Country Music News for the Country Music Enthusiast
For decades, drums were considered too uptown by many in country music. Ironically, many of those who held the line admired the late Jimmie Rodgers, who'd used a drummer on his 1929 recordings of "Desert Blues" and "Any Old Time." In Texas, Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies used a drummer on specific dance jobs, and in 1935, Bob Wills hired Smokey Dacus as drummer for his Texas Playboys. Wills played to vast dance crowds, and needed Dacus, who occasionally used a brush on one of his drum cases to push the beat. In later years, Wills used other drummers with strong Dixieland roots, including Gene Tomlons and Monte Mountjoy, who worked with him in the 1940's; talents in later editions of Playboys including Johnny Cuvilello and his own younger brother, Billy Jack Wills. Adolph Hofner's San Antonians also used a drummer by the 1940's. West coast bands such as Spade Cooley's routinely used drummers on all engagements, many of them ex-big band drummers like Muddy Berry.
At the Grand Ole Opry, drums were expressly forbidden, though Bob Wills defied the ban when he performed there on December 30, 1944, with Monte Mountjoy playing his entire drum set onstage. Pee Wee King's band used a drummer, "Sticks" McDonald, but not on the Opry stage. Likewise, Paul Howard's Arkansas Cotton Pickers, another Western swing act on the Opry, briefly employed Joe Morello, later known for his work with Jazz pianist Dave Brubeck. One of the first country drummers in Nashville was Farris Coursey, who played in Owen Bradley's dance band. Still, most Nashville and Southeastern artists avoided drums (though Hank Williams briefly used a drummer in Alabama before he became a star). Coursey, who slapped his thighs on Red Foley's 1950 hit recording of "Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy," was used on some sessions, though in other cases, muted rhythm guitar was used to provide percussion. Carl Smith's 1954 hiring of Nashville big band drummer, Buddy Harman, caused further controversy at the Opry. Opry managers still refused to allow a drum set on stage, but eventually relented to the point of allowing Harman to play a snare drum, with brushes, behind a curtain-only to have new Opry boss Dee Kilpatrick briefly ban them again. After rock 'n' roll hit, more performers added drums to their bands and their records. Buddy Harman helped Ray Price develop his famous "shuffle" beat.
Drums have been routinely used in country music ever since, except in traditional bluegrass. The Osborne Brothers, however, used Buddy Harman on records beginning in 1958.
Several country drummers used the instrument to break into the business before becoming stars, including Roger Miller, who drummed with Faron Young, and Jack Greene, who worked with Ernest Tubb.
Even Roy Acuff used a snare drum with brushes on the Opry after the drum was allowed to be seen. In 1973, when the Opry moved to Opryland, full drum sets were permitted on the stage at last.
Now today many people can turn to there entertainment
centers for flat screen TVs to watch the country music awards in which
many acts incoporate drums.
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