Country cookin'

January 26, 1994

"Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys," a country song warned, but it was misdirected. Mamas, it's your yuppies who want to be cowboys (and girls.)

With a surge of young adult listeners, country music is at a peak of popularity. In the Baltimore market, country station WPOC has perched at or near the top of the ratings for the past couple of years. In fact, a record 2,600 stations in the U.S. now broadcast country music -- 1,000 more than the number of stations playing pop music.

Need more proof? The Super Bowl will feature country artists Wynonna Judd, Tanya Tucker, Clint Black and Travis Tritt in the traditional halftime extravaganza. Female country artists grace the covers of most of the major women's magazines at the supermarket checkout these days. And stars such as Garth Brooks, Billy Ray Cyrus, Reba McEntire, Wynonna Judd and Washington's Mary-Chapin Carpenter are among the hottest names in entertainment. The trend extends beyond music: Country dance clubs continue to open in this market, as do clothiers specializing in upscale western wear.

Why is country so hot? Some of it, no doubt, is that folks who had grown old enough to appreciate their sense of hearing decided they enjoyed songs whose lyrics they could decipher. Also, even though most young, urban professionals can barely change the batteries in a flashlight, we suspect most folks like to fantasize that they are the type of self-sufficient, panel-truck-driving, good-time guys and gals glorified in country song.

Ironically, though, for all the talk of political correctness infecting the mass media, PC hasn't come to country. Dolly Parton leeringly sings about "that sexy little body" on her "Romeo," Travis Tritt undresses a woman with his eyes in his hit record, "T-R-O-U-B-L-E," and even mega-star Garth Brooks, normally the Mr. Sensitive of country music lyrists, sings of taxpayers hating to see their money wasted on welfare recipients.

Next to most rock and rap, however, country music is wholesome chow. And unlike Madonna and Michael Jackson, most country musicians look like the boy and girl next door. To think this used to be the music you picked up on your car radio on barren stretches of highways only because all the other signals had faded. Country has come a long way.

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