Various Greetings From Tennessee
This CD contains 25 wonderful songs about the State of Tennessee. Nevertheless, we’re going to bend the rules a little and begin by talking about a song that isn’t here. The simple reason is, the lyrics get us directly to two points we want to make right up front. Here are the opening words to Tennessee, a song written and recorded by Carl Perkins in 1955.
Now there are folks who like to brag about where they came from But when they start that stuff I let ‘em be But it makes me feel like I want to brag some To know that I come from the State of Tennessee. Let’s give old Tennessee credit for music As they play it up in Nashville every day…
Old Carl lets us make two very important points here. One is that most of the songs on each of the CDs in this series issued by Bear Family are really about bragging. The polite term is probably 'regional pride.' But you and I know it’s bragging, pure and simple. We know there’s lots of national pride among Americans, but don’t underestimate the feelings about one’s home state (or city, or neighborhood!) "Yeah, I’m an American and proud of it. But I’m also from Tennessee. And don’t you forget it!" Bragging is OK under some circumstances. Nobody likes to hear someone else go on about what he accomplished or how important he thinks he is. But if you want to raise the flag about where you were born or about your home town, most folks will cut you some slack. It’s not like you chose to be from Tennessee, and that little bit of arm’s length seems to give you permission to brag. Of course, it doesn’t hurt if you’re surrounded by a few other folks from Tennessee at the time.
The second point is about Nashville. Ask most red-blooded Americans where country music comes from, and they’ll tell you just what Carl did. To some extent, they’re right. But even Carl, who came from Jackson, Tennessee, knew the picture was slightly bigger than he let on. Few people would argue about Carl’s home state. Whether it wanted the parental responsibility or not, Tennessee has been the cradle of American country music for most of the past century. It was simply in the right place at the right time: the mountains, rivers and roads saw to that.
It’s the part about Nashville that may trigger a few frowns. We think of Nashville as the center of things today, but that wasn’t always the case. Earlier on, Bristol was the magnet for aspiring artists as Ralph Peer’s makeshift recording studio drew billies out of the hills and valleys to record for the man who could make them famous. The chance to perform in front of his primitive recording equipment lured in more than a fair share of talent, including Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family.
Memphis also had its own tradition of country music and as late as the 1950s it sounded distinctively different from what was going on in Nashville. Midway between Memphis and Nashville lay Carl Perkins’ home, the rough-hewn town of Jackson, and it too had a country sound with a honky tonk identity all its own.