[private] During my early years growing up on Roatan, there were no television programs to watch; radio was king. Whether at home or abroad, when asked about my musical preference, people usually react pretty much the same way to my answer. “Did you say country music?” they ask. I am frequently required to confirm it. Why do people consider this strange or unusual?
If you are a newcomer to our islands, just visit a local church and you will discover that the singing is distinctly country style. As a little boy I received my first radio as a Christmas gift, and after sunset I could pick up stations in the southern United States playing, you guessed it, country.
Some of my early favorite country music singers were Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves, Hank Snow, Buck Owens, Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline. Today I am an ex-little boy, and still passionate about my country music, as are most Bay Islanders of my generation.
We love country music because it has warmth and emotional depth and themes that we can often identify with. There is a well-worn exaggerated phrase among country music lovers that suggests there are only two subjects for a country music song. “My baby left me and I feel bad, or my baby loves me and I feel great.”
While the new generation of Bay Islanders is arguably more diverse in their music choices than their parents and grandparents, country music nonetheless remains popular among most. You may be surprised to find that although there are plenty of contemporary talented country stars, Mr. George Jones is extremely popular among today’s Bay Islands’ youth. This, despite the fact Mr. Jones (the possum) has had hits in six different decades.
In the past, country music executives were criticized for not trying harder to attract minorities, which probably had some merit. Today however, country music is much more diverse and inclusive. This is true in terms of its audience and performers. With emerging stars such as John Arthur Martinez (Mexican American), Rick Trevino originally Ricardo Treviño (Mexican American), Darius Rucker (African American), and Rissi Palmer also (African American) just to name a few.
Country music enjoys its greatest popularity wherever English is spoken, the US of course, but also Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, South Africa, and of course the Bay Islands. Even in non-English speaking countries such as Germany and Japan, country music has developed a following. In fact, Crystal Gayle toured mainland China and drew huge audiences. The late Conway Twitty, whose real name was Howard Lloyd Johnson, once had a hit “Making Believe” that went number one in twenty two countries. How is that for international appeal?
One question remains: why has country music remained popular here in the Bay Islands despite changing demographics? It is my credence that one individual in particular deserves most of the credit.
Mr. Steve Bush is a Bay Islands patron of country music and has been promoting it since he started in broadcasting over four decades ago. Steve started in radio in 1967 and has not missed a beat since. He has dedicated most of his life to introducing new generations of music lovers to country music, which he summarizes as “the sweetest sounds on radio.” You can catch his daily weekday show on local station “Stereo Mar” 106.5 FM at 7:00 am and again at 2:00 pm. Yours truly is a frequent guest host on Thursdays 2:00 pm, on a show called “Country Time Again.”
If I had the authority I would confer upon Steve the cultural enrichment award, for decades of dedicated service to the musical tradition of our islands, and unselfish and enthusiastic musical presentations. His extraordinary talents and civic commitment have helped to make our community and entire region a better place. [/private]