Beatlemania: “A term that originated during the 1960s to describe the intense fan frenzy directed toward British rock band The Beatles during the early years of their success.”
BR5-49mania certainly doesn’t have the ring to it that Beatlemania does, but that’s the only way to describe what took place in my childhood bedroom on a summer day in 1997.
I’d waited for what seemed like months for BMG Music to send my package in the mail. My brother had joined the music club earlier that summer and nothing would do till I received my 12 CDs for the price of one.
When the day finally came, I ran from the mailbox to the kitchen and grabbed the first knife I came across. I carefully but hurriedly ripped the box open as if what I was holding in my hands was the biggest box under the tree on Christmas morning. I rifled through the CDs looking for the one with the simplistic cover — a white background with a rotary-dial telephone baring the glorious name, BR5-49.
I ran up the stairs as fast as my short legs would take me, with the CD clutched tightly in one hand against my chest, my other arm covering it for added protection. I carefully laid the CD on my bed and ran into my brother’s room to swipe his CD player.
Once inside my bedroom I grabbed a hair clip and dug into the cellophane covering the album and ripped it open.
I thought about Bro. Ronnie and his Sunday morning sermons when I closed the lid on the CD player. I thought about his words on secular music and dancing, but the steel guitar and the lyrics, “Sometimes you gotta do somethin’ even if it’s wrong” got under my skin.
I twirled, danced, shook, jumped on my bed, twisted and shouted “hey-ho-A-lina!” at the very top of my lungs.
This was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. BR5-49, I decided, would always be my favorite band.
Within a few weeks of going back to school that fall, my notebooks were covered in hearts with BR5-49 written in block letters in the middle of them.
When the first show and tell rolled around, dressed in my brother’s hand-me-down flannel shirt tucked into rolled up jeans, I proudly shoved my beloved CD into my classmates’ faces and explained how this was the greatest album ever by the greatest band ever.
In music class on Fridays, when it was my turn to play a song of my choice, I remember a few of my classmates sticking the tips of their fingers into their ears and making disgusted sounds when Ms. Shelton turned on BR’s “Little Ramona (Gone Hillbilly Nuts).”
During the dawn of the boy band craze of the ‘90s, I knew that despite what my classmates were telling me, that Chuck, Gary, Jay, Don and Hawk could really play and sing. And I was certain within my heart of hearts that Chuck Mead was a lot cuter than Justin Timberlake.
To this day when I put on a BR5-49 album, the excitement I felt as a little kid is still there. It was all I could think of Thursday night while watching the original lineup on Music City Roots. And you can be sure that I wasn’t sitting still.
I made it through the remainder of my school years with pictures of BR hanging in my locker every year and waiting for the bus with their albums blaring through my headphones. I watched and listened as my peers went through a variety of musical phases. The music that sounded so good to them one day was outdated and uncool the next.
As for good country music, I say it’s timeless. I might not have been around in the late ‘40s, but I know that when you put on a Hank Williams record in 2014, it sounds just as good as it did in 1948. And I know for certain that BR5-49 sounded just as good the other night as they did 17 years ago. Hillbilly Beatnik Music will never go out of style.
From the depth of my country music lovin’ heart — thanks for the music, guys.
I think all music fans joined one of these record or CD clubs in their youth. Your story brings back a lot of memories. Thanks for the ride through the past.