Author Archives: Mae

Goin’ Out With a Bang

As my last semester of college comes to a conclusion, I feel like there is no better way to reflect on my year than to talk about the music that got me through it all. Country music has always been a part of my life, but I don’t think I had appreciated it the way I am able to now after taking this course. This course has encouraged me to go outside of my country comfort zone and has brought so many new artists and songs into my life that I am so grateful to know now. A few particular activities that I participated in this year would not have been as enjoyable without my knew appreciation for country music, and I will forever remember how awesome they made the end of my college career.

1. The Italian Johnny Cash

Last semester, while studying abroad in Italy, my friends and I took a weekend trip to Venice. No trip to Venice is complete without an overpriced, classic tour of the river city on a gondola with good wine and great entertainment. The gondola man was quick to notice that we were Americans, but naturally after having a few glasses of wine we sassily corrected him that we were Texans*. A huge smile immediately appeared on the man’s face, and was then followed by the best Italian rendition of “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash. With the little english I had heard him speak before, I was shocked at how well he could sing every lyric to the classic tune. I was so impressed by his singing, I requested more and more Johnny Cash songs, and to our surprise, he sang (and perfected) every single one of them. This is one of my favorite memories from studying abroad in Europe, because it made me realize how much of a global impact country music has had on everyone, and how music can be enjoyed and shared by so many different cultures. Hearing Johnny Cash in a foreign place gave me the best sense of nostalgia and made me proud to be a fan of country music.

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2. The Grammy Winning Rodeo Performance 

As I try to do every year, I attended the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo this year with a big group of my friends. I’m usually very particular about which performer I like to go see, but since I was invited by a friend, I didn’t even think twice about who we were going to see that night; I was just happy to be able to go! I had heard my friends talking about “Chris”, but sadly I had no idea who that was and I didn’t pay much attention to why he was important. When we got to the arena, we got our hotdogs and beer, sat in our seats and enjoyed the rodeo. After the last bull rider, the audience prepared for the performer, “Chris”. Throughout his concert the crowd was wild; the people around me sang along to every song, I danced around with my friends, and took some fun pictures… but I still had no idea who this guy was. We had a fantastic night, everything about the performance was amazing. A couple of nights later my friends and I were watching the Grammy’s on television, and to my surprise, “Chris” was up there claiming his first award. It finally registered that I had seen Chris Stapleton front row at the rodeo just a few nights before. I felt so dumb but at the same time felt so proud and excited that I got to see the Grammy winner just a couple of nights ago. The night at the rodeo was just a great reminder to me about how humble country music can be; regardless of who the performer was, he put on a fantastic show and gave us all a hell of a night.

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3. Gone But Never Forgotten

The one event I was looking forward to the most for my “country music to-do list” was to see Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson perform in New Braunfels in the middle of April with my dad. Growing up, Merle Haggard had always been my parent’s favorite country singer. As a little girl, we saw him several times at the rodeo, played his albums every Christmas and New Years at the ranch, and impersonated him any chance we could get. I even nicknamed our bearded neighbor “Merle” because I was genuinely convinced that it was him. When I read that Merle and Willie were going on a reunion tour and were coincidentally going to be near Austin on the same night as our Dad’s weekend, I knew I had to get us tickets. Unfortunately, the historic country legend passed away just about a week before the concert. The entire country community was saddened, as he was truly one of the greatest country artists of all times. Even though Willie vowed to still perform the following weekend in honor of his late outlaw partner, we decided not to go because we knew it would not be the same. My dad wanted to keep his favorite memory of younger Merle performing, which I understood. Merle Haggard was a staple of my childhood and will always remind me of my family, which is why country music has become so important to me over the course of this semester.



Filed under Blog Post 5, Classic Country, Cowboy, Dancing, Houston Rodeo, Live Music, Reflection, Texas

Grass is Much Greener is Gruene, Texas

gruene-hall-texas-lIf you do not know what Gruene Hall is, you probably didn’t grow up in Texas. So for those of you who don’t know, Gruene Hall is a historic staple of country music in Texas and is known as a small utopia full of southern vibes, southern cooking, and classic southern music. Gruene Hall is located in Gruene, Texas, a tiny town outside of New Braunfels right off of I35. Built in 1878, Gruene Hall is known for being Texas’ most famous dance hall. Today, Gruene is the center of the Texas entertainment scene, and the epitome of unspoiled country music talent. Live music performances happen every night, with artists that range from the Dixie Chicks, to Willie Nelson, to George Strait. The list is never ending, but no matter who the performer is that night, there is a universally accepted fact that the music will never dissapoint. Gruene is a staple of my childhood as this was the place that truly taught me to love country music.

My relationship with Gruene has been so strong throughout the years because the family of one of my best friend’s actually are the current owners of the entire city of Gruene and have devoted so much time and effort in creating such a magical place. Without their efforts to help conserve the historic town, I don’t think it would be as recognized as it is today. The town started out with only the dance hall, and has now evolved to be recognized as a very functional city that consists of several good restaurants, a general store, an antique shop, and of course, the signature water tower.


The two main restaurants are the Gristmill and Mozie’s, which was named after my friend. The Gristmill is the more popular of the two, as it can accommodate up to a couple hundred of guests at a time, with a fun Texas-style atmosphere, staple homestyle cooking, and classic southern hospitality. Going to the Gristmill for lunch is more of a day-long activity than going to any other boring restaurant, because it is such a fun reminder of my southern roots. Whenever I have friends in from out of town, this is my go-to place for an afternoon of tourism. Even if I’m from San Antonio, I would choose to take someone to Gruene, Texas over visiting the Alamo any day.

Gruene-031-Large1The first concert I ever saw at Gruene Hall was the Dixie Chicks when I was about eight years old. I went with my family early and of course ate at the Gristmill, then took a classic tourist picture in front of the water tower, and then headed down the cobble stone path to Gruene Hall. The night was magical. The atmosphere of the dancehall is so full of life that it encourages even the old people to have a great time and dance all night. Because of the set up of the Hall, the audience is more encouraged to dance rather than to line up in rows to hear the performer. Unfortunately I wasn’t much of a dancer, so I chose my spot right in front of the stage and stared directly up at my idols for three hours straight. I am reminded of this night every time I return to Gruene, because the city and the Hall have been left untouched and innocent, and that is why it is so special.

12597-20130304_GrueneHall_131-608956ccAt Gruene Hall, it’s not only about who the performer is that night, it’s the traditional country atmosphere and pure Texas experience that the place has to offer. When people want to stereotype Texas and say that we ride our horses to school, I laugh because that would probably actually happen in Gruene. It’s all part of the experience, and if you haven’t visited the town yet, it should be the absolute next adventure you take.


Filed under Blog Post 4, Texas

Good Golly, Ms. Dolly!

Fotor1103140436-600x450When I think of a female country star, I think of Dolly Parton. The stereotypical country queen is a blonde bombshell with a big country voice, big country hair, and big country boobs. Country music is a genre that has continued to outshine other genres with unparalleled natural talent and has radiated a theme of natural beauty derived from its blue-collar roots of not caring what others may think. However, throughout the previous couple of generations, I feel as if a few particular country stars have conformed to Hollywood influences on beauty preservation and have lost a sense of the reality of growing old.

6a00e552403d2f883301b7c6fa457a970b-500wiWhen I think of beauty-gone-bad, I think of Dolly Parton. Not only is she one of the most talented stars in the industry, Dolly Parton is the image of what most people think of when they think of country music. From the beginning of her career, Dolly was obsessed with her looks and always strived to be “prettier”, even though she was already one of the prettiest girls in the industry. From the singer’s never-ending thirst for satisfaction, she quickly crafted a signature look. Ms. Parton’s big blonde hair and massive breasts could be spotted from miles away, but for her that was never enough. Dolly posed for Playboy Magazine in 1978, shifting her from “classic country” to a more sexualized image that greatly contributed to her desire for “bigger and better”.

Dolly Parton’s career continued through the decades, with each era adding more and more plastic surgery to her look. The singer once admitted, “if I see something sagging, dragging or bagging, I get it sucked, tucked or plucked. It takes a lot of money to look as cheap as I look”. Parton’s recognition to her spoiled beauty really makes me sad for her, because I feel as if so many beautiful people are so caught up in impressing others that they don’t let themselves naturally grow old. Especially within a genre that prides itself in cultivating such down-to-earth people who care more about the music than the image, I am surprised to see so many stars defy that ideal and conform to the media’s expectations on how to look.

DollyPartonPlasticSurgeryDolly Parton not only inspired future country singers with her musical talent, she also set a signature tone for the image of the female country star. Several proceeding singers began to craft the stereotypical look and also succeeded in spoiling their natural beauty. Reba McEntire, Kellie Pickler, and even Kenny Rodgers were a few that didn’t take growing old as an answer.

Although this whole article has seemed like a rant against plastic surgery, I do believe that if it weren’t for Dolly Parton’s strive for ageless beauty, she would not be the cute bubbly character that we all know and love. Dolly Parton may have allowed unnatural influences to shape her self-expression, but she created an image that will forever be embellished in the country music hall of fame and has put a serious imprint on the future generations of stars. Despite the plastic surgery, Dolly Parton radiates ageless beauty on the inside and out.

If this is not the cutest, most accurate video of Dolly Parton, then I don’t know what is…


Filed under Blog Post 2, Country Symbols, Women

Toby Just ‘Ain’t As Good As He Once Was’…

635687599432167722-TobyKeith17My Monday started out as one of the best Mondays one can have—my parents handed me two front row tickets to see Toby Keith at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo that evening. The excitement that poured over me to finally have the opportunity to see one of the first country stars that influenced my love for the country genre was surreal. Immediately I opened my Spotify app to start preparing for my night, I started out with some classic oldies like “I Wanna Talk About Me” and “Beer for my Horses” before I decided to try a few songs off of his new album… Meh. At first I didn’t even think about the fact that Toby had released a new album within the past couple of months and I hadn’t heard a thing about it… I realize now that that was the first red flag.

Towards the end of the day, after endlessly hyping myself up and teaching my ill-informed boyfriend some of my favorite Toby songs, we were just about ready to head to the rodeo. We spent the first hour or two walking around the stockyards and eating corndogs, completely submerged in hundreds of fellow fans wearing Toby paraphernalia—it was Toby Keith mania. Nothing made me more excited to hear him play than to be surrounded by so many other people who shared the same passion for his music as me. As the sun went down and the trailers started packing up their livestock, we headed for the entertainment arena.

The rodeo was amazing. I have grown up going to the show every year of my life, yet never growing tired of seeing the same events in the same order with the same smells and the same atmosphere. There’s something so comforting about returning every year to an event that seems to never be influenced by change.

As soon as the last bull rider barely made it past his eight seconds of whiplash, the lights went down and I actually got butterflies in my stomach. Toby came out in a Ford truck with nothing other than a Red Solo Cup shooting through the sunroof. As hilarious as I thought that was, it wasn’t less than a minute later when my excitement vanished and I quickly felt a yawn engulfing my face.

FullSizeRenderEverything was off. The drums and the guitar were louder than the vocals; I could barely even hear him considering I was in the front row. The dancers had little energy and were completely off beat. And unfortunately the worst of all was how wasted Toby was. I had seen drunk performers before, such as Pat Green and Tim McGraw, and obviously I had had something to drink as well because drinking and country music go so well together, but there was something so sad and disappointing to see someone who you liked so much as child now as a fat old drunk. He played some of the songs I knew, but mostly many songs that neither the audience nor I had ever heard of, which was obvious by the amount of people sitting down or leaving. I made myself stay until the end in hopes of hearing my all-time favorite song, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue”, but left in complete disappointment as he never even sang it. There was something so upsetting to me about seeing him in such a bad state, almost like going back to a place you loved when you were young and innocent, only to see it old and corrupted. Although I still will probably jam out when I hear an old Toby Keith song on the radio or at a party, I won’t forget the fact that his song speaks the truth, he really just ain’t as good as he once was.


Filed under Blog Post 3, Concert, Rodeo, Toby Keith

A Conservative’s View on Growing Up Country

The Dixie Chicks considered "radical" after unpatriotic outburst.One community that I take pride in actively participating in is the Conservative party community because I personally agree with the beliefs and actions of that particular group and I like to associate myself as one of them. I believe that country music does particularly figure into that community, as the southern stereotypical musician is more likely to be more conservative than liberal and the morals and actions of many country music stars and their music may cater to more of a socially conservative crowd. Many of the people that also identify as conservative in my social circle do enjoy country music over some other genres, because of its more realistic sounding nature and storytelling instincts. Particular country songs that I enjoy listening to within my community are some feel good songs by artists such as Pat Green, Robert Earl Keen, and George Strait, because I have grown up listening to their music and enjoy attending their concerts. Patriotic country songs are also songs I enjoy listening to because they remind me of the importance and desire to preserve the respect for our country that so many people are trying to diminish during this time of immense change. I feel that the patriotic nature and humble attitudes are what may make the community enjoy the simplicity and reality of country music and may distinguish it from other communities. It is very stereotypical for a cowboy to be labeled as a conservative, but in many ways this is most often true. There are, however, plenty of great country artists who do not identify themselves in the conservative community, such as Toby Keith, Tim McGraw, and Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. Tim McGraw, an active democrat, infuriated fans with statements condemning President Barack Obama’s actions. At a concert after 9/11, the Dixie Chick’s career was tragically put on the line when the lead singer announced she was embarrassed to be from the same state as George W. Bush. This was a turning point in their career because they seemingly went against the majority of their fan’s beliefs and have since then barely made a comeback within the community. The conservative party naturally turns toward tradition and is somewhat against change, that’s why I feel that the genre of traditional country music is so widely respected in this community because the musical values somewhat embodies the values of a conservative person.


Filed under Blog Post 1, Class work, Classic Country, Politics, Reflection, Texas, USA