A look at how country music has changed and evolved over the years, starting with Hank Williams and moving all the way to modern dubstep.
Hank Williams and The Birth of Country Music
Hank Williams is considered one of the most important country music artists of all time. He was born in 1923 in Georgiana, Alabama, and grew up listening to the music of Jimmie Rodgers and other early country stars. Williams taught himself to play guitar and began performing on local radio stations in the 1930s. His unique style, which combined elements of folk, blues, and hillbilly music, quickly gained popularity.
In 1949, Williams signed a recording contract with MGM Records. He released his first single, “Move It On Over,” that year. The song became a hit, and Williams soon had a string of successful songs, including “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” and “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” He also wrote several songs that would later be recorded by other artists, including “Hey Good Lookin'” and “Jambalaya (On the Bayou).”
Williams’s popularity continued to grow throughout the 1950s. In 1952, he formed his own band, the Drifting Cowboys. He also began appearing on The Grand Ole Opry, country music’s most popular radio show. However, Williams’s career was cut short by his alcoholism and drug abuse; he died of a heart attack in 1953 at the age of 29.
Despite his short career, Williams left a lasting mark on country music. His simple but poetic lyrics spoke to the everyday experiences of working-class Americans. His rough-hewn vocal style was openly emotional and deeply expressive. And his incorporation of elements from other genres helped to broaden the appeal of country music beyond its traditional base.
The Rise of Nashville
Nashville became known as the “Country Music Capital of the World” in the 1950s, due in part to the popularity of live radio programs such as the Grand Ole Opry and WSM’s Barn Dance. Nashville’s music scene grew even more diverse in the 1960s, with the rise of honky tonk, bluegrass, and folk music. By decade’s end, Nashville was also producing significant quantities of pop, rock, and R&B. Artists such as Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, and Charley Pride found success crossover success in other genres.
The Outlaw Movement
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, a group of country musicians based in Nashville, Tennessee began pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable in country music. These so-called “outlaws” were influenced by the rock music of the time, and they began to experiment with elements of rock, blues, and folk in their own music. This new sound was typified by artists like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, who released a series of successful duet albums in the 1970s.
The outlaw movement continued to grow throughout the 1980s, as artists like Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson continued to experiment with different sounds and styles. In the 1990s, country music underwent another transformation, as a new generation of artists combined elements of country, rock, and pop to create a unique sound that was all their own. Some of the most successful artists of this era include Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, and Faith Hill.
Today, country music is more popular than ever before, and its sound has continued to evolve. While some traditionalists have resisted these changes, there is no denying that country music has come a long way since Hank Williams first sang about your cheatin’ heart.
The New Traditionalists
The new traditionalists were a group of country artists who came to prominence in the late 1970s and early 1980s. This group is sometimes referred to as the neo-traditionalists or the class of ’89, as many of its members began releasing records around that time. The new traditionalists were inspired by the traditional country music of the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, but they updated this sound for a new generation of listeners. Artists like George Strait, Alan Jackson, and Clint Black helped to bring country music back to its roots while still appealing to a wide audience.
The new traditionalist movement was a reaction against the more progressive, pop-influenced sounds of country music that had dominated in the 1970s. The new traditionalists were focused on creating a sound that was more in line with what was considered “traditional” country music. This meant that they relied heavily on twangy guitars, steel guitars, fiddles, and other traditional country instrumentation. They also often sang about more traditional subjects like love, heartbreak, and home.
The new traditionalists were extremely successful in the 1980s and 1990s. George Strait became one of the biggest stars in all of music during this time period, and he helped pave the way for other new traditionalists like Alan Jackson and Clint Black. The sound of country music changed drastically in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but the influence of the new traditionalists can still be heard in many modern country artists.
The Modern Era
In the 1990s, country music became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, and other popular artists. The influx of new country fans brought with it a new sound that incorporated elements of pop, rock, and hip-hop. This “new country” sound was led by artists such as Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, and Blake Shelton.
Today, country music is more popular than ever before. In addition to traditional artists like George Strait and Alan Jackson, newer stars like Florida Georgia Line and Luke Bryan are bringing the genre to a whole new generation of fans. And with the recent rise of “bro-country” and the popularity of dubstep-infused country songs, it’s clear that the sound of country music is continuing to evolve.
The Future of Country Music
The future of country music is always up for debate. Some people believe that the genre needs to return to its roots, while others believe that it needs to evolve and experiment with new sounds. No matter what your opinion is, there’s no denying that country music is always changing.
One thing that seems certain is that country music will continue to be popular. It has a wide appeal and is enjoyed by people of all ages. And, as the world changes, so will the sound of country music. We may not be able to predict exactly what the future holds, but one thing is for sure – country music will always be evolving.