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A spoonful of musical history

Country Musings by Robert Loy, February 2008

When I was growing up listening to the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Eagles and the Allman Brothers, I had no idea that this thing we called "Southern rock" would morph into "country rock" and eventually become what we today know as country music.

But it's true. If you turn on your radio right now, what you'll hear on the country station has a lot more in common with the Flying Burrito Brothers and Marshall Tucker than it does with Luke the Drifter and the Singing Brakeman.

So, being an amateur musical historian (emphasis on the word "amateur"), I started wondering: who invented country rock? Now that Hank and Jimmie have been displaced, who are the real fathers (or mothers) of modern country music?

I always assumed it was Skynyrd and those aforementioned artists until I discovered Gram Parsons. Parsons died in 1973, but he was so far ahead of his time I'm not sure his time has arrived yet. Even though he called what he did "Cosmic American Music," I was perfectly willing to crown him the creator of modern country music. Even after Dan Fogelberg told me he thought Poco deserved the credit, and after I realized that The Byrds and The Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival might also be considered legitimate contenders for the honor, even after I saw that Wikipedia credited Buffalo Springfield and Gene Clark, I still stuck with Parsons.

Until I heard a song the other day on XM Channel 12, the Americana or Alt-Country station. Usually the stuff they play is pretty cutting edge, but the other day they played something by the band that I now realize probably deserves the credit for creating country rock - The Lovin' Spoonful.

That's right, The Lovin' Spoonful. I'd never really paid much attention to John Sebastian and the guys. (I was more into Herman's Hermits and Paul Revere and the Raiders back then.) All I knew about this quartet was the somewhat unsavory story behind the band's name (also the inspiration behind 10cc and Pearl Jam, more than that I cannot say in a family magazine) and that they did the best song ever about my favorite season "Summer in the City," along with a few other catchy folksy tunes like "Daydream" and "Do You Believe in Magic."

What I should have known but didn't is that in the mid '60s before anybody else, they married country with rock and came up with such great tunes as "Nashville Cats" and "Darling Companion." (the latter covered by Johnny Cash, among others) Take a listen to these and understand why I consider them the pioneers of modern country music.

The Spoonful was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. And I am going to crusade for their inclusion in the Country Music Hall of Fame as well.

Unless anyone can prove to me that somebody was doing country rock before that.

(I did say I was an amateur, remember.)