercial success since his move to Nashville in the early 1970s. His grandfather played guitar with Merle Travis, and he took up the instrument himself at the age of 14.  He was a postman in Chicago and had served in the military before beginning his musical career. Already a star in Chicago’s folk music scene, he was discovered in a local club by Kris Kristofferson. He is known for his wildly imaginative songs and unusual voice and singing style. His 2006 release “Fair and Square” was awarded the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.  — 1984 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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John Hiatt– Originally from Indianapolis, Indiana, Hiatt, a rock guitarist, pianist, singer, and songwriter, moved to Nashville in the early 1970s to write songs and to find his musical voice. After his song “Sure as I’m Sitting Here” (recorded by Three Dog Night) became a top 40 hit, he was signed to a recording contract by Epic Records. This portrait was shot just before the release of his first solo album, recorded in 1974. Since then, he has released twenty albums, and his songs have been covered by Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, B. B. King, Joan Baez, and Jimmy Buffet, to cite just a few.  *** — 2004 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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THE NASHVILLE PORTRAITS, PART I | PHOTOGRAPHY OF JIM McGUIRE

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Steve Earle–  Born 1955 in Virginia, he grew up in and around Texas.  Steve dropped out of high school in the 9th grade and began his pursuit of breakin’ into the music scene, and becoming a real deal singer/songwriter– like his hero Townes Van Zandt, who he was obsessed with.   Steve often tells of being all of 17 years old in 1972, and playing at the Old Quarter in Houston in front of a handful of patrons– one of them being Townes.  He was petrified up there on that tiny stage with Townes Van Zandt, who he still considers the best there ever was, sitting dead in front of him with his moccasins propped up on the stage right at Earle’s feet– and loudly heckling him between songs.  (Steve Earle unabashedly fesses to going out and buying a pair of said moccasins the very next day…) The two became close, and will always be joined in legend and history– it’s flat-out impossible to talk about one without the other.  Steve moved to Nashville (like alot of the songer/songwriters did in the 1970s after Kris Kristofferson had become a big star there) and played bass with another future legend, Guy Clark. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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Townes Van Zandt– One of the great tragic figures of country music, Fort Worth, Texas, native Townes Van Zandt was a folk singer, songwriter, performer and poet. He was particularly influential in the emergence of alternative country in the nineteen-seventies. Steve Earle described him as the greatest songwriter who ever lived, and his influence was felt by many other artists, including Emmylou Harris, Nanci Griffith, and Lyle Lovett. Bob Dylan refers to this Texas native as his favorite songwriter. He wrote hundreds of haunting songs that have been widely recorded, perhaps most notably “Pancho and Lefty” which was a number one hit for Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard in 1983. — 1990 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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Texans Guy and Susanna Clark, both singer/songwriters, first came to Nashville at the time that same McGuire did, back in 1972.  They became fast friends when McGuire shot the cover photographs for Guy Clark’s first studio album “Old Number One”, which was released by RCA Records in 1975. During the 1970s, when this photograph was taken, the Clark’s Nashville home was a haven for emerging songwriters and musicians. Guy Clark has served as a mentor to many other songwriters, most notably Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell, and numerous artists have recorded Guy Clark-penned songs. — 1975 studio portrait, Nashville by Jim McGuire

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American Icons – Johnny Cash & Martin Guitars.

Country/Western singer Johnny Cash in recording studio.  Nashville, TN 1969

Johnny Cash is as real as they come, brother.  I feel sorry for poor lil’ Juaqiem Phoenix – trying to fill those big (white) shoes on screen.  The hard livin’, honky tonkin’, God lovin’ man in black.  God rest his soul.

The Legendary D45 by C. F. Martin & Co.

C.F. Martin & Co. have been making top quality guitars since 1796, and are still family owned and operated out of Nazareth, PA.  Martin is truly a guitar with few rivals in terms of quality, tone and boom- played by the likes of Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Guy Clark and many other music legends.  Martin is probably best known for their D-45 Dreadnought model (a little wider body and more squared shoulder), first crafted for Gene Autry in 1933.  In my book, both Johnny and Martin are true American Icons.

Link to Martin D45

 

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