New Book Explores Early 20th Century Country Music in Springfield, Missouri

New Book Explores Early 20th Century Country Music in Springfield, Missouri
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The University of Arkansas Press has recently published Broadcasting the Ozarks: Si Siman and Country Music at the Crossroads, by Kitty Ledbetter and Scott Foster Siman. The book explores the vibrant country music scene that emerged in Springfield, Missouri, in the 1930s.

Central to this history is the Ozark Jubilee (1955–60), the first regularly broadcast live country music show on network television. Dubbed the “king of the televised barn dances,” the show introduced the Ozarks to viewers across America and put Springfield in the running with Nashville for dominance of the country music industry with the Jubilee’s producer, Si Siman, at the helm.

“If you have any illusions about Nashville being the sole citadel of country music, then you should read Broadcasting the Ozarks,” said Bill Malone, the author of Country Music USA. “Who would have thought of Springfield, Missouri? Well, if you were alive during the 1950s and 1960s, you would have been well aware of the bustling musical scene in that city, and of the centerpiece of that activity, the nationally televised Ozark Jubilee. And overseeing it all was the multifaceted promoter and broadcasting executive Si Siman, whose genius for finding and promoting musical talent, both in and outside Springfield, was unsurpassed in the decades before his death in 1994.”

Siman’s life story is almost as remarkable as the show he produced, booking the likes of Tommy Dorsey, Ella Fitzgerald and Glenn Miller during the mid-1930s while still a high school student and producing nationally syndicated country music radio shows in the decades that followed. 

Siman was a promotional genius with an ear for talent, a persuasive gift for gab and the energy and persistence to make things happen for many future country music hall of famers, including Chet Atkins, Porter Wagoner, the Browns and Brenda Lee. 

Following the Jubilee’s five-year run, Siman had a hand in some of the greatest hits of the 20th century as a music publisher, collaborating with such songwriters as rockabilly legend and fellow Springfieldian, Ronnie Self, who wrote Brenda Lee’s signature hit, “I’m Sorry,” and Wayne Carson, who wrote Willie Nelson’s “Always on My Mind.” Although Siman had numerous opportunities to find success in bigger cities, he chose to do it all from his hometown in the Ozarks.

Nelson endorsed the book, saying, “It’s good to see Si Siman and the Ozark Jubilee get their due in Broadcasting the Ozarks.”

THE AUTHORS

Ledbetter is professor emerita of English at Texas State University. She formerly served as editor of the Journal of Texas Music History. Before entering academia, she was a country music disc jockey at radio stations in Missouri, Texas, Louisiana and North Carolina.

Scott Foster Siman, son of Si Siman, is a country music entertainment executive. He is former chair and president of the Academy of Country Music and board member of the Country Music Foundation. He currently serves as president of EM.Co, which oversees the management and marketing of country music artist, actor and author Tim McGraw, among others.

EVENTS

Ledbetter and Siman will launch the book on Thursday, May 2, at The Library Center in Springfield, Missouri. The event is co-sponsored by the Library Center and the State Historical Society of Missouri, and will include a book presentation, signing and refreshments. On Friday, May 3, the authors will present “The Ozark Jubilee: Si Siman and the ABC Television Network” at the College of the Ozarks’ Ralph Foster Museum. For a full list of events, please visit kittyledbetter.com/events.

SERIES

Broadcasting the Ozarks is part of the Ozarks Studies series at the University of Arkansas Press, edited by Brooks Blevins. The Ozarks Studies series acknowledges the awakening of a scholarly Ozarks studies movement — one that crosses disciplinary boundaries as it approaches regional study from a variety of vantage points — and positions the University of Arkansas Press as the publisher at the forefront of the movement.

As the only university press headquartered within the Ozarks region and as a press with a solid background in the publication of books on the region — Rafferty’s The OzarksLand and Life, Morrow’s Shepherd of the Hills Country, Harper’s White Man’s Heaven, Sizemore’s Ozark Vernacular Houses and many more — the University of Arkansas Press is ideally suited for the first series that will level a scholarly eye on the Ozarks and Ozarkers. The Ozarks has a past. It’s beginning to have a history.

About the University of Arkansas: As Arkansas' flagship institution, the U of A provides an internationally competitive education in more than 200 academic programs. Founded in 1871, the U of A contributes more than $2.2 billion to Arkansas’ economy through the teaching of new knowledge and skills, entrepreneurship and job development, discovery through research and creative activity while also providing training for professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the U of A among the few U.S. colleges and universities with the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the U of A among the top public universities in the nation. See how the U of A works to build a better world at Arkansas Research and Economic Development News.

Contacts

Charlie Shields, director of marketing
University of Arkansas Press
479-575-7258, cmoss@uark.edu

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