Who's gonna fill their shoes?

For no reason in particular, my son and I have an out-of-town hockey tournament tradition of streaming classic country on our way to games. Hopefully I've passed the torch in keeping alive one of my favorite musical genres to the next generation.

Most country artists who were popular from the '40s through the '70s have long passed (Willie and Loretta are the remaining icons), but the music lives on forever. This is American music to the core with very little exposure these days, so I wanted to shine a light on it. Here is my suggested playlist to get you started.

• "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It" by Hank Williams

The G.O.A.T and to me the true father of rock 'n' roll who lived fast and died young. Lyrics so simple but with a profound cut-to-your-heart delivery. Always my answer to the parlor question of "If you can have dinner with anyone in history," but it would be drinks.

• "Wine Me Up" by Faron Young

One of my all-time favorite songs where Faron thanks the folks who "raised the grapes way out in California, and I'm hoping this year will be their biggest year." Sadly, he died at 64 of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

• "The Race is On" by George "No-Show" Jones

The Possum is the only one on this list I got to see live at Chicago House of Blues in 1998. He was given his other nickname, "No Show," early in his career for failing to appear at concerts after too much revelry.

• "Mama Tried" by Merle Haggard

I still regret not catching Merle on tour before he passed in 2016. Merle was a 20-year-old inmate at San Quentin and in the audience when Johnny Cash changed his life with a legendary prison performance.

• "Buckaroo" by Buck Owens

A great instrumental representing the west coast Bakersfield twang sound. Owens was so much more than the guy on "Hee Haw."

• "Cash on the Barrelhead" by the Louvin Brothers

Best known for their fire and brimstone 1958 album with the greatest cover ever, "Satan is Real." Give a listen to the "Cocaine and Rhinestones" podcast about Charlie and Ira. Come to think of it, give every "C & R" podcast a listen for amazing country music stories.

• "San Quentin" by Johnny Cash

Not sure how this didn't turn into an all-out riot in 1969 when he sang to prisoners: "San Quentin, may you rot and burn in hell."

Spend some time on your streaming service and revisit these songs. Better yet, hit me up and I'll lend you my "Satan is Real" album.

- Bret Conway of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected].