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Amanda Martinez

Amanda Martinez is a doctoral student in history at the University of California, Los Angeles. Her dissertation, “Suburban Cowboy: How Country Music Became the Sound of the Suburbs, 1954-1980,” looks at the growing efforts of the country music industry to target a suburban audience.

"Going Out at Home: Privatized Vice and the Consumption of Racial Otherness in Postwar Suburban Music Listening"
Popular music genres are often associated with race and space. Hip hop is often oversimplified as black and urban, while country is white and rural, but what type of music is suburban? This paper seeks to address the neglected space of the suburbs as a site of distinct music listening. Focusing on the peak years of white flight–between the late 1950s, and into the early 1960s–this paper considers how a unique suburban music-listening culture emerged. I argue that greater trends in suburbanization fostered a privatized culture of music listening predicated on after-hours vice, where sexualized nonwhite musicians were exoticized and brought into otherwise overwhelmingly white suburban spaces.

Typical narratives of music listening in the postwar period pit rambunctious, rock and roll-listening teens against bland, conformist suburban parents, but this paper seeks to understand the music-listening practices of such parents within the confines of the suburban home. Within the greater suburban space that prioritized the private over the public through things like personal automobiles versus public transportation, or home television versus the public movie theater, this paper argues that the suburban home also became a site of vice. With the advent of the long-playing record, a cocktail culture, and an encouraged emphasis on matrimonial romance, I assert that trends in adult music listening fostered a culture of vice within the suburban home that resembled the urban night club. Using magazine advertisements and album reviews, I argue that within this culture of after-hours vice, a sexualized racial otherness was consumed as a form of music entertainment.