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Cold War Music from the Golden Age of Homeland Security

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Advice to Joe: Roy Acuff [1951]

The particularly pointed and harsh lyrics of this track reflect with crystal clarity the extreme tensions that existed during the early Cold War. The musical diatribe acts as both a stern warning to Stalin and a recrimination for the Soviet Union's aggression after World War II, a war that had forged temporary camaraderie between the two nations. Indeed, when Acuff lets loose with a line like "When Moscow lies in ashes God have mercy on your soul" there was probably no doubt left in the Soviet dictator's mind that the goodwill forged during the war was over. Of course, this assumes that Stalin listened to Roy Acuff records.

'The King of Country Music' was born in Maynardville, Tennessee in 1903 and was so popular that he ran for the governor of his home state in 1948 (but wasn't so popular that he won). Acuff's father, a lawyer and preacher in the local Baptist church taught him how to play the fiddle. As a teenager Acuff worked for the railroad before setting his sights on trying to become a major league baseball player. A severe case of sunstroke while on a fishing trip in Florida in 1929 scuttled his chances for a league try-out at a training camp that he had been invited to.

While recovering, Acuff refined his fiddle skills and soon joined a medicine show run by a man named Doc Hauer. It was in the medicine show that Acuff learned the basics of show business. Acuff's talent enabled him to springboard from the medicine man show to WROL in Knoxville with a local band called The Tennessee Crackerjacks. A station announcer later nicknamed the group 'The Crazy Tennesseans' and they were soon playing $25 gigs at schools in east Tennessee.

In 1936 Acuff and fellow Crazy Tennessean, Red Jones met a young college student, Charley Swain, who had been working as a part-time radio singer. Both Acuff and Jones liked a gospel tune Swain had been singing entitled The Great Speckled Bird. Before Swain moved out of the Knoxville area, Acuff paid him 50 cents to write down the lyrics of the song. In 1938 Acuff and the band performed the song and others at The Grand Ole Opry. The appearance was so successful that it began a long relationship between the singer and the Opry, though Opry management succeeded in having the band's name changed to The Smoky Mountain Boys out of concern over the propriety of a name like The Crazy Tennesseans. During this phase of the band's career they blended western swing, traditional country and even pop numbers like My Coney Island Baby. In the '40s Acuff with and without his band appeared in several movies including 'Cowboy Canteen' (1944), 'Smoky Mountain Melody' (1948) and 'Home In San Antone' (1948) among others. Among Acuff's hits during the '40s were Beneath That Lonely Mound Of Clay, The Precious Jewel, Wreck On The Highway, Fireball Mail, Wait For The Light To Shine, Two Different Worlds, and The Wabash Cannonball. In 1942, the business savvy Acuff teamed with the Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood writer Fred Rose to form the first modern publishing company in Nashville, Acuff-Rose. The company quickly became the preeminent publisher for country music.

Acuff's foresight in forming Acuff-Rose helped him weather his career slow-down in the '50s and profit off the folk revival of the '60s. In 1962 Acuff became the first living inductee into The Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1971 Acuff collaborated with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's 'Will The Circle Be Unbroken' LP. It was a project the traditional country artist was initially skeptical about, but ultimately it brought him new fans. Acuff was a loyal member of the Opry making appearances until shortly before his death in 1992. Note: One memorable appearance had Acuff presenting a Yo-Yo to Cold Warrior President Richard Nixon at the height of the Watergate scandal in 1974. Nixon awkwardly tried to play with the gift and later signed it and returned it to Acuff. After the country legend's death, it was auctioned off for $16,000.

LYRICS/TRANSCRIPTION:
Advice to Joe: Roy Acuff [1951]

There's a Communist ambition now to rule or wreck us all
With atomic ammunition they would like to see us fall
Peaceful men of every nation would become as common slaves
We'll prevent that situation better we shall fill our graves

Refrain: You will see the lightnin' flashin' hear atomic thunders roll
When Moscow lies in ashes God have you mercy on your soul
Here's a question Mr. Stalin and it's you who must decide
When atomic bombs start falling do you have a place to hide?

Uncle Sam will still be living when the smoke of battle's o'er
He will make a noose to fit you God will close up Heaven's door
You'll come face to face with Satan see the loved ones who have died
So be sure that when bombs start falling that you have a place to hide

Refrain

Just remember Mr. Stalin how we both fought side by side
When Hitler and Mussolini had you whipped and how you cried
Uncle Sammy came to help you gave you strength, we gave you all
And now your great ambition is to see our nation fall

Refrain

Roy Acuff [1951]
Advice To Joe
(Acuff-Nunn)
Columbia 20 858-4

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