Charlie Cook On Air

Country Music and Sept. 11

This is not a weekend to write stuff about how to get a record played or how to move listeners from one quarter hour to the next. Obviously, if you have been reading my comments these last few weeks, I am not a professional writer. So there will be more compelling words written about 9/11/01 than I could ever muster.

In fact, I was asleep when the first plane hit. I lived in California and was oblivious to what was going on in Manhattan that morning. I have no connection beyond being a dumbfounded spectator from 3000 miles away.

I remember trying to contact our Westwood One colleagues in New York that morning. Like things were back to normal after the towers fell. Okay, it’s over; they’ll be back in the office after lunch. Duh. Like things were going to be back to normal in a few hours. Things are not back to normal 10 years later.

No, what I want to talk about today is how Country Music Radio and Country artists have responded in the last 10 years. When we think about 9/11 and Country Music the leading artists are Alan Jackson, Darryl Worley and Toby Keith.

Country artists have been supporting the troops and performing overseas since Gene Autry toured the Pacific in the 1940s. Toby has perhaps been the most active since 9/11—he walks the walk.

Toby’s 17 day Iraq tour in 2006 was one of his nine USO tours since the war began. That is almost one a year. That is total commitment to the troops. Think about this for a second. We are talking about taking time out of a hugely successful and busy schedule for one of the format’s biggest stars. It is nine times that Toby has gone into harm’s way to perform his music. He has done over 160 shows and is committed to continuing the tours.

In the old days, a Country artist’s performances introduced the music to soldiers that were not familiar with the genre. If you came out of Detroit or Chicago, Minneapolis or Milwaukee in the ‘60s to find your way to Southeast Asia, conceivably your first exposure to Country Music could have been Johnny Cash, Jerry Reed or Loretta Lynn playing for the troops.

If you have spent any time in the sandbox in the last 10 years, as an American Soldier, you likely already know about Toby and Trace Adkins and Craig Morgan. You know about them not only because of their commitment to travel the 6,700 miles from Nashville to Iraq but because Country Radio has kept these artists and their music in front of fans for all these years.

Country Music Radio has the reputation of being patriotic. Not only are many in the management of the business truly patriotic but we see the flags, tattoos and looks in the listener’s eyes telling us that this important to them. We hear the stories about how they saw Toby in Kirkuk.

So this weekend when we say thank you to the first responders that ran INTO the devastation and not away from it, like most of us would, let’s also say thank you to the hundreds of Country Music acts that have given up their time and energy to take the music across the world. Thank you to Country Radio who will most definitely step up this weekend and remind the listener about all of these acts and what they have done for the morale of the thousands of allied forces who have put their lives on hold so that we can enjoy Country Music shows in Boston, New York, DC and Pennsylvania.

Thank you Toby, Reba and Rockie Lynne and the many others who keep the spirit of Gene Autry, Hank Williams, and Conway Twitty alive and keep the spirits of the troops high.

Now, let’s pray they all come home safe.

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