Preface - Country Music: The Masters

I heard it whispering through the pines, but I didn't know what it was.
I heard it in the church bells across town and it touched down deep in my heart.
I heard it in the scream of the wildcat whistle
as the midnight train tore through the darkness behind my house.
I felt it in the rhythm of a chain gang
as I watched them drive their spikes into the rail bed in the Pearl River swamp,
I breathed its fragrance after a summer rain kissed the tomato vines in the garden.
It was there in the black dirt underneath my feet.
I saw it written on the faces of so many people
on the back roads around Philadelphia, Mississippi, where I was raised.
It existed in the form of a ghostly presence and surrounded me as if it were a
shadow that knew more about me than I knew of it.
I sensed music in all these things,
but it wasn't clear to me what kind of song the world was singing.
I found out when I heard Lester Flatt, Earl Scruggs and the Foggy Mountain Boys,
and Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three jump out of the speakers of my record player.
They hit me like a bolt of lightning.
It was my first heart-to-heart encounter with the spirit of country music.
It captivated me and made me feel alive.
Even at an early age, I somehow knew that my time on earth
would be spent following this pillar of fire around the world.

-- Marty Stuart

As his marker in Meridian reads, "His is the music of America." Although the average American doesn't know his name, Jimmie Rodgers is an integral part of our atmosphere. He is synonymous with country music.

"Every time a train passes, so does he.
His voice inhabits the wind on the lonesome prairies.
He is the ace of spades in every deck of cards.
He is there singing to the man dragging a cotton sack through the internos of a Delta cotton field.
His words are indelible as the steel in a jailhouse door.
His songs are a soothing balm that rounders, thugs, thieves,
and other outlaws of society apply to their dangling conscience.
He is a cloud.
He is a river.
He is a knowing friend to a broken heart.
He is a timeless stream of white man's blues.
He is the soul of a thousand towns.
He is the main muleskinner.
He is a kindred spirit to every suffering,
parched soul gasping for breath in every God-forsaken hospital
and sanitarium throughout the land.
He is a reflection of a frail, tired earth.
He is an empire on the move.
He is the original troubadour.
He is part of you.
He is part of me."

-- Marty Stuart

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