- Music of Arkansas
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Arkansas is a Southern state of the United States. Arkansas's musical heritage includes country music and various related styles like bluegrass and rockabilly. Traditional folk instruments include the fiddle and banjo as well as guitar, mandolin, dulcimer and autoharp. Among its most prominent modern musical manifestations is Riverfest, a music festival held along the Arkansas River in downtown Little Rock and North Little Rock. Riverfest has been held annually since 1978.
Located in the Ozark Mountains, the town of Mountain View bills itself as the "Folk Music Capital of the World". There is an Arkansas Entertainers Hall of Fame, which includes musicians like Ronnie Dunn, Melvin Endsley, Al Green and Jimmy Driftwood.
The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1966. When the orchestra was founded, a local bank held the organization responsible for the debts of previous attempts at organizing an orchestra. Ten individual members assumed responsibility for the debt, and so the orchestra was formed, led by experienced conductor Vasilios Priakos.
The state's local music scene includes bands like American Princes, Rwake, Deadbird, Dreamfast, The Inner Party, Queen Beast, and Fire to Reason. Tommy Riggs (Tom Payton) is an Arkansan singer, piano and keyboard player who had several bands while performing around the state in the 1960s and 1970s. He also was working as a radio DJ (as Tom Jones) at the time, on KCLA, during 1968 through 69 &As Tom Payton on KXLR in North Little Rock in 1964, and in 1966 at KAAY. During this period, he promoted himself as Tom Payton and the Kingpins, Tom Payton with The Playboys, and several other names. He recorded while he was Rock Robbins from KAAY on the Little Rock label "MY Records" in 1966. Two songs from the session were released on a 45 rpm record, "My Little Girl" and "Good Lovin'"... The other songs and all tape masters are in private hands. Promoting himself as Tommy Riggs, he performed around the country From St. Louis to Las Vegas before settling down in Nashville, Tennessee and frequently playing at the Stockyards Lounge.
Two Arkansas politicians have been noted for mixing music with their campaigns for the presidency. Bill Clinton, attorney general and 50th and 52nd governor of the state and later president, played the saxophone, famously performing "Heartbreak Hotel" on The Arsenio Hall Show during the 1992 presidential election. Mike Huckabee, 54th governor, plays the bass guitar, and his campaign in the 2008 presidential election has prominently featured cover song performances by his band Capitol Offense.
Arkansas has four official state songs:
- State Anthem: "Arkansas" by Mrs. Eva Ware Barnett
- State Historical Song: "The Arkansas Traveler" by Colonel Sanford C. Faulkner
- State Song: "Oh, Arkansas" by Terry Rose and Gary Klaff
- State Song: "Arkansas (You Run Deep In Me)" by Wayland Holyfield
The reason for two of the official state songs is a copyright dispute. "Arkansas" was published in 1916 by the Central Music Company, written by Eva Ware Barnett and Will M. Ramsey (though state law only credits Mrs. Barnett). It became the official song on January 12, 1917. Until either 1945 or 1949, "Arkansas" was the only official song in Arkansas. At that time, there was a copyright dispute and the state adopted "The Arkansas Traveler" as the official song, a situation that remained unchanged until 1963. In that year, the copyright dispute was resolved and "Arkansas" became official again, until 1987, when it was changed to the official state anthem. In that year, "Arkansas (You Run Deep In Me)" and "Oh, Arkansas" were officially designated state songs as well, and "The Arkansas Traveler" was designated the official state historical song.
Famous Musicians from Arkansas
- Brandon Pennington (Springdale)
- PM Today (Jacksonville)
- Take it Back! (Fayetteville)
- Glen Campbell (Delight)
- Johnny Cash (Dyess)
- Conway Twitty (Helena)
- Evanescence (Little Rock)
- The Gossip (Searcy)
- Pharoah Sanders (Little Rock)
- Lefty Frizzell (El Dorado)
- Tracy Lawrence (Foreman)
- Melvin Endsley (Drasco)
- Joe Nichols (Rogers)
- Collin Raye (DeQueen)
- Living Sacrifice (Little Rock)
- Charlie Rich (Benton)
- Rwake (North Little Rock)
- Ben Coulter (Montrose)
- Fire To Reason (Conway)
- Human (Fayetteville)
- Florence Price (Little Rock)
- William Grant Still (Little Rock)
- Deas Vail (Russellville)
- Garrett Moore (Conway)
- Kris Allen (Jacksonville and Conway)
- Louis Jordan (Brinkley)
- Willie Cobbs (Smale)
- Jimmy Driftwood (Mountain View)
- Al Green (Forrest City)
- Levon Helm (Turkey Scratch)
- Barbara Hendricks (Stephens)
- Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Cotton Plant)
- William Warfield (West Helena)
- Peetie Wheatstraw (Cotton Plant)
- Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (Helena)
The New Wave of Musicians
While Arkansas is known for its southern styles, of country music and related styles of music, there's a much younger style coming from the state. In the late 90's, and early 2000s, there were many rock music groups, as well as pop rock groups. One of the well-known bands from this time would be multi-platinum-selling alternative rock band Evanescence, which has origins in Little Rock.
Pop and Rock groups today, are still around, as well as a few young bands, that play southern styled music, or Christian pop/Christian rock like The Wedding. However, as the trends change, post-hardcore and metalcore bands have popped up left and right. Many bands after the mid 2000's, and currently, have taken refuge in styles like that of Norma Jean and Underoath, while others continue slightly poppy and/or less chaotic acts, similar to Blessthefall and Fear Before the March of Flames. Some have even taken on the Math rock genre, like Burn Baby Burn, and others have added unusual time signatures to their music, and styles like Jazz and Blues to their songwriting. Notably, three of the few screamo/emo groups in Arkansas, Strike the Choir (Monticello, AR) and I Was The Red Wine of 1955 (Warren, AR) and The Fashion Show (Russelville, AR). Most of the bands on the AR scene are made up of underage kids, from high-school to early college days, and is dependent upon these teens and young adults. Recent bands have started to play deathcore, such as Kingdom Under Siege, and Virtues. There is also still a hardcore/punk scene in Arkansas, such as Lasting Era, Jungle Juice, Dead Beat, Weeknight Rodeo, and Hollywood Homicide.
Though there are many groups that come from hardcore punk backgrounds, there are still bands that have an indie rock appeal, like the long gone Stained Glass Masquerades(Warren, AR), Parashos Parachutes (Monticello/Little Rock, AR), Maybe Next Weekend (Bryant, AR), and This is Jacob (Bryant, AR). Others are pop rock bands, like School Boy Humor(Little Rock, AR) and Alert All Arms (Little Rock, AR). Acoustic bands such as The Truth About Movie Stars (Kylan Savage of Bentonville Arkansas) and The Professor's Umbrella (Nikki Xaysanasy of Springdale Arkansas)originated from Arkansas.
Arkansas is also becoming known for the underground metal scene most prevalent in the Little Rock metropolitan area. Bands such as: Rwake, Deadbird, Shitfire, Seahag, Vore, Kryostate, Circle of the Black Thorn, The Witch's Tit and Placid Eclipse, all have their roots in Arkansas. Venues such as Downtown Music host metal shows nearly every weekend.
Saline county (a region just south of Pulaski county) is also becoming known as a metal hotspot with bands such as: Borderline Blasphemy, Woodswyck, Casting Hate, Divine Existence, Colossus Bound, Livid, and Bloodletting Device all of which are following the footsteps of Saline County metal legends, Wraith. White county (just north of Pulaski County) falls right in line with bands like Rusty Hook and Tangled in Ruin. Many of these bands take influence from the grunge movement of the early nineties as well as the southern sludge, and "true metal" genres. Venues such as Downtown Music and The Sound Stage are home to shows of this movement, and more genres and styles of musicians in the new scene.
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