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Friday, April 21 • 3:45pm - 5:15pm

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“So you had better do what you are told / You better listen to the radio.” In 1978, Elvis Costello delivered his sardonic takedown of what he perceived as the tyranny of commercial radio. “I want to bite the hand that feeds me,” Costello told us, mocking radio as “a sound salvation” for its role in “cleaning up the nation.” Firing back at Costello’s easy critique, this panel examines the political potentials of radio by considering the ways this musical medium has balanced state power, commercial enterprise, and the expressions of liberatory and hegemonic politics. Through historical and literary analysis, we offer a nuanced view of radio as a site of political formation that is neither inherently oppressive nor totally subversive but always shaped by the tension between these positions. Historians and cultural studies scholars like Lizabeth Cohen, George Lipsitz, and Susan J. Douglas have emphasized radio’s liberatory potentials. They celebrated the ways radio created a pop culture lingua franca for immigrant workers in the 1930s, as well as adolescents in the 1950s and 1960s, through which these listeners articulated progressive visions of their futures. We argue that the government’s role in the curation of radio content and its intersection with artistic expression requires more attention. Our panel takes up the interest in radio, politics, identity, and genre proposed in recent works by Kim J. Simpson and Eric Weisbard with a focus on the variety of political messages conveyed through the airwaves. By examining the relationship between state-sanctioned radio messaging, the pop music chosen to communicate these messages, and the racial, gender, ethnic, and regional identities of targeted listening publics, this panel seeks to interrogate “reasonable” radio, pop radio that reasons with its listeners. Using music from the VD Radio Project’s public service announcements, The Major Bowes Original Amateur Hour, and the United States Air Force’s Country Music Time radio program, we analyze the ways folk, gospel, country, and pop came to define the meanings of citizenship and national belonging at different historical moments over the twentieth century.

Sophie Abramowitz, “‘Run Him Right Out of the Country’: The 1949 V.D. Radio Project”
Karl Hagstrom Miller, “Amateur Dreams and Radio Schemes in Hard Times”
Joey Thompson, “‘Brought to You By Your United States Air Force’: How Country Radio and Military Recruitment Joined Forces in the 1960s”

avatar for Diane Pecknold

Diane Pecknold

Diane Pecknold is an Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Louisville, where she teaches girls’ studies, gender and popular music, and feminist history. She has published extensively on the racial and gender dynamics of country music and is currently working with Sarah Dougher on a book about tween... Read More →

avatar for Sophie Abramowitz

Sophie Abramowitz

Twitter | | Sophie Abramowitz is a doctoral candidate in the English department of the University of Virginia, specializing in American literature, music, and culture. Her dissertation focuses on popular and folk song collection, production, and reception in the Harlem Renaissance. An erstwhile oral historian and former archival assistant for the Alan Lomax Archive, she is currently working with Americana Music Productions on Mabel... Read More →

Karl Hagstrom Miller

Karl Hagstrom Miller teaches courses in popular music at the University of Virginia. He is the author of Segregating Sound: Inventing Folk and Pop Music in the Age of Jim Crow. He is currently writing a history of pop music in the United States from the perspective of amateur musicians. And he is a co-founder of the Prince Rogers Nelson Memorial Music Appreciation Society... Read More →
avatar for Joey Thompson

Joey Thompson

Twitter | | Joseph M. Thompson is a doctoral candidate in the University of Virginia’s Corcoran Department of History. His dissertation, “Sounding Southern: Music, Militarism, and the Making of the Sunbelt,” uses popular music to examine the cultural impact of the military-industrial complex on racial, political, and regional identities since the 1950s... Read More →

Friday April 21, 2017 3:45pm - 5:15pm
Demo Lab MoPOP, 325 5th Avenue N, Seattle, WA 98109