Showing posts with label Owen Bradley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Owen Bradley. Show all posts

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Sound of Money

There is an oft-repeated story that once when Chet Atkins, at the time the country & western music producer at RCA Victor, was asked to describe the so-called “Nashville sound” he helped to create, he shook the loose change in his pocket and replied, “It’s the sound of money.” His response was not so much evasive as it was a statement of fact, for the post-World War II rise of the Nashville or “countrypolitan” sound was in fact a way to address the general problem of how to make money. Essentially the “Nashville sound” was pop production (studio engineering) applied to country songs. As Michael Jarrett observes, the Nashville sound was an attempt to refashion country & western as “pop music for adults” (p. 256). The two primary architects of the Nashville sound were Chet Atkins at RCA Victor and Owen Bradley at Decca. The Nashville sound might be best understood by looking at the following set of structural oppositions, the features characterizing the “Honky Tonk” sound—the pre-war sound of c&w that continued through the mid-50s or so—on the left, with the features of the Nashville sound on the right:

  • Raw/Cooked
  • Found/Made
  • Folk/Pop
  • Fiddles/Strings
  • Volume/Crooning
  • Kitty Wells/Patsy Cline
  • Jimmie Rodgers/Jim Reeves
  • "T For Texas"/"He’ll Have to Go"
Faced with the competition of rock ‘n’ roll (or “rockabilly”), the country & western industry reinvented itself as a pop music industry, adapting pop music song structures and pop music production (studio engineering). Hence early examples of rock musicians making country albums (e.g., The Byrds’ Sweetheart of the Rodeo, 1968) can be understood not so much as “country rock” but as attempts to recover a rawer, more “authentic” form of country & western music, one that hearkened back to a time prior to the invention of the "slick" Nashville sound.