Front Porch: Music Vol. 15

Where music, dancing, and whiskey flowed, the dual demands of Sunday and Monday mornings seemed far away. “Moonshine,” dancing in the home of James Thomas’s friend, Shelby “Poppa Jazz” Brown, in 1967, photographed by William R. Ferris, courtesy of the William R. Ferris Collection in the Southern Folklife Collection, Wilson Special Collections Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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Front Porch: Music Vol. 15

by Harry L. Watson
Southern Cultures, Vol. 15, No. 3: Music

"Whatever feeling you are looking to explore or express—misery, elation, spiritual ecstasy, or low-down lust—chances are that some southern musician has done it already."

Southern music is special. Everybody says so. The South is the home of blues, jazz, Cajun, zydeco, bluegrass, country, spirituals, gospel, and rock. A few other musical traditions that originated elsewhere—fife and drum music and shape-note singing come to mind—have flourished in the South after fading in their birthplaces. I’d go so far as to say that no major American popular music form originated outside the South until the recent rise of rap. And rap’s debt to other black music makes it a southern grandchild at least.