Cordle, Jackson and Salley to sing at GOP convention

Nashville songwriters Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson and Jerry Salley, who have occasionally performed together as The Trio, have been announced as a featured act at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL next week. They will sing at a lunch for the Mississippi delegation on August 28.

Though not exclusively bluegrass writers, all three have a solid pedigree. Before becoming a hitmaker, Jackson played banjo with Jim & Jesse as a teen, and later with Glen Campbell for more than a decade. Cord has long led Lonesome Standard Time, a bluegrass band he formed with Glen Duncan in 1990, and Salley has a pair of buegrass recordings to his credit in addition to having many of his songs cut by bluegrass artists.

Jackson is a Mississipi native, and the invitation to appear came through Congressman Gregg Harper, who represents the state’s 3rd District.

Salley was particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity.

“Carl called us back in June to see if it was something we’d be interested in doing. I’m just excited and honored to get a chance to perform as part of the official activities surrounding the convention! It’s a chance for us to get to witness a little bit of political history.”

No word yet about bluegrass at the Democratic convention in September.

Interestingly, in my home state of Virginia, it has become received wisdom among Democrats that you can’t win the western part of the state without bluegrass. If you will indulge a brief diversion…

It all started when Mark Warner ran for Governor in 2001. Like many southern states, Democrats historically have done well in the larger cities, while Republicans did better in more rural areas. Warner’s campaign followed a suggestion from political consultant Dave ‘Mudcat’ Saunders to tour western Virginia with a bluegrass band. The campaign agreed, chose The Bluegrass Brothers to travel with the candidate, and created new lyrics to the Dillards hit, Dooley, as a campaign song.

Mark Warner is a good ol’ boy
From up in NoVa-ville
He understands our people
The folks up in the hills.

After Warner’s win, Saunders became legendary in Virginia politics, and other office seekers both here and on the national stage took notice. In the 2004 presidential primaries, North Carolina Senator John Edwards hired Lonesome River Band to try and replicate Warner’s success. For a month or so, the band opened Edwards’ rallies with some hard-hitting SW Virginia-style bluegrass, with Sammy Shelor often being called upon to introduce the candidate. It seemed to work well in the south, but the campaign discontinued the practice when it fell flat in northeastern urban centers.

Saunders went on to attempt a bluegrass project in support of John Edwards that morphed eventually into Del McCoury’s Moneyland CD.

People in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia may recall the campaign ad that ran in 2008 with Ralph Stanley endorsing Barak Obama. There is even a passage in Ralph’s autobiography where he describes receiving a call from Obama requesting his help.

And when the President appeared at a rally in Roanoke just recently (yes… the ‘You didn’t build that’ speech), he had a bluegrass band, The Church Sisters, perform before he addressed the crowd.

Yes Virginia… there is bluegrass. If this could catch on nationwide with both parties, it would be full employment for bluegrass bands!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.

  • Cliff Abbott

    If the respective parties would put Bluegrassers on the ballot, our country might be in a lot better shape! Cordle for prez!

  • Shawn Cramer

    I understand the parties wanting to appeal to the regional constituency, but for me bluegrass (actually music in general) is how I relax. I would just as soon leave politics out of it completely.
    As much as I enjoy politics, as a nation we have become so polarized that it is not good for the country. There doesn’t seem to be any compromise left in Washington and with a two party system, without compromise nothing at all happens.
    Off my soap box now.

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      Totally agree, Shawn. Does this mean that Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson, and Jerry Salley all support the Republican’s pro-corporation, anti-working class, woman-hating agenda?

      • Darren Sullivan-Koch

        Sorry — that should be “Republicans'” (possessive plural), not “Republican’s” (singular possessive).

  • dennis

    Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle and Jerry Salley are not only men of monumental talent. They have worked unselfishly their entire life to promote the bluegrass music we all love. They are also men of integrity and conviction who believe, as we all should, in the freedoms and responsibilities given to Americans. The reason our country is so divided is not because of men like Larry, Carl and Jerry. These are men to sit down and reason with and resolve issues to everyone’s benefit. If politicians had an ounce of the moral fiber these men have we would not be divided like we are. On the other hand if you want to know why we are our country is so divided, just look at the slanderous, smirk and offensive and totally false comments left above by Darren Sullivan-Koch.

    Dennis Duff

    • Darren Sullivan-Koch

      Sorry! No offense intended to the fine musicians involved — I was being ironic/sarcastic/extreme with the intent of reinforcing Shawn’s astute point about the intense polarization of American politics. Dennis, you are totally right: Compromise and reason is the answer, and I only was trying to point out the absurdity of our present environment…sorry I did so in a most clumsy fashion!

      • dennis

        I really appreciate the clarification and apology Darren. I also agree the situation is absurd. I also know for a fact they received some hateful emails from so called professional “journalist” after this press release.
        This country has some BIG problems and until “we the people” rise above the baseless accusations and hateful rhetoric coming out of Washington and work together nothing will be resolved. I think we are better than this but if things don’t change soon the next generation of Americans will pay an awful price for our foolishness.

        • Darren Sullivan-Koch

          Thanks, Dennis…I will certainly admit when I’m wrong and do my best to make for it! If only folks in Washington would do the same…

          • Shawn Cramer

            Nice exchange gentlemen! Pretty surprising how easy it is to speak cordially and still have differing opinions isn’t it? If only our elected officials would remember how it’s supposed to be done.

  • Shawn Cramer

    I have wondered for many years now what the outcome of a presidential election would be if along with the 2-3 candidates listed on the ballot (I am including the 3 for the Libertarian party) they had a none of the above selection? Personally, I think the parties would have to go back to the drawing board and actually quit playing the same politcal hack game they have played for decades and find candidates truly worthy of our votes. If the majority of United States voters chose none of the above it would definitely send a message.

  • Shawn Cramer

    The first presidential election I was eligible to vote in was 1984 and I have never been truly thrilled with the choices on the ballot. It is a crying shame that in 8 presidential elections not one time has there been a candidate that really excited me.

    • There was a regional bluegrass band in the 1980s called None Of The Above. That was coolest band name ever, especially since they knew that they would always be listed at the bottom of any flyer or poster for a festival/concert.