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Country History

Country Music Defined

Country music, also called country and western, style of American popular music that originated in rural areas of the South and West in the early 20th century. The term country and western music (later shortened to country music) was adopted by the recording industry in 1949 to replace the derogatory label hillbilly music. 

Ultimately, country music’s roots lie in the ballads, folk songs, and popular songs of the English, Scots, and Irish settlers of the Appalachians and other parts of the South. In the early 1920s the traditional string-band music of the Southern mountain regions began to be commercially recorded, with Fiddlin’ John Carson garnering the genre’s first hit record in 1923. The vigour and realism of the rural songs, many lyrics of which were rather impersonal narratives of tragedies pointing to a stern Calvinist moral, stood in marked contrast to the often mawkish sentimentality of much of the popular music of the day.

More important than recordings for the growth of country music was broadcast radio. Small radio stations appeared in the larger Southern and Midwestern cities in the 1920s, and many devoted part of their airtime to live or recorded music suited to white rural audiences. Two regular programs of great influence were the “National Barn Dance” from Chicago, begun in 1924, and the “Grand Ole Opry” from Nashville, begun in 1925. The immediate popularity of such programs encouraged more recordings and the appearance of talented musicians from the hills at radio and record studios. Among these were the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers, whose performances strongly influenced later musicians. Continue reading from Encyclopedia Britannica

Watch Country Music History


Hank Williams - Hey, Good Lookin' - 1953


Dolly Parton - Jolene - 1974

Check Out a Book on Country History

Link to She come by it natural : Dolly Parton and the women who lived her songs by Sarah Smarsh in the catalog
Link to Loretta Lynn : Coal miner's daughter by Loretta Lynn in the catalog
Link to Country music : the rough guide by Kurt Wolff in the catalog
Link to Grand Ole Opry (Songbook) in Hoopla
Link to Man in Black by Johnny Cash in the catalog
Link to Kenny Rogers [Documentary] in Hoopla

Link to Music History Resource Guide Series