The History of Country Music

By Sydnie Newman
The Origin
• The origins of country music can be found in
recordings southern Appalachian fiddle
players made in the late 1910s.
• It wasn’t until the early ‘20s, that country
music as a viable recorded genre took hold
• The first commercial country record was
made by Eck Robertson in 1922 with “Wreck
of the Old ‘97”.
• Most historians point to 1927, the year
Victor Records signed Jimmie Rodgers and
the Carter Family, as the true moment
country music was born
Jimmie Rodgers
• Jimmie Rodgers was known as the “father of
country music” and was an instant national
• He is credited with the first million selling
single, “Blue yodel #1” and his catalog of
songs, all recorded between 1927 and 1933,
established him as the first preeminent voice
in country music.
• Rodgers died from complications of
tuberculosis in 1933.
• He was inducted into the country music hall
of fame in 1961.
The Carter Family
• The Carter family was country music’s first
famous vocal group.
• Comprised of A.P Carter, his wife, Sara
Dougherty Carter, and A.P.’s sister-in-law,
Maybelle Addington Carter, the group flourished
in the late’20s after their first collection of
songs in 1927.
• Different variations of The Carter Family
continued recording and performing for decades.
• Two of their earliest hits, “Keep on the Sunny
Side” and “Wildwood Flower” remain country
standards to this day.
The Rise of Bob Wills and
Western Swing
• Originating in Texas and up through the Midwest in the
late 1920s, western swing reached its peak in the early
• It blended the upbeat horn-driven sounds of the big
band with New Orleans jazz, blues, and Dixieland.
• Drums were first incorporated by western swing, and
the eclectic musical mix included saxophones, pianos,
and a Hawaiian instrument called the steel guitar.
• Prominent western swing figures included Bob wills (the
“king of western swing”), the Light Crust Doughboys,
and Milton Brown(the “Father of western swing”).
Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass
• Dubbed the “Father of Bluegrass”, Bill Monroe is
credited with first popularizing bluegrass , a
form of old time mountain hillbilly music with its
origins in Great Britain and western Africa.
• Bluegrass got its name from Monroe’s band, the
Blue Grass Boys, which eventually included future
legends Lester Flatt (guitar) and Earl Scruggs
• After six years, Flatt and Scruggs struck out on
their own in 1949 to great success.
• Bill Monroe was inducted into the Country Music
Hall of Fame in 1970 and the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame in 1997.
Hollywood Goes Country
• The cowboy films of the 1930s and ‘40s contributed
greatly to the evolution of country music.
• Stars like Roy Rogers(the “King of the Cowboys”) and
Gene Autry parlayed their musical careers into very
successful acting careers.
• Much of the great music from this era was actually
written specifically for the movies.
• As these films flourished at the box office, their
soundtracks were pressed to vinyl, and the buying
public ate them up.
• Great cowboy stars of the era also included Rogers’
wife, Dale Evans, the Sons of the Pioneers and Spade
The Honky-Tonk Heroes
• In 1942, Ernest Tubb’s recording of “Walking the Floor
Over You” made him an overnight sensation, which
thrust his brand of country, honky-tonk, into national
• Hank Williams further popularized the genre with his
emergence in the late ‘40s, while Lefty Frizzell
ascended to almost Elvis-like popularity in country
music circles in the ‘50s.
• Unlike all other styles of country music, honky-tonk has
never taken a backseat to any new trend.
• Go into any establishment today with live country
music, and you’re bound to find a honky-tonk band on
the bill.
The Nashville Sound
• In direct contrast to honky-tonk music,
the Nashville Sound movement of the
‘50s and ‘60s polished up country’s
rougher edges by blending big band jazz
and swing with great storytelling.
• Lush orchestrations backed up the
smooth crooning of stars like Eddy
Arnold, Jim Reeves and Jim Ed Brown.
The Bakersfield Sound
• Developed in the mid-1950s, the Bakersfield
Sound originated in the honky-tonk bars in and
around Bakersfield, California.
• Grittier than the polished and highly produced
music coming out of Nashville, Bakersfield
country drew on many aspects of rock and roll
and rockabilly, predominately loud amp-up
guitars, usually twin telecasters played through
Fender amplifiers, and loud drums.
• The biggest Bakersfield stars of the day
included Buck Owens(the “Baron Of
Bakersfield”), Merle Haggard and Webb Pierce.
The Outlaw Movement
• 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 establishment.
• N’er-do-wells like Willie Nelson, his good friend
and frequent collaborator, Waylon Jennings,
Merle Haggard, David Allan Coe and a host of
others “outlaws” burned their leisure suits, grew
their hair out, and sang whatever and however
they choose to.
• These outlaws gave country music the timely kick
in the pants it desperately needed.
Urban Cowboy
• The 1979 John Travolta movie, Urban Cowboy,
popularized a moment in country that focused heavily on
easy-listening crossover success.
• Artists like Johnny Lee, Dolly Parton and Mickey Gilley
scored major hits on both the country and pop charts,
while the “outlaws” of the mid-‘70s saw their music
wane in popularity.
• History has proven that much of the music from this
era, referred to by some as country’s disco era, was
quite disposable.
• A number of notable artists did emerge during this
dark period to forge wonderful careers, including
Alabama, George Strait, Reba McEntire and Steve
Class of ‘89
• The list of superstars who debuted in in
1989 reads like a future Country Music Hall
of Fame induction class: Garth Brooks, Clint
Black, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, and
Dwight Yoakam all scored their first country
hits in 1989.
• They drastically altered the direction of
country music by infusing a youthful vitality
and rock-and-roll mentality into a genre that
was quickly growing stale and predictable.
• The amazing class of ’89 bridged the gap
between 20th and 21st century country music.
number of people who were signed
between 1910-1989
Eck Robertson
Jimmie Rodgers
The Carter family
Bob wills
the Light Crust Doughboys
Milton Brown
Roy Rogers
Dale Evans
the Sons of the Pioneers
Spade Cooley
Bill Monroe
the Blue Grass Boys
Gene Autry
Ernest Tubb
Hank Williams
Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves and Jim Ed Brown, Buck Owens,
Merle Haggard and Webb Pierce
Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, David Allan
Coe, Johnny Lee, Dolly Parton and Mickey Gilley , Alabama,
George Strait, Reba McEntire and Steve Wariner
Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, Travis Tritt, and