Three Chords and the Truth

Growing up in Marcus in the western part of the great state of Iowa, we got to experience music that our eastern Iowa cousins never really got a hold of. They were oriented to sophisticated Chicago but we seemed to take to — and relate to — the wide open prairies of the west.

Perhaps that’s why I get such a kick out of country music — once called “cowboyâ€? or “hillbillyâ€? music. It didn’t beat those wonderful pop standards of the ’30s and ’40s, but there is an honesty about the titles that is priceless. Consider –-

(1) “ I Wouldn’t Take Her to a Dog Fight, ‘Cause I‘m Afraid She’d Winâ€?
(2) �She Got the Ring and I Got the Finger�
(3) “If the Phone Don’t Ring, You Know It’s Meâ€?
(4) “My Wife Ran Off with My Best Friend, and I Miss Himâ€?
(5) â€?I’ll Marry You Tomorrow, but Let’s Honeymoon Tonight!â€?

And then there’s my all time favorite —
“How Can I Miss You, When You Won’t Go Away?â€?

The country lyrics of yesterday and today talk of unrequited love, booze, downtimes, and loneliness. They are decidedly and mournfully masculine and, in this day and age, may be offensive to some of the female persuasion (sorry ‘bout that!). The accompanying music is simple, direct, and consists of three chords and the truth. Can’t get much better than that!

The habitués of the Hawkeye (when it was known as Flannigan’s) and the East Side Tavern and McQueen’s were comfortable, back in the ’40s, with those songs on the juke box or swirling in their minds as they nursed a beer .Or stared blankly into an empty glass. In the warm, dark, male sanctuary of my fictitious “He Ain’t Here Pool Hall,â€? guys were confronted with a handwritten sign behind the bar that pleaded “If You’re Drinkin’ to Forget, Please Pay in Advance!â€?

Most country songs today seem to belong in a similar safehouse where guys still go to wet their whistle. What are your favorite country music songs — then and now? Do females relate to them or are they offended? And outside of the radio stations and cable networks where do you hear them in Marcus and elsewhere today?