The Black Country Artists Who Paved The Way For 'Old Town Road' : 1A "We think of a guy like Charley Pride and one of the reasons he got so popular was because you couldn't see him," musician Dom Flemons told us. He said people would come to Pride's shows and then be upset when they saw he was black.

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The Black Country Artists Who Paved The Way For 'Old Town Road'

The Black Country Artists Who Paved The Way For 'Old Town Road'

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Lil Nas X poses backstage during the 2019 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Field in Indio, California. MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES FOR STAGECOACH hide caption

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MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES FOR STAGECOACH

Lil Nas X poses backstage during the 2019 Stagecoach Festival at Empire Polo Field in Indio, California.

MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES FOR STAGECOACH

Lil Nas X is comfortably reigning the Billboard Hot 100 after 19 chart-topping weeks.

His song "Old Town Road" featuring Billy Ray Cyrus is a hit on the main chart, but not on Billboard's Hot Country.

Billboard removed "Old Town Road" from that chart in March, claiming it did not have enough of the hallmarks of a country song to qualify there.

That controversy rekindled the debate about who and what belongs in country music — a genre often viewed as white music.

But Black musicians have been key to mainstream country music for at least a century — from DeFord Bailey to Ray Charles to Solomon Burke to Charley Pride.

Why are there still such rigid ideas about what fits into the genre? Do we need to reconsider the genre of popular country?

We spoke with Dom Flemons, a music scholar, historian and multi-instrumentalist. He's also a founding member of the Grammy-winning music group Carolina Chocolate Drops. His latest album is "Black Cowboys."

Charles Hughes also joined us. He's the director of the Lynne and Henry Turley Memphis Center at Rhodes College and the author of Country Soul: Making Music and Making Race in the American South.

We closed the hour with Rhiannon Giddens — a folksinger and songwriter, a founding member of Carolina Chocolate Drops and a MacArthur Fellow.