It’s not our fault people can’t read.
This is why People magazine and Reader’s Digest are two of the highest grossing magazines in the world, why reality TV rules the days of our lives, and why Kenny Chesney and Puff Daddy are superstars. Most of us are idiots.
Note the word “most.” We’re not all slobbering goobers, and for everyone who read every single word of “What Happened to Texas Music?” – it was clicked on about 100 times more than most music stories – and left a well-reasoned comment, we heart you. Even this blogger person Trigger. We heart him, too, even though he seems like he needs a hug. And a shot of Cuervo.
In “Small-Minded Article in Fort Worth Weekly Misses Bigger Picture in Texas Music,” he lamented our “incorrigible hit piece” written to “generate clicks.” Trigger wanted more objectivity and mentions of good bands. Clearly, this is his first time reading our publication. Otherwise, he would know that every week for the past 15 years, we have devoted our entire Music section to Fort Worth/Tarrant County-local talent. Fifteen years times 52 weeks a year? That’s a lot of press for bands and artists often ignored by every other media outlet out there, including Trigger’s site, Saving Country Music. Not that we aren’t critical at times, but we feel our goal is to point readers in the right direction, not beat dogs while they’re already down.
Trigger also lumps the Weekly in with every alt-weekly – talk about painting with a broad brush – saying that “as times get lean for alternative newsweeklies, their penchant to dispose of any and all journalistic class, fact-based reporting, or positive counterpoints … goes out the window.”
“Their penchant to dispose of … class … goes out the window.” Let that marinate a sec. (Good grammar? Destroyed.)
Anyway, for you folks keeping score at home, over the past several months alone, we here at the Fort Worth Weekly have written about a real estate developer building on the flood plain, alleged voter fraud in Tarrant County, a railroaded musician, a constable with a superiority complex, a lawyer in legal trouble, a doctor accused of malpractice, a student killed by police at UNT, strongarming by the Catholic Diocese, the scourge of private prisons, the possible death of DREAMers, and a murder-suicide at a local marquee hotel. The only libel accusation to come our way was based on reporting from 2013, two years before current editor Anthony Mariani took over. The case was summarily dropped.
Trigger went on to mock the intro to our article, in which Associate Editor Jeff Prince said Jerry Jeff Walker’s silly party tunes in the 1970s – a small part of his show – created a snowball that rolled downhill for decades until it got so big it smothered the scene.
Trigger also criticized our three panelists (Joey Green, Earl Musick, and Amos Staggs) and their opinions. Trigger uses a lot of rhetorical clichés – “times get lean,” “goes out the window,” “credit where credit is due,” “took to task” … and that’s just the first short paragraph! – and meandering sentences sprinkled with profanity and rage to spank us. Read his article unless you’ve eaten anything in the last hour.
Most of the 90-plus comments are just more of the same knee-jerk overreactions we’ve all come to expect from the internets. People like to get spirited and raise some hell. Jeff Prince does too. The comments sound like a conversation that might have been held in a dive bar at happy hour, back-and-forth bantering with some participants more sober and intelligent than others, but all passionate. The majority of the commenters sided with Trigger.
Ray Wylie Hubbard chimed in as well. In our story’s intro, Prince mentioned the Texas Music icon’s “Screw You, We’re From Texas” and how it became an anthem for the mobs of frat-bros who began to take over the scene and demand more and more dumbed down songs to beer-bong by. Hubbard referred to our panelists as “dipshits” and chided us for not mentioning all of the good artists. Ever the poet, he closed by saying the panelists “showed their ass without dropping their pants.” (That would have got a laugh at happy hour.)
Prince was theorizing that Walker’s party songs led to Robert Earl Keen and Pat Green, who helped pioneer the art of online self-promotion. But over time the party songs and self-promotion began to feel like a perpetual fraternity rush week with random acts of hazing thrown in for grins.
Prince admits in hindsight that he could have made his point clearer.
“If I’m saying something tongue in cheek, it’s up to me to make that clear,” he said.
In his intro, he credited Walker for writing “beautiful tearjerkers” and noted that the singer wasn’t interested in being a one-note troubadour for fans with one-track minds. Prince also complimented Keen and Green as well and said all three inspired future generations of Texas country artists.
“Each new wave dumbed down the music and lyrics a little more,” Prince wrote. “Then along from Oklahoma came Red Dirt, a similar type of rowdy country but with an even more Neanderthal approach.”
He compared the current scene to a mound of crap with flowers popping through on occasion. That was strong criticism, but good ol’ Jeff has been following Outlaw music for decades and is entitled to his opinions. Heck, he gets paid for them. Prince also has interviewed and written about many Outlaw artists, young and old, and ranks Walker among the best. Our writer’s tongue-in-cheek approach confused some readers. Subtleties are sometimes lost in this fast-paced drama-seeking world we inhabit.
“I did intend for the first sentence to startle the reader and draw him in,” Prince said. “But, in my mind, it was like saying, ‘Hank Aaron killed baseball’ and then describing how he hit so many homers that future generations of players had to take steroids to beat his record, which ruined the game’s integrity. ‘Thanks a lot, Aaron, you asshole.’ I didn’t figure anyone would take that literally.”
He disputed the “clickbait” claim: “The headline is ‘What Happened to Texas Music?’ and not ‘Rot in Hell, Jerry Jeff Walker!’ I figured people who read the full intro would see I wasn’t seriously blaming the genre’s dismal current condition on one of its earliest purveyors.”
We reckoned the Q&A portion might create a strong reaction since it discussed radio payola and artistic posers. But controversy wasn’t planned. The panel interview was an unscripted rap session. Green described how some artists hire independent promoters to curry favor with radio people and how online charts can manipulate rankings. He mentioned a specific chart, whose name we printed but have since removed since the discussion was about longstanding systemic problems with radio in general, not just this one chart.
The Austin American-Statesmen wrote about the flap on June 23 but refrained from taking sides. Instead, writer Jake Harris listed five Texas country acts to check out. (Another listicle? Are we sure the Statesman isn’t an alt-weekly now?) He names Fort Worth folks Maren Morris and Cody Jinks, both praised in our article.
Does our man Jeff Prince have any regrets?
“Yeah, the Q&A transcription was long and got trimmed for space,” he said. “I left out the part where I asked Green, Musick, and Staggs to name their favorite Texas Music artists. They named many – including Hubbard, Jinks, John Baumann, John Fullbright, Sean McConnell, James McMurtry, Grady Spencer, and Fort Worth guys Austin Allsup and Josh Weathers. Our panelists would have come off better had I listed those artists, so I apologize to them.”
What about Trigger?
“I went to Saving Country Music – unwisely, as it turned out – and tried to explain the intro, but I was accused of backpedaling and caving to public criticism,” he said. “So I don’t have an apology for them, but those who think I showed my ass without dropping my pants are welcome to kiss it.”
Editor’s note: Like our other columns – Chow, Baby and Static – HearSay has always been written anonymously unless otherwise noted for the sake of full disclosure. (Basically, readers deserve to know if the person writing HearSay on a given week also plays in a band and which band that is.) Comments, suggestions, and tips are always welcome to Editor Mariani at firstname.lastname@example.org.