Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Erika Brady, Lynwood Montell, Bill Malone

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Although country music and its antecedents have received attention primarily as cultural phenomena of the South, the past twenty years have witnessed a growing scholarly interest in the interplay between commercial country music, vernacular components. and performers within a regional context. The commercial product which has now attained worldwide appeal undoubtedly sustains a significant relationship to the folkways and regional identity of the South; nonetheless, performers and vernacular styles from other areas of the country have contributed to the development of country music. Most important. many areas outside of the South maintain local traditions of country music entertainment. In this thesis, I argue for a broader conception of country music and its sources by examining the careers of Gene Hooper and Dick Curless within the context of country music in Maine. The evidence presented suggests that country music, in its local context, retains a significant link to regional image and identity, as well as maintaining a connection to traditional music style and function.

The acceptance of the "new social history" rests upon the belief that knowledge of everyday people and culture contributes to our understanding of historical processes and periods. The methods of folkloristics complement this perspective and also provide an approach with which to study performance in small group contexts. Much of my information derives from observation of country music culture in Maine and interviews with relevant persons. I have also utilized archival material and scholarship concerning the history of country music and vernacular music in the Northeast. Within the thesis. I examine theoretical considerations of region and group identity.

Because the scholarly and popular conceptions of country music identify it primarily as a cultural phenomenon of the American South, my examination begins with a summary of historical perspectives on country music and the development of the Southern image connected with it. This discussion is followed by a brief survey of theoretical attitudes toward country music and regional identity within the discipline of folklore. Turning toward country music in the Northeast, I outline the roots of vernacular music there and describe the evolution of a regional country music boom. A detailed description of the careers of Gene Hooper and Dick Curless follows, with particular emphasis on the differing professional contexts of their music. Finally, I return to academic models of country music and region, elaborating on distinctions between the commercial context of the Nashville music industry and the vernacular music of the Northeast.


Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Folklore | Music | Musicology | Music Performance | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology