- This article is about the genre of popular music from the United States and Canada. For other music genres that are sometimes described as country music, see Country music (disambiguation)
Country music is a blend of popular musical forms originally found in the Southern United States and the Appalachian Mountains. It has roots in traditional folk music, Celtic music, blues, gospel music, hokum, and old-time music and evolved rapidly in the 1920s. The term country music began to be used in the 1940s when the earlier term hillbilly music was deemed to be degrading, and the term was widely embraced in the 1970s, while country and western has declined in use since that time, except in the United Kingdom, where it is still commonly used.
Country music has produced two of the top selling solo artists of all time. Elvis Presley, who was known early on as “The Hillbilly Cat” and was a regular on the radio program Louisiana Hayride, went on to become a defining figure in the emerging genre of rock 'n roll. Garth Brooks is one of the top-selling country artists of all time, and except for a short foray into non-country in the late 1990s, has remained in that genre.
While album sales of most musical genres have declined, country music experienced one of its best years in 2006, when, during the first six months of the year, U.S. sales of country albums increased by 17.7 percent to 36 million. Moreover, country music listening nationwide has remained steady for almost a decade, reaching 77.3 million adults every week according to the radio-ratings agency Arbitron Inc. 
The term "country music" is used to describe many styles, genres, or subgenres.
- 1 Early history
- 2 Early recorded history
- 3 Singing Cowboys, Western Swing, and Hillbilly Boogie
- 4 The 1950s and 1960s
- 5 Changing instrumentation in the mid twentieth century
- 6 Not Nashville
- 7 Country-Pop
- 8 Country music outside the United States
- 9 Performer and shows
- 10 See also
- 11 Further reading
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Immigrants to the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North America brought the music and instruments of the Old World along with them for nearly 300 years. The Irish fiddle, the German derived dulcimer, the Italian mandolin, the Spanish guitar, and the African banjo were the most common musical instruments. The interactions among musicians from different ethnic groups produced music unique to this region of North America. Appalachian string bands of the early twentieth century primarliy consisted of the fiddle, guitar, and banjo. This early country music along with early recorded country music is often referred to as Old-time music.
Throughout the nineteenth century, several immigrant groups from Europe, most notably from Ireland, The United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, and Italy moved to Texas. These groups interacted with the Spanish, Mexican, Native American, and U.S. communities that were already established in Texas. As a result of this cohabitation and extended contact, Texas has developed unique cultural traits that are rooted in the culture of all of its founding communities. The settlers from the areas now known as Germany and the Czech Republic established large dance halls in Texas where farmers and townspeople from neighboring communities could gather, dance, and spend a night enjoying each other’s company. The music at these halls, brought from Europe, included the waltz and the polka, played on an accordion, an instrument invented in Italy, which was loud enough to fill the entire dance hall.
Early recorded history
Columbia Records began issuing records with "hillbilly" music (series 15000D "Old Familiar Tunes") as early as 1924. A year earlier on June 14, 1923 Fiddlin' John Carson recorded "Little Log Cabin in the Lane" for Okeh Records. Vernon Dalhart was the first country singer to have a nationwide hit in May of 1924 with "Wreck of the Old '97". The flip side of this record was "Lonesome Road Blues", which also became very popular. Other important early recording artists were Riley Puckett, Don Richardson, Fiddlin' John Carson, Al Hopkins, Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers and The Skillet Lickers. The steel guitar entered country music as early as 1922, when Jimmie Tarlton met famed Hawaiian guitarist Frank Ferera on the West Coast.
The origins of modern country music can be traced to two seminal influences and a remarkable coincidence. Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family are widely considered to be the founders of country music, and their songs were first captured at a historic recording session in Bristol, Tennessee/Bristol, Virginia on August 1, 1927, where Ralph Peer was the talent scout and sound recordist.
Rodgers fused hillbilly country, gospel, jazz, blues, pop, cowboy, and folk; and many of his best songs were his compositions, including “Blue Yodel” (Victor 21142 ), which sold over a million records and established Rodgers as the premier singer of early country music.  
Beginning in 1927, and for the next 17 years the Carters recorded some 300 old-time ballads, traditional tunes, country songs, and Gospel hymns, all representative of America's southeastern folklore and heritage. 
One effect of the Great Depression was to reduce the number of records that could be sold. Radio, and broadcasting, became a popular source of entertainment, and "barn dance" shows featuring country music were started all over the South, as far north as Chicago, and as far west as California. One of the most important of these shows was the Grand Ole Opry from 650 WSM in Nashville, TN. Some of the early stars on the Opry were Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff, and African American harmonica player DeFord Bailey. WSM's 50,000 watt signal (1934) could often be heard across the country.
Singing Cowboys, Western Swing, and Hillbilly Boogie
During the 1930s and 1940s Cowboy songs, or "Western music", which had been recorded since the 1920s, were popularized by films made in Hollywood. Some of the popular singing cowboys from the era were, Gene Autry, the Sons of the Pioneers, and Roy Rogers. 
Another "country" musician from the Lower Great Plains who had become very popular as the leader of a “hot string band”, and who also appeared in Hollywood Westerns was Bob Wills. His mix of "country" and jazz, which started out as dance hall music, would become known as Western Swing. Spade Cooley and Tex Williams also had very popular bands and appeared in films. At the height of its popularity, Western Swing rivaled the popularity of other big band jazz.
Country musicians began recording boogie in 1939, shortly after it had been played at Carnegie Hall, when Johnny Barfield recorded "Boogie Woogie". The trickle of what was initially called Hillbilly Boogie, or Okie Boogie (later to be renamed Country Boogie), became a flood beginning around late 1945. One notable country boogie from this period was the Delmore Brothers' "Freight Train Boogie", considered to be part of the combined evolution of country music and blues towards rockabilly. In 1948 Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith achieved Top 10 US country chart success with his MGM Records recordings of "Guitar Boogie" and "Banjo Boogie", with the former crossing over to the US pop charts.  Other country boogie artists include Merrill Moore, and Tennessee Ernie Ford. The Hillbilly Boogie period lasted into the 1950s, and remains as one of many subgenres of country into the twenty first century.
By the end of World War II "mountaineer" string band music known as Bluegrass had emerged when Bill Monroe joined with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, led by Roy Acuff at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee. Gospel music, too, remained a popular component of country music.
Another type of stripped down and raw music with a variety of moods and a basic ensemble of guitar, bass, dobro or steel guitar and sometimes drums became popular, especially among poverty striken white southerners. It became known as Honky Tonk and had its roots in Texas. East Texan Al Dexter had a hit with "Honky Tonk Blues", and seven years later "Pistol Packin' Mama".  These "honky tonk" songs associated barrooms, were performed by the likes of Ernest Tubb, Ted Daffin, Floyd Tillman, and the Maddox Brothers and Rose, and Hank Williams, would later be called "traditional" country.
In this post WWII period "country" music was called "folk" in the trades, and "hillbilly" within the industry. 
Many musicians performed and recorded songs in any number of styles. Moon Mullican played Western Swing, but also recorded songs that can be called rockabilly. Bill Haley sang cowboy songs, and was at one time a cowboy yodeler. Haley became most famous as an early player of rock n roll. Lefty Frizzell played in honky tonks Jimmie Rodgers-stylings to his environment, thus creating a sound that was very much his own.
The 1950s and 1960s
By the late 1940s, Nashville began to slowly integrate the popular big band jazz and swing sounds of top 40 radio with the honky tonk storytelling of country pioneers. Between 1947 and 1949, country crooner Eddy Arnold placed a total of 8 songs in the top 10.
The countrypolitan sound of Nashville
Beginning in the mid 50's, and reaching its peak during the early 1960s, the "Nashville Sound" turned country music into a multimillion-dollar industry centered on Nashville, Tennessee. Under the direction of producers such as Chet Atkins, Owen Bradley, and later Billy Sherrill, the "Nashville sound" brought country music to a diverse audience and helped revive country as it emerged from a commercially fallow period. This sound was notable for borrowing from 1950s pop stylings: a prominent and "smooth" vocal, backed by a string section and vocal chorus. Instrumental soloing was de-emphasized in favor of trademark "licks". Leading artists in this genre included Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, and later Tammy Wynette and Charlie Rich. The "slip note" piano style of session musician Floyd Cramer was an important component of this style. Peter Dempsey was also active during this period.
1956 could be called the year of rockabilly in country music. The number 2, 3, and 4 songs on Billboard's charts for that year are: Elvis Presley "Heartbreak Hotel", Johnny Cash "I Walk the Line", and Carl Perkins "Blue Suede Shoes". Cash and Presley would place songs in the top 5 in 1958 with #3 "Guess Things Happen That Way/Come In, Stranger" by Cash, and #5 by Presley "Don't/I Beg Of You".
What is now most commonly referred to as rockabilly was most popular with country music fans in the 1950s, and was recorded and performed by country musicians. Within a few years many rockabilly musicians returned to a more mainstrean style, or had defined their own unique style.
By the end of the decade, backlash as well as traditional artists such as Ray Price, Marty Robbins, and Johnny Horton began to shift the industry away from the Rock n' Roll influences of the mid-50's.
Located 112 miles (180 km) north north west of Los Angeles, Bakersfield, California gave rise to one of the next genres of country music. This sound grew out of hardcore honky tonk with elements of Western swing, and was influenced by one time West Coast residents Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell. By 1966 it was known as the Bakersfield Sound. The Bakersfield Sound relied on electric instruments and amplification, in particular the Telecaster electric guitar, more than other subgenres of country of the era, and can be described as having a sharp, hard, driving, no-frills, edgy flavor. Leading practitioners of this style were Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Tommy Collins, and Wynn Stewart, each of whom had his own style. 
Changing instrumentation in the mid twentieth century
Drums were scorned by early country musicians as being "too loud" and "not pure", but by 1935 Western Swing big band leader Bob Wills had added drums to the Texas Playboys. In the mid 1940s, The Grand Ole Opry did not want the Playboys’ drummer to appear on stage. Although drums were commonly used by rockabilly groups by 1955, the less-conservative-than-the-Grand Ole Opry Louisiana Hayride kept their infrequently-used drummer back stage as late as 1956. By the early 1960s, however, it was rare that a country band didn't have a drummer. 
Bob Wills was one of the first country musicians known to have added an electric guitar to his band, in 1938. . A decade later (1948) Arthur Smith achieved Top 10 US country chart success with his MGM Records recording of "Guitar Boogie", which crossed over to the US pop chart, introducing many people to the potential of the electric guitar. For several decades Nashville session players preferred the warm tones of the Gibson and Gretsch archtop electrics, but a “hot” Fender style, utilizing guitars which became available beginning in the early 1950s, eventually prevailed as the signature guitar sound of country. 
In 1962 Ray Charles surprised the pop world by turning his attention to country & western music, topping the charts and rating # 3 for the year on BillBoard’s pop chart with the "I Can't Stop Loving You" single, and recording the hugely popular album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.
Derived from the traditional and honky tonk sounds of the late 50's and 60's, including Ray Price (whose band, the "Cherokee Cowboys", included Willie Nelson and Roger Miller) and mixed with the anger of an alienated subculture of the nation during the period, outlaw country revolutionized the genre of Country music.
"After I left Nashville (the early 70s), I wanted to relax and play the music that I wanted to play, and just stay around Texas, maybe Oklahoma. Waylon and I had that outlaw image going, and when it caught on at colleges and we started selling records, we were O.K. The whole outlaw thing, it had nothing to do with the music, it was something that got written in an article, and the young people said, 'Well, that's pretty cool.' And started listening." (Willie Nelson)
The late 1960s in American music produced a unique blend as a result of traditionalist backlash within separate genres. In the aftermath of the British Invasion, many desired a return to the "old values" of Rock n' Roll. At the same time there was a lack of enthusiasm in the Country sector for Nashville-produced music. What resulted was a crossbred genre known as Country Rock.
Early innovators in this new style of music included Rock n' Roll icon band The Byrds (while Gram Parsons was the front man) and its spin-off The Flying Burrito Brothers, Commander Cody, and The Eagles.
Country Pop or soft pop, with roots in both the countrypolitan sound and in soft rock, is a subgenre of country music that first emerged in the 1970s. Although the term first referred to country music songs and artists that crossed over to top 40 radio, country pop acts are now more likely to cross over to adult contemporary.
Country pop found its first widespread acceptance during the 1970s. It started with Pop music singers, like Glen Campbell, John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, and Anne Murray having hits on the Country charts. Campbell's "Rhinestone Cowboy" was among one of the biggest crossover hits in Country music history. These Pop-oriented singers thought that they could gain higher record sales and a larger audience if they crossed over into the Country world.
In 1974 Olivia Newton-John, an Australian pop singer, won the "Best Female Country Vocal Performance" as well as the Country Music Association's most coveted award for females, "Female Vocalist of the Year". In the same year, a group of artists, troubled by this trend, formed the short-lived Association of Country Entertainers. The debate raged into 1975, and reached its apex at that year's Country Music Association Awards when reigning Entertainer of the Year, Charlie Rich (who himself had a series of crossover hits), presented the award to his successor, John Denver. As he read Denver's name, Rich set fire to the envelope with a cigarette lighter. The action was taken as a protest against the increasing pop style in country music.
In 1980 country music was popularized by the film Urban Cowboy starring John Travolta and spurred on by Dolly Parton's movie 9 to 5. Among other songs "Urban Cowboy" featured "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band.
Willie Nelson had three songs in the Billboard top 5 in the early eighties: Always On My Mind (1982), To All The Girls I've Loved Before with Julio Iglesias; (1984) both at #1, and Highwayman with Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson at #5 in 1985. The #1 hit in 1983 was Shelly West’s barn burning Jose Cuervo.
In the mid 1990s country western music was influenced by the popularity of line dancing. This influence was so great that Chet Atkins was quoted as saying "The music has gotten pretty bad, I think. It's all that damn line dancing." By the end of the decade, however, at least one line dance choreographer complained that good country line dance music was no longer being released.
One infrequent, but consistent theme in country music is that of proud, stubborn independence. "Country Boy Can Survive" and "Copperhead Road" are two of the more serious songs along those lines; while "Some Girls Do" and "Redneck Woman" are more light-hearted variations on the theme.
There are at least four U.S. cable networks at least partly devoted to the genre: CMT (owned by Viacom), CMT Pure Country (also owned by Viacom), Rural Free Delivery TV (owned by Rural Media Group) and GAC (owned by The E. W. Scripps Company). The original American country music video cable channel was TNN (The Nashville Network). The channel was launched in the early 1980s. In 2000, the channel was renamed and reformatted to TNN (The National Network), which was a general-interest network to compete with USA Network, TNT, and Superstations, such as TBS and WGN. Subsequently, The National Network became Spike TV, the first network for men.
Country music outside the United States
Country music's international popularity is increasing.
Tom Roland, from the Country Music Association International, explains Country Music’s global popularity: “In this respect, at least, Country Music listeners around the globe have something in common with those in the United States. In Germany, for instance, Rohrbach identifies three general groups that gravitate to the genre: people intrigued with the American cowboy icon, middle-aged fans who seek an alternative to harder rock music and younger listeners drawn to the pop-influenced sound that underscores many current Country hits.”
One of the first Americans to perform country music abroad was George Hamilton IV. He was the first country musician to perform in the Soviet Union; he also toured in Australia and the Middle East. He was deemed the "International Ambassador of Country Music" for his contributions to the globalization of country music. Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Keith Urban, and Dwight Yoakam have also made numerous international tours.
Country music in Australia has always been popular, especially given the rural nature of the country. Starting in the 1800's with bush balladeers writing songs of their tales of the bush, as well as songs of protest against the tyranny of the government. In the 1940's the legendary Slim Dusty embarked on a country music career that spanned over fifty years and over 100 albums. Smoky Dawson was also a country music pioneer in Australia, modelling himself very much in the traditional cowboy style, even starring in his own comic books and radio serials. In more recent years, names like Keith Urban, Lee Kernaghan, Beccy Cole, Adam Brand, Troy Cassar Daley and Kasey Chambers have been keeping the tradition of country music alive, whilst also paving the way for new names in the industry, including Catherine Britt, Amber Lawrence, Shea Fisher, Talia Whitman and "Captain Goodtimes" Steve Forde. The constant source of up-to-date news and reviews in Australia is Country HQ, which assists the industry through showcasing the vast array of legends and new talent on the rise in the country music scene downunder.
Performer and shows
- Main article: List of country music performers
- Main article: List of country performers by era
- Main article: List of country television and radio shows
- Academy of Country Music
- Country Music Association
- WSM Radio
- Country Music Hall of Fame
- Great American Country
- List of country genres
- Country and Western dance
- Tejano: Country music performed in Spanish to a Polka beat
- Western music (North America)
- Southern Culture
- Australian country music
- In The Country of Country: A Journey to the Roots of American Music,
Nicholas Dawidoff, Vintage Books, 1998, ISBN 0-375-70082-X
- Are You Ready for the Country: Elvis, Dylan, Parsons and the Roots of
Peter Dogget, Penguin Books, 2001, ISBN 0-14-026108-7
- Roadkill on the Three-Chord Highway,
Colin Escott, Routledge, 2002, ISBN 0-415-93783-3
- Guitars & Cadillacs,
Sabine Keevil, Thinking Dog Publishing, 2002, ISBN 0-9689973-0-9
- Proud to Be an Okie: Cultural Politics, Country Music, and Migration to
Peter La Chapelle, University of California Press, 2007, ISBN 0-52-024889-9
- Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity,
Richard A. Peterson, University of Chicago Press, 1999, ISBN 0226662853
- Country Music USA,
Bill C. Malone, University of Texas Press, 1985, ISBN 0-292-71096-8, second Rev ed, 2002, ISBN 0-292-75262-8
- Don't Get Above Your Raisin': Country Music and the Southern Working Class
(Music in American Life),
Bill C. Malone, University of Illinois Press, 2002, ISBN 0-252-02678-0
- It All Happened In Renfro Valley,
Pete Stamper, University of Kentucky Press, 1999, ISBN 978-0813109756
- ^ a b Peterson, Richard A. (1999). Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity, p.9. ISBN 0-226-66285-3.
- ^ http://www.jim-reeves.com/hayride.html Jim-reeves.com
- ^ http://www.roughstock.com/history/garthnew.html Roughstock.com
- ^ L.A. radio loses its twang / Last country station switches to pop format to attract more Hispanic adult women
- ^ http://bluegrassbanjo.org/banhist.html Bluegrassbanjo.org
- ^ http://www.shoppbs.org/sm-pbs-the-appalachians-dvd--pi-2048969.html#Details Shoppbs.org
- ^ 
- ^ http://settlet.fateback.com/COL15000D.htm Settlet.fateback.com
- ^ http://ourgeorgiahistory.com/chronpop/215 Ourgeorgiahistory.com
- ^ http://www.blueridgeinstitute.org/ballads/old97song.html Blueridgeinstitute.org
- ^ http://www.blueridgeinstitute.org/ballads/old97.html Blueridgeinstitute.org
- ^ Cohn, Lawrence; Aldin,Mary Katherine; Bastin,Bruce [September 1993]. Nothing but the Blues: The Music and the Musicians. Abbeville Press, 238.
- ^ http://www.southernmusic.net/gidtanner.htm Southernmusic.net
- ^ Cohn, Lawrence: "Nothing But the Blues" chapter titles "A Ligher Shade of Blue - White Country Blues" by Charled Wolfe page 247, 1993
- ^ David Sanjek, "All the Memories Money Can Buy: Marketing Authenticity and Manufacturing Authorship", p. 155–172 in Eric Weisbard, ed., This is Pop, Harvard University Press, 2004. ISBN 0-674-01321-2 (cloth), ISBN 0-674-01344-1 (paper). p. 158.
- ^ Nothing But the Blues 1993, White Country Blues by Charles Wolfe page 233
- ^ Go, Cat, Go! by Carl Perkins and David McGee 1996 pages 23-24 Hyperion Press ISBN 0-7868-6073-1
- ^ Country Music Goes To War By Charles K. Wolfe, James Edward Akenson. 2005. University Press of Kentucky. page = 55. ISBN 0813123089 
- ^ http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/yearend_chart_index.jsp Billboard.com
- ^ http://rcarecordslabel.com/ea/bio.htm Rcarecordslabel.com
- ^ http://www.rockhall.com/inductee/floyd-cramer Rockhall.com
- ^ http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/yearend_chart_display.jsp?f=Hot+Country+Songs&g=Year-end+Singles&year=1956 Billboard.com
- ^ http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/yearend_chart_display.jsp?f=Hot+Country+Songs&g=Year-end+Singles&year=1958 Billboard.com
- ^ http://www.billboard.com/bbcom/charts/yearend_chart_display.jsp?f=The+Billboard+Hot+100&g=Year-end+Singles&year=1962 Billboard.com
- ^ The Roots of Country Music" Collectors Edition by Life September 1, 1994 page 72
- ^ http://www.lyricsoncall.com/lyrics/charlie-daniels-band/the-devil-went-down-to-georgia-lyrics.html Lyricsoncall.com
- ^ The Roots of Country Music" Collectors Edition by Life September 1, 1994
- ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/williams-hank-jr/country-boy-can-survive-10123.html Cowboylyrics.com
- ^ http://steveearle.net/lyrics/ly-coppe.php Steveearle.net
- ^ http://www.cowboylyrics.com/lyrics/sawyer-brown/some-girls-do-15017.html Cowboylyrics.com
- ^ http://www.lyricstop.com/r/redneckwoman-gretchenwilson.html Lyricstop.com
- ^ a b c  CMA World.com
- ^  “Country Music Figures Donate Papers, Give Concert”
- The Country Music Association
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- Grand Ole Opry
- GAC - Great American Country TV
- Country Music Television
- Country HQ - From Texas to Tamworth and everywhere in between
- Country Weekly magazine
- A TIME Archive of country music's progression
- Cowboy FM
- Countryfied Soul
- The Piano in Country Music
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