The Obama White House Goes Country


Martina Mcbride photo by Kristin Barlowe, courtesy of RCA Nashville.

June 24, 2009 — Washington will get a dose of Nashville next month when President Barack Obama hosts a country show.

Earlier this week, trumpet player Wynton Marsalis performed jazz at the White House. And the president also hosted an R&B show with Earth, Wind & Fire. He may not be as big a country fan as his predecessor, but Barack and Michelle Obama still have an appreciation for the genre.

"They like all kinds of music," the administration’s social secretary, Desiree Rogers, told The New York Daily News.

The country event is slated for July 21, though it’s unclear how many artists might perform. It’s part of Obama’s mission to embrace the whole of American culture.

"The President wants the White House to be a stage," Desiree said. "We want Americans feeling they’re part of the house."

Country stars have already interacted with the Obama administration on several occasions. Garth Brooks and Sugarland’s Jennifer Nettles took part in an inaugural event on the steps of the Lincoln Monument. Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Billy Ray and Miley Cyrus were among the artists who appeared at other inaugural festivities; Martina McBride performed at the White House during a Stevie Wonder concert that aired on PBS; and Mark Wills joined kids from the Children’s Miracle Network when they met the prez.

When next month’s event takes place, it will merely add to a very long history that country music has enjoyed at the White House. Just a few of the highlights from that history:

• Rodney Atkins sang "If You’re Going Through Hell (Before The Devil Even Knows)" for George W. Bush during National Adoption Month.

• Kenny Chesney sang the national anthem for a tee ball game on the White House lawn last July.

• Dolly Parton received the National Medal of Arts from W.

• Twelve-year-old Billy Gilman met President Bill Clinton at the White House after performing at a concert that became the PBS special "Christmas In Washington."

• Jimmy Buffett sang for Clinton on his birthday.

• Lee Greenwood joined President George H.W. Bush at a barbecue on the White House lawn.

• Eddie Rabbitt performed at the White House Easter egg hunt during Ronald Reagan’s eight-year residence.

• Willie Nelson smoked marijuana on the White House roof in a visit during Jimmy Carter’s administration.

• Tammy Wynette sang "Stand By Your Man" for President Gerald Ford just weeks after the nation’s Bicentennial.

• Johnny Cash refused President Richard Nixon’s request to do Merle Haggard’s "Okie From Muskogee." He did deliver an unrequested anti-Vietnam War song, "What Is Truth."

• Eddy Arnold got stuck in the elevator when President Lyndon Johnson’s wife requested that he attend a White House dinner.

• The Coon Creek Girls became the first country act to play at the First Family’s home, in 1939 when Franklin D. Roosevelt lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.