The Carter Family on Border Radio
Author(s): Ed Kahn
Source: American Music , Summer, 1996, Vol. 14, No. 2 (Summer, 1996), pp. 205-217
Published by: University of Illinois Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.com/stable/3052353
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All use subject to httpThe Carter Family is one of the most famous recording groups to
emerge from the American country music scene of the 1920s. Their
recording career lasted fourteen years (1927-41), included eighteen
trips into the recording studio, and left a legacy of over 250 record-
ings. They introduced a number of songs to the American repertory
that have since become classics. Among their best-known songs are
“Wabash Cannonball,” “Wildwood Flower,” and “Worried Man
Blues.” Their more obscure gospel tune “When the World’s on Fire”
provided much of the melody for Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your
The Carter Family’s fame is based largely on their recording career,
but their radio career was equally important in spreading their fame
during their working years. Largely because little of their radio work survives, it is overlooked and difficult to evaluate. In this article I
show how their to their performances on border stations, themselves a fascinating and poorly understood facet of com-
mercial broadcasting. I show the way that the Carters unknowingly
helped to define a broadcasting format and the role that the border
stations played in working out a power struggle between the United
States and Mexico over the allocation of broadcast frequ
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