Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity
University of Chicago Press
, Nov 24, 1997
- 306 pages
In this engrossing account, Richard Peterson traces the institutionalization of country music from the early days with Fiddlin' John Carson in Atlanta - which he shows could have become the center of country music production - using experiences from the lives and work of many of the genre's most influential performers, including the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Gene Autry, Bill Monroe, the Delmore Brothers, Roy Acuff, Patsy Montana, the Girls of the Golden West, Ernest Tubb, and of course Hank Williams. The story, set in the era of the Roaring 1920s, the Great Depression, World War II, and postwar prosperity, takes us from Atlanta and Bristol, Tennessee, through Charlotte, Chicago, Tulsa, and on to Hollywood, New York, and Nashville. Peterson captures the free-wheeling entrepreneurial spirit of the era, detailing the activities of the key promoters who sculpted the emerging country music - Polk Brockman, Ralph Peer, George Hay, J. L. Frank and Fred Rose. Along the way the influence of car-maker Henry Ford and politician Joseph R. McCarthy are also noted. Vintage photographs of this cast of characters complement the lively narrative. More than just a history of the genre, Creating Country Music is the first exploration of authenticity in popular culture. After discussing the meaning of the term, Peterson uses the ironic phrase "fabricating authenticity" to highlight the fact that, for fans, authenticity does not refer to some clear standard from the past, but is a reconstruction of selected elements from the past crafted to meet the needs of the present. With this conception in mind, Peterson concludes by showing the conditions necessary for the continuation of country music in the twenty-first century.