The Winding Stream - The Carters, The Cashes and the Course of Country Music

Saw it in the news last week.  After submitting a request to raise postal rates, it turns out that the United States Postal Service was turned down by its regulator, begging the question how this beleaguered government office  – which had a $6 billion loss last fiscal year – will be able to foot the bill for national six day a week mail delivery in the future.  I guess the answer is they won’t and we will just be communicating here in cyberspace more and more.

I suppose that’s inevitable.  But if/when it goes, it will be sad to lose one of the great things about snailmail — stamp art.  Stamp art like the swell series we had in 1993.

Seventeen years ago last week the U.S. Postal Service issued a special stamp, one that gladdened the hearts of country music fans and might have tickled at least one of the people it depicted.

According to the All Experts site on philately (which is a pastime more commonly called stamp collecting), the Postal Service issued a Legends of American Music series in 1993. There were 18 stamps issued in three categories:

Rock & Roll.

Rhythm & Blues.

Country & Western.

(Side note: How come popular musical categories come in pairs like that? As in, “I like both kinds of music  – Country AND Western.”)

Anyway, earlier that year greats like Elvis Presley, followed later by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Bill Haley, Dinah Washington, Otis Redding and Clyde McPhatter, were depicted on the USPS stamps.

Finally on September 25, a block of stamps featuring Patsy Cline, Bob Wills, Hank Williams and the Original Carter Family were issued.

There they are – Maybelle and Sara in matching blue polka-dot dresses flanking A.P. in the center who’s sporting a grey suit and vest.  All are staring solemnly from their perforated window, a streamlined USA gracing the right corner and the price a mere 29 cents on the left.  In tiny print at the left hand border we are delicately reminded that they are “country singers.”

Why should we care if someone’s face is on a postage stamp?  Maybe it’s not that important.  But all you have to do is listen to A.P. Carter’s granddaughter Rita Forrester (in one of our Winding Stream interviews) talk about it to know that it has meaning for someone:

“I worshiped my granddad.  Ever step he took, I’d try to take one behind him.  And, Lord, I miss him.  But I do feel like he probably never realized what he had done, or his contributions to music.  He would have been bowled over by the fact that his face was on a postage stamp.  He would have got a kick out of that.”


And if you want to know how a stamp gets approved, visit this USPS link about the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee: