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The Hayloft Gang

The Story of the National Barn Dance

An astute collection of inquiries into the rich history and impact of the National Barn Dance

The National Barn Dance was the nation's most popular country music radio show during the 1930s and 1940s, essentially defining country and western entertainment until it was supplanted by the Grand Ole Opry and rock 'n' roll in the 1950s. Broadcast for more than three decades from Chicago on WLS's powerful 50,000-watt signal, the show reached listeners throughout the Midwest, the East Coast, and large regions of the South, delivering popular entertainment to rural and urban areas and celebrating the folk traditions that were fading in an increasingly urbanized America.

Drawing on the colorful commentary of performers and former listeners, contributors to this volume analyze the National Barn Dance and its audience, trace the history of barn dance radio, explore the paradox of country music in a major urban center, investigate notions of authenticity in the presentation of country music and entertainment, and delve into other provocative issues raised by the barn dance phenomenon.

Contributors are Chad Berry, Michael T. Bertrand, Lisa Krissoff Boehm, Don Cusic, Wayne W. Daniel, Loyal Jones, Kristine M. McCusker, Stephen Parry, Susan Smulyan, Paul L. Tyler, and Michael Ann Williams.


“An interesting but complicated book. . . . I highly recommend it.”--Appalachian Heritage

“Well written and informative.”--Dirty Linen

"A valuable resource for those who want to understand how country music, rural imagery, and nostalgia permeated twentieth-century American life."--Joli Jensen, author of The Nashville Sound: Authenticity, Commercialization, and Country Music

"The National Barn Dance's importance has long been underappreciated in the scholarship on country music, and The Hayloft Gang makes a vital contribution to be welcomed by academics and aficionados alike. A particularly strong group of authoritative voices on the history of country music, early radio broadcasting, and American culture."--Diane Pecknold, author of The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry


Chad Berry is Academic Vice President and Dean of the Faculty, Goode Professor of Appalachian Studies, and a professor of history at Berea College. He is the author of Southern Migrants, Northern Exiles.

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