(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
I was throwing this idea around the other day with a couple of comrades from the ultra-secret Country Music Identity Committee, and we came to the conclusion that it's time to implement a licensing system for budding country singers.
We agreed that complete ignorance of country music's heritage and tradition is not a proper way for the music to be presented around the nation and around the world by the current crop of wannabe country stars.
You know, it's getting lonely down on Music Row anymore, what with all the "for rent" and "for sale" signs sprouting up as the few successful companies that are still around exit the Row for downtown Nashville or exurban offices. Some afternoons, you can see the tumbleweeds tumbling down Music Row where all the BMWs with their Cali plates used to frolic.
So -- what's left for the rest of us?
We can still -- without being labeled fossils or old farts -- celebrate the glory years of country music in Nashville while still acknowledging its somewhat seamy underside.
Accordingly, we propose a simple set of tests to be satisfactorily completed and passed before young applicants are awarded their handsome little CWCS (Certified Wannabe Country Star) badges. The badge doesn't carry the weight and import of a union card, granted, but it tells booking agents and venue managers and other artists and pickers that the wearer of that badge is serious about country music. Serious enough to learn about country music's history and traditions and all the artists who have come before.
And, as the wannabes go up the ladder, they gain more advanced levels of badges that denote levels of learning and levels of proficiency in songwriting, singing, performing and deportment, in general.
Not many people will graduate to, say, the George Strait or Alan Jackson level, but that should be a constant goal.
Here are a few elementary level (i.e., first grade) questions the committee is considering:
1. Who is the acknowledged Father of Country Music?
2. Why is there no acknowledged Mother of Country Music?
3. Who is the acknowledged King of Country Music?
4. Who is the acknowledged Queen of Country Music?
5. Who is the First Family of Country Music?
6. Who is the King of Bluegrass?
7. Who is the Father of Bluegrass?
8. What are the Pistol Annies?
9. What is Patsy Cline's real name?
10. In what car did Hank Williams die?
11. What is the Mother Church of Country Music?
12. What did Little Jimmy Dickens advise to do with an "old cold tater"?
13. On what TV show did Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert meet?
14. What is Little Jimmy Dickens' advice about green bananas?
15. What does the name "Rascal Flatts" signify?
16. What is Gary LeVox's real name?
17. Whatever happened to the Dixie Chicks?
18. What did Roger Miller say that you cannot do in a buffalo herd?
19. What was Faith Hill's first hit song?
20. Who was Stringbean?
21. What happened to him?
22. What country star claimed to be country "when country wasn't cool"?
23. Did Johnny Cash ever serve any time in prison, apart from recording live albums in Folsom Prison and San Quentin Prison?
24. In which prison was Merle Haggard an inmate when he saw Johnny Cash perform?
25. What was Tammy Wynette's first occupation?
26. Who was Tammy Wynette? What was her real name?
27. Why was George Jones nicknamed "No-Show Jones"?
28. Who was George Jones famously married to?
29. On what vehicle was George Jones once riding when he was pulled over by police?
30. Complete this song title: "Stand by Your ... "
31. What is the story behind Dolly Parton's song "Coat of Many Colors"?
32. Who is Dolly Parton married to?
33. What is Taylor Swift's tie to Tim McGraw?
34. To which institution did Taylor Swift donate $4 million?
35. Who is Tim McGraw married to?
36. What do Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney have to do with an infamous horse theft in New York State?
37. What was Kenny Chesney's first record label?
38. Why are the Ernest Tubb Record Shops named after Ernest Tubb?
39. Who sang "Strawberry Wine"?
40. Why is Nashville's Ryman Auditorium called the Ryman?
41. Why is Nashville called Nashville?
42. Why should Atlanta or Chicago have been the real Nashville?
43. Who was Fred Rose?
44. Who was Luke the Drifter?
45. Who was Simon Crum?
46. Who was Chris Gaines?
47. What rock 'n' roll pioneer was once the opening act for Hank Snow?
48. Who is Connie Britton?
49. Who portrayed Loretta Lynn in the movie Coal Miner's Daughter?
50. True or false: Dierks Bentley and Rosanne Cash both graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville.
Time's up! Please submit your answers. Results will be released next week.