Picking, Grinning, & Killing

Like many this early part of fall, I watched and fell in love with Ken Burn’s Country Music. Anybody on my Facebook will know that it turned into an obsession. I couldn’t help seeing parallels to the music development and another American art form, noir and hard-boiled fiction that started roughly around the same time and went through many of the same transitions with writers to resemble some of the stars of Country & Western music. What do you think of these comparisons?

  • Jimmy Rodgers & Dashiell Hammett  – Best of the originators. Both looked at life’s rough side, providing entertainment to the masses they wrote about. Also, both suffered tuberculosis.
  • The Carter Family & James Cain – Clean sleek writing of desperate times.
  • Bob Wills & Chester Himes – Byzantine, over the top, yet still relateable.
  • Hank Williams & Raymond Chandler – The first poets of both genres.
  • Ernest Tubb & Mickey Spillane – Post war populists. Also both known for giving a hand to those that came behind.
  • Kitty Wells & Dorthy B. Hughes – Hughes’ In A Lonely Place was the response to male authors femme fatale, much like Miss Wells’ It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels
  • Johnny Cash & Ross McDonald – The post-War innovators.
  • David Goodis & George Jones – Kings of utter despair.
  • Chet Atkins & John D. McDonald – The master craftsmen.
  • Patsy Cline & Delores Hitchens – Two ladies who opened the door and pulled from other genres in their work.
  • Merle Haggard & Elmore Leonard – Poet of the working man.
  • Eddie Arnold & Robert B. Parker – Smooth artists who took the genre to a larger audience.
  • Kris Kristofferson & James Crumley – Wordsmith for seventies ennui.
  • Tammy, Dolly, & Lorretta & Marcia Muller, Sara Paretsky, and Sue Grafton- The ladies who kicked the door down for others.
  • Jerry Reed & Donald Westlake – Masters of many trades.
  • Willie Nelson & Joe R. Lansdale – It would take a two dissertations to list all the comparisons.
  • Waylon Jennings & Lawrence Block – Came into notoriety at the same time, did it their way, and are both cool, bad mothers.
  • Emmylou Harris & Megan Abbott – Both took the richness of the past and built on it for a new audience.
  • Don Williams & Craig Johnson – Steady, easy going balladeers with a lot of depth underneath.
  • Reba MacEntire & Laura Lippman – Two artists who can do anything.
  • George Strait & Robert Crais – Neo-traditionalist. I’ve also been told by a few women that they’re both not bad looking.
  • Michael Connolly & Garth Brooks – The chart toppers who didn’t compromise.
  • Dwight Yoakam & Daniel Woodrell – Two of the most dangerous country boys ever.
Maybe there’s hope for an eight part crime fiction PBS series.

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