Call me Professor Reesha, because in just a few minutes, I'm about to school y'all with the names of the only four African Americans who made it to the big time in country music. (This lesson does not include Ray Charles because, although he counts, too, he was considered a crossover artist in the Blues, Country, and Pop music genres.)

Last night on the Country Music Awards, Beyonce showed up (and she showed out), and many country fans are needlessly livid about it.

"Beyonce is not 'country'!" a coworker said to me this morning.

Well, last time I looked, Beyonce is from the southern state of Texas. Her family is from Louisiana and Alabama, also both southern states. How much more country can you be? Applying logic to this equation would state that she definitely qualifies as "country", and she can sing a dang country song if she wants to! She tried to explain it to y'all in her song, "Formation", when she said that she "earned all this money, but you'll never take the country out me." Beyonce even wrote a country song for her Lemonade album called "Daddy Lessons". The country group, The Dixie Chicks, heard "Daddy Lessons" and they loved it so much, they have been performing it on tour all summer.

"Hmmm, are there any Black people in country music?"
my co-worker asked me.

"The fact that you have to ask that question in the first place is the reason I am going to write a blog about it," I responded.

It's a common misconception that Black people don't like country music--many do--but the industry people behind the scenes are not very open to the idea of a major Black country music star. This despite the fact that Black people were the creators of "country music" to begin with. Did you know about that? Fiddles, banjos, harmonicas- they were played by rural Blacks during the Antebellum period. I'm not saying the country music industry doesn't include Black people today, after all, they employ them to be musicians, songwriters, producers, engineers, backup singers and gospel choirs. When it comes to having a Black person, especially female, as the center stage, however, as a solo, duo or group artist, nope, it's highly unlikely to happen.

That's why seeing Beyonce up there last night was a very big deal to a lot of African Americans, and even to me, not just because she is "Beyonce" and she is the Queen (Yassss). Her being up on that stage at a country awards show has a lot of historical significance, significance that most people haven't thought about.

During my years growing up in Nashville, I had many jobs. One time, when I was a makeup artist, I worked with a Black girl named Missy Green. Missy was in her early twenties, and she, just like many, had moved from somewhere else to Nashville, armed with dreams of becoming a country music star. I always shook my head and looked at Missy sideways because, although everyone knew she was extremely talented vocally, we told her to try her hand at singing R&B jams instead of country. We knew that the country music industry would not accept her. Because she was Black. That is sad to say, but it was the cold, hard truth. Missy was not deterred. She didn't care what we said because she wanted to be the first Black girl to make it to the big time in country music. This was back in 1999, so obviously, she didn't make it anywhere. I wonder what she is doing with her life now. Bless her sweet, talented little heart.

Here is some of my "tea", if you will. This is something I have hardly told anyone about. I, too, tried my hand at country music. Not as a singer, though. Hell no, y'all, I cannot sing. HAHA! But I can write. I have written many songs back in the day. Missy Green (above) even introduced me to a honcho over at BMI Music. Let's call him, BMI Guy. I met with him and showed him a portfolio of several of my songs.

"These are great!" BMI Guy told me, "but they don't tell a complete story. With country music songs, you have to tell a story, you know, paint the entire picture, point by point. The songs you have written would make amazing pop songs because, while telling a story, you can skip around with the details. Would you like me to introduce you to someone who would be interested in these songs you have written, or do you still want to stick with country music?"

I turned down his offer to meet with his pop music business associate (STUPID, I KNOW, I KNOW, but I was like, 22, and young and stupid!) I told him that I really wanted to be a writer for country music. BMI Guy then told me to go home and re-write my exisiting songs and turn them into country songs and then come back to his office so that he could send them off to become demos. I never did. Too bad for me, because it's the songwriters who are the ones making all the money in the music industry!*goes back in time to kick myself in the shin* All that being said, it's not too late for me if I want to become a songwriter. I have learned all my lessons to avoid making the same mistakes, that's for sure!

Now it's time to go to class. Take notes, and look at this list that I came up with, and please do let me know if you can recall anyone else! :-)

  • Charlie Pride

    Kiss An Angel Good Morning

    Sorry, I couldn't tell you the name of not even ONE of his songs, but I definitely know his name, Charlie Pride! I remember being proud of him as a kid because he was the only Black person who ever made it big in country music. In my hometown of Nashville, the "Country Music Capital of the World", he was, and still is, a BFD. Ten of his songs have gone straight to #1 on the country music charts, and he is the most successful African American in country music to date. There are only three Black people who have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and he is one of them.

  • Cowboy Troy

    I Play Chicken With The Rain

    Cowboy Troy's song landed at #48 on the country music charts, and that's as high as it ever got. He only had one hit, but it still counts.

  • Darius Rucker

    Wagon Wheel

    Most famously known for being "Hootie" in the alternative rock band, Hootie & The Blowfish, Darius Rucker made the crossover into country music. When his remake of the song "Wagon Wheel" went to the very top, Hootie, I mean, Darius, became the first African American to have a #1 hit on the country charts since 1983. Darius was invited to be a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame back in 2012.

  • Mickey Guyton

    Better Than You Left Me

    Mickey is the only female African American country singer who was able to make it to the mainstream. She has performed for the White House and was an opener with Brad Paisley for his 2015 "Crushin' It" tour this past summer.

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