Let’s imagine for a second that you’ve survived the 1960s country scene. You’ve survived cheating partners, drug addiction, dangerous long-distance drives, segregation, and poor mental health. Congratulations. Your career should be smooth sailing from now on, right? Think again!
What goes up must come down, as the saying goes. Tastes change, and culture changes with them. By the end of the 1960s, popular country music was battling for prominence. As rock and roll swept the country, psychedelia, funk, and soul also captured young people’s imaginations, as Reader’s Digest tells it. As such, many of the era’s country stars closed out the decade with a fight to stay relative. Due to their displacement and dwindling record sales, many country labels and radio stations hedged their bets on their roster of commercially successful artists. According to The New York Times, this made it more difficult for new songwriters to break through the noise.
Furthermore, the appeal of the polished Nashville Sound was beginning to wane, and many artists felt once more trapped in tradition. In retaliation, many country singers, like Kris Kristofferson (pictured above) and Willie Nelson, adopted the rebellious aspects of rock, particularly Southern rock, and combined them with country to produce a more jagged, unique sound. As the book ‘‘Will the Circle Be Unbroken’‘ (edited by Paul Kingsbury and Alanna Nash) claims, this fusion would pave the way for ”outlaw country,” which would dominate the early 1970s country market, forcing many of the 1960s’ leading artists to adapt or get out of the way.