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History of Country Music
History of Country Music
The United States has been the proud birthplace of various forms of music throughout the 20th and 21st century. One genre, which has roots that trace back to states south of the Mason Dixon Line, is country music. What started as a homegrown movement on the fringe has now become a staple of the U.S. cultural repertoire. Country has gained favor and appeal throughout the last century and today you can find artists who pack stadiums and arenas for new and old fans alike. But where did it all start?
Country's humble beginnings are first thought to have originated in the Appalachian Mountains. The instrument of choice there was the fiddle, which can be most likened to a violin. Its tiny frame and four strings can be played at lightning-fast speeds for a foot stomping, hand-clapping good time, but it can also create slow and simple ballad-like tunes that have come to define the genre.
According to Roughstock.com, the original commercial inception of country came from an Appalachian fiddlist named A.C. Robertson, who was better known as Eck Robertson. His premiere release was a song titled Sallie Gooden, which was pressed up by Victor Records in 1922. Throughout the decade fiddling and folk songs would come to fruition as other Appalachian natives would try their hand at the music game, such as Fiddlin' John Carson, who recorded Little Log Cabin in the Lane in 1923, as well as Vernon Dalhart, who was signed to Columbia records and eventually achieved national success with his 1924 tune Wreck of the Old '97.
Piero Scaruffi, the author of History of Popular Music, reports that the first true Cowboy song - a lifestyle that would come to characterize country - came to fruition in 1925 by Carl Sprague with his record When the Work's All Done This Fall. This was coupled with the birth of the Grand Ole Opry - a country music institution - which would later gain fame and appeal as it hosted big name country musicians.
At this point country was more than just a fiddler's game. According to Scaruffi.com, other instruments such as the guitar and the banjo, which were first introduced to Americans via African American minstrel shows, were also used.
As the century wore on country would start to develop different styles or sub-genres such as hillbilly, western swing and honky tonk, where each one was characterized by musical disparities and instruments that were used. As country grew, more artists began to gain commercial appeal, such as Gene Autry, who released Silver Hairde Daddy Of Mine in 1931 and even starred in a Hollywood Film - Tumbling Tumbleweeds - as a singing Cowboy.
The source goes on to say that other artists began to innovate and add other influences to country, such as Milton Brown, who incorporated Jazz elements, and a Texas crooner named Al Dexter, who worked his magic on the accordion and trumpet
Country's reach began to spread and areas beyond the south began to produce artists like Spade Cooley from Los Angeles and Clyde "Red" Foley from Chicago. Other southern states were churning out their own stars as well. One of the most famous ones was Hank Williams, a Tennessee native who first achieved success in 1949 with his song Lovesick Blues.
The music gained even more mainstream appeal after World War II, as the Grand Ole Opry began attracting more attention and many country musicians moved to Nashville, which opened up several recording studios. In Nashville the Country Music Disc Jockey's Association was then formed, which helped to bolster the genre's commercial appeal.
The future of country became brighter and brighter as already renowned artists like Hank Williams and Merle Haggard were joined by Sun Records artist Johnny Cash. The rest of the century continued to favor the honest-yet-simple music as it morphed and evolved and acquired electric instruments and became more pop-oriented with catchy riffs and hit radio tunes.
Today, artist like Toby Keith and Kenny Chesney are household names that transcend any genre. They owe their success though to those lone fiddlers and innovators from the Appalachians who helped pave the way.