I don’t think I’m as “country” as some folks have been led to believe. But people who watched the recent “Country Music” documentary by Ken Burns seem to differ.

Half the town asked me what I thought about it. John Stewart wired from Atlanta to get my views. A childhood friend who listened to the jukebox with me, Red and Jack up at the City Café two eons and a light year ago wanted to know if the documentary got it “right” about the time Johnny Cash spent at Sun Records.

Cindy North, from Baltimore, Maryland—of all places—called to inform me she had watched all eight episodes from start to finish. She gave the address where she wanted me to send her Country Music Certificate…..

I’ve got some sad news for Cindy; and maybe a few others also. It’s not that easy!

If you want a Certified Document attesting, confirming and officially stamping you as a true country fan……you’ve got to do more than wear a tight pair of jeans, buy some gaudy boots and watch a PBS special.

You’ve got to take the country music quiz!

I CAN help you get started. There have been at least eight guys named, or called Hank, who have made significant contributions to the country music field. You’ve got to know them, their biggest hits and where they hailed from.

And to show you how much I’m pulling for you, I’ll give you the two that are usually the most difficult to recall; Hank Penny (My Little Red Wagon) from Birmingham and Hank Garland (Sugar Foot Rag) from Cowpens, South Carolina. You are on your own for the remaining six. If you grew up in Tennessee or Texas, you must give them in alphabetical order…..

Which country music legend was born Muriel Deason?

Here’s a multiple choice question. Carl Perkins’ first guitar was made out of: (A) a cigar box, (B) hollowed out from a box elder tree trunk, (C) pieces of a Gene Autry model ordered from Sears and Roebuck his father found in a trash pile.

You’ve got to pick a favorite back-up band. There are hundreds to choose from: Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers; Sam and Kirk McGee and the Fruit Jar Drinkers; Ernest Tubb and the Texas Troubadours; and my personal favorite, Hank Thompson and the Brazos Valley Boys.

You need to know the difference between a Martin D-28 and a Gibson Hummingbird.

Can you name the town in Northwest Florida Hank Locklin was the mayor of and all four Statler Brothers? You also need to know the artist that won every major Country Music Award in 1965 except female vocalist of the year.

You need a working understanding of the Ryman Auditorium and how it came to house the Grand Ole Opry. Any true country fan can tell you exactly how many encores Hank Williams received that June night in 1949 when he first appeared on Ryman’s hallowed stage.

You’ve got to know ALL the words to the country classics: “Wabash Cannonball”, “Your Cheating Heart”, “Wild Side of Life” and “He Stopped Loving Her Today” would be a good start.

It doesn’t hurt that you know Hank Snow’s hair didn’t actually belong to him. You also must be able to name his number one hit and biggest selling country record of 1950.

You must love Loretta Lynn unconditionally.

You’ve got to appreciate the songwriting ability of Hank Cochran and Harland Howard as Patsy Cline sings “I Fall to Pieces.” And you’ve got to understand Hank Jr. is spot on when he belts out, “I’m just carrying on an old Family Tradition.”

You’ve got to know hillbilly from bluegrass, western swing from cowboy, honky-tonk from rockabilly and the difference in the Nashville and Bakersfield sounds.

Please don’t ask if Kitty Wells is a place a cat goes to get water; or if Ferlin Husky was some type of Eskimo dog.

If you have to guess who wrote a song before 1955 answer A.P. Carter, Jimmy Rogers or Hank Williams, not necessarily in that order. If it is after 1960, say Willie Nelson, Bill Anderson or Tom T. Hall.

And one last thing, you ain’t country if you don’t have a favorite song line….. You want a sentence or phrase that speaks volumes. And it can change with time or situation. If you are struggling to find one may I suggest Merle Haggard’s, “I got over you just long enough to let my heartache mend, and then today, I started loving you again.”

OK, maybe I am a little country…..

 

Respectfully,

 

Hank Colbert