der a waterless sky, to reach fertile land.nThey would find it hard to imaginenthat such long strides were taken at songreat a cost, only to have those whoncame after driven from the soil, not bynnature but by ignorant rule.nModern ranch hands coming downnthe Dead Man’s Pass travel the 6npercent grade in fourwheel drive trucks,nthen rumble by yellow floweringnsagebrush and flowing wheat to reachnthe rodeo. Even with a paved road andnconveniences, you still sense, as innmuch of the West, that your presencenis tenuous.nThe cowboys and cowgirls at thenPendleton Round-Up must be edgynfrom more than adrenalin when theynslip the noose around the neck of thencalf: perhaps they know how it feels.nCatherine Rudolph has worked as anconsultant on Republican campaignsnup to the presidential level. She livesnin Olympia, Washington, and is nownwriting a novel.nLetter From thenLower Rightnby John Shelton ReednSongs of the SouthnI like that old-time rock and roll. I’mnsure nostalgia has a lot to do with it: thenolder I get the better the 50’s look. Butnthere’s more to it than that. I like whatnthe music says about America, andnespecially about the South. Let menexplain.nSome time ago, a geographer atnOklahoma State mapped the birthplacesnof country-music notables—singers,nsongwriters, and musicians. The result-nLIBERAL ARTSnWhy We Love New YorknOne child talking to another at thenCentral Park Zoo: “Look, a baby seal!nAnd there’s his mother. Or his father. Ornhis au pair.”n—from the November 7, J 988 issue ofnNew York magazine.n38/CHRONICLESning map makes his entire career worthwhile.nNot surprisingly, it shows thatncountry music has been Southern music.nGive or take a speck here and therenin Canada or Montana or Okie-landnCalifornia, the people who make itnhave come overwhelmingly from thenSouth. But it also shows that they’rennot from just anywhere in the South.nMost are from a fertile crescent thatnreaches from southwest Virginianthrough Kentucky and the eastern twothirdsnof Tennessee, over into northernnArkansas, southeast Missouri, Oklahoma,nand Texas. Country music, innother words, is a product of the fringe,nof the margins of the region proper, ofnAppalachia, the Ozarks, the Southwest.nThe map defines the South bynsketching its boundary: there’s verynlittle inside. The Deep South appearsnas a near-vacuum (although not a blacknhole like New England).nBut when one of my students did ansimilar map of the origins of bluesnsingers and we overlaid it on thencountry-music map, it filled in thenDeep South nicely. The two mapsntogether clearly showed the South —nblack and white, separate but equal —nto be the great seedbed of Americannmusic (or, as John Seelye calls it,n”AM”; FM, of course, stands for “foreignnmusic”). But they also made itnplain, as I said, that for a long timenwhite folks didn’t do much singing innthe Deep South, perhaps because theynhad blacks to do it for them. (Thenimage of Slim Pickens in Blazing Saddlesncomes irresistibly to mind, as doesnthe similar, but not at all funny, scenenin James Agee’s Let Us Now PraisenFamous Men.)nWhen Deep South white boys didnstart to sing, though, 30-odd years ago,nthey showed that they’d been listening.nWhat they gave us was “rockabilly” —nhalf “hillbilly,” half black rhythm-andblues,na wild half-breed music. Alongnwith some black folks who were mostlynSoutherners, too, Elvis and Carl Perkinsnand Jerry Lee Lewis and CharlienRich and Ronnie Hawkins andnConway Twitty and the Everly Brothersngave us rock and roll.nAnd although it has been litfle noted,nthe musical influence went bothnways. Everyone knows how Elvis grewnup listening to Rufus Thomas and BignMama Thornton, thus becoming thenanswer to Sam Phillips’s prayer for annnwhite singer with a Negro sound. Justnso, his fellow Tennesseean BobbynBland talks of how “we used to listen tonthe radio every morning to people likenRoy Acuff, Lefty Frizzell, Hank Williamsnand Hank Snow,” and says “Inthink hillbilly has more of a story thannpeople give it credit for.” Bland, ofncourse, is black.nWith this genealogy, rock and rollnreally was something different, especiallynfor the South. It made for one ofnthe few experiences shared by youngnSoutherners across the racial divide.nOpinions differed about rock and rolln— they were meant to—but not alongnracial lines. Black or white, mostnSoutherners now of approximatelynmenopausal age grew up making outnto the same music, on the same radionstations. In the Carolinas and Virginianit was gentle “beach music.” Over thenmountains, in my part of the South, itnwas tougher, meaner, raunchier — andnWLAC, Nashville, was the place to gonfor it. I was pleased when Don Williamsnincluded a reference to WLAC’snJohn R in his nostalgic country song,n”Good Old Boys Like Me,” and I wasnamused when Bobbie Ann Masonnwrote in The New Yorker (of all places)nabout listening to WLAC while growingnup in Kentucky. But I was actuallynmoved when Steven Millner, a blacknprofessor at Ole Miss, mentionednWLAC on William Buckley’s FiringnLine. Listening to WLAC’s juxtapositionnof Hank Ballard and thenMidnighters with suggestive ads fornWhite Rose Petroleum Jelly was anmere thread across the chasm of segregation,nbut it was that.nSome saw rock and roll as a threat tonWestern civilization,- and that was partnof its charm. Preachers preachednagainst it. Pious teenagers took to thenplatform to witness against it. Sanctimoniousnsmall-town radio stationsnbanned it. But it was no threat — justnthe opposite. Consider what it replaced.nBrowsing in the record bin at a localnthrift shop one day last summer, Incame across an old Phil Harris LP.nTwo of the songs on it, “That’s What InLike About the South” and “ThenDarktown Poker Club,” were sides Anand B of an old 78 that I must havenworn out sometime in the early 1950’s.nFor fifty cents I bought the record andntook it home.n