Malone, Bill C(harles) 1934-
MALONE, Bill C(harles) 1934-
PERSONAL: Born August 25, 1934, in Smith County, TX; son of Cleburne and Maude (Owins) Malone. Education: University of Texas, B.A., 1956, M.A., 1958, Ph.D., 1965. Politics: Democrat. Religion: Unaffiliated.
ADDRESSES: Home—Madison, WI. Agent—c/o University Press of Kentucky, 663 South Limestone St., Lexington, KY 40508-4008.
CAREER: Southwest Texas State University, San Marcos, instructor, 1962-64, assistant professor of history, 1964-67; Murray State University, Murray, KS, associate professor of history, 1967-69; Wisconsin State University, Whitewater, WI, associate professor of history, 1969-71; Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, associate professor of history, beginning in 1971, became professor emeritus. Host, "Back to the Country," weekly radio show, WORT (Madison, WI), 2003—.
MEMBER: Organization of American Historians, American Folklore Society, Popular Culture Association, Country Music Association, Southern Historical Association, Louisiana Historical Association.
Country Music, USA: A Fifty-Year History, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1968, revised, 2002.
(Editor, with Judith McCulloh) Stars of CountryMusic: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1975, reprinted, 1991.
(With David Stricklin) Southern Music, American Music, University Press of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), 1979, revised, 2003.
Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers: SouthernCulture and the Roots of Country Music, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1993.
Don't Get above Your Raisin': Country Music and theSouthern Working Class, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2002.
Editor and annotator of recording Classic Country Music: A Smithsonian Collection, Smithsonian Collection of Recordings (Washington, DC), 1990. Contributor to Encyclopedia of Southern History and Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians. Contributor to folklore and country music magazines.
SIDELIGHTS: Country music aficionado and history professor Bill C. Malone has done ground-breaking work in making country music a legitimate subject of study by the academic community. Malone's doctoral dissertation on country music, which was first marketed to the public in 1968 as Country Music, USA: A Fifty-Year History, garnered favorable reviews and has since undergone two revisions. Since that time Malone has written about country music for both the popular press and scholarly publications. Yet Malone does not look at country music from an outsider's viewpoint. "I was a fan long before I ever became a writer," Malone told Laurie Joulie in a Take Country Back interview. Over the years, Malone has performed with various country music groups, including singing old-time duets with his wife, Bobbie, also a historian. In 2002 Malone's study Don't Get above Your Raisin': Country Music and the Southern Working Class was published to much acclaim, and the following year he began hosting "Back to the Country," a weekly radio show broadcast on WORT from Madison, Wisconsin.
Born in rural Texas in 1934, Malone grew up in what he called "a country music family. We got our first Philco battery radio when I was five years old. . . . From the very moment we got the radio we started listening to local shows out of Dallas/Fort Worth and Tulsa, and of course the Grand Ole Opry became a network show that same year," he remembered to Joulie. Their farming family also made its own music, singing old gospel songs and sentimental tunes, and as teenagers Malone's brothers started playing guitars. "I just grew up with it and all my life I've identified the music with good hard-working people. I think it's always told their stories." So Malone decided to tell country music's story in a number of publications, including the 1975 biographical dictionary Stars of Country Music: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez, which was revised in 1991, and the 1979 study with David Stricklin, Southern Music, American Music, which was revised in 2003. In the latter book, the authors look at the changes made in southern music due to advances in technology.
The print version of three lectures given at Mercer University as part of its Lamar Memorial lecture, Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers: Southern Culture and the Roots of Country Music, gave readers a hint as to the direction of Malone's ongoing research. In the first essay, he discusses the multi-ethnic origins of what had been largely thought to be the Celtic basis for country music. Instead, Malone proposes that "'British' styles met and meshed with German, Spanish, French, Caribbean, Mexican, and African-derived forms." In the second essay, Malone takes a look at the variety of nineteenth-century traveling shows—among them minstrel shows, circuses, showboats, theatrical troupes, medicine shows, and horse shows—that spread popular music throughout the rural South. The final essay treats the mountaineer and cowboy images that emerged during the 1920s and the reasons for their dominance in the perception of what was defined as country music after World War II. An addition to the essays forming the basis of Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers are Malone's thoughts about the appeal of country music to blue-collar Americans. He stated that such music provides an "escape and catharsis from present realities" as well as "self-affirmation through such security-laden symbols as home, family, church, and the South."
For the next seven years, Malone continued his research about the cultural basis of country music. In 2002 he published his monumental study Don't Get above Your Raisin', "an insightful examination of the process by which a people, a place, and the past interacted to create an sustain a culture," to quote Michael T. Bertrand of the Journal of Southern History. "The result is a comprehensive portrait that underscores the complex and dynamic nature of southern culture." Using extensive primary and secondary sources, Malone traces the evolution of such themes as piety vs. hedonism, home vs. rambling, companionship vs. individualism, nostalgia vs. modernity, allotting a chapter to each theme. Because they are universal themes, they have long-lasting currency, even in the twenty-first century, which accounts in part for the broad appeal of country music. Yet the fate of country music as a genre remains uncertain, Malone acknowledges, as it is diluted into more mainstream and suburban middle-class popular culture.
With few exceptions, reviewers applauded the work. For example, Progressive's Matthew Rothschild praised its analysis and depth and suggested it "ought to be required reading" for those interested in the topic, as did Library Journal reviewer James E. Perone, who dubbed it a "lucid study" and "thoughtful book." Choice's R. D. Cohen, noting that Don't Get above Your Raisin' "supersedes any title . . . available to date," recommended it highly. Several reviewers expressed more qualified praise, however. Among them was Patrick Huber, who, reviewing the work for Southern Cultures, wished that Malone had better defined such terms as rural, urban, South. Malone's "reverence for his subjects sometimes leads him to overly romantic interpretations," noted Huber, who cited the example of Malone's use of the term America's truest music to describe country music. As Huber pointed out, in making such a statement Malone ignores the American-ness of such musical styles as blues and hip hop. In the same vein, Bertrand also mentioned the white-male emphasis of Malone's work, noting that "insights gained from recent scholarship on gender and race are conspicuously absent." "Despite these problems [lack of definitions and over-enthusiasm for his subject]," Huber continued, the work "is a welcome and important study that deepens our understanding of both country music and, to a lesser degree, southern white working people." Finally, Bertrand commented, "Don't Get above Your Raisin' is an instant classic, destined to become a standard in modern southern historiography."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Malone, Bill C., Singing Cowboys and MusicalMountaineers: Southern Culture and the Roots of Country Music, University of Georgia Press (Athens, GA), 1993.
AB Bookman's Weekly, December 9, 1985, review of Country Music USA: A Fifty-Year History, revised edition, p. 4333.
American Heritage, November, 1994, review of Country Music USA, p. 122.
Booklist, October 1, 1985, review of Country MusicUSA, p. 182.
BooksWest, March, 1978, review of Stars of CountryMusic: Uncle Dave Macon to Johnny Rodriguez, p. 29.
Choice, May, 1980, review of Southern Music,American Music, p. 398; December, 1985, review of Country Music USA, revised edition, p. 614; January, 1994, review of Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers, p. 797; June, 2002, R. D. Cohen, review of Don't Get above Your Raisin': Country Music and the Southern Working Class, pp. 1779-1780.
Come-All-Ye, winter, 1993, review of Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers, p. 7.
Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), July 6, 1998, Ann Donald, "Torn between Two Lovers," review of Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers,
Journal of American Folklore, April, 1982, review of Southern Music, American Music p. 251; July, 1986, review of Country Music USA, revised edition, p. 356.
Journal of American History June, 1977, review of Stars of Country Music, p. 206; September, 1994, review of Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers, pp. 745+.
Journal of American Studies, August, 1982, review of Southern Music, American Music, p. 267. Journal of Popular Culture, winter, 1982, review of Country Music USA, p. 91.
Journal of Southern History, August, 1980, review of Southern Music, American Music, p. 464; August, 1986, review of Country Music USA, revised edition, p. 483; November, 1994, review of Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers, pp. 849+; November, 2003, Michael T. Bertrand, review of Don't Get above Your Raisin', pp. 996-997.
Kliatt, winter, 1977, review of Stars of Country Music, p. 32; winter, 1986, review of Country Music USA, revised edition, p. 65.
Library Journal, November 1, 1996, review of CountryMusic USA, p. 42; March 1, 2002, James E. Perone, review of Don't Get above Your Raisin', p. 104.
Music Educators Journal, December, 1979, review of Country Music USA, p. 91.
Notes (Music Library Association), September, 1980, review of Southern Music, American Music, p. 52; March, 1995, Anthony Lis, review of Singing Cowboys and Musical Mountaineers, pp. 905-909.
Progressive, January, 2003, Matthew Rothschild, review of Don't Get above Your Raisin', pp. 35-39.
Sing Out!, fall, 2003, Ronald Lankford, Jr., review of Southern Music, American Music, p. 121.
Southern Cultures, summer, 2003, Patrick Huber, review of Don't Get above Your Raisin', pp. 102-105.
Southern Living, May, 1980, review of SouthernMusic, American Music, p. 102.
Southwest Review, fall, 1985, review of Country MusicUSA, revised edition, p. 547.
Virginia Quarterly Review, winter, 1981, review of Southern Music, American Music, p. 29.
Wilson Quarterly, Volume 12, number 3, 1988, review of Country Music USA, p. 89.