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 Music History Review    

 
Smile When You Call Me A Hillbilly:
Country Music's Struggle for Respectability, 1939-1954
By Jeffrey J. Lange
University of Georgia Press, 2004
313 pages
ISBN: 0-8203-2623-2; paperback, $25.95
ISBN: 0-8203-2622-4; library cloth edition, $54.95
 
 
 

The definition of "country" music is ever-changing. Lange's Smile When You Call Me A Hillbilly follows the genre's trajectory from rural, working-class "white" music to the America's musical mainstream. 

Arguing that the 1940s and the 1950s were the most influential in the genre's transformation, the author divides the book into two parts consisting of seven chapters. The first section, entitled "The Nationalization of Country Music," covering the years before and after World War II, delves into the radio barn dances, schoolhouse shows, "hillbilly" domestication, acceptance of country music, and the Southwestern component of the music. The section, entitled "The Modernization of Country Music," covering the years following World War II through 1954, offers a thoughtful history of the string bands, old-time revivalists, honky tonks, country pop, and the "Country Blues Renaissance." 

The resulting book is a lively, readable collection of well-written and researched essays about Country Music within the context of America's history. Lange has included an appendix and notes for the aficionado. 

Jeffrey J. Lange teaches history at the University of St. Francis in Joliet, Illinois. 

 
 
Pam Kingsbury
Southern Scribe Reviews
 

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