NPR : News

Drinking, Dancing, Dolly Parton: Photos Of The '70s Country Music Scene

It may come as a surprise that the photographer who shot these country stars — and their fans — is from Massachusetts. But, Henry Horenstein explains, country music "was a rural music, not necessarily a Southern music."

As a young photographer, Horenstein spent a good part of the 1970s and early '80s at bluegrass festivals, Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, New England honky-tonks and elsewhere, documenting what he believed was an "era that was going to go away."

In some sense, it did go away, as all eras do — or, rather, it evolved. Today's mainstream country scene of catchy, highly produced hits by polished performers is a far cry from the scene of 40 years ago, when rock 'n' roll was reshaping the sound that had been passed down four decades prior still, before widespread music recordings.

"Country music is a lot of different things," Horenstein says. "It's not one thing."

The point is: He has extensive documentation of a particular time in country music history. He bore witness to the rising star of Dolly Parton, the heyday of Del McCoury and the twilight of standbys like Lester Flatt. Above all, though, he says, he was "more interested in the last call and the lovers and the pictures like that."

That is, the bread and butter of country music: the people. The fans that made country music possible; the folks who lived lives that the lyrics describe.

Horenstein's photos can be found in his new book, Honky Tonk: Portraits of Country Music, and will be on display in Boston, New York City and Austin, Texas, this fall.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


Manic And Depressed, 'I Didn't Like Who I Was,' Says Comic Chris Gethard

Gethard tells stories of hitting rock bottom in his new one-man off-Broadway show, which is billed as a comedy about "suicide, depression, alcoholism and all the other funniest parts of life."

A History Of Election Cake And Why Bakers Want To #MakeAmericaCakeAgain

Bakers Susannah Gebhart and Maia Surdam are reviving election cake: a boozy, dense fruitcake that was a way for women to participate in the democratic process before they had the right to vote.

Voters With Disabilities Fight For More Accessible Polling Places

More than 35 million eligible voters in the U.S. have a disability. And in the last presidential election, almost a third of disabled voters reported having trouble casting their ballots.

Presidential Campaigns Blast AT&T-Time Warner Merger

Donald Trump said it put "too much concentration of power in the hands of too few" and Tim Kaine called for "less concentration, especially in the media."

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.