Pure Country honky tonk concert and book

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Our friends at Process Books have a stunning new photography book called Pure Country: The Leon Kagarise Archives, 1961-1971, and to celebrate, they're throwing a hony tonk concert at the Echoplex in Los Angeles tonight!

Throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s, many of country music’s biggest stars first won over their audiences on the small backwoods stages of rural America’s outdoor music parks. These intimate, $1-a-carload picnic concerts might have been forgotten if it hadn’t been for the documenting eye of music lover Leon Kagarise, whose candid photographs of the musicians and their fans provide the only surviving window into this long-vanished world.

Kagarise captured dozens of classic country and bluegrass artists in their prime, including Johnny Cash and June Carter, George Jones, Dolly Parton, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, The Stanley Brothers, and many other greats.

Pure Country presents this collection of rare color images for the first time, revealing an archive considered by historian Charles Wolfe to be one of the richest discoveries in the history of American music.

Pure Country: The Leon Kagarise Archives


  1. This sounds great! And a perfect example of how one passionate fan can make a difference and preserve something special.

  2. I am surprised to see these photos as Leon worked these venues as a sound-man and taped from the board. These tapes have become legendary as they display a side of country music legends that is largely unknown (or so I am told) as people such as Johnny Cash and George Jones had a rough-edged live sound they displayed in these parks distinctly different than the way Nashville recorded and promoted them.
    My story is that as a record collecting teen in Maryland I would drive to the better record stores in Suburban D.C. such as Joe’s Record Paradise. One day when I was in there Joe was wide-eyed about a find he had made: on a call to look over records at an old-timers house he absently noticed a stack of reel to reels and asked about them. “Oh I used to work the boards at country music concerts in Western Maryland and taped whenever I could” was about what the guy told him. That guy was Leon. Last I checked in was a few years ago after Joe had moved his store to Baltimore and had Leon fixing stereos and equipment for resale. I asked about the tapes and was assured that they were negotiating with major labels but pushing for someone like Smithsonian to go for the full prestige giganto box-set release with hope for Emmies and so forth. I’m sure it will happen but why the wait? Surprised to see the photos but it makes perfect sense. BTW there was off in the woods near where I grew up in Annapolis Md. the ruins of a “chitlin circuit” venue where the other side of music in those days, James Brown, Chuck Berry and so on played, Carrs Beach it was called.

  3. I may have constructed in my memory that Leon worked the boards when in fact he was just a fan (with sound engineer skills) with a tape-recorder at a time when there was no proscriptive attitude to fan recording because it was such a rarity. I do remember some conversation about how Leon would set his mics up on stage or maybe at the board with no one objecting because, well, they were all gentlemen or whatever. Anyway, NPR does a nice rundown of the story here:

    It has some recordings but the story is from 2003. Where is the music?

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