Archive for the ‘American music’ Category

Time for this train to roll again!

March 19, 2013

I’ve been quiet here for a while. Busy mothering, teaching, directing, and generally trying to keep my head above water. But now it’s time to get this train rolling again. I want to work on two different books (and a third one is swimming around in my grey matter), so I need to get serious about writing again. And two weeks ago, I learned some interesting things that have inspired me to restart this blog as part of my overall writing effort.

I attended the annual conference of the Society for American Music this year (presented a paper, but that’s a different post). Several of us tweeted during the conference, which was both interesting and frustrating (yet another blog post). I eventually met up with one of the tweetsters, academicronin, and had a very interesting talk with her. She blogs about her book progress, reporting on challenges, triumphs, the number of words completed and other details. Brilliant! Set a goal, put it out there in the blogosphere and somehow you now feel accountable for it.

Then I attended a session on music history pedagogy. One of the panelists discussed student writing and brought to our attention a study on binge writing vs. the slow-and-steady approach. The research of Robert Boice* suggests that the latter–regular moderate amounts of writing–produces better results and better rewards (tenure, article acceptances, etc.).

These two insights felt like the proverbial slap to the forehead for me. When I was working on my dissertation, I wrote every week day and occasionally on the weekends. Sometimes it was thousands of words and sometimes it was only one or two (regular moderate amounts). And for a number of reasons, I set a clear end date (goal).

I’ll be back soon with a plan.

* Boice, Bob. “Which Is More Productive, Writing in Binge Patterns of Creative Illness or in Moderation?” Written Communication 16 (July, 1999): 354-67.



April 25, 2012

Someone sent me a link to this incredible beat boxing site. I was instantly addicted! The (secretly) best part was how I instantly felt cool and hip.

One of my classes is currently playing with it and submitting their compositions to me for extra credit. While it’s not directly related to our topic (folk musics of the United States), it nonetheless engages them in the compositional process (on a small scale) and makes them think about the details of a song as well as the overall arc. For non-musicians, which means most of my class, this is sometimes a hard concept for them. As I demonstrated Incredibox to them today, I could see light bulbs going off all over the room.

Rock on!

September 10, 2011

This article in the New York Times (“Beyond Baby Mozart, Students Who Rock”) describes a program in which children learn to play music in a way that will have the elitists spitting out their hemi-demi-semi-quavers with their tea and crumpets. They will surely put a fermata on this idea and claim that what these children are learning is distinctly not music or musical skills.

And here’s why. It’s not classical music (or even good sturdy Sousa marches). It’s not written notation. It’s not rigid conformity to said written notation. Instead it’s popular music, songs chosen by the kids themselves. It’s learning by ear. It’s composition and song writing with a big dose of improvisation. And for many kids, that means it will not be torture.

This innovative program, Little Kids Rock, is intriguing to me. I believe that any educational approach that invites children into the world of music–any kind of music–and sustains their interest is worthy of our consideration and support. I don’t care if it’s Bach or the Back Street Boys or Boyz II Men. Get them interested, honor their choices and tastes, and allow their musicianship to grow from that.

I would be curious to know, though, if at some point in the program, Little Kids Rock begins to offer what we usually think of as the fundamentals, such as reading notation and understanding rhythm, meter, and harmony. Otherwise, the program could become a stunt, a cool trick to get 25 kids in a room to play a song together but not necessarily enough to create a lasting effect.

Trumpet Warmup

July 8, 2011
IMG_1182 by Foxboro Music Photos
IMG_1182, a photo by Foxboro Music Photos on Flickr.

Writing Music History

April 18, 2011

My American popular music classes will be discussing what acts from the first decade of the twenty-first century should be included in a future textbook on the subject. We have taken a poll within the classes, but we would like to expand the pool of responses. Can you help us by taking a short survey?

Click here to take survey

or go to

If the link doesn’t take you to a survey page, you can answer the question here in the comments section. Just list the 5 acts (individual or group) that you think must be included. You can also tell us what criteria you used to make your selections (optional).


Pete Peterson

February 9, 2010

I am saddened to read of the passing of Pete Peterson, eminent sociologist and scholar of country music. My library copy of his book Creating Country Music is full of yellow stickies with notes on them. In his writings on the cultural history of country music, he explores the intersections of business, technology, society, music, and culture in a way that both informs us about country music itself and provides a model for the study of any type of American music in the twentieth century. His voice will be sorely missed.

Charlie Louvin

January 25, 2010

Charlie Louvin was still touring as of last spring. Read this interview by Wade Tatangelo in the St. Petersburg (FL) Times.

Updated list for #1 country hits in 1950s

January 22, 2010

I updated the list of #1 hits in country music to include 1958 to 1960; it now spans 1955 to 1960. I also added YouTube playlists for those years.

Pop Hits 1955-1957

December 14, 2009

Below are the number one singles for the years 1955-1957 in chronological order. I am slowly putting the YouTube video playlist together. Stay tuned.


  1. Let Me Go Lover – Joan Weber
  2. Hearts of Stone – The Fontane Sisters
  3. Sincerely – The McGuire Sisters
  4. The Ballad of Davy Crockett – Bill Hayes
  5. Cherry pink and Apple Blossom White – Perez Prado
  6. Dance with Me Henry (Wallflower) – Georgia Gibbs
  7. Unchained Melody – Les Baxter
  8. (We’re Gonna) Rock around the Clock – Bill Haley & His Comets
  9. Learnin’ the Blues – Frank Sinatra
  10. The Yellow Rose of Texas – Mitch Miller
  11. Ain’t That a Shame – Pat Boone
  12. Love Is a Many Splendored Thing – Four Aces
  13. Autumn Leaves – Roger Williams
  14. Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford


  1. Memories Are Made of This – Dean Martin
  2. Rock and Roll Waltz – Kay Starr
  3. The Great Pretender – The Platters
  4. Lisbon Antigua – Nelson Riddle
  5. The Poor People of Paris – Les Baxter
  6. Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley
  7. Hot Diggity (Dog Ziggity Boom) – Perry Como
  8. Moonglow and Theme from ”Picnic” – Morris Stoloff
  9. The Wayward Wind – Gogi Grant
  10. I Almost Lost My Mind – Pat Boone
  11. I Want you, I need You, I Love – Elvis Presley
  12. My Prayer – The Platters
  13. Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley
  14. Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
  15. Love Me Tender – Elvis Presley
  16. The Green Door – Jim Lower
  17. Singing the Blues – Guy Mitchell


  1. Too Much – Elvis Presley
  2. Don’t Forbid Me – Pat Boone
  3. You Love – Sonny James
  4. Young Love – Tab Hunter
  5. Butterfly – Andy Williams
  6. Party Doll – Buddy Knox and the Rhyhm Orchids
  7. Round and Round – Perry Como
  8. All Shook Up – Elvis Presley
  9. Butterfly – Charlie Gracie
  10. Love Letters in the Sand – Pat Boone
  11. (Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear – Elvis Presley
  12. Tammy – Debbie Reynolds
  13. Diana – Paul Anka
  14. Honeycomb – Jimmie Rodgers
  15. That’ll Be the Day – The Crickets
  16. Wake Up Little Susie – The Everly Brothers
  17. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
  18. Chances Are – Johnny Mathis
  19. You Send Me – Sam Cooke
  20. April Love – Pat Boone

Country Hits of 1955-1957

November 6, 2009

Below are the top country hits for the years 1955-1957. If you click on years, you will be taken to a YouTube playlist of the hits for that year. Some of the videos are fan tributes (song plays while photos of artist are shown) and some are from television performance from that era.


  1. Loose Talk – Carl Smith
  2. Let Me Go, Lover – Hank Snow
  3. In the Jailhouse Now – Webb Pierce
  4. Live Fast, Love Hard, Die Young – Faron Young
  5. A Satisfied Mind – Porter Wagoner
  6. I Don’t Care – Webb Pierce
  7. The Cattle Call – Eddy Arnold
  8. Love, Love, Love – Webb Pierce
  9. That Do Make It Nice – Eddy Arnold
  10. Sixteen Tons – Tennessee Ernie Ford


  1. Why Baby Why – Red Sovine and Webb Pierce
  2. I Forgot to Remember to Forget – Elvis Presley
  3. Heartbreak Hotel – Elvis Presley
  4. I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby – Louvin Brothers
  5. Blue Suede Shoes – Carl Perkins
  6. Crazy Arms – Ray Price
  7. I  Want You, I Need, I Love You – Elvis Presley
  8. I Walk the Line – Johnny Cash
  9. Don’t Be Cruel – Elvis Presley
  10. Hound Dog – Elvis Presley
  11. Singing the Blues – Marty Robbins


  1. Young Love – Sonny James
  2. There You Go – Johnny Cash
  3. Gone – Ferlin Husky
  4. All Shook Up – Elvis Presley
  5. White Sport Coast (And a Pink Carnation) – Marty Robbins
  6. Honky Tonk Song – Webb Pierce
  7. Four Walls – Jim Reeves
  8. Bye Bye Love – Everly Brothers
  9. Let Me Be Your Teddy Bear – Elvis Presley
  10. Whole Lotta Shakin’ – Jerry Lee Lewis
  11. Fraulein – Bobby Helms
  12. My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You – Ray Price
  13. Wake Up Little Susie – Everly Brothers
  14. Jailhouse Rock – Elvis Presley
  15. My Special Angel – Bobby Helms