For the past six years, I’ve been working on a book on Black Country Music performers and fans.
I stumbled on the topic chatting with my father about his time as a session musician in Nashville in the 1970’s. (Dad — Philip Royster — taught in English and Ethnic Studies at Kansas State from 1981-1987.) He told me about the appetite in progressive country music circles to collaborate with African American and Latinx musicians. As he was telling me the stories that I only half-remembered as a five year old falling asleep at rehearsals or late night performances at Exit/In, I thought about how being a Black country music fan can feel lonely and sometimes dangerous. It sometimes feels unsafe to listen to such personal, vulnerable music in public spaces not of our own creation.
This lack of safety is shaped by the ways country music has been weaponized to uphold whiteness and white culture. Black country music fans and performers must often tread lightly as they cross these racial boundaries.
In my book, Black Country Music: Listening for Revolutions (University of Texas Press, expected October 2022), I face this discomfort head-on.
— Francesca Royster (BA ’88)