How Did Country Music Started?

The hillbilly music of the south is a genre of music that is beginning to grow at an immense rate throughout the United States. Originating in Bristol Tennessee, country music is a type of music that integrates the blues, jazz and originally some “hillbilly folk” with a bit of swing, and just recently some pop has been added to the sound. The lyrics represent the “faithfully charted vicissitudes of the working-class life; as Charlie Rich put it, “life’s little ups and downs”. The music is nearly 73 years old, and is just now starting to touch people.

In 1927, a man by the name of Ralph Peer signed Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family, who would later set the sound for country music. Jimmie Rodgers was born in Mississippi and his favorite type of music to sing was “nigger blues”, which is what he brought to the country industry.

African American musicians wound up having a huge impact on the country music sound. Mainly because on one side there was the “colored section” and the “white trash” section. Because of how close the two communities were, the songs that each would sing would influence the other (Scherman, 1994). A lot of the African American sound can be heard through jazz and blues. Many of the early country artists were “hillbillies”, singing their folk music. However, country music is NOT folk music.

When Gene Autry went to Hollywood in 1934 and became “the movies first singing cowboy” the image of the cowboy stuck with the “hillbilly sound” (Scherman, 1994). Gene Autry’s biggest rival was Roy Rogers. Roy Rogers starred in over 100 movies and headed his own television show (Walker, 1997). Roy Rogers was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988.

It was only a few years later when he was on top of the charts once again (Walker 1997). In 1934, Rogers formed the Sons of the Pioneers, an early country western band (Walker 1997).

With the help of Bob Wills, western swing was born. “The style was a blend of big band, blues, dixieland, and jazz among others” (Walker, 1997). Originating in Texas and Oklahoma in the 1930’s (Walker, 1997). Bob Wills famous “falsetto cry” of “Ah-hahh” was adopted by the WWII American pilots, whenever the pilots would celebrate a hit. During this time, Southern California became America’s western swing capital (Scherman, 1994).

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