Letters To The Editor

On Thoreau, blueberries and unplugged music.

Thoreau spends several paragraphs in A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers asserting that when blueberries are picked on a Vermont hillside, packed in ice and shipped to Boston in rail cars, the city consumer eats only the dead body of the berry; that its essence remains on the mountainside and can only be experienced there. I propose to make the same case against so-called unplugged or acoustic music.

Last Saturday night [March 9], I had the pleasure of filling in a cancellation at a local church coffee house. The band which was to play the second set was having difficulty with the sound system, so I asked them to turn the PA off and I played my set unplugged. There were only about twenty people present, the room was small, I sang and played out loud. The audience moved to the front rows. They were attentive and did not speak during the songs. The performance was well received, the audience heard every word. All present were pleased with the experience.

I am certain that if the sound system had been working, the performance would have been, as has been written in LMN, "TOO DAMN LOUD ALL THE TIME." The audience would have sat in the back row and the people would have talked among themselves during the songs. I would have been lulled into mumbling into the microphone instead of projecting properly. The audience would not have really heard the performance and I would have gone home wondering why they didn't listen.

It is possible to sing into a mike, convert the sound into electrical impulses, balance, distort, and amplify those impulses, convert them back into sound through the speakers and listen, but . . . THAT IS NOT ACOUSTIC MUSIC!!! (Pounds fist on the pulpit.) That is the dead body of the music. The essence, the soul of that music is between the performer's mouth and the microphone; it comes out of the bell of the horn, the sound hole of the guitar, the head of the drum and straight into the ear. (Somebody say "Amen.")

The soul of acoustic music cannot be recorded. It has not been heard on the radio, it evaporates in the wires. Acoustic music requires that the performer rely on his own resources and nothing else. It [also] requires the careful attention of the audience.

Musicians: The next time you perform for a small audience in a quiet place, turn off the sound system and play directly to the audience. Invite them to come up front to listen. If you are well-prepared, it works. If you aren't ready, go to the woodshed, or a voice coach, or both, and get ready. Both you and your audience will be pleased. You will be unplugged.

Just like Willie and the Poor Boys.

Ray Major

Borden, IN 47106

Where have all the country oldies gone?

The following two letters were addressed to our Cowboy Corner columnist, Michael W. Stout.

After reading the March issue of Louisville Music News, I must say that your comments about country oldies were right on target. Where, indeed, have all the country oldies gone?

A country fan can tune to AM 650 WSM in Nashville, Tennessee, for a good mix of traditional, contemporary, and golden country oldies any day of the week. And the Grand Ole Opry continues its 71-year tradition of good country entertainment every weekend, with old, new, and in-between artists, with a healthy dose of Hall of Famers thrown in for good measure.

Aside from these, I know of no other radio outlet in the Louisville market (or nearby, in the case of WSM) which offers even an occasional drop-in of country oldies. Program directors need to take note: What is now young will eventually turn old; what is hot today will be tomorrow's "oldie" which, if the industry continues on its present course, will likely not be heard by many young country fans of the future.

Maybe an enterprising radio entrepreneur can think of a way to program a country station — AM or FM — with a realistic mix of today's top artists and the country classics. It certainly seems like an opportunity that someone (the public included) is missing out on.

In the meantime, I'll keep listening to the Opry and WSM. I know those folks will never let me down!

Jim Collings

Louisville, KY 40258

Enough time to play established veterans

Received the March issue of LMN and was surprised and happy to see that you had mentioned the letter that I had wrote to you. We thank you so very much and I am enclosing a copy of Country Weekly [March 12, 1996] which I think that you will enjoy reading, because it deals with what we are talking about, or I should say that the country music industry is trying to avoid, especially CMA and all radio stations that program mainstream country music. I did not know that we now had something called mainstream, but we have so many artists who still have so much life in them that I am embarrassed with our executives of the big radio stations. No matter what they say, be it too short of a play list (and why is that?), or they are too old, or their 8x10 does not show their muscles or their ——, I do not know, but they are wrong. We have way too many DJ's who do not know the history of country music, therefore Merle Haggard and Johnny PayCheck are Greek to them. They don't know them or care to know them, and I think it is up to the mainstream!!! young artists to come to the forefront and help this problem to get ironed out. There IS ENOUGH TIME IN 24 HOURS TO PLAY THE ESTABLISHED VETERANS. I could see, if they were not recording good music and, I should say, recording hit material.

At any rate, please continue to help us out in our relentless uphill road to make our industry accept the fact that they are wrong so that they can change things if they really want to.

I would love to see you do an article on Johnny. If there is anything that you need from me to help you with an article just give me a call. Once again, I thank you for your words.

Marty Martel, President

Midnight Special Productions, Inc.

(Marty Martel manages and books Johnny PayCheck. — Editor.)

The following letter was written to Down on the Corner columnist Paul Moffett in response to his February and March 1996 requests for suggestions on how to build audiences.

Jazz needn't be hazardous to health.

An additional comment about late shows and loud music — as you already know, all Louisville Jazz Society shows start at 7:30 for the very reasons others have identified as desirable. We encourage a family atmosphere (many kids come to our shows), which also includes a non-smoking environment (tough sell to some in the great tobacco state!). Our goal is to prove that jazz doesn't have to be enjoyed in an unhealthy (mentally, physically) situation. Much credit goes to Jamey Aebersold for his continuous attempt to upgrade the level at which jazz is appreciated.

Always enjoy LMN. Keep up the good work.


Todd Lowe, President

Louisville Jazz Society