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MY FIRST MEETING WITH SOME OF THE GREATEST COUNTRY ARTISTS BACK IN 1969

MY FIRST MEETING WITH SOME OF THE GREATEST COUNTRY ARTISTS BACK IN 1969

I just was programming country music in ‘The Country & Western roundup’ ,for nearly three years, way back in 1969, when I got the chance to visit the Silk Cut Country Festival in Wembley-London and interview some of the greatest artists of that time. First thing in the morning I had breakfast with Hubert Long and Conway Twitty at the Royal Garden Hotel. It became a big experience, meeting such a great as Conway, especially when he just looked like ordinary people. No sign of the man who nearly outgrew Elvis back in 1958 with his million seller ‘It’s only make believe’ followed by some more good ol’ rocking songs. But in 1969 he had completely turned to country music and would have a very long list of 1 songs.

Then that night at the Wembley Arena, I got to interview some more grea ts like Bill Anderson, Jan Howard, Loretta Lynn, George Hamilton IV, John Wesley Ryles, They all were very friendly and hoped to visit Belgium in the future, - a wish that never came true..
Promoting country music, even on radio with quite some hard-dyed fans, didn’t result in any
Progress for the music, simply because what I played was seldom picked up by pop programs.
On the other hand, record firms were reluctant to releasing country music because it didn’”t get a great exposure.
Back in 1977 I had to change format to pop music, never letting country music get out of my view or ears.
In 1986 was asked again to do country music which resulted in ‘Countryside’that lasted till 1996 and then again I had to change to pop oriented programs, letting country music have some 30% of my playlists. During that time we organized several country shows in our own Radio 2 studios and always to adience that filled the location completely.
Kees de Haan from Holland was the man who brought so many canadian country artists to our studio, and we’re still grateful for that.
However times changed aagain and when the music division was moved to Brussels, I was again asked to do a country program (The Countryclub’ which lasted until 2007,)
I remember from that time that our boss at Radio 2 said to me he didn’t like country music, but when I mentioned ‘Release me’,’Green Green, Grass of Home”, “Funny Familiar forgotten feelings”, Detroit City etc...he wondered if that were country songs. Just to illustrate that most people don’t know what country music is about...

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