How White Southern Gospel Music Borrowed from Bluegrass and Country Music

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The roots of Southern Gospel music can be traced back to the combination of White spirituals, hymns, and the music of Black slaves in the American South.

The Birth of Southern Gospel

For many years, white southern gospel music was simply a subgenre of gospel music. It was not until the early 20th century that southern gospel music began to develop its own sound and style. This new style of music borrow from both bluegrass and country music.

The influence of shape note singing

The early influence of shape note singing can be seen in the development of Southern Gospel music. Shape note singing is a form of a cappella singing where the notes of the scale are represented by shapes, typically triangles, diamonds, squares, and crosses. This system was developed in 18th century England and was brought to the United States by Welsh immigrants in the early 19th century.

The influence of hymns

Though southern gospel is sometimes thought to be a solely religious genre, it has actually been shaped by a number of different influences. One of the most important is the influence of hymns. Hymns are religious songs that are typically based on biblical texts and have been a central part of Christian worship for centuries. Many of the earliest southern gospel songs were simply adapted from existing hymns. For example, the popular song “Amazing Grace” was originally a hymn written by Englishman John Newton in 1779.

The southern gospel song “I’ll Fly Away,” which was written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley, is another example of a song adapted from a hymn. In this case, the original hymn was entitled “When the Saints Go Marching In” and was written by James Milton Black in 1896. Brumley changed the lyrics to focus on the idea of heaven, and the song quickly became one of the most popular southern gospel songs of all time.

The Development of Southern Gospel

While white Southern gospel music has its roots in the church, it has also been influenced by both bluegrass and country music. This can be seen in the use of instruments, the focus on family and the home, and the use of gospel music to express personal faith.

The influence of bluegrass

Southern gospel music has its roots in the hymns of the early 19th century. shape note singing, a cappella music and quartet music were popular among religious groups in the antebellum South. By the late 19th century, gospel songs were being composed by black spiritual leaders such as Charles Tindley in the north and James D. Vaughan in the south. white southern gospel began to develop in the 1870s.

The first major figure in southern gospel was Fisk University professor George Whitefield Higgs (1840-1927), who wrote more than 600 gospel songs, including “The Unclouded Day.” His student Burnett Smith (1858-1944) was also a major composer of southern gospel tunes, writing such classics as “I’ll Live for Him.”

Southern gospel was influenced by both bluegrass and country music. Bill Monroe’s bluegrass band featured a quartet called the Bluegrass Boys that included James D. Vaughan’s son, Pervis (1924-1987). The Vaughans and other southern gospel quartets often performed at bluegrass festivals in the 1950s and 1960s.

Country music stars such as Ernest Tubb, Hank Williams and Webb Pierce also became popular performers of southern gospel tunes. In recent years, artists such as Amy Grant and Travis Tritt have brought southern gospel to a wider audience through their recordings of traditional and contemporary tunes.

The influence of country music

The industrialization and commercialization of gospel music in the early 20th century brought about changes in style and conventions, as well as increased availability and affordability of musical instruments. The influence of country music helped to shape the sound and style of early southern gospel. The pioneers of southern gospel drew from the traditions of white evangelical Protestantism, Respectable Folk Music, black spirituals, and shape-note singing. Southern gospel music has its roots in the English-speaking evangelicals who settled in the American South, particularly in the Appalachians, during the Great Awakening of the late 18th century.

The Popularity of Southern Gospel

Southern gospel music has been around since the early 1800s. It is a form of gospel music that is rooted in the music of the south, specifically the Appalachian Mountains. This type of music was created by singers who were looking to Spread the Word to those who might not otherwise hear it.

The influence of the radio

Radio has always been an important part of southern gospel music. In the early days of the genre, radio was one of the only ways that people could hear southern gospel music. Sunday morning broadcasts were especially popular and many people would gather around their radios to listen to their favorite artists.

In more recent years, radio has continued to be a vital part of southern gospel music. Many radio stations across the country play southern gospel music and there are even radio stations that are devoted entirely to this genre. Southern gospel music is also often played on Christian radio stations.

The influence of television

The popularity of Southern Gospel music can be traced back to the influence of television. In the early days of television, Southern Gospel music was often featured on programs that were broadcast across the country. This exposure helped to increase the popularity of the genre and led to the development of a devoted following.

Today, Southern Gospel music continues to be popular, thanks in part to its appeal to a wide range of audiences. The music is often described as being uplifting and inspirational, and it has been known to appeal to both Christian and non-Christian listeners.

The Future of Southern Gospel

Southern gospel music has been around for centuries, and it has undergone a lot of changes over the years. The music has borrowed from other genres, including bluegrass and country music. Today, southern gospel music is still evolving, and it is becoming more popular than ever before. Let’s take a look at the future of southern gospel music.

The influence of the internet

In recent years, Southern Gospel music has seen a resurgence in popularity, thanks in part to the internet. The internet has allowed fans of the genre to connect with each other and share their love of the music. It has also allowed artists to reach a wider audience and sell their music directly to fans.

The internet has also had a major impact on the way that Southern Gospel music is distributed and consumed. In the past, Southern Gospel music was mostly distributed through radio and live performances. Today, however, most Southern Gospel music is consumed online, through streaming services or downloadable files. This change has had a major impact on the way that artists are able to promote and distribute their music.

So what does the future hold for Southern Gospel music? Only time will tell. However, it seems likely that the internet will continue to play a major role in its popularity and distribution.

The influence of streaming services

In recent years, there has been a marked shift in how people consume music. No longer do people primarily purchase CDs or download songs from iTunes; instead, they stream music via Spotify, Apple Music, Pandora, and other similar services. This shift has had a profound impact on the music industry as a whole and the Southern gospel genre is no exception.

The advent of streaming services has made it easier than ever for people to discover new music. That’s good news for artists who are trying to break into the Southern gospel scene. But it’s also made it easier for listeners to cherry-pick the songs they like from an album instead of purchasing the entire CD. That’s bad news for artists who depend on album sales for income.

It’s still too early to tell how the rise of streaming services will ultimately impact the Southern gospel genre. But one thing is certain: the days of album sales being the primary source of income for artists are over.

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