To help get to the heart of the matter for Country Music Month, we’ve asked a bunch of experts all over America, what is country music to you? This installment is from Jack Shell. Jack is an on-air personality, music director, and assistant program director in Detroit, and that means he knows his stuff!
So, it was asked of us air personalities to write what country music is to me seeing that October is “Country Music Month” and we’re air personalities on a country music radio station, and a major one at that. For me, country music is the music of every man, every woman, and every child… or at least the common man, woman, and child, and the world is full of us. What is common?
Well, I think the majority of people work hard, live hard, and try hard to keep it all together. Life is full of struggles, and it’s also full of joy. Every person can relate to the emotions and stories told by the singers of our songs, whether it’s a song about love, a song about family, heartache, or big dreams. I know for me, growing up in Peoria, Illinois in the 1980s, I lived in a blue collar town where the popular country music station was WXCL-AM 1350.
I didn’t know why I liked the music of [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Alabama[/lastfm], [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Ronnie Milsap[/lastfm], or [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]The Judds[/lastfm], but I did. It made me feel good, sometimes the lyrics of the songs were over my head, but as I grew older and rediscovered country music in my teens during it’s resurgence in the early 90s, I started to understand this music better. In fact, I was able to land a job at WXCL-FM 104.9 as the overnight air personality when I was a senior in high school. While I sat in that little studio in Peoria late at night, I started to dream about what my life would be like, much like [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Alan Jackson[/lastfm] sang about “Chasing That Neon Rainbow”. I chased that rainbow eventually to Nashville, where I would work for WSM and WKDF during my decade there. I won’t lie, moving to Nashville did spoil a little bit of that dream to this starry-eyed Midwestern kid, but I did get to meet many of the singers and songwriters who create the music we love.
I love classic country, 70s country rock, and I love the commercial, radio-friendly country too. I understand the roots of both genres, and they are totally different genres, but they have the same roots, and it comes most of all from the heart. Anyone who has ever dealt with love, heartache, alcohol, financial struggles, failed dreams, and families can relate to country music. As [lastfm link_type="artist_info"]Brad Paisley[/lastfm] sang “It ain’t hip to sing about tractors, trucks, little towns, and mama, yeah that might be true. But this is country music and we do.” In between the years of that first job playing country to a hard working, blue-collar audience in Tractor Town Peoria, to Music City, and now Motor City, I worked in formats that played either depressing, downer alternative rock and hip hop music, neither of which I was a.) successful as a personality, or could b.) relate to as a person. I am proud to play the music and talk to the people who love country music and the way it makes them feel, either good, bad, or ponderous, and during this Country Music Month of October, I hope you’ll join me in saluting the singers of our music, and the unsung heroes of country music, the songwriters and producers who make it happen. Here’s to keepin’ it country, and here are some of my favorite country songs… hope you enjoy!
[mp3com-artist]Glen Campbell[/mp3com-artist] “Wichita Lineman”