A Brief History of Country Music
With the newest Ken Burns documentary, Country Music, coming out soon, perhaps you are interested in learning the rich history of country music. Country music is a uniquely American genre of music and is loved by millions. It got its start among the fiddlers of the Southern Appalachian region in the 1910s, but it wasn’t until about a decade after in the 1920s that country music got its hold as a viable recorded genre.
Most historians will mark 1927, when Victor Records signed Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family, as the moment that country music was born. A country record was produced by Victor Records and singer Eck Robertson in the early 1920s, however, Rodgers would launch the genre into popularity, hence it is Jimmie Rodgers, not Eck Robertson, who is known as the father of country music.
Jimmie Rodgers is credited with the first million-selling record with the release of his hit, “Blue Yodel #1.” He would later pave the way for other names in country who would follow his lead. Though Rodgers was the first famous individual in the scene, The Carter Family was country music’s first famous vocal group. Consisting of A.P. Carter, his wife, Sara Dougherty Carter, and his sister-in-law, Maybelle Addington Carter, the group released their first collection of songs in 1927 and became wildly popular.
The turning point for country music came in the 1930s and ‘40s with the decades’ cowboy movies. These films helped to elevate the popularity of many country stars as they became actors. Many country songs from this time period were written specifically for the movies, and as the films thrived at the box office, the public bought up the soundtracks that were pressed to vinyl. Honky-tonk music would be the next wave in country, emerging in the early 1940s, and it remains popular to this day.
In the 50s and 60s came the Nashville Sound movement. This movement combined elements of earlier country music with big band jazz and masterful storytelling. Notable artists of this era include Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves, and Jim Ed Brown. A new style of country emerged out of California in the mid-1950s known as the Bakersfield Sound, named after its town of origin. The Bakersfield Sound challenged the Nashville Sound in popularity and in style. Compared to the polished, highly-produced music coming out of Nashville, Bakersfield Sound was grittier, combining many elements of rock and roll.
In the mid 1970s, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings started the Outlaw Movement, having grown tired of the selling out of performers in Nashville. Within the next decade, they found that their music would fade in popularity. Later in the late 80s, stars like Garth Brooks and Alan Jackson changed the direction of country music by infusing the vitality of rock and roll into their genre. The stars who debuted in 1989 became known as the Class of ‘89 and bridged the gap between 20th and 21st century country music.
This blog was originally published on DanielLambraiamusic.com