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Oldies Music Encyclopedia: "Honky Tonk"

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A typical Honky Tonk album

A typical Honky Tonk album

source: mixzona.ru
Definition: Not to be confused with the blues piano style of the same name (which later birthed boogie-woogie), honky-tonk country music is a style which arose from the "Western Swing" movement of the '30s, flowered in post-WWII America, and became the standard for modern country and western in the Fifties. Indeed, many of the conventions still associated with C&W are present in honky-tonk: upbeat songs with a midtempo, purposeful, gently-swinging shuffle and slower ballads, all scored with fiddle and pedal steel guitar and dealing almost exclusively with infidelity and drinking.

This makes sense, given the music's origins. Honky-tonks themselves were bars that served the same purpose for the rural white community of the era that the juke joint served for the black community, featuring strong liquor, live entertainment, and sometimes prostitution. The typical song of the genre is mired in hopelessness, both romantic and alcoholic; much of it is music to drink and cry to. There were, of course, happier songs in the style, mostly centered around the idea of a night on the town, but like as not the consequences were likely to be dire, leading to an undercurrent of regret in even the jolliest of the genre's songs. Honky-tonk was, in its inception, seen as sinful, much as jazz and the blues were, and it's no coincidence that many stars of the genre also performed gospel.

Honky-tonk proved to be vastly influential nevertheless, influencing the "Bakersfield Sound" of the Sixties and the "outlaw" movement of a decade later, as well as laying the groundwork for rockabilly (which swung harder and faster and with a more pronounced R&B influence), and, thus, rock and roll itself. The genre continues to be revived every few years, and is widely seen as the backbone of "true" modern country, the same way bluegrass is considered the foundation of traditional country.

Also Known As: Hillbilly, Western Swing
Examples:
  1. "I'm Walking The Floor Over You," Ernest Tubb
  2. "Honky Tonkin'," Hank Williams
  3. "If You've Got The Money, I've Got The Time," Lefty Frizzell
  4. "There Stands The Glass," Webb Pierce
  5. "Please Help Me I'm Falling," Hank Locklin
  6. "She Thinks I Still Care," George Jones
  7. "Crazy Arms," Ray Price
  8. "Swinging Doors," Merle Haggard
  9. "Honky Tonk Man," Johnny Horton
  10. "Hello Walls," Faron Young

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