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This Week in Texas Music History: The Barn Dance


by Stephen Becker 8 Jan 2010

This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman looks at an early Texas radio show that helped launch a national music craze.

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Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman looks at an early Texas radio show that helped launch a national music craze.

You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you.

And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.

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During the 1920s, radio was still in its infancy. Small stations sprang up around the country, each broadcasting a variety of programming to a very limited local audience. On Jan. 4, 1923, Ft Worth radio station WBAP debuted a new country music show called the “barn dance.” It featured a variety of performers, including an old-time fiddler named Captain M.J. Bonner who played square dance music. WBAP’s barn dance was so popular that a number of other radio stations began copying it. Soon, the barn dance variety show format could be heard across the country. One of the most successful imitators of WBAP’s barn dance was the Nashville radio station WSM, which launched its Grand Ole Opry in 1925.  Grand Ole Opry went on to become the best-known country music radio show in history.

Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll honor a pioneering female R&B artist who was a triple threat as a singer, songwriter and guitarist.

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