Country music has been around for centuries, and has undergone many changes throughout its history. This blog will give you a brief overview of the evolution of country music, from its early roots to the present day.
Origins of Country Music
Country music is a genre of American popular music that originated in the southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from the folk music of the Appalachian region and the blues of the Mississippi Delta. Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with simple forms, folk lyrics, and harmonies mostly accompanied by string instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitars (such as pedal steels and dobros), and fiddles as well as harmonicas.
Folk music is the roots of country music. It developed in the 18th and 19th centuries from the music of European immigrants, particularly those from the British Isles, who brought with them ballads, dance tunes, and other types of songs. Folk music was typically passed down orally from one generation to the next and was often used for dancing or storytelling.
One of the earliest popular folk singers was Jimmie Rodgers, who is considered the “Father of Country Music.” Rodgers blended elements of folk, blues, and jazz to create a unique sound that resonated with people across the United States. He had a string of hits in the 1920s and 1930s, including “Blue Yodel” and “Waiting for a Train.”
Rodgers’ influence can still be heard in country music today. Many of his songs have been covered by modern artists, and his style has served as a template for subsequent generations of country musicians.
The origins of country music can be traced back to the folk music of working class Americans in the early 20th century. Country music often takes elements from other genres, including blues and gospel.
The earliest known country music recordings date back to 1920, when Fiddlin’ John Carson made several recordings for Okeh Records. These recordings were made on a cylinder phonograph, which was the primary recording format of the time.
Carson’s recordings were mostly of traditional songs, including “The Story of the Fox Chase” and “The Arkansaw Traveler”. These early recordings were influential in the development of country music, but they were not commercially successful at the time.
It wasn’t until 1927 that country music began to gain mainstream popularity, when The Carter Family released their groundbreaking album “The Famous Carter Family”. The album featured traditional songs such as “Wildwood Flower” and “Keep On The Sunny Side”, as well as original compositions such as “Can The Circle Be Unbroken”.
The Carter Family’s success helped to pave the way for other artists, including Jimmie Rodgers and The Great Depression-era group The Shelton Brothers. Rodgers was particularly influential, helping to popularize the use of guitars and yodeling in country music. His hits included “Blue Yodel” and “T for Texas”.
During the 1930s and 1940s, country music continued to gain popularity, with artists like Eddy Arnold, Bing Crosby, and Hank Williams becoming household names. Williams’ tragic death in 1953 brought a brief decline in the genre’s popularity, but it was soon revived by artists such as Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, and Loretta Lynn.
Today, country music is one of America’s most popular genres, with artists like Carrie Underwood, Blake Shelton, and Keith Urban achieving massive success both commercially and critically.
Country music is a genre of American popular music that originated in the Southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from the southeastern genre of American folk music and Western music. Appalachian music was the basis for various types of country music, including bluegrass, old-time music, and mountain music.
The Cumberland Plateau and the Appalachian Mountains are home to many styles of folk music, including bluegrass, old-time music, and mountain music. These genres are characterized by their use of the fiddle and banjo, as well as their rendition of ballads and dance tunes originating in Britain and Ireland.
Appalachian folk music was brought to the attention of wider audiences in the early 20th century by AppalachianECordings made for the Victor Talking Machine Company by Fiddlin’ John Carson in 1925. These recordings were popularized by radio stations such as WLS in Chicago and WHAS in Louisville. The Great Depression also helped to spread country music as laborers looked for work wherever they could find it.
Country Music Hall of Fame member Ernest Tubb popularized honky-tonk music with his 1944 hit “Walking the Floor Over You.” This style of country music is characterized by its twangy sound and stories about heartbreak and working hard. Tubb’s success paved the way for other honky-tonk artists such as Hank Williams and Patsy Cline.
Development of Country Music
Country music is a genre of American popular music that originated in the southern United States in the 1920s. It takes its roots from the genres of folk music and blues. Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally simple forms, folk lyrics, and harmonies mostly accompanied by string instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitars (such as pedal steels and dobros), and fiddles as well as harmonicas.
1920s and 1930s
By the early 1920s, Northwestern-based country music had spread throughout the United States and Mexico, and was becoming more widely accepted by mainstream America. Influential artists such as Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and Hank Williams would help shape and popularize the genre for years to come.
The 1920s saw the advent of radio, which allowed country music to reach a wider audience. New technologies such as electrical recordings and new instruments such as steel guitars also became increasingly popular during this time.
The Great Depression of the 1930s brought hard times to the country music industry, but artists like Rodgers and Williams continued to find success. The decade also saw the rise of Western swing, a subgenre that blended elements of country, jazz, blues and pop music.
1940s and 1950s
The 1940s and 1950s were a time of great change for country music. The genre began to develop more standardized forms, and Nashville became an important center for the music industry, with all of the major record labels basing their country operations there. The honky-tonk style that had dominated in the 1930s and early 1940s was gradually replaced by a smoother, more polished sound, epitomized by artists such as Hank Williams, Eddy Arnold, Jimmie Rodgers, and Patsy Cline. This new “Nashville Sound” became extremely popular and helped to make country music more mainstream. By the end of the 1950s, however, a new style of country music was beginning to emerge in the form of rockabilly, which combined elements of country and rock ‘n’ roll. This new sound would go on to dominate the genre in the 1960s.
1960s and 1970s
The Nashville sound began to evolve in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This sound relied upon string instruments and harmony singing, in contrast to the earlier honky-tonk style that relied upon brass instruments and shouted vocals. Prominent artists who began to record this new “Nashville sound” in the late 1950s included Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and Eddy Arnold. The influence of African American music also began to be felt in country music during this decade, with artists such as Charley Pride, who became one of the first African American country stars. At the same time, a new generation of country-rock bands began to emerge that blended elements of both country and rock music, including The Byrds, Gram Parsons, Emmylou Harris, and The Flying Burrito Brothers.
Contemporary Country Music
Country music has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the early 20th century. What was once a genre of music enjoyed mostly by rural Americans has become one of the most popular genres in the world. Today, country music is enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds. While the sound of country music has evolved over the years, it still retains its roots. In this section, we’ll take a look at the history of country music and how it has evolved into the genre we know and love today.
1980s and 1990s
In the 1980s, country music became a multifaceted format. Commercialization raised revenue for the industry, but country songs were increasingly ignored on pop radio in favor of rock, rhythm and blues, and urban cowboy music. Most crossover hits came from artists perceived as strongly rooted in the Nashville tradition, such as Barbara Mandrell, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, and Conway Twitty. The influence of rock music was most evident in the work of Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. Although Jennings and Nelson remained true to their outlaw image, they mellowed somewhat in the 1980s.
The Byrds enjoyed a brief return to popularity with their version of “Mr. Tambourine Man”, which was a number one hit in 1965. The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (1966) was equally influential; Brian Wilson’s creation was cited as a major reason for the Beatles’ decision to expand their sonic palette on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967). Conversely, George Harrison’s use of Indian instruments on “Within You Without You” (1967) was seen as exotica, while the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” (1966) featured a sitar solo by Harrison.
In the early 1970s, Gram Parsons attempted to merge country with rock and roll, but his career ended abruptly when he died in 1973 at the age of 26 from an accidental heroin overdose. Other artists who attempted to combine country with other genres during this period included Rosanne Cash (whose father Johnny Cash also had success merging country with rock), Waylon Jennings (whose band The Waylors included former rock drummer Richie Hayward), Country Joe McDonald (a member of the original hippie-influenced folk group Country Joe & The Fish), Jerry Jeff Walker, and Steve Earle. Experiments done by other artists during this time—including album only releases by Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard—were not commercially successful but established both artists’ reputations as innovators in country music’s drug culture subgenre.
2000s and 2010s
Contemporary country music has its roots in the early 2000s, when a new generation of artists began to break away from the traditional sounds of country music. These artists, known as the “new traditionalists,” blended elements of traditional country music with more modern influences, resulting in a sound that was both fresh and familiar.
The new traditionalists were led by artists like George Strait, who had his first No. 1 hit in 1981 with “Fool Hearted Memory.” Strait continued to dominate the country charts throughout the 1980s and 1990s, but it was fellow Texan Clint Black who ushered in the new era of contemporary country music with his debut album, Killin’ Time, in 1989.
Other artists who helped shape the sound of contemporary country music in the early 2000s include Alan Jackson, Brooks & Dunn, Faith Hill, and Shania Twain. Twain’s 1997 album Come On Over was a crossover smash hit, introducing her brand of pop-influenced country music to a wider audience.
In the mid-2000s, singer-songwriter Carrie Underwood emerged as one of the most successful artists in any genre with her debut album, Some Hearts. Underwood’s combination of strong songwriting, powerful vocals, and commercial appeal helped her become one of the most successful performers of the 2000s.
The late 2000s saw the rise of a new crop of young stars like Taylor Swift and Blake Shelton, who brought their own unique styles to contemporary country music. Swift’s 2009 album Fearless was a massive success both commercially and critically, winning multiple Grammy Awards and cementing her status as one of the biggest superstars in popular music. Shelton meanwhile became one of the genre’s most popular performers thanks to his work on NBC’s The Voice and his string of No. 1 hits like “Hillbilly Bone” (featuring Trace Adkins) and “All About Tonight.”
Contemporary country music continued to evolve in the 2010s with artists like Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, Florida Georgia Line, Little Big Town, and others helping to lead the way. Lambert emerged as one of the genre’s most acclaimed performers thanks to hits like “The House That Built Me” and “Mama’s Broken Heart,” while Musgraves won critical acclaim for her 2013 album Same Trailer Different Park. Florida Georgia Line scored one of the biggest hits of 2013 with their song “Cruise,” which become one of the best-selling digital singles of all time.
With its mix of traditional sounds and modern influences, contemporary country music has something for everyone. The genre remains as popular as ever in the 2010s, with new stars emerging every year to keep things fresh.