Country music has somewhat of a storied history, especially as it relates to black folks. Other than gospel music, country is probably the most diverse genre thanks to the artists, song writers and it's beginnings.
The term "country music" first surfaced in the 1940s and was often called "country and western" music. The most unique thing about country is the fact that it derives from Celtic, folk, blues and gospel music. With all these influences and the evolution of music, it's only natural that country music would change and adapt with the times, so would the artists.
The most famous black artist in country music is, perhaps, Charley Pride. Because I wasn't that into country music, I'd never heard of Pride until the episode of "Martin" when WZUP went country.
Well, I did a little research and it turns out that Pride has a reason to be the most well-known black man in country. The man has sold more than 76 million records, had 36 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot Country charts and became the first black person to perform on stage at the Grand Old Opry in 1967 since 1925. The first was DeFord Bailey who was a harmonica player.
Anyway, Pride blazed the trails of country music for future artists like Trini Triggs, Aaron Neville, Cowboy Troy, Carl Ray, John Amos and country's newest sensation Rissi Palmer. Since I'm almost certain that the only one of these people you've ever heard of is Aaron Neville, I'll give you a small tid bit of information and a work sample from them all.
First off, I'm sure you guys know Neville from his song, "Tell It Like It Is". One thing that I found interesting in doing my research is Neville is classified as a country singer. Once I thought about it, it did make sense. When he sings with his brothers, they are classified as blues and I can see that too.
But as far as the country, Neville does a lot of songs with that country sounding guitar in the back ground and you can hear that Louisiana bayou come out of his voice every time he sings a note. Check out his remake of Brian McKnight's "Back at One."
Moving on to Trini Triggs - I'm not really sure about him. I did read on his web site that he is from Louisiana. He got his start playing in "dance" bands in high school. Then he moved on to doing two nights a week in a local restaurant.
While doing local performances, he picked up a pair of managers and went on to write his own music and perform with his idol, Pride on the song, "One Mississippi, Two Mississippi." Of his songs that I found, the one I like most is "Horse to Mexico"
One of the artists I found doing research is Cowboy Troy. I first saw Cowboy Troy on the CMT show "Gone Country" while I watched Bobby Brown, Sisqo and the chick from The Brady Bunch make fools of themselves on that show.
The Cowboy is relatively a newcomer to country music. His first CD, "Loco Motive" debuted in 2005. In the past three years, he's had an opportunity to work with the likes of country powerhouses Big & Rich and Tim McGraw. I know those names probably mean nothing to you, but trust me, that's a great thing for a new artist.
Anyway, I thought Cowboy Troy was kinda sexy and decided to look him up. He performs what he call Hick Hop. It is exactly as it sounds. He is rapping over a country beat and hook and it's actually not that bad. I'm not saying I'm going to rush out to Sam Goody and snatch it up but I would definitely purchase a couple of singles off iTunes to put on my mp3 player for when I need a little variety.
While I was looking up these artists, I came across the most authentic-looking country artist that I've ever seen. This man even has the thick a-- mustache that all stereotypical cowboys have. His name is Carl Ray - he even sounds like he ought to be singing country, doesn't he?
Anyway, there really isn't much information on the Web about him, but his MySpace page lists his location/hometown as Knoxville, Tenn. Either way, I think the guy has got a good voice. Visit his page to listen to his music, my favorite is "Play That Country Music Black Boy." It's a funny title but I like the stories he tells in the music.
Country's newest sensation, and one of my favorite new singers, is Rissi Palmer. If you're just looking at her, you'd swear she belongs in the neo-soul box, but she doesn't. The girl can sing. She got her start singing in clubs and bars like so many other folks.
Unlike a lot of other folks, she was discovered by a network TV exec and was allowed to audition to the new "Star Search." She not only auditioned, she went all the way to the finals. She's worked with some of country music's hottest producers and has come out with some great music. My favorite by her is her remake of Jordin Sparks' and Chris Brown's "No Air." Take a listen:
Now that we've taken on the serious, I've got something to make you laugh. John Amos is now performing country music. Yes, you read right. John Amos, also known as James Evans Sr. from "Good Times," also known as Cleo McDowell from "Coming to America" and also knows as Kunta Kinte from "Roots."
No, seriously, he is singing country music. I first heard about it a while back on The Tom Joyner Morning Show but I didn't have anything to peg it to. Now that's it's Black Music Month and I'm writing about country artists, what the heck?
He performs what they call "renegade country" which is the "talking, story-telling" kind. My favorite and perhaps the funniest of his songs is "We Were Hippies." That one is all talk and call and response. He does have one song where he's singing more than he talks. That one is called "Hopelessly".
Now that you've had a small lesson in blacks in country music, see if you can find some other artists and let me know about them. I'm sure they need all the exposure they can get.