Broken Hearts and Bar Stools
To some, the stereotypical Country song invokes images of dark, smoke-filled honky tonks and bar stools filled with jilted lovers drowning their troubles in a glass.
I have found very few ‘cryin’ in my beer’ type songs in Old Time or early Bluegrass music. In fact, the theme doesn’t appear regularly until after those thirteen darkest years of U.S. history known as Prohibition. Through the misguided meddling of groups such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the 18th Amendment drove the social lubricant of alcohol from the picnics and family gatherings into back rooms and speakeasies. Although the 21st Amendment overturned the silliness of prohibition, alcohol is now tightly controlled in many states and still outlawed in some localities.
In my home state of Virginia there are no true bars. An establishment that serves alcohol must also serve food. In some states no one under the age of 21 is permitted to enter any establishment that serves alcohol. I believe that these ridiculous laws cause the very domestic trouble they were intended to cure.
When I visit my in-laws in Wisconsin the entire extended family walks to the local tap, where most of the village families meet to socialize. Not all come to drink. The bar is a gathering place where community bonds are strengthened. Youngsters learn important social skills under the watchful eyes of the entire village.
By demonizing alcohol a community is divided. Those that wish to partake of a drink are segregated from the rest of the community and even their own family. And so, the bar has too often become a place where indescresions are celebrated or mourned, away from the prying eyes of the community.
These anti-social laws have created a wealth of inspiration for Country songwriters that continues today.
“Women and drink. Too much of either can drive you to the other.” – Michael Still