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PALM LATITUDES

THE SCENE : The Teutonic Two-Step Blues

March 06, 1994|Judy Raphael

Country line dancing is hot, hot, hot. From Santa Monica to San Dimas, cowfolk, real and faux, are pulling on their new blue jeans and lining up to Tush Push as precisely as a country chorus line. But many of the folks who make the music that gets the feet stomping are not thrilled. Country musicians call it everything from "Ken and Barbie country" (Jim Goodall of the Jon Wayne band) to "solo disco" (singer Dale Watson).

"It's as if a band onstage is just a jukebox for the dancers. It kills any semblance of music as an art form and strips away any personal statement," says Chris Hillman, who fronts the Desert Rose Band. "It's also very Teutonic and militaristic. It's lining up like a bunch of Nazi storm troopers, everybody lifting up their legs at the same time--like marching to a Nuremberg rally."

Some musicians may hate the trend, but country's new popularity has produced hordes of proselytes who want their music line-dance ready. Legend among musicians is last year's culture clash at In Cahoots, a Glendale club that was briefly home to Ronnie Mack's Barn Dance. Mack's event was a weekly showcase of traditional country and rockabilly; In Cahoots is a line-dancing bastion. One night, Mack recounts, a man in a white Garth Brooks hat charged the stage and yelled at the Elvis-style cowfolk onstage: "We don't want your f - - - - - - music! Play 'Boot, Scoot and Boogie!' " Audiences at In Cahoots, Mack has said, "didn't want to hear anything that has to do with traditional roots, only what's on the charts these days. Country music did not start with Garth Brooks." The Barn Dance is now back at its old home, the Palomino.

Then there's Watson, a Merle Haggard-style cowboy from Pasadena, Tex., who's been known to stop the music if folks request the Walkin' Wazee, Slappin' Leather or other line dances. "I didn't spend 20 years at this to be a choreographer," Watson says.

But there's no shortage of people who are churning out dance tunes. Dwight Yoakam, who, according to friends, once played "Tulsa Time" with a bluegrass beat to foil line dancers, is apparently singing a different tune these days, with a dance mix of his hit "Fast as You." Yoakam declined to comment.

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