Hidden in the Mix

The African American Presence in Country Music

Hidden in the Mix

Book Pages: 392 Illustrations: 21 illustrations, 3 tables Published: July 2013

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, American Studies, Music > Popular Music

Country music's debt to African American music has long been recognized. Black musicians have helped to shape the styles of many of the most important performers in the country canon. The partnership between Lesley Riddle and A. P. Carter produced much of the Carter Family's repertoire; the street musician Tee Tot Payne taught a young Hank Williams Sr.; the guitar playing of Arnold Schultz influenced western Kentuckians, including Bill Monroe and Ike Everly. Yet attention to how these and other African Americans enriched the music played by whites has obscured the achievements of black country-music performers and the enjoyment of black listeners.

The contributors to Hidden in the Mix examine how country music became "white," how that fictive racialization has been maintained, and how African American artists and fans have used country music to elaborate their own identities. They investigate topics as diverse as the role of race in shaping old-time record catalogues, the transracial West of the hick-hopper Cowboy Troy, and the place of U.S. country music in postcolonial debates about race and resistance. Revealing how music mediates both the ideology and the lived experience of race, Hidden in the Mix challenges the status of country music as "the white man’s blues."

Contributors. Michael Awkward, Erika Brady, Barbara Ching, Adam Gussow, Patrick Huber, Charles Hughes, Jeffrey A. Keith, Kip Lornell, Diane Pecknold, David Sanjek, Tony Thomas, Jerry Wever


“Diane Pecknold rounds up some of the better music writers in academia in order to put a light on country's many black roots and the country's unease with said roots. It's not perfect, but what's good here makes the collection indispensable.” — RJ Smith, The Record, NPR

“Country music is white music. Its performers are white; its repertoire is white; its audience is white. That's the genre's image, anyway. But it's largely a myth, debunked decisively in Hidden in the Mix.” — Noah Berlatsky, Chicago Reader

“A fascinating and long-overdue compendium of essays that shed new light on country music’s complex and diverse history.” — Bill Baars, Library Journal

Hidden in the Mix . .. steps in to set the record straight, within a dozen essays that tackle varied topics while persistently analyzing the racial history of country music and how it manifests itself, or is ignored, in the present – including in the works of country-music historians.” — Dave Heaton, PopMatters

“While rich in detail and strong in opinions, these scholarly essays are nuanced and balanced. The writing quality is superb too…. Hidden in the Mix is an excellent contribution to country music scholarship.” — B. Lee Coor, Popular Music and Society

“The book’s various contributors provide often engrossing little-known specifics. David Sanjek details the role King Records’ African-American producer Henry Glover played in encouraging the label‘s white hillbilly and black R&B artists to raid each other’s song books.”  — Froots

Hidden in the Mix is an enjoyable, enlightening and captivating read that finally gives recognition to the African American presence within one of the most successful music genres in the world.” — Glen Whitcroft, U.S. Studies Online

Hidden in the Mix is full of essays that effectively deconstruct the presumed whiteness that Pecknold argues is taken for granted in the discourses surrounding country music. The authors in this volume tease out a number of complex ways that racial difference has been constructed, represented, and contested in country music. They convincingly argue that African American musical practices constitute more than influences on the development of country music, and that the historical and continuing presence of African Americans in country music is an essential and overlooked element of the genre’s historical and contemporary configurations.” — Matthew Alley, Journal of Folklore Research

“Utilizing a recording studio metaphor that suggests the manipulation at the outset of an original sonic artifact, Hidden in the Mix brings together an impressive array of scholars who engage in exhuming and accentuating the buried black sounds and voices of country music.” — Michael T. Bertrand, Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

"The collection helpfully analyzes the paradox that country music has been stereotypically framed as 'white music,' but a long tradition of black performers and fans exists. It uncovers the historical discourses that over time obscured country music’s multiracial origins and history." — Leigh Edwards, Journal of American Culture

“This is a useful collection with an engaging interdisciplinary balance of focus and imagination…. [T]he book is on the whole accessible, fresh, and contemporary in its tone and synthesis. The non-music specialist as well as the music history insider should find much to appreciate.” — Steven Garabedian, Journal of Southern History

Hidden in the Mix is a worthwhile book that will appeal to the student of history, culture, music, and the South’s role in shaping American identity.” — Barbara A. Baker, Alabama Review

“[S]imply the best collection of academic essays about popular music I have read in years. … When it comes to proving the centrality of American music to the study of American history, Hidden in the Mix has few recent equals.” — Harvey G. Cohen, Journal of American Studies

"Hidden in the Mix comprises a diverse, sophisticated, and probing collection of essays that works to expose... borders, illuminate the transgressions that riddle them, and further untangle their fluid relationships in the American cultural landscape."  — John W. Troutman, ARSC Journal

Hidden in the Mix accomplishes far more than documenting, as its subtitle suggests, ‘the African American presence in country music’; it lays down a marker challenging the next generation of researchers to conduct more flexible investigations of country’s variegated borderlines,which will require increasing participation in their own methodological version of ‘crossover’ practices.” — Pamela Fox, Journal of Popular Music Studies

"All in all, this volume succeeds in shedding quite a bit of light on the 'playing in the dark' theme in both senses: the important role of many hitherto obscure African American musicians in the creation of country music is made clear as is the process of how several important infusions from the 'black' musical stream have continually enriched the genre, producing new crossover variations....the contributors here write from a cultural studies or ethnographic perspective that is quite accessible, and this book should win readers beyond the circle of specialists in the study of popular music while also being a valuable addition to the literature of the field." — John Miller Jones, Kritikon Litterarum

"[T]here is much that is new to specialists and non-specialists alike in this volume. Golden nuggets are distributed throughout that are bound to surprise or intrigue even those with a strong footing in the field. All in all, this is certainly a worthwhile text on the shelf of music historians engaged in modern American music." — Kenneth H. Marcus, Journal of African American History

"Hidden in the Mix is a comprehensive and worthy addition to the canon of popular music history. It breaks new ground and digs deep. By looking at both historical traditions (the banjo, early blues-hillbilly music) and contemporary cultural phenomena (hick-hop and country pop), as well as African American artists past and present (Bill Livers, Ray Charles, Cowboy Troy), the book greatly expands our knowledge of this intriguing subject." — Holly George-Warren, author of Public Cowboy No. 1: The Life and Times of Gene Autry

"Diane Pecknold's collection is profoundly important in implication and a long-awaited intervention in the country-music literature." — Aaron A. Fox, author of Real Country: Music and Language in Working-Class Culture


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Diane Pecknold is Associate Professor of Women's and Gender Studies at the University of Louisville. She is the author of The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry, also published by Duke University Press, and editor (with Kristine M. McCusker) of A Boy Named Sue: Gender and Country Music.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Introduction. Country Music and Racial Formation / Diane Pecknold 1

Part One. Playing in the Dark

1. Black Hillbillies: African American Musicians on Old-Time Records, 1924–1932 / Patrick Huber 19

2. Making Country Modern: The Legacy of Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music / Diane Pecknold 82

3. Contested Origins: Arnold Schultz and the Music of Western Kentucky / Erika Brady 100

4. Fiddling with Race Relations in Rural Kentucky: The Life, Times, and Contested Identity of Fiddlin' Bill Livers / Jeffrey A. Keith 119

Part Two. New Antiphonies

5. Why African Americans Put the Banjo Down / Tony Thomas 143

6. Old-Time Country Music in North Carolina and Virginia: The 1970s and 1980s / Kip Lornell 171

7. "The South's Gonna Do It Again": Changing Conceptions of the Use of "Country" Music in the Albums of Al Green / Michael Awkward 191

8. Dancing the Habanera Beats (in Country Music): The Creole-Country Two-Step in St. Lucia and Its Diaspora / Jerry Wever 204

9. Playing Chicken with the Train: Cowboy Troy's Hick-Hop and the Transracial Country West / Adam Gussow 234

10. If Only They Could Read between the Lines: Alice Randall and the Integration of Country Music / Barbara Ching 263

11. You're My Soul Song: How Southern Soul Changed Country Music / Charles L. Hughes 283

12. What's Syd Got to Do with It? King Records, Henry Glover, and the Complex Achievement of Crossover / David Sanjek 306

Bibliography 339

Contributors 361

Index 365
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5163-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5149-8
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