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The Family Tree - October/November 2005
The American South


50 Years Down a Country Road
By Hank Segars

50 Years Down a Country Road If you really want to stir up a hornet’s nest, ask any group of country music fans over the age of fifty this innocent question: “What do you think of country music today?” Be prepared for an avalanche of loud, obstinate opinion and some serious argument.

And if that’s not enough, ask these good folk if they can remember anything about the Louisiana Hayride, WSM Radio, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Bobby Bare’s “Miller’s Cave” or the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. Be prepared for a great lament—a mighty hue and cry about how today’s entertainers don’t sound country enough. And if you listen long enough, they will get around to telling you about their favorite stars like the rhinestoned Porter Wagoner or Whisperin’ Bill Anderson or the tearful-voiced Tammy Wynette. And, you know what? These critics are right—something has been lost in today’s country music. 

In more recent years, country purists relied on the on-air personality, Ralph Emery, to provide real country music and entertaining interviews on his TNN televised “Nashville Now” and “The Ralph Emery Show.” Emery, a legendary all-night DJ, was well known to millions of listeners on the 50,000-watt clear channel WSM in Nashville. He knew the country stars on an intimate basis and—if you can believe this—was once was married to Skeeter Davis (remember her?).

Ralph’s folksy charm transmitted quite well to television and he knew which country acts to schedule on his popular program. Unfortunately, after a ten year run, “The Ralph Emery Show” was pulled from the airwaves and the award winning DJ began a production company taping interview specials with such luminaries as Vince Gill, Lorrie Morgan, Jimmy Stewart, and Andy Griffith. He also became a writer of autobiographical stories that led to best-selling books entitled Memories, More Memories and The View from Nashville

Today, Ralph Emery’s published works remain as good news for classic country music fans. One of his releases, 50 Years Down a County Road, provides a poignant journey down Music Row that is not only educational—but quite revealing as well. The narrative begins in the 1950s and extends through the 1990s and readers are treated to little known accounts about county music pioneers such as Hank Williams, Fred Rose, Marty Robbins, Patsy Cline, Roger Miller and Barbara Mandrell. In addition, there are entertaining reminiscences about contemporary artists to include Faith Hill, George Strait, Marty Stuart, and one of my favorites—Monticello Georgia’s Trisha Yearwood.

Incidentally, country music fans, do you know what “pulling a Hank Snow” means? This popular expression, now infrequently used, meant that “you were leaving the area” or “moving on.” This colloquialism was, of course, coined from Hank Snow’s 1951 smash hit record, “I’m Moving On.” And, pardner, if you didn’t know this, you need Ralph’s book.


J. H. (Hank) Segars is the author and editor of books about the South to include Andersonville: The Southern Perspective (Pelican Publishing Co.) Please email slbooks@hotmail.com. for comments and book recommendations.

Date: August 30, 2005
Contact: Hank Segars
1280 Westminster Way
Madison, Georgia 30650


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