GESCHIEDENIS - De Geschiedenis van Country Music - Engelse versie

De Geschiedenis van Country Music - Nederlandse versie


The History of Country Music

  1. In the beginning
  2. Cowboy music
  3. Honky Tonk music
  4. The Nashville sound
  5. Outlaw country
  6. Urban country
  7. New country

In the beginning

Although musicians had been recording fiddle tunes (known as Old Time Music at that time) in the southern Appalachians for several years, It wasn't until August 1, 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee, that Country Music really began. There, on that day, Ralph Peer signed Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family to recording contracts for Victor Records. These two recording acts set the tone for those to follow - Rodgers with his unique singing style and the Carters with their extensive recordings of old-time music.

Jimmie Rodgers

Known as the "Father of Country Music," James Charles. Rodgers was born in Meridian, Mississippi on September 8, 1897. Always in ill health, he became a railroad hand, until ill health caught up with him and he was forced to seek a less strenuous occupation. An amateur entertainer for many years, he became a serious performer in 1925, appearing in Johnson City, Tennessee and other places. In 1926, Rodgers and Carrie, his wife of 6 years, moved to Asheville, North Carolina, and organized the Jimmie Rodgers' Entertainers, a hillbilly band comprising Jack Pierce (guitar), Jack Grant (mandolin/banjo), Claude Grant (banjo), and Rogers himself (banjo).

Upon hearing that Ralph Peer of Victor Records was setting up a portable recording studio in Bristol, on the Virginia-Tennessee border, the Entertainers headed in that direction. But due to a dispute within their ranks, Rodgers eventually recorded as a solo artist, selecting a sentimental ballad, "The Soldier's Sweetheart," and a lullaby, "Sleep, Baby, Sleep," as his first offerings. The record met with instant acclaim, thus causing Victor to record further Rodgers' sides throughout 1927, including the first in a set of 13, Blue Yodel # (T for Texas.

Rodgers, who died in 1933, never appeared on any major radio show or even played the Grand Ole Opry during his lifetime. But he, Fred Rose, and Hank Williams were the first persons to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961, which is indicative of his importance in the history of Country Music.

The Carter Family

One of the most influential groups in country music was The Carter Family (A.P., Sara, cousin Maybelle, and others). The Carters first recorded for Ralph Peer for Victor on August 1, 1927--the same day that Jimmie Rodgers cut his first sides--completing six titles, including "Single Girl, Married Girl," at a makeshift studio in Bristol, Tennessee, known as the Bristol Barn Sessions. Sara and A.P. obtained a divorce during 1936, but continued.

Back to Top

Cowboy music

The songs of Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Sons of the Pioneers put the Western in Country and Western Music. Much of this music was written for and brought to the American public through the cowboy films of the 30's and 40's and was widely popular.

Roy Rogers

Known as the "King of the Cowboys," and a major western movie star between 1938 and 1953, Roy Rogers started out as Leonard Slye in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1911. Influenced by his father, who played mandolin and guitar, Rogers began playing at local functions during the 1920s. After stints with such groups as the Rocky Mountaineers and the Hollywood Hillbillies, he formed his own band, the International Cowboys. Later -- with the aid of Tim Spencer and Bob Nolan -- he firmed the Sons of the Pioneers. Though this outfit established a considerable reputation, Rogers set his sights higher and began playing bit parts in films, first under the name of Dick Weston, and then assuming his guise as Roy Rogers, eventually wining a starring role in "Under Western Skies," a 1938 production.

With the horse Trigger and frequent female partner, Dale Evans (whom he married in 1947), and occasional help from such people as the Sons of the Pioneers and Spade Cooley, Rogers became Gene Autry's only real rival, starring in over 100 movies and heading his own TV show in the mid-1950s. Rogers was a recording artist with RCA-Victor for many years. He later recorded for Capitol, Word and 20th Century. Even in 1980, then signed to MCA, Rogers was still charting. He and the Sons of the Pioneers teamed up once more for "Ride Concrete Cowboy, Ride," a song stemming from the movie "Smokey and the Bandit II."

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988, three years later he was back in the country charts with "Hold On Partner," a duet with Clint Black form Rogers' "Tribute" album. This classic album had the 80 year-old cowboy duetting with such current stars as Lorrie Morgan, Kathy Mattea, Ricky van Shelton, Randy Travis, Restless Heart, and the Kentucky HeadHunters. The part-owner of a chain of restaurants, a theme park, and his own world wide web site (, Rogers is estimated to be worth over 100 milion dollars.

Gene Autry

Orvon Gene Autry, the most succesful of all singing cowboys to break into movies was born in Tioga, Texas, September 29, 1907. Taught to play guitar by his mother Elnora, Gene joined the Fields Brothers Marvelous Medicine Show while still in high school, but after graduation in 1925 became a railroad telegrapher with the Frisco Railway in Sapulpar, Oklahoma. Encouraged by Will Rogers following a chance meeting. Autry took a job on Radio KVOO, Tulsa, in 1930, billing himself as "Oklahoma's Singing Cowboy," and singing much in the style of Jimmie Rodgers. 

Next came a movie to Hollywood where following a performance in a Ken Maynard western "In Old Santa Fe," he was asked to star in a serial "The Phantom Empire." Thereafter, Autry appeared in innumerable B movies, usually with his horse, Champion. His list of his record during the '30s and '40s -- he was easily the most popular singer of the time -- is awesome, including "Yellow Rose of Texas" (1933), "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" (1935), "Mexicali Rose" (1936), "Back In The Saddle Again" (1939). 

Sons of the Pioneers

Originally a guitarist/vocals trio when formed by Roy Rogers, Bob Nolan and Tim Spencer in 1934 as the Pioneer Trio, the name changed to Sons of the Pioneers in deference to the American Indian heritage of members Karl and Hugh Farr. The Sons did extensive radio work during the '30s and recorded for Decca, Columbia and RCA. Films also figured large for them and they appeared in many of those featuring Rogers. Sons of the Pioneers recorded many of the songs associated with this style of music, "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" and "Cool Water," the latter of which is found in this exhibit.

Back to Top

Honky Tonk music

Perhaps no other style of country music has had a greater influence on today's artists than the style known as Honky Tonk. Honky Tonk music embodied the spirit of dancing and drinking, and of loving and then losing the one you love. It's greatest practitioners owe their singing style to Jimmie Rodgers and much of the music to the steel guitar and drums of Bob Wills and Western Swing.

Hank Williams

One of the most charismatic and enduring figures in country music -- his Opry performance of June 11, 1949, when his audience required him to reprise "Lovesick Blues" several times, is still considered the Ryman's greatest moment -- Hank was born Hiram King Williams in Georgiana, Alabama on September 17, 1923. Barely a teenager, he won $15 singing "WPA Blues" at a Montgomery amatuer contest, then formed a band, the Drifting Cowboy's, which played on station WSFA, Montgomery, for over a decade. Switching form Sterling Records in 1946 to the newly formed MGM label in 1947, Williams was booked as a regular on KWKH's Lousiana Hayride. After having scored with his recording of "Lovesick Blues," he signed a contract with the Grand Ole Opry in 1949.

Ernest Tubb

Born in Crisp, Texas in 1914, Ernest Dale Tubb was the sixth member to be elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and a regular member of the Opry from 1943 to the time of his death. Tubb's boyhood hero was the great Jimmie Rodgers. Although he had dreams of emulating Rodgers and sang at various local get-togethers during his early teens, Tubb was almost 20 before he owned his first guitar.

Lefty Frizzell

Acquiring the nickname 'Lefty' after disposing of several opponents with his left hand during an unsuccesful attept to become a Golden Gloves boxing champion, the Corsicana, Texas-born (1928) singer-songwriter-guitarist began as William Orville Frizzell.

Back to Top

The Nashville sound

The Nashville Sound is a blend of pop and country that developed during the 1950s. The music in this era was an outcropping of the big band jazz and swing of the '30s, '40s and early '50s, combined with the storytelling of honky-tonkers.

Jim Reeves

Originally a stone country singers, smooth-toned Jim Reeves from Texas reached amazing heights as a pop balladeer and since his death in an air crash his fame has burgeoned into cult proportions. Born in 1923 in Galloway, Panola County, Texas.

The February, 1957 release of "Four Walls" proved the real turning point in Reeves' career. In 1959, Reeves recorded his all-time greatest hit, "He'll Have to Go." The theme was familiar enough. Some years earlier it might have been called a honky-tonk song.

Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline (real name Virginia Patterson Hensley) was born in Winchester, Virginia, on September 8, 1932. Winner of an amateur tap-dancing contest at the age of four, she began learning piano at eight and in her early teens became a singer at local clubs. In 1948, an audition won her a trip to Nashville, where she appeared in a few clubs before returning home -- but her big break came in 1957 when she won an Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show, singing "Walking After Midnight". 

A country crooner with a smooth, very commercial voice, Arnold has probably sold more records than any other C&W artist, with few exceptions. Born in Henderson, Tennessee, in 1918, Arnold first learned guitar from his father -- an old time fiddler -- teaching him guitar at the age of ten.

The Streets of Laredo, as well as "Bouquet of Roses," "Anytime," "Just a Little Lovin' Will Go a Long, Long Way" (1948), "I Wanna Play House With You" (1951), and "Cattle Call" (1955), while many others sold nearly as many.

Back to Top

Outlaw country

The late 1960s and 1970s saw the resurgence of a more traditional country sound. The Nashville sound, by 1970, was well-worn, and had merged into the pre-British Revolution pop culture in many areas. Aside from the "outlaws" profiled below, new artist such as Charley Pride ("Kiss an Angel Good Morning") and Conway Twitty ("Hello Darlin") emerged to break the mold of the Nashville Sound. Southern Country Rockers such as The Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band, David Allan Coe, The Charlie Daniels Band, and others took country to a new, higher level. Without a doubt, though, it was the outlaws who defined this era in country music.

Willie Nelson

Born in Abbot, Texas, on April 30, 1933, Willie Nelson was raised by his grandparents after his own parents has separated. Willie reconciled hip and redneck musical and helped lead a new explosion of interest in country music, teaming up with Waylon Jennings to top the country charts with "Good Hearted Woman" in 1976, and to be featured on country's first certified platinum album, the "Wanted: The Outlaws" compilation. Nelson recorded his most popular (and arguably his best) album in 1978 with Jennings, Leon Russell, and Ray Price entitled "Stardust," a collection of Tin Pan Alley standards.

Johnny Cash

Winner of six CMA awards in 1969, John R. Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, February 26, 1932, son of a poverty-stricken cotton farmer. In 1935, the Cash family moved to the government resettlement Dyess Colony, surviving the Mississippi river flood of 1937, an event documented in a 1959 Cash song, "Five Feet High and Rising." After graduating from high school, Cash spent some time in the Air Force, taught himself how to play guitar and wrote his first songs.

Waylon was born in Littlefield, Texas, and influenced heavily by the sound of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry, with Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry, and Jimmie Rodgers. After quitting high school to pursue music, Waylon found himself in Lubbock at radio station KLLL as a popular DJ. known for his side-splitting ad-libs. It was here where Jennings cemented his friendship with Buddy Holly. Songs like "Amanda" (1974), "Rainy Day Woman" (1974), and "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)" (1977). A live album recorded in Texas yielded a wild Jimmie Rodgers re-interpretation, "T for Texas," (with a Memphis beat but no yodel).

Merle Haggard

Country's most charismatic living legend, Merle Haggard. While in prison, Merle did some picking and songwriting, and was in San Quentin when Johnny Cash performed one of his prison concerts in 1958. When he left jail in 1960, he was determined to try and make a go of performing. He moved to Bakersfield, then a growing country music center. Helped initially by Buck Owens, and his former wife Bonnie (whom Haggard eventually married). 

Back to Top

Urban country

The most infamous era in country music was in the early '80s. The Urban Cowboy movement led country music away from its roots. Country's move toward pop culture was popularized by John Travolta's "Urban Cowboy," and spurred on Dolly Parton's movie 9 to 5 and the title song, which you can find here.

John Conlee

Although most of the songs and artists coming from Nashville were forgettable, some artist did produce excellent music. One of country biggest cross-over stars was John Conlee, undoubtedly the singer with the saddest voice in country music. Born and raised on a Kentucky tobacco farm. Throughout his career, Conlee has championed the ordinary working man, typified in songs such as "Busted," "Common Man," "Working Man," and "American Faces." Inducted as the first new member of the Opry in five years in 1979, he still tours regularly, and is active with charities.


This American country-rock group has been one of the most successful country acts of recent years, with the majority of their singles hitting No.1 on the country charts, and all albums having reached gold or platinum status. They created the group sound rather than a singer accompanied by a group, and set things in motion for other outfits such as Atlanta, Exile and Bandana, and, later, Restless Heart, Confederate Railroad, Desert Rose Band, and the Kentucky HeadHunters. Initially formed in 1969 at Fort Payne, Alabama, as Wild country, the group was a semi-professional outfit with the nucleus of cousins Jeff Cook and Randy Owen, plus Teddy Gentry.

Reba McEntire

Discovered singing the national anthem at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo, Reba's early country career revealed a different singer altogether form the polished professional Reba of 1997. Greatly influenced by her small town upbringing, and by the music of Patsy Cline, McEntire's early work is true honky-tonk country with a twist.

Back to Top

New country

After a dismal failure of the Urban Cowboy era, a generation of "new traditionalists" -- George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, the Judds, Randy Travis, and Ricky Van Shelton -- brought country out of its post-Urban Cowboy doldrums by reminding young audiences what made the music great in the first place. Building on the astounding success of Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson and many others, Country has become the most popular radio format in America, reaching 77.3 million adults--almost 40 percent of the adult population--every week. Since 1989, country record sales have nearly doubled from $921 million to over $1.758 billion. Garth alone has sold more than 60 million albums since the release of his self-titled album in April 1989.

Garth Brooks

The Country Music Superstar of the '90s, Troyal Garth Brooks was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on February 7, 1962, and was raised in Yukon, about 100 miles away from Tulsa. Country music played a role in Brooks' household, but not a dominant one. Garth Brooks is undeniably the most popular country music artist of all time, in terms of worldwide following, albums sold, and awards won. The first single from his self-titled debut, "Much to Young (to Feel This Damn Old) made it to #10. But it was Brooks' fourth single that cemented his popularity. His biggest hit, one he considers his career song, "The Dance," and its accompanying video vaulted up the country and pop charts, and from then on, there was no stopping Garth Brooks.

George Strait

George Strait, born May 18, 1952, in Pearsall, Texas, emerged in the early '80s as one of the best exponents of unvarnished, clean-cut country music. George and his band had built up a strong following on the southwest Texas honky-tonk circuit when, through the efforts of Erv Woolsey, a one-time MCA promotions man, he landed an MCA recording contract in early 1981.

Back to Top