During the past seventy years, country music has gone through many changes. On the other hand, country music has always dealt with real issues of ordinary people. Country music comes from simple stories of everyday life. Country was once limited to the rural South and Southwest but is now successful throughout all of the United States.
The first country artists became widely known and achieved popularity in the late 1920?s. The two most important figures at this time were Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter family. The Carter family of Virginia sang traditional Appalachian material to a guitar and autoharp accompaniment. Jimmie C. Rodgers was a Mississippi railroad man whose style reflected more widespread influences, including the blues, and who was famous for his yodeling chorus ends. Jimmie Rodgers was called ?The Singing Brakeman?,?America?s Blue Yodeler?, but most critically ?the Father of Country Music?. These two recording and performing artists set the tone for the generations to follow. Their talent was aided by timing. Country music would not have been possible before the 1920?s, when the mass production of radios and records broke down the walls that had kept American musical styles hemmed into regional pockets.
Expanding on the foundation laid down in the twenties, country music added a western wing during the 1930?s. The style called the western swing was a combination of west Texas fiddle music with jazz and pop music. The best known western swing musician was Bob Wills, a mandolin and fiddle player who formed The Texas Playboys in 1933. Equally important were radio shows, records, and movies that reached large, non-rural audiences throughout the country, and musicians such as Gene Autry, the ?Singing Cowboy? and Roy Rogers into nationally famous names.
By the 1950?s, country and western had become a significant force in pop music. The Grand Ole Opry, a radio program originating in Nashville, Tennessee, quickly became a national institution. The Grand Ole Opry was on network radio every Saturday night and reached ten million listeners. Barn dances all over the country prospered, and in the early 1950?s country music made its first appearance onto national television. The singer-songwriter Hank Williams wrote four million-seller songs in 1950, seven in 1951, and four more in 1953. Several other country music artists in the fifties included Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, and Patsy Cline.
During the 1960?s and 1970?s, country music continued to infiltrate
Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and others brought southern rock to country. These musicians included Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. Willie Nelson combined country music with elements of the prevailing youth culture. This combination resulted in the formation of a style known as country rock. The gap between country and the mainstream of pop music continued to narrow in this decade as electric guitars replaced more traditional instruments. Country music became more acceptable to a national urban audience.
In the mid 1980?s, two competing country music styles came into prominence. Singers such as Kenny Rogers produced slick, bland, pop-country music. Also popular, however, were traditionalists such as Ricky Skaggs, John Anderson, George Strait, and Reba McEntire. Country super group Alabama also got their start in the early eighties.
Any discussion of country music in the nineties must begin with Garth Brooks. Garth has sold more albums than any country artists in history. Garth, who cites among his influences George Jones, pop singer James Taylor, and the rock group Kiss. Garth puts on the most elaborate shows that country music has ever seen. Alan Jackson?s approach contrasts sharply with
Garth?s style. His song writing style is simple but full of heart. The nineties also brings to maturity the first generation weaned on rock ?n? roll, with a corresponding impact on the way country sounds.
Country radio today alternates between songs with a distinctive traditional sound, and those owing more to The Eagles than the Carter family. Country music appears to have staying power. While rock music has separated into a half-dozen format, country music remains united, making country the single largest radio format in the United States.
Rich Kiezie.Great Guitarists.U.S.:British Libtary Cataloguing in Publication Data .1985
Routhstock?s Country Music History .1995.Online.Internet.March.1999.Available. http://www.roughstock.com/history
What Every Country Fan Should Know .1995.Online.Internet.March.1999.Available. http://www.countryweekly.com/history.htm
Jerry Strobel.Grand Ole Opry.Nashville, Tennessee: WSM Inc.1982