Country music has long been associated as a storytelling journey, but the evolution of the country sound has been made most obvious not by the music but by the image. There was a time when arenas would sparkle from all the rhinestones and when stetsons were a must-have. Then Johnny Cash brought his man in black phase into the mix, and with it a rebellion that few had seen before amongst those of that genre. Pretty soon it was all about carving out your own niche, fixing your own trademark look; whether it was Kenny Rogers and his white three-piece suits, or Tanya Tucker with her 'badgirl' catsuits and tight pants. Pictures from the mutation of country music throughout the last eight decades are perhaps some of the most telling because something about the looks of these country stars had as much of an impact as the music itself.
Jimmy Martin isn't dead yet, but his tombstone - a large one - is already in place in eastern Tennessee. It's inscribed with a lengthy and somewhat boastful list of accomplishments in the world of bluegrass music, where he's nearly as famous as the Stanley Brothers or Bill Monroe, who gave Martin his first break in the late 1940s. But the appeal of King of Bluegrass, George Goehl's documentary on Martin, ought to extend well beyond the realm of hardcore bluegrass fans. Any man who's so eager to get the last word in about his life that he's built a tombstone with his life story on it is going to have his quirks, and Martin has more than a few.
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