Thursday, March 19, 2009

My John Deere Was Breaking Your Field, While Your Dear John Was Breaking My Heart, or, Why Northern Kentuckians Hate Country Music

Northern Kentuckians hate country music. They detest cowboy hats, hillbilly twangs, and forelorn love songs. Why, you ask, do these pseudo-southerners reject the most American of genres?

It turns out that the hatred of country music has deep roots in Northern Kentucky.

When I was young, country music wasn't an option. We didn't own any country records, listen to country radio stations, or associate with people who did. As I got older, I started hanging out with Ohioans---the uppitiest of midwesterners. When they think of Kentucky, they think two things: (1) cheap cigarettes; and (2) the Country Bear Jamobree (

Like many of my fellow Kentuckians, I suffered buckeyes' quips and, perhaps without realizing it, did all I could to dispel images of Appalachian squalor. I wore shoes, kept my teeth, spoke without an accent, and refrained from any mention of country.

I wasn't the first, however. My grandmothers, born and raised in Northern Kentucky, abhor country music. They deride it as "hillbilly music," a phrase always accompanied by an eyeroll. They favor big bands, crooners, anything but backwoods string bands. They, too, were afraid of a southern stigma. I'd hazard a guess that my parents were no different.

Then, sometime in the mid-90s, driving in my car early one Saturday morning, I heard the Stanley Brothers ( on 88.3 ( I didn't know bluegrass from country, but I knew I liked what was on the radio.

It wasn't until I moved to Chicago that I felt entirely comfortable with country. Here, nobody thinks of themselves as hillbillies, so there's no sting in listening to Hank Williams or Loretta Lynn. A lot of them think country music is cute and folksy. They romanticize moonshine-swillin', pig wranglin' southern living, but they never get close enough to that life for it to be an insult. Plus, Ohioans don't make fun of Chicagoans---on the contrary, here, Ohioans are kind of a joke---a sentiment I'm all too ready to embrace.
I now heartily embrace country, bluegrass, hillbilly, and mountain music. I play mandolin, my (yankee) wife plays banjo, and I'm not scared of being compared to a blue person (
One day, Northern Kentuckians will rise up, cast aside yankee slander and say, "I may like country music, but you're from Ohio."
P.S. Here are some amazing, yet real, country music titles. Maybe these add to the whole country stigma?

Do You Love As Good As You Look?
Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On The Bedpost Overnight?
Drop Kick Me, Jesus, Through The Goalposts Of Life
Get Your Biscuits In The Oven And Your Buns In The Bed
Get Your Tongue Outta My Mouth 'Cause I'm Kissing You Goodbye
Her Teeth Were Stained, But Her Heart Was Pure
How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away?
How Can You Believe Me When I Say I Love You When You Know I've Been A Liar All My Life?
I Been Roped And Thrown By Jesus In The Holy Ghost Corral
I Changed Her Oil, She Changed My Life
I Don't Know Whether To Kill Myself Or Go Bowling
I Fell In A Pile Of You And Got Love All Over Me
I Flushed You From The Toilets Of My Heart.
I Keep Forgettin' I Forgot About You
I Wanna Whip Your Cow
I Would Have Wrote You A Letter, But I Couldn't Spell Yuck!
I Wouldn't Take Her To A Dawg Fight, Cause I'm Afraid She'd Win
I'd Rather Have A Bottle In Front Of Me Than A Frontal Lobotomy
I'm Just A Bug On The Windshield Of Life
I'm The Only Hell Mama Ever Raised
I've Been Flushed From The Bathroom Of Your Heart
I've Got The Hungries For Your Love And I'm Waiting In Your Welfare Line
If I Can't Be Number One In Your Life, Then Number Two On You
If Love Were Oil, I'd Be A Quart Low
If My Nose Were Full of Nickels, I'd Blow It All On You
If The Phone Don't Ring, Baby, You'll Know It's Me
If You Don't Leave Me Alone, I'll Go And Find Someone Else Who Will
If You Leave Me, Can I Come Too?
Mama Get The Hammer (There's A Fly On Papa's Head)
May The Bird Of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose
My Every Day Silver Is Plastic
My Head Hurts, My Feet Stink, And I Don't Love Jesus
My John Deere Was Breaking Your Field, While Your Dear John Was Breaking My Heart
My Wife Ran Off With My Best Friend, And I Sure Do Miss Him
Oh, I've Got Hair Oil On My Ears And My Glasses Are Slipping Down, But Baby I Can See Through You
Pardon Me, I've Got Someone To Kill
She Got The Gold Mine And I Got The Shaft
She Got The Ring And I Got The Finger
She Made Toothpicks Out Of The Timber Of My Heart
She's Got Freckles On Her, But She's Pretty
Thank God And Greyhound She's Gone
They May Put Me In Prison, But They Can't Stop My Face From Breakin' Out
Velcro Arms, Teflon Heart
When You Leave Walk Out Backwards, So I'll Think You're Walking In
You Can't Have Your Kate And Edith Too
You Can't Roller Skate In A Buffalo Herd
You Done Tore Out My Heart And Stomped That Sucker Flat
You Were Only A Splinter As I Slid Down The Bannister Of Life
You're The Reason Our Kids Are So Ugly

1 comment:

  1. I recently started listening to country music again so this post made a lot of sense to me. I railed against most things southern when I was a teenager because I didn't want to be seen as a hick from Tennessee...despite the fact that I really was a hick from Tennessee. It's sad that I turned my nose up at an entire genre because of my insecurities because I like a lot of country music now. =]