Joseph M. Thompson with Roy Ruth - Cold War Country (Online)

Joseph M. Thompson
In conversation with Roy Ruth

Cold War Country
How Nashville's Music Row and the Pentagon Created the Sound of American Patriotism

Online/Virtual • Free Event
Thurs., May 16, 2024 • 1:00pm PT

This event will be hosted live online. Please contact with questions regarding events.

Country music maintains a special, decades-long relationship to American military life, but these ties didn't just happen. This readable history reveals how country music's Nashville-based business leaders on Music Row created partnerships with the Pentagon to sell their audiences on military service while selling the music to servicemembers. Beginning in the 1950s, the military flooded armed forces airwaves with the music, hosted tour dates at bases around the world, and drew on artists from Johnny Cash to Lee Greenwood to support recruitment programs. Over the last half of the twentieth century, the close connections between the Defense Department and Music Row gave an economic boost to the white-dominated sounds of country while marginalizing Black artists and fueling divisions over the meaning of patriotism.

This story is filled with familiar stars like Roy Acuff, Elvis Presley, and George Strait, as well as lesser-known figures: industry executives who worked the halls of Congress, country artists who dissented from the stereotypically patriotic trappings of the genre, and more. Joseph M. Thompson argues convincingly that the relationship between Music Row and the Pentagon helped shape not only the evolution of popular music but also race relations, partisanship, and images of the United States abroad.


Joseph M. Thompson -- I am an assistant professor at Mississippi State University. My first book project, “Cold War Country: Music Row, the Pentagon, and the Sound of American Patriotism,” traces the economic and symbolic connections between popular music and the U.S. military during the Cold War. This project places particular focus on the country music industry’s role in military recruitment since World War II to show how the relationship between genre and militarism helped create the sonic and political color lines of the late twentieth century. My work has received funding from several institutions, including the Rose Library at Emory University, the Southern Historical Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill, Virginia Humanities, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, and the American Council of Learned Societies.



Roy Ruth -- I was born into a legendary farming family on the decline in Fresno, California. I had a good childhood, hated school, went to work on the ranch, left in my thirties during a divorce, spent years on junkyard motorcycles — started writing later in Austin, Texas cuz it was cheaper than farming. I’ve operated on the street most of the time. I currently live in an Airstream on the edge of downtown Ventura.









Joseph M. Thompson photo courtesy of the author. Roy Ruth photo courtesy of the author.


Cold War Country: How Nashville's Music Row and the Pentagon Created the Sound of American Patriotism (Studies in United States Culture) By Joseph M. Thompson Cover Image
for information about purchasing this book, please contact
ISBN: 9781469678368
Published: University of North Carolina Press - April 2nd, 2024