Since the rise of the “Silent Majority” of conservatives to the forefront of American politics in the Reagan era, the overall themes of country music have changed to the patriotic and conservative messages heard today in the genre. The first real instance found of country music going hand in hand with politics goes back to the 1964 presidential election where then democratic candidate George Wallace used the song “Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette to gain support of the southern voters At the time the political landscape of the south was heavily fragmented, and not yet united as it would become during the Nixon and Reagan years.
Country music is the most distinctive cultural product of the American south “which has long been the area of America most supportive of political reaction” With roots in the farms and hills of the hard-working southerners, the music that came from there evolved over time from simply “hillbilly” style into its own unique sound. During the Second World War the music often reminded soldiers of a simpler time and place, and gave them a sense of patriotism as many artists such as Bob Wills wrote songs that glorified America. In the 1950’s country was not all that popular as many considered it “The music of the southern redneck and thus elicited images of pickups with shotguns stacked in the back of the cabs, shotguns waiting to be used to terrorize or kill civil rights marchers or those who sympathized with them.”
In order to examine how country music was used to gain a foothold in the minds of southern voters, one must first look at the musical landscape of the 1960’s. The new left was supporting white folk, rock and soul music, which carried the demographics of the “hippy” movement and the American blacks. Country music was almost in direct opposition to this, with themes that glorified the working man and other traditional values such as religion and the family. The music was much more familiar to those in Middle America than the grating, adolescent rock of the new left, and with people they felt more comfortable with.
The political landscape of the country was radically changing due to the Civil Rights movement of the late 60’s. It was at this time that the democratic party turned its focus to the smaller, less subtle racism and prejudice in the north, leaving behind the “working man” demographic of the south. Looking back on his presidency, Lyndon Johnson said “ The blue collar worker felt that the democratic party traded his welfare for the welfare of the black man” Country was a reminder of the old days, where the political landscape was far less alienating than the one they were currently in. It was, in the words of country music scholar John Grissim “an unspoken reaffirmation of values which seemed to work so nicely in simpler, less dangerous times”
Politician Richard Nixon was truly the first President to attempt to link his politics with country music. During his first term in office he declared...