21 July 2018

Alcohol and country music

A relationship examined at The Washington Post:
Although fans imbibe copiously at concerts of every genre, all of which boast songs about drinking, it’s possible that no slice of American life has embraced alcohol with the enthusiasm of country music. The two have gone hand-in-hand for decades, thanks in part to the so-called “tear in your beer” songs that helped make the format famous.

But today, country music and alcohol are inextricably linked as never before. Not only has the genre become known (and sometimes mocked) for its sheer amount of drinking-themed songs, but an increasing number of country acts have created their own brands of booze, including Chesney’s rum, Blake Shelton’s Smithworks vodka, Miranda Lambert’s Red 55 wine and Toby Keith’s Wild Shot mezcal.

In June, Shelton and Jason Aldean opened bars in downtown Nashville. They join recent establishments from Florida Georgia Line, Alan Jackson and Dierks Bentley, each of whom has a musical catalogue that pairs naturally with a few drinks...

Traditionally, the conjured image is not flattering, from the early-1900s “drunk hillbilly” stereotype to summer 2014, when country concerts saw a spate of intoxication-related hospital trips and arrests, and one death. But that connection is changing, as the genre is skewing younger and wealthier than ever...

Decades ago, when the country format was scorned as niche music of the working class, the prominence of alcohol fed into the cliche of drowning your sorrows at a honky-tonk. Now, it’s the reverse. Modern country singers promote alcohol largely as an escape: partying with friends, having wild nights on the town or — for singers like Chesney who lean into the tropical, Jimmy Buffett vibe — sitting on the beach with a drink in hand...

There’s no doubt the audience appreciates this. And as Nashville continues to see dollar signs (a CMA study this spring found “country music consumers are spending more on alcohol” these days), artists will keep singing about it.

The mutual benefit is a marked difference from decades ago, when there was a negative connotation of even listening to drinking songs in country bars. Now, those establishments embrace the image. And even a Sirius XM satellite radio station proudly plays “music of country-themed bars and honky-tonks across America.” It’s called Red, White & Booze. 
Lots more at the longread link.  Image cropped from one of the originals there.


  1. Was the author not around in 1980? Country music was all the rage and performers like Mickey Gilley were opening bars then, too. Though the theme was more about broken hearts than broken bottles.

  2. Not ALL genres.... I've been to a number of Christian concerts. No drinking, nor songs about drinking. But maybe that's not a genre? I don't imagine there is much drinking classical and/or opera. But I wouldn't know about that.

  3. There is an attempt by many country stars to sell the notion of it being cool to party hard/drink heavy. Back in the day, at least some of the drinking songs had the connotation of being associated with lost love or foolish actions. But today, it's considered hip.

    To me, it is shameful that the country music genre, which largely identifies with conservative politics/family values, has such a split personality--one the one hand singing the whole God and Country thing...and then on the other hand singing of adultery, cheating, drinking, etc. But whatever sells albums, right?

  4. Haha, I'm shocked. Modern country is so far removed from its roots - and commercialization & mass marketing has just made it a cash-grabbing parody of itself.

    There's a great independent country scene around the country, though, that has taken up the spirit of the original. In contrast to Blake Shelton having his own commercial brand of vodka, Hank Williams III sings a lot about weed. Kinda says it all.

    1. Yup. Real Country Music died probably around 1970. As to weed, the first really popular weed song was "Green Door." And most people didn't know it.



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