Blog #29
Blog #24: Genre of the week


Country music, also called country and western, is a style of music that began in the southern United States. The center of country music is Nashville, Tennessee.  However, country music is played all over the united states and as far away as Australia. Many country songs are about the lives of people in rural areas and their difficulties. 

Early country musicians played mostly fiddles, banjos, guitars, and string basses.  Later musicians added electric basses, pedal steel guitars, keyboards, and drums. 

Country music has its roots in the folk music of England, Scotland, and Ireland. Settlers brought this music to North America in the 1700's and 1800's. People in the Appalachian Mountains and other parts of the South created their own form of this folk music. Radio stations began broadcasting it in the 1920's. People called it hillbilly music until the 1940's. It then became known as country and western music.
Development of Country

1920's and 1930's:
Much like folk music, country music began as a style of music that was performed live and passed down from generations before them.  It often told of history of the region it came from and was both an art form and a learning tool.  It wasn't until the 1920's that the first country music was recorded with fiddle players from the Appalachian region, but soon after, it began to take shape as its own unique musical genre.  The beginnings of country musics popularity can be traced back to the popular recordings of Jimmie Rodgers ("the father of country music") and the Carter family ("The first family of country music")

Country music found a great national popularity with its inclusion on the most popular genre of the 1930's, westerns.  These cowboy movies had country as their sound tracks and built up an image that tied the two for most of their history. The radio show "Grand Ole Opry" in Nashville, TN also helped spur a movement in the region by playing "Western" music along side classical music in the 1930's. 

Famous musicians of the 1920's and 1930's: Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers

1940's and 1950's:

Western swing also found a footing in the 1940's in Texas (as well as Oklahoma and California), incorporating a mix of country and western sounds with the jazz, blues, and dixieland of New Orleans. This is where the addition of instruments such as drums, saxophones, pianos, steel string guitar, and the use of amplification took root. 

Rockabilly music, best known for the famous Elvis Presley, combined western swing music with R&B music, forming a cross between rock and western music. Honkytonk music was also inspired by rock music, which was becoming an increasingly popular genre of music in the 1950's. 

Honkytonk didn't try to compete with the rock music, but tried to take the electric inspirations and make it its own sound, mostly native to the record companies based in Nashville, TN. 

Bluegrass rose up in the 1950's as a counter movement of country music, moving back to the folk roots of the beginnings of country music, widely considered hillbilly, since it came from the old time mountain songs. 

Famous musicians of the 1940's and 1950's: Bob Willis, Light Crusty Doughboys, Milton Brown, Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, Chet Atkins, Patsy Kline

1960's and 1970's:
Losing popularity to Rock music, country music began to combine its sub genres to reach wider audiences.  Rockabilly and Honkeytonk musicians in Nashville utilized many aspects of both genres to push back at the popularity of Rock and form their own niche. 

The Bakersfield sound went in another direction, moving back to the story and emotion of early folk inspired country songs, while still utilizing the electronic sounds of amplification.  This movement was formed in Bakersfield, California in the late 1950s, and found success throughout the 1960's.  

Fed up with the perceived “selling out” of most country performers in Nashville, a number of frustrated and independent-minded artists decided in the mid-‘70s they would no longer follow the rules of Music City’s (Nashville) establishment. Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson were some of the most important artists in what's now called outlaw country. 

Famous musicians of the 1960's and 1970's: Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Kris Kirstofferson, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Webb Pierce

1980's and beyond:
Since the 1980's, country music has shadowed much of popular music, taking roots in style and instrumentation from the history of country western music, and combining it with other genres of music. Some other genres that have been incorporated include Rock, Pop, Rap/Hip-hop, Disco, and many others.  

Famous Musicians of the 1980's and beyond: Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton, Toby Kieth, Keith Urban, Carrie Underwood, LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain


Jimmie Rodgers
"Blue Yodel #1 (T for Texas)" by Jimmie Rodgers

Hank Williams
"Hey Good Lookin' " by Hank Williams

Pasty Cline
"I fall to pieces" by Patsy Cline

Bill Monroe
"Uncle Pen" by Bill Monroe & The Bluegrass Boys

Johnny Cash
"Walk the line" by Johnny Cash

Dolly Parton
"9 to 5" by Dolly Parton


Click this link to respond to the questions below

Listen to at least two of the listening examples and compare and contrast the differences and similarities between the two.

Many people list country music as being one of their least favorite style of music (based on studies, surveys, and even evidence from students at this school).  Why do you think so many people dislike this genre?