Country Music People March 2019 - Page 26

championed not only Jerry Reed but many a country artist. Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose (1978) not only featured country music by the likes of Mel Tillis on its soundtrack but also managed to get Tillis, Charlie Rich, and Phil Everly in the film as well. Back then the popularity of country brought about the Urban Cowboy (1980) movie which increased the reach of country music even more. You could even buy Travolta two-tone Tony Lama’s in London’s Oxford Street. Then, of course, there was the annual Wembley Country Festival. Starting with a one-day event in 1969 (and continued until 1991), the artists initially played for free with only travel and hotel paid for, and as George Hamilton IV recalled in a 2011 interview for CMP, “…it went from strength to strength. Basically it jump-started country music in Britain. For a long time it was booming over there.” Hamilton also posited that the Wembley Festival inspired Nashville’s Fan Fair (now the CMA Music Fest) when as a CMA board- member, he and Bill Anderson reminded the CMA of Wembley’s success. George IV also went on to present other BBC TV series including a 13-week run of TV specials recorded in The Nashville Room following his Wembley appearance. The Nashville Room in Kensington’s Three Kings (now called “Famous Three Kings”) boozer became an iconic venue featuring live country music every night. Of course the artists wanted more exposure and to sell more records but Wembley celebrated the music for what it was and was far less cynical about extracting pound notes from punter’s hands than C2C. Not only that, but the BBC would film it and edit songs from the artists into a half-hour show that they would broadcast every Thursday at 9pm on BBC2. Broadcast ceased eventually due to the sponsorship of the festival by tobacco companies. Nowadays they make a big deal about a pop-up digital radio station on air for five days (which we hear they are no longer doing)! O n the small screen in the early 80s Waylon was telling us how them Duke boys Bo and Luke had gotten into trouble in this Saturday’s Dukes Of Hazzard. He sung the theme tune too! Southern culture was being embedded in our psyche and we didn’t even realise it. There was a mostly forgotten show called ‘Movin’ On’ (1974-76, complete with a genuinely good theme tune) in which truckers Will and Sonny (in their Kenworth) had a different 26 cmp - MARCH 2019 adventure every week. Their shenanigans likely did no harm to sales of truckin’ inspired work by Del Reeves and such. Compared to the 1960s, 70s, or 80s the current profile of country music in the life of the mainstream UK market doesn’t even come close. Back then Johnny Cash Live At San Quentin was broadcast on national TV — and we only had three channels to choose from! The success of the Wembley Festivals and the interest in country music spawned more than 500 CMCs up and down the land and the fan-based British Country Music Association (not the BCMA that exists today) did much to promote the genre. Later there was Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus charting in the UK and even new traditionalists Randy Travis and Dwight Yoakam were thought of as having a chance by Warner Brothers in the late 1980s (they cracked the Top 75 but not the Top 40). Dwight, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, and George Strait played London gigs (some of which were recorded and broadcast on BBC Radio2). Established artists such as Charley Pride and Don Williams continued to visit the UK regularly and tour nationally. In 1995 the Great British Country Music awards, a joint enterprise between the BCMA and the various country music magazines, took place at BBC’s Pebble Mill Studios and was on radio as a 90-minute program. The following year the awards were on radio and highlights on television. And then there was CMT. From 1992-98 it lost its owner, The Gaylord Entertainment Company, $10 million, but it introduced a new generation to country music. Whilst it’s doubtful that CMT itself was actually responsible for creating a hit recording in the UK it was a welcome addition to the consumption of country fans, and further highlights the growing UK market at the time. It also helped Nashville once again become the fertile ground which spawned great songs and was recognised as such when Boyzone’s Ronan Keating covered Keith Whitley (When You Say Nothing At All) and In the early 70s, this pub (Three Kings, London) was turned by the brewer Fuller’s into a country music venue with dining. It was opened by Chet Atkins. Jerry Reed and Hank Locklin were performers. A BBC television series “George the Fourth” with George Hamilton IV was shot here.