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In the sound of the 1960s and 1970s, nothing symbolized the rift between black and white America better than the seemingly divided genres of country and soul. Yet the music emerged from the same songwriters, musicians, and producers in the recording studios of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama--what Charles L. Hughes calls the country-soul triang In the sound of the 1960s and 1970s, nothing symbolized the rift between black and white America better than the seemingly divided genres of country and soul. Yet the music emerged from the same songwriters, musicians, and producers in the recording studios of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama--what Charles L. Hughes calls the country-soul triangle. In legendary studios like Stax and FAME, integrated groups of musicians like Booker T. and the MGs and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section produced music that both challenged and reconfirmed racial divisions in the United States. Working with artists from Aretha Franklin to Willie Nelson, these musicians became crucial contributors to the era's popular music and internationally recognized symbols of American racial politics in the turbulent years of civil rights protests, Black Power, and white backlash. Hughes offers a provocative reinterpretation of this key moment in American popular music and challenges the conventional wisdom about the racial politics of southern studios and the music that emerged from them. Drawing on interviews and rarely used archives, Hughes brings to life the daily world of session musicians, producers, and songwriters at the heart of the country and soul scenes. In doing so, he shows how the country-soul triangle gave birth to new ways of thinking about music, race, labor, and the South in this pivotal period.


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In the sound of the 1960s and 1970s, nothing symbolized the rift between black and white America better than the seemingly divided genres of country and soul. Yet the music emerged from the same songwriters, musicians, and producers in the recording studios of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama--what Charles L. Hughes calls the country-soul triang In the sound of the 1960s and 1970s, nothing symbolized the rift between black and white America better than the seemingly divided genres of country and soul. Yet the music emerged from the same songwriters, musicians, and producers in the recording studios of Memphis and Nashville, Tennessee, and Muscle Shoals, Alabama--what Charles L. Hughes calls the country-soul triangle. In legendary studios like Stax and FAME, integrated groups of musicians like Booker T. and the MGs and the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section produced music that both challenged and reconfirmed racial divisions in the United States. Working with artists from Aretha Franklin to Willie Nelson, these musicians became crucial contributors to the era's popular music and internationally recognized symbols of American racial politics in the turbulent years of civil rights protests, Black Power, and white backlash. Hughes offers a provocative reinterpretation of this key moment in American popular music and challenges the conventional wisdom about the racial politics of southern studios and the music that emerged from them. Drawing on interviews and rarely used archives, Hughes brings to life the daily world of session musicians, producers, and songwriters at the heart of the country and soul scenes. In doing so, he shows how the country-soul triangle gave birth to new ways of thinking about music, race, labor, and the South in this pivotal period.

30 review for Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South

  1. 4 out of 5

    Brent

    This fascinating book makes the continued point about music and race: it's complicated, and intertwined. I did a search on Arthur Alexander at my public library and wound up with this recent book, which sort of begins, in the first of several chapters, with the late great singer, expanding upon a recent biography, Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues: The Arthur Alexander Story. Hughes, a musician as well as a historian and fan, cites case after case of songs and careers that show the ironies of race This fascinating book makes the continued point about music and race: it's complicated, and intertwined. I did a search on Arthur Alexander at my public library and wound up with this recent book, which sort of begins, in the first of several chapters, with the late great singer, expanding upon a recent biography, Get a Shot of Rhythm and Blues: The Arthur Alexander Story. Hughes, a musician as well as a historian and fan, cites case after case of songs and careers that show the ironies of race in what he refers to as the country-soul triangle, Memphis, Nashville, and Muscle Shoals. So, our own Macon, Georgia intersects the triangle through the careers of Otis Redding, Phil Walden, Duane Allman, and, nominally, James Brown. This is chronologically - and briefly- touched on, as the careers of Tennessee, Alabama, even Mississippi musicians are more central here. Hughes offers his narrative as a corrective to the earlier work of Peter Guralnick, who in the 1980s book Sweet Soul Music: Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom looked at Memphis and Muscle Shoals and the "southern dream of freedom." As this is at least a generation later, the more nuanced discussion here works for me, too, but I would add readers to compare this books with, for instance, Guralnick's most recent book, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll. It's complicated. Highly recommended.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Chi Chi

    Really enjoyed this. Hughes does a great job in breaking down and complicating the relationship between race, genre, and location as he grapples with the music made in the triangle of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and Nashville in the '60s and '70s. Really enjoyed this. Hughes does a great job in breaking down and complicating the relationship between race, genre, and location as he grapples with the music made in the triangle of Memphis, Muscle Shoals, and Nashville in the '60s and '70s.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Gregory Jones

    When I started this book, I figured it would just be a casual background read for some additional information on two genres that I enjoy. I had no idea how deep the historiography went on this subject. I was very impressed with the way Hughes brought together entire southern populations into an argument that spans racial, cultural, and sociological areas. The three cities of focus are Nashville, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals. Addressing some of the key players in STAX, FAME, and other studios, Hugh When I started this book, I figured it would just be a casual background read for some additional information on two genres that I enjoy. I had no idea how deep the historiography went on this subject. I was very impressed with the way Hughes brought together entire southern populations into an argument that spans racial, cultural, and sociological areas. The three cities of focus are Nashville, Memphis, and Muscle Shoals. Addressing some of the key players in STAX, FAME, and other studios, Hughes shows a sophisticated interrelationship between black and white musicians. Going from the early days of touring musicians well into the late 20th century, the book shows how layered and complex these cultural and financial systems really were. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in music history. If you are a fan of soul music, country music, and especially the artists that blend those genres (Arthur Alexander and Ray Charles, for example), definitely check out this book. I will be revisiting this book in the future as there were some specific section on each of the three cities that will require deeper mining of the notes. This is a rich and rewarding book for scholars of American music history.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Smh624

    The events, people, issues, and ideas discussed in this book are interesting and important. Unfortunately, the book has the feel and language of a discussion among academics who attempt to show their "unique" insight and intellect by endlessly repeating the same points and using jargon to increase the significance of the points. Nevertheless, because I am very interested in southern soul music and the country/soul triangle I gained something from reading this book. The events, people, issues, and ideas discussed in this book are interesting and important. Unfortunately, the book has the feel and language of a discussion among academics who attempt to show their "unique" insight and intellect by endlessly repeating the same points and using jargon to increase the significance of the points. Nevertheless, because I am very interested in southern soul music and the country/soul triangle I gained something from reading this book.

  5. 4 out of 5

    victor harris

    An analysis of how musical genres "Country", and " Soul" , defined racial lines in American culture. Country obviously being identified with whites, whereas Soul was considered black music. To a large extent that was true and particularly when you had the likes of Merle Haggard representing part of the white backlash against the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements. The Nashville recording empire and Southern Rock in the later 60s and early 70s, would be embraced by conservative whites su An analysis of how musical genres "Country", and " Soul" , defined racial lines in American culture. Country obviously being identified with whites, whereas Soul was considered black music. To a large extent that was true and particularly when you had the likes of Merle Haggard representing part of the white backlash against the Civil Rights and the Black Power movements. The Nashville recording empire and Southern Rock in the later 60s and early 70s, would be embraced by conservative whites such as Nixon, George Wallace and others to further their political agenda. However, it was hardly as simple as a black/white division would suggest. The Country Triangle - Nashville, Memphis, Muscle Shoals had mixed race studio musicians recording many of the songs that would be associated with "white" music. Furthermore, after you moved beyond the older "hillbilly" roots of Country, much of its later incarnations were rooted in the black musical tradition and sound, and you had black composers writing the music for white artists. Meanwhile, Soul (previously Rhythm and Blues but given a name change) was increasingly adapted to appeal to a crossover market. Barry Gordy at Motown in Detroit was very successful with the very popular 3-minute pop hits formula. It featured black recording stars but resonated well with white listeners. And from the mid-50s on, you had Memphis with distinctly black Blues roots enjoying immense success with Elvis and other white singers and bands. Down the road in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the first studio was established in the early 50s and would eventually be hailed as a model of racial enlightenment. This was partially true but it too was not immune to racial tensions in management and production. The strongest part of the book was the coverage of the evolution of Muscle Shoals and its genre offspring: Swamp Music, Outlaw Rock (think Willie Nelson), and Southern Rock. In essence, though Country and Soul may have been the markers, you had blacks creating white music; whites creating black music, and the bottom line was achieving commercial success regardless of the labels. As for the core of studio musicians, who like the Wrecking Crew on the West coast, they weren't particular. They came from an assortment of jazz, blues, and classical backgrounds and played what you put in front of them as they moved from site to site bringing their considerable talents and collecting their paychecks. With the exception of Booker T and the MGs, who as much as anyone was credited with creating the " Memphis Sound", most studio musicians worked in obscurity. I vacillated between rating it a strong "3" or a light "4" and went with the latter. It is certainly informative and those interested in music history will find it a well of information. But it was repetitive and you have to navigate an often confusing maze of record labels, contract battles, and studio shuffling and name changes.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Wisconsin Alumni

    Charles L. Hughes ’03, MA’06, PhD’12 author The rift between black and white America during the 1960s and ’70s was symbolized in the seemingly divided musical genres of country and soul. But, Charles Hughes ’03, MA’06, PhD’12 avers in Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South (University of North Carolina Press) that the music emerged from the same songwriters, musicians, and producers in the studios of Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Memphis; and Nashville — what he calls the “coun Charles L. Hughes ’03, MA’06, PhD’12 author The rift between black and white America during the 1960s and ’70s was symbolized in the seemingly divided musical genres of country and soul. But, Charles Hughes ’03, MA’06, PhD’12 avers in Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South (University of North Carolina Press) that the music emerged from the same songwriters, musicians, and producers in the studios of Muscle Shoals, Alabama; Memphis; and Nashville — what he calls the “country-soul triangle.” He brings to life the quotidian world of country and soul music-makers, offers a provocative reinterpretation of the standard narrative about how race worked in Southern studios during the Civil Rights era, and demonstrates how the country-soul triangle brought about new ways of thinking about music, race, labor, and the South. Hughes is an assistant professor of history at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    Kind of fun, kind of tedious, great look at the music I love (all of it, except disco). But, there is a certain undercurrent that ALL decisions made re recordings, contacts, distribution, etc., are all based on race. The line between the actual timelines/facts, and Mr. Hughes' interpretations gets really fuzzy more than I felt it should for an academic, vice a polemicist. Kind of fun, kind of tedious, great look at the music I love (all of it, except disco). But, there is a certain undercurrent that ALL decisions made re recordings, contacts, distribution, etc., are all based on race. The line between the actual timelines/facts, and Mr. Hughes' interpretations gets really fuzzy more than I felt it should for an academic, vice a polemicist.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sophiam

    Charles Hughes's book has given me a new body of music to listen to over and over and over as well as language with which to (begin to) understand the seeming paradox between racial disparity and racial collaboration in the South. A fantastic, and quick read with much to offer to very different readers. Great research, and so many voices in constant quotes from text and live interviews. Charles Hughes's book has given me a new body of music to listen to over and over and over as well as language with which to (begin to) understand the seeming paradox between racial disparity and racial collaboration in the South. A fantastic, and quick read with much to offer to very different readers. Great research, and so many voices in constant quotes from text and live interviews.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    Well-worth the read. I enjoyed listening to referenced songs along the way, with the book's context in mind. Well-worth the read. I enjoyed listening to referenced songs along the way, with the book's context in mind.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    Super fascinating and well worth the read. You'll learn a lot. Super fascinating and well worth the read. You'll learn a lot.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    781.64208 H8932 2015

  12. 4 out of 5

    Paul Mcallister

  13. 4 out of 5

    Joanna Taylor

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carolyne

  15. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

  16. 4 out of 5

    Brian Olmstead

  17. 4 out of 5

    Holly Gleason

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Chang

  19. 4 out of 5

    Morgan Davis

  20. 4 out of 5

    Chris Estey

  21. 4 out of 5

    Joanna

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eliza

  23. 4 out of 5

    Jmgd

  24. 5 out of 5

    Mac

  25. 4 out of 5

    Constantine

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Lampela

  27. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

  28. 5 out of 5

    Domenica

  29. 4 out of 5

    David

  30. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

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