The Hoedown By Jay Maxwell

December 6, 2012 by Jay Maxwell

Communication is a wonderful thing. All animals communicate with each other in a language that only they can understand. Humans have thousands of different languages and we typically associate with those who speak the same language.146-301

Husbands and wives, for instance, typically speak the same language, yet at times they may not communicate with each other in a way where the message is clearly understood. For the most part, my wife and I usually understand each other extremely well. However, recently there was an exception to this general rule, when she told me that our church was having a “hoedown” and they wanted me to provide the music for it.

In past years, we had a fall festival just before Halloween, so I assumed that the hoedown was simply the theme for the fall festival and that it would take place the last weekend In October. Imagine my surprise when my wife asked me just a few days before the last Friday in September how the planning was going for the hoedown that was to happen that weekend. This weekend? Instead of another month to plan the music for the event, I had two days. Worse, I wouldn’t be able to personally be there so I had to arrange all the songs in advance. Luckily my wife volunteered to be in charge of the music, starting and stopping the playlist and controlling the volume during the event.

One of the hardest things about creating a playlist for an event where you are not personally going to be present is to determine what you think will motivate the crowd to have a great time. It had only been two months prior to this event when I had to do the same thing for my 35th high school reunion which I wrote about in a previous article. At least the music for this hoedown was focused on creating an atmosphere while families with young children enjoyed fun games like find the horse shoe in the haystack, bobbing for apples, and ring toss in the gym.

One option was to simply get a “best of” album of bluegrass music and have my wife track it during this two hour event. Realizing that wasn’t very creative, I decided to wrap my head around the idea of fun, uplifting, Americana music—a bit of bluegrass, some old-fashioned country, and maybe a country line dance or two.

FINDING INSPIRATION ON THE ROAD

There were two inspirations for this list. In creating anything from an article to a music list, I try to think before I create. For this list, I was thinking about what is uniquely American, and two thoughts kept occurring. One was the thrill that I’ve had for over twenty years of riding down the highway in my convertible with the top pulled down. The highway that I was imagining riding down was the oncelegendary Route 66. Though the highway is now the Historic Route 66 and no longer can take you from Chicago to Los Angeles on its 2,400 mile stretch through the American West, it has a distinct history and will forever be a part of American culture. Thus, the list was to have 66 songs on it—just enough for a two-hour event.
The next inspiration for the list was to think back a major vacation my wife and I took last year on our twentieth anniversary, to Nashville Tennessee. We left our children for a week with friends so that we could celebrate twenty years of an absolutely wonderful life together. Naturally we visited the Mother Church of Country Music, the Ryman Auditorium. To tour that historic building, the birthplace of The Grand Ole Opry, where almost every name in country music played at one time, was awesome. And the night we went to an Opry show at its new location was unforgettable. Regardless of what artist played, they all stood in the same spot—a six-foot circle of oak that had been cut from the original floor of the Ryman Auditorium and placed in the floor of the new building. Those small pieces of oak floor still inspire each artist to continue the tradition of making and playing American music.
The result of the church hoedown? The only issue that we had was that the pastor was standing directly in front of the speaker just as Charlie Daniels sang “straight to hell” in the “In America.” The pastor didn’t say anything, but my wife was a bit embarrassed.
For the most part, the play list served its purpose as background music rather well. The main feature of the night was the smell of real hay that had been brought in, and the fun of the games. It was only at the very end of the night that a couple of adults came up to my wife and asked her to play “Copperhead Road.” My wife, without thinking it through, had to ask them why they wanted to hear that song. Naturally, they replied, “we want you to play something we can dance to!”

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Jay Maxwell Jay Maxwell (29 Posts)

Mobile Beat’s resident musicologist since 1992 (issue #11), Jay Maxwell runs the multi-talent entertainment company, Jay Maxwell’s Music by Request, LLC, in Charleston, South Carolina. He is also a professor of Business at Charleston Southern University. His passion for detail and continuous research of clients’ requests can be found not only in this column, but also in his annually updated music guide, Play Something We Can Dance To.


Filed Under: Business, Issue #146, Issues from 2012