My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Finding country

countrymusic1Something I often wonder about is how other people first started listening to country music.  I imagine for a lot of readers it was very straightforward – you grew up listening to country radio, maybe your parents were fans, and your own interest developed from there.

It was different for me.  Growing up in England, country music was a long way from mainstream.  The only country songs I heard were the few that had crossed over to become pop hits; my parents had one Dolly Parton record, on cassette tape (Love Is Like A Butterfly). It was almost by chance that I found country music for myself.  I think I had always felt something was missing in the pop stuff I heard all the time, but I didn’t really know what.

Then the pop station I listened to started a one-hour country show on Sunday evenings, just after the pop charts. Even though the DJ clearly didn’t know much about country music, he played a good mixture of classics and the latest from Nashville. It was my good fortune that this was in 1987; the neotraditional movement was in full swing, and there was some great music being released. I enjoyed it more the more I heard, until one evening I had an epiphany: I had absolutely hated every single song on that week’s pop chart, and either liked or loved every song on the country show. With the enthusiasm of the convert, I decided I would stick with country music for good.

I found some other radio stations whose catchment area I was in, and which also had an hour or two of country music a week; I got used to changing the dial every night to tune into a different station to get my fix. I began to buy records: my very first purchases were Randy Travis’ Always And Forever, which still holds up for me, and Steve Wariner’s It’s A Crazy World, which has aged less well. Plus I liberated that Dolly cassette tape, so that probably counts as the first country record in my possession.

The love of country music I found so unexpectedly at 16 has stayed with me and grown stronger over time. Maybe living in an environment where I’ve had to actively seek it out has made my love for the music stronger.

So how did other people start listening to country music? Did your interest just develop over time, or did anyone else have a sudden conversion experience?

16 responses to “Finding country

  1. Razor X February 3, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    The northeastern United States in the late 70s and early 80s was as much a no-mans-land for country music as England was. I was always drawn to the country artists who got played on adult contemporary radio — Kenny Rogers, Anne Murray, Crystal Gayle, Glenn Campbell — without knowing at the time that they were country (or pseudo-country). My parents were casual country music fans. My dad had a Don Williams LP and he bought a Statler Brothers double LP collection that had been advertised on TV. That was played a lot at our house. Hardly anybody in that part of the country listened to country music — or if they did, they sure didn’t admit it. We had one neighbor who was a friend of my Dad, who liked country music. He loaned me some old Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette LPs that I made cassette copies of. I still have them.

    By 1980, the popularity of country music exploded with the success of the film “Urban Cowboy”. Country radio finally came to my neck of the woods. This was before the neotraditionalist movement, but the legends like Waylon, Willie, Conway, and Loretta were still getting plenty of airplay. The singers I’d listened to and enjoyed on AC radio were also played on the country station, so it was a perfect fit. I’ve been listening to country music ever since.

  2. Billy February 3, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    I was rasied on country. It was (and still is) all that my parents listened to. From an early age, my favourite singers were George Strait, Reba, Martina McBride, and Shania. I remember that my first favourite song was Independence Day.

    Skip ahead about ten years, I’m still listening to country. I’ve thrown in some other genres (Pop, R&B, AC, and some Rock), but country is what I’ll always consider my favourite.

    Sorry that my story isn’t as drawn out as Razor’s and Occasional Hope’s.

  3. Chris D. February 3, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    My parents have been fans of pop-country for a while now, people like Shania, Garth, etc.

    I didn’t care much until I heard Sugarland’s “Want To” on the radio and then I had to get all the country I could find! I branched from artists to artist, mostly through my dad’s CD collection. I eventually got my own job to fund buying music, and got to artists like Patty Loveless and Kathy Mattea, all by myself.

    Granted, I had much help from the good tastes of the people at the 9513, so that’s how!

  4. J.R. Journey February 3, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Great story, Occasional Hope. My interest in country started with Reba and Garth Brooks. My grandma was the first person to play country music to me, but it never really stuck until the 90s country boom rolled around, and there was so much great music on the air and on CMT that it was near impossible not to be drawn to it. I also had a serious obsession with Reba that started around 1993.

    Later, during my senior year of high school, I was listening to the country station. I listened to country about half the time at this point – while most of my favorite artists were country, I still didn’t consider myself a big country fan. But, my station played ‘Seven Year Ache’ by Trisha Yearwood and I was instantly taken in by the lyrics of the song. When I learned it was a cover song, it was then that I really started digging into the catalogs of veteran artists like Rosanne Cash, Conway Twitty, Ronnie Milsap, and Dolly Parton.

    And I’ve never looked back ….

  5. Andrew February 3, 2009 at 7:14 pm

    When I was growing up, I had four cassettes that I played until they wore out. Two were the Beach Boys, the other two were Garth Brooks. So naturally, I listen to country and a little 50s/60s rock.

  6. Dave February 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm

    Great topic. My dad was into hank Williams and a lot of the other classic stars. I’m 41. Discovered Kenny Rogers early on – on my own. Heard Alabama’s Lady Down On Love & lee Greenwood’s I.O.U. on an A/C station at 12 or 13. Went out and bought all their records they had at that time. Never looked back. Into everything Country in the 80’s…Randy Travis, Restless Heart, Steve Wariner, Earl Thomas Conley….and on and on. Love those great classics still.


  7. Michael February 4, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Reba and Garth were my first tastes of country music as well J.R. Journey. I was in the sixth grade in Michigan and the coolest girl on the playground was talking about Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places”, Billy Ray Cyrus’ “Achy Breaky Heart” and the fact that Reba’s “Fancy” was about a prostitute. I never really took to Billy Ray Cyrus but I looooved “Fancy” and can remember being mad that this girl was implying that it was about anything other than looking sexy and fancy. 🙂 To this day it is still my favorite song. I loved the glamorous album cover for Rumor Has It as well, Reba donning a giant floppy hat. As a very young child I can also remember The Judds, John Anderson and Reba’s “New Fool at an Old Game” playing in the car. My grandma was also a big Dolly fan. A move to Texas in middle school and North Dakota in high school solidified my love of country music and I couldn’t buy enough CDs. However, in the last few years I haven’t been buying too many studio albums from the newer acts. Nobody seems to capture my attention. I’ve heard that you will always have a special place for the music you loved in your early teens and I think that may be true.

  8. Rainbow February 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm

    My grandma played me “I Know How He Feels” by Reba when I was a kid, and I was hooked.
    Nothing fancy. 🙂

  9. Vicki February 4, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    My parents were fans of Dolly, Reba, Randy, Garth, Faith, Toby etc. So I heard plenty of country music while growing up but I loved the Beatles from the start. But the Beatles breaking up was a deep hurt that a 7th grader just couldn’t understand. I took a ride through rock, disco, pop, Christian and eventually started watching American Idol during it’s 4th year. That’s when I followed a nobody from Oklahoma to greatness which opened up Country music to me for the first time. I fell in love with the pureness of Alison Krauss’ voice; Vince Gill’s soft voice and great sense of humor and learned how sometimes in country you don’t have to be that great a singer as long as you have a terrific, heart jerking story in song that reaches everyone. The best singers keeping me coming to Country music but it’s the well written songs that keep me bolted in country music.

  10. patrick shields February 4, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Judging from the above comments, I’m quite a bit older than they are. But
    here’s my story anyway:

    When I was about 5 years old, my dad took me to a Roy Rogers movie called “Don’t Fence Me In.” That’s all it took! In those days, the radio stations that
    played western music also played country. In my mind, there were no categories….just things I liked and things I disliked. I liked it then, and I like it now. Definitely one my longer relationships!

  11. Razor X February 4, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    “Judging from the above comments, I’m quite a bit older than they are …”

    Oh good. I thought I was going to be the old geezer around here! 🙂 Welcome.

  12. Annie February 5, 2009 at 11:33 am

    I remember being really little and listening to my parent’s Hank Snow, Ray Price and Johnny Cash records on the “hi-fi”. KRAK am radio in Sacramento was always on in my moms car. In high school I discovered Emmy Lou and Dolly. Thank God we have 2 country stations in Southern California now! KKGO plays current and classic country. It’s great to hear it all – from Gretchen Wilson to Tom T. Hall. Country music is the soundtrack to my life….

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  15. Jman Burnett December 7, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Late to the party, as always…

    I had been exposed to some country music for my entire life, but I was really more of a pop/rock guy (I still remember being surprised the first time I heard Crystal Gayle’s “It’s Like We Never Said Goodbye” on Houston’s KTHT-FM, because back then I knew it as a minor pop hit). Then came the summer of 2017, when country music started truly coming into my life. I had introduced myself to Dottie West’s “A Lesson in Leavin'” and loved it, but the song that really got me through the door, believe it or not, was Barbara Mandrell’s “Fooled by a Feeling”. The first time I heard her vocal on the verse, my thoughts were something along the lines of “wow, what a sensual voice”. And keep in mind that while I had heard her previously, I never thought much of her music or voice.

    Little did I know that not only would it take a scan-through of her THE LADY IS A CHAMP concert special to make me admit to being a fan, but I was about to fall in love with a genre I never seriously thought I’d actively love. For several months, I assumed Mandrell’s stuff and a few other tunes (all by women) would be all the country I’d end up liking, but the next year I was also introduced to folks like Suzy Bogguss, Larry Gatlin, Trisha Yearwood, Merle Haggard, Pam Tillis and so forth. In addition to all the rock/pop I usually brought home, I also started buying country albums by the handful. I even started listening to KTHT-FM (a station that leans more towards the Eighties/Nineties than prior eras, but still) more often – but I only listen in the family’s cars, and anytime my more pop-leaning brothers are present, I can’t leave it on all day.

    As you may have figured, the mainstream country music coming out today can barely be called that, so naturally I prefer the older stuff. My tastes run eclectic, but country’s as big a part of it as rock/pop.

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