Monday, January 03, 2005


Ready to go native

Red Foley (with the Cumberland Valley Boys), Tennessee Saturday Night.

Neil Young once said that rock and roll should have come before country music, as rock is Saturday night to country's Sunday morning. But in that scenario, country comes off way too starched. Red Foley's "Tennessee Saturday Night" was a #1 country hit, for example, but it's as nasty as any rock and roll song tries to be.

It is a bit strange to hear Foley singing lewdly about couples going off in the woods and drunks packing guns, as he is best known for his 1951 gospel smash "Peace in the Valley," in which he sounds like the Old Testament God in a blissful mood. He also would become Pat Boone's father-in-law.

But falling from grace and getting saved again is a common two-step in country music--after all, the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, who wrote "Peace in the Valley," started his professional life as Georgia Tom in the '20s, writing dirty blues like "Tight Like That." And Roy Acuff, who was running for governor in Tennessee in '48 and pledging his allegiance to the Ten Commandments, made his start in country with a truly filthy song, "When Lulu's Gone," which features the couplet: "I wish I was a diamond ring upon my Lulu's hand/Every time she'd take her bath, I'd be a lucky man." (Much more on this theme in Nick Tosches' brilliant Country.)

After all, late Saturday night and early Sunday morning are the same span of time.

"Tennessee" was released in July 1948 and featured Zeb and Zeke Turner on electric guitars and Jerry Byrd on steel. It was recorded in Nashville, which was just starting to become the locus of country, and can be found on this great compilation.

No comments: