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Proud to Be an Okie brings to life the influential country music scene that flourished in and around Los Angeles from the Dust Bowl migration of the 1930s to the early 1970s. The first work to fully illuminate the political and cultural aspects of this intriguing story, the book takes us from Woody Guthrie's radical hillbilly show on Depression-era radio to Merle Haggard's "Okie from Muskogee" in the late 1960s. It explores how these migrant musicians and their audiences came to gain a sense of identity through music and mass media, to embrace the New Deal, and to celebrate African American and Mexican American musical influences before turning toward a more conservative outlook. What emerges is a clear picture of how important Southern California was to country music and how country music helped shape the politics and culture of Southern California and of the nation.
List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
PART I. BIG CITY WAYS
1. At the Crossroads of Whiteness: Antimigrant Activism, Eugenics, and Popular Culture
2. Refugees: Woody Guthrie, "Lost Angeles," and the Radicalization of Migrant Identity
3. Rhythm Kings and Riveter Queens: Race, Gender, and the Eclectic Populism of Wartime Western Swing
PART II. RHINESTONES AND RANCH HOMES
4. Ballads for the Crabgrass Frontier: Suburbanization, Whiteness, and the Unmaking of Okie Musical Ethnicity
5. Playing Second Fiddle No More? Country Music, Domesticity, and the Women’s Movement
6. Fightin’ Sides: “Okie from Muskogee,” Conservative Populism, and the Uses of Migrant Identity
Reprise: Dueling Populisms: The Okie Legacy in National and Regional Country Music
Peter La Chapelle is Assistant Professor of History at Nevada State College in Henderson, Nevada.
“La Chapelle’s many observations are convincing and thought provoking. . . . Highly recommended.”—Sing Out
“A kind of treasure trove in its own right for historians and music scholars.”—Melissa Ursula Dawn Goldsmith American Music
“An engaging, informative, and well-researched book.”—Bill C. Malone Western Historical Quarterly
“Thoughtful, carefully researched, and well written. . . . Excellent book.”—Journal Of American History
“On the road, with a beat.”—Kansas City Star
“Peter La Chapelle’s thoroughly researched, insightful story chronicles that trail bookended by Guthrie and Haggard. . . . Lively and fascinating.”—Harp Magazine
“La Chapelle (history, Nevada State College) has crafted a unique study of the politics of country music in Southern California from the 1930s onward. . . . Highly recommended.”—Choice
"Proud to be an Okie
is a fresh, well-researched, wonderfully insightful, and imaginative book. Throughout, La Chapelle's keen attention to shifting geographies and urban and suburban spaces is one of the work's real strengths. Another strength is the book's focus on dress, ethnicity, and the manufacturing of style. When all of these angles and insights are pulled together, La Chapelle delivers a fascinating rendering of Okie life and American culture."—Bryant Simon, author of Boardwalk of Dreams: Atlantic City and the Fate of Urban America
Honorable Mention for the Kenneth Jackson Award for Best Book in North American Urban History, Urban History Association