Country music (/ˈkʌntri/), also known as country and western or
simply country, is a genre of popular music that originated in the
southern United States in the early 1920s. It takes its roots from
genres such as folk music (especially Appalachian folk music) and
Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally
simple forms, folk lyric and harmonies accompanied by mostly string
instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, steel
guitars (such as pedal steels and dobros), and fiddles as well as
Blues modes have been used extensively throughout
its recorded history.
According to Lindsey Starnes, the term country music gained popularity
in the 1940s in preference to the earlier term hillbilly music; it
came to encompass Western music, which evolved parallel to hillbilly
music from similar roots, in the mid-20th century. In 2009, in the
United States country music was the most listened to rush hour radio
genre during the evening commute, and second most popular in the
The term country music is used today to describe many styles and
subgenres. The origins of country music are the folk music of working
class Americans, who blended popular songs, Irish and Celtic fiddle
tunes, traditional English ballads, and cowboy songs, and various
musical traditions from European immigrant communities.
1.1 Role of East Tennessee
3 First generation (1920s)
4 Second generation (1930s–1940s)
Singing cowboys and Western swing
4.2 Changing instrumentation
4.4 Bluegrass, folk and gospel
4.5 Honky tonk
5 Third generation (1950s–1960s)
5.2 The Nashville and countrypolitan sounds
5.3 Country-soul crossover
5.4 Bakersfield sound
6 Decline of Western music and the cowboy ballad
7 Fourth generation (1970s–1980s)
7.1 Outlaw country
7.2 Country pop
7.3 Country rock
7.5 Truck driving country
7.6 Neotraditionalist movement
8 Fifth generation (1990s)
9 Sixth generation (2000s–present)
10.3 United Kingdom
10.4 Other international country music
11 Performers and shows
11.1 US cable television
11.2 Canadian television
11.3 Australian cable television
12 See also
14 Further reading
15 External links
Main articles: Appalachian music, Blues, Celtic folk, Old-time music,
and Western music (North America)
Immigrants to the southern
Appalachian Mountains of eastern North
America brought the music and instruments of
Europe along with them
for nearly 300 years.
Country music was "introduced to the world as a
Role of East Tennessee
Main article: Music of East Tennessee
The U.S. Congress has formally recognized
Bristol, Tennessee as the
"Birthplace of Country Music", based on the historic Bristol
recording sessions of 1927. Since 2014, the city has been
home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Historians
have also noted the influence of the less-known Johnson City sessions
of 1928 and 1929, and the Knoxville sessions of 1929 and
1930. In addition, the Mountain City Fiddlers Convention, held in
1925, helped to inspire modern country music. Before these, pioneer
settlers, in the
Great Smoky Mountains
Great Smoky Mountains region, had developed a rich
The first generation emerged in the early 1920s, with Atlanta's music
scene playing a major role in launching country's earliest recording
artists. New York City record label
Okeh Records began issuing
hillbilly music records by
Fiddlin' John Carson
Fiddlin' John Carson as early as 1923,
Columbia Records (series 15000D "Old Familiar Tunes")
(Samantha Bumgarner) in 1924, and
RCA Victor Records
RCA Victor Records in 1927 with the
first famous pioneers of the genre Jimmie Rodgers) and the first
family of country music The Carter Family. Many "hillbilly"
musicians, such as Cliff Carlisle, recorded blues songs throughout the
During the second generation (1930s–1940s), radio 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. The most important was the Grand Ole Opry,
aired starting in 1925 by WSM in Nashville and continuing to the
present day. During the 1930s and 1940s, cowboy songs, or Western
music, which had been recorded since the 1920s, were popularized by
films made in Hollywood.
Bob Wills was another country musician from
Great Plains who had become very popular as the leader of a
"hot string band," and who also appeared in Hollywood westerns. His
mix of country and jazz, which started out as dance hall music, would
become known as Western swing. Wills was one of the first country
musicians known to have added an electric guitar to his band, in
1938. Country musicians began recording boogie in 1939, shortly
after it had been played at Carnegie Hall, when Johnny Barfield
recorded "Boogie Woogie".
The third generation (1950s–1960s) started at the end of World War
II with "mountaineer" string band music known as bluegrass, which
emerged when Bill Monroe, along with
Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs
were introduced by
Roy Acuff at the Grand Ole Opry. Gospel music
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 later) drums
became popular, especially among poor whites in Texas and Oklahoma. It
became known as honky tonk, and had its roots in
Western swing and the
ranchera music of Mexico and the border states. By the early 1950s a
blend of Western swing, country boogie, and honky tonk was played by
most country bands.
Rockabilly was most popular with country fans in
the 1950s, and 1956 could be called the year of rockabilly in country
Johnny Cash emerging as one of the most popular and
enduring representatives of the rockabilly genre; rockabilly was also
a starting point for eventual rock-and-roll superstar Elvis Presley,
who would return to his country roots near the end of his life.
Beginning in the mid-1950s, and reaching its peak during the early
Nashville sound turned country music into a
multimillion-dollar industry centered in Nashville, Tennessee; Patsy
Jim Reeves were two of the most broadly popular Nashville
sound artists, and their deaths in separate plane crashes in the early
1960s were a factor in the genre's decline. 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
Fourth generation (1970s–1980s) music included outlaw country with
roots in the Bakersfield sound, and country pop with roots in the
countrypolitan, folk music and soft rock. Between 1972 and 1975
John Denver released a series of hugely successful
songs blending country and folk-rock musical styles. During the early
1980s country artists continued to see their records perform well on
the pop charts. In 1980 a style of "neocountry disco music" was
popularized. During the mid-1980s a group of new artists began to
emerge who rejected the more polished country-pop sound that had been
prominent on radio and the charts in favor of more traditional
"back-to-basics" production; this neotraditional movement would
dominate country music through the late 1980s and was typified by the
likes of George Strait. Attempts to combine punk and country were
pioneered by Jason and the Scorchers, and in the 1980s Southern
Californian cowpunk scene with bands like the Long Ryders and Mojo
During the fifth generation (1990s), country music became a worldwide
phenomenon. Two types of artists enjoyed mainstream popularity:
neotraditionalists such as Alan Jackson, and the more broadly popular
stadium country acts, in particular Garth Brooks. The Dixie Chicks
became one of the most popular country bands in the 1990s and early
The sixth generation (2000s–present) has seen a certain amount of
diversification in regard to country music styles. The influence of
rock music in country has become more overt during the late 2000s and
Hip-hop also made its mark on country music with the
emergence of country rap. Most of the best-selling country songs
of this era were in the country pop genre, such as those by Lady
Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line,
Carrie Underwood and Taylor
First generation (1920s)
Jimmie Rodgers, country singer, yodeler and pioneer, was country's
first major star
Vernon Dalhart was the first country star to have a major host record
The first commercial recordings of what was considered instrumental
music in the traditional country style were "Arkansas Traveler" and
"Turkey in the Straw" by fiddlers Henry Gilliland & A.C. (Eck)
Robertson on June 30, 1922, for Victor Records and released in April
Columbia Records began issuing records with "hillbilly"
music (series 15000D "Old Familiar Tunes") as early as 1924.
The Carter Family, are a dynasty of country music and began with (left
to right) A.P. Carter, wife
Sara Carter and Maybelle Carter
The first commercial recording of what is widely considered to be the
first country song featuring vocals and lyrics was Fiddlin' John
Carson with "Little Log Cabin in the Lane" for
Okeh Records in June
Vernon Dalhart was the first country singer to have a nationwide hit
in May 1924 with "Wreck of the Old 97". The flip side of the
record was "Lonesome Road Blues", which also became very popular.
In April 1924, "Aunt"
Samantha Bumgarner and Eva Davis became the
first female musicians to record and release country songs. Many
"hillbilly" musicians, such as Cliff Carlisle, recorded blues songs
throughout the decade and into the 1930s. Other important early
recording artists were Riley Puckett, Don Richardson, Fiddlin' John
Carson, Uncle Dave Macon, Al Hopkins, Ernest V. Stoneman, Blind Alfred
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
Jimmie Rodgers and the
Carter Family are widely considered to be
important early country musicians. Their songs were first captured at
a historic recording session in Bristol, Tennessee, on August 1, 1927,
Ralph Peer was the talent scout and sound recordist. A
scene in the movie
O Brother, Where Art Thou? depicts a similar
occurrence in the same timeframe. Rodgers fused hillbilly country,
gospel, jazz, blues, pop, cowboy, and folk, and many of his best songs
were his compositions, including "Blue Yodel", 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.
Second generation (1930s–1940s)
See also: 1940s in music § Country
Record sales declined during the Great Depression, but radio became a
popular source of entertainment, and "barn dance" shows featuring
country music were started by radio stations all over the South, as
far north as Chicago, and as far west as California.
The most important was the Grand Ole Opry, aired starting in 1925 by
WSM in Nashville and continuing to the present day. 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 (in
1934) could often be heard across the country. Many musicians
performed and recorded songs in any number of styles. Moon Mullican,
for example, played
Western swing but also recorded songs that can be
called rockabilly. Between 1947 and 1949, country crooner Eddy Arnold
placed eight songs in the top 10. From 1945 to 1955 Jenny Lou
Carson was one of the most prolific songwriters in country music.
Singing cowboys and Western swing
Publicity photo of
Roy Rogers and Gail Davis, 1948
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.
Country music and
western music were frequently played together on the same radio
stations, hence the term country and western music. Cowgirls
contributed to the sound in various family groups. Patsy Montana
opened the door for female artists with her history-making song "I
Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart". This would begin a movement toward
opportunities for women to have successful solo careers.
Bob Wills was
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. His mix of country and jazz, which
started out as dance hall music, would become known as Western swing.
Cliff Bruner, Moon Mullican,
Milton Brown and
Adolph Hofner were other
Western swing pioneers.
Spade Cooley and
Tex Williams also had
very popular bands and appeared in films. At its height, Western swing
rivaled the popularity of big band swing music.
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
Louisiana Hayride kept its
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
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, using guitars which became available beginning in the
early 1950s, eventually prevailed as the signature guitar sound of
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 in late 1945. One notable release 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
Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith achieved top ten 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 included Moon Mullican, Merrill Moore and
Tennessee Ernie Ford. The hillbilly boogie period lasted into the
1950s and remains one of many subgenres of country into the 21st
Bluegrass, folk and gospel
Main article: Bluegrass music
Bill and Charlie Monroe (1936).
Bill Monroe (1911–1996) and The Blue
Grass Boys created the bluegrass by the end of World War II.
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, introduced by
Roy Acuff at the Grand Ole Opry. Gospel
music, too, remained a popular component of bluegrass and other sorts
of country music. Red Foley, the biggest country star following World
War II, had one of the first million-selling gospel hits ("Peace in
the Valley") and also sang boogie, blues and rockabilly. In the
post-war period, country music was called "folk" in the trades, and
"hillbilly" within the industry. In 1944, The Billboard replaced
the term "hillbilly" with "folk songs and blues," and switched to
"country" or "country and Western" in 1949.
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
later) drums became popular, especially among poor whites in Texas and
Oklahoma. It became known as honky tonk and had its roots in Western
swing and the ranchera music of Mexico and the border states,
particularly Texas, together with the blues of the American South. Bob
Wills and His
Texas Playboys personified this music which has been
described as "a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, a little
bit of black and a little bit of white ... just loud enough to
keep you from thinking too much and to go right on ordering the
whiskey." 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,
Kitty Wells (the first major female country solo singer), Ted Daffan,
Floyd Tillman, and the Maddox Brothers and Rose,
Lefty Frizzell and
Hank Williams, would later be called "traditional" country. Williams'
influence in particular would prove to be enormous, inspiring many of
the pioneers of rock and roll, such as
Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee
Lewis, as well as
Chuck Berry and Ike Turner, while providing a
framework for emerging honky tonk talents like George Jones. Webb
Pierce was the top-charting country artist of the 1950s, with 13 of
his singles spending 113 weeks at number one. He charted 48 singles
during the decade; 31 reached the top ten and 26 reached the top four.
Third generation (1950s–1960s)
1950s in music
1950s in music and 1960s in music
By the early 1950s a blend of Western swing, country boogie, and honky
tonk was played by most country bands. Western music, influenced by
the cowboy ballads and
Tejano music rhythms of the southwestern U.S.
and northern Mexico, reached its peak in popularity in the late 1950s,
most notably with the song "El Paso", first recorded by Marty Robbins
in September 1959. The country music scene largely kept the music of
the folk revival and folk rock at a distance, despite the similarity
in instrumentation and origins (see, for instance, The Byrds' negative
reception during their appearance on the Grand Ole Opry). The main
concern was politics: the folk revival was largely driven by
progressive activists, a stark contrast to the culturally conservative
audiences of country music. Only a handful of folk artists, such as
John Denver and Canadian musician Gordon Lightfoot, would
cross over into country music after the folk revival died out. During
the mid-1950s a new style of country music became popular, eventually
to be referred to as rockabilly.
Main article: Rockabilly
Rockabilly was most popular with country fans in the 1950s, and 1956
could be called the year of rockabilly in country music. Rockabilly
was an early form of rock and roll, an upbeat combination of blues and
country music. The number two, three and four songs on Billboard's
charts for that year were Elvis Presley, "Heartbreak Hotel"; Johnny
Cash, "I Walk the Line"; and Carl Perkins, "Blue Suede Shoes" Thumper
Jones (George Jones) Cash and Presley placed songs in the top 5 in
1958 with No. 3 "Guess Things Happen That Way/Come In, Stranger" by
Cash, and No. 5 by Presley "Don't/I Beg of You." Presley
acknowledged the influence of rhythm and blues artists and his style,
saying "The colored folk been singin' and playin' it just the way I'm
doin' it now, man for more years than I know." Within a few years,
many rockabilly musicians returned to a more mainstream style or had
defined their own unique style.
Country music gained national television exposure through Ozark
Jubilee on ABC-TV and radio from 1955 to 1960 from Springfield,
Missouri. The program showcased top stars including several rockabilly
artists, some from the Ozarks. As
Webb Pierce put it in 1956, "Once
upon a time, it was almost impossible to sell country music in a place
like New York City. Nowadays, television takes us everywhere, and
country music records and sheet music sell as well in large cities as
anywhere else." The late 1950s saw the emergence of Buddy Holly,
but 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-1950s.
The Nashville and countrypolitan sounds
Main article: Nashville sound
Beginning in the mid-1950s, and reaching its peak during the early
Nashville sound turned country music into a
multimillion-dollar industry centered in Nashville, Tennessee. Under
the direction of producers such as Chet Atkins, Paul Cohen, Owen
Bradley, Bob Ferguson, and later Billy Sherrill, the sound brought
country music to a diverse audience and helped revive country as it
emerged from a commercially fallow period. This subgenre was
notable for borrowing from 1950s pop stylings: a prominent and smooth
vocal, backed by a string section (violins and other orchestral
strings) and vocal chorus. Instrumental soloing was de-emphasized in
favor of trademark "licks". Leading artists in this genre included Jim
Reeves, Skeeter Davis, Connie Smith, The Browns, Patsy Cline, and
Eddy Arnold. The "slip note" piano style of session musician Floyd
Cramer was an important component of this style. The Nashville Sound
collapsed in mainstream popularity in 1964, a victim of both the
British Invasion and the deaths of Reeves and Cline in separate
airplane crashes. By the mid-1960s, the genre had developed into
Countrypolitan was aimed straight at mainstream
markets, and it sold well throughout the later 1960s into the early
1970s. Top artists included Tammy Wynette,
Lynn Anderson and Charlie
Rich, as well as such former "hard country" artists as Ray Price and
Marty Robbins. Despite the appeal of the Nashville sound, many
traditional country artists emerged during this period and dominated
the genre: Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Porter Wagoner,
George Jones, and
Sonny James among them.
Main article: Country soul
Ray Charles surprised the pop world by turning his attention
to country and western music, topping the charts and rating number
three for the year on Billboard's pop chart with the "I Can't Stop
Loving You" single, and recording the landmark album Modern Sounds in
Country and Western Music.
Another subgenre of country music grew out of hardcore honky tonk with
Western swing and originated 112 miles (180 km)
north-northwest of Los Angeles in Bakersfield, California. Influenced
by one-time West Coast residents
Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell, by 1966
it was known as the Bakersfield sound. It relied on electric
instruments and amplification, in particular the
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, Gary Allan, and Wynn Stewart, each of whom had his own
Decline of Western music and the cowboy ballad
By the late 1960s, Western music, in particular the cowboy ballad, was
in decline. Relegated to the "country and Western" genre by marketing
agencies, popular Western recording stars released albums to only
moderate success. Rock-and-roll artists got hit
songs, but Western artists also got country hits. The latter was
largely limited to Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, and a few other
bands. In the process, country and western music as a
genre lost most of its southwestern, ranchera, and Tejano musical
influences. However the cowboy ballad and honky-tonk music would be
resurrected and reinterpreted in the 1970s with the growth in
popularity of "outlaw country" music from Texas and Oklahoma.[citation
Fourth generation (1970s–1980s)
See also: 1970s in music § Country, and 1980s in music § Country
Main article: Outlaw country
Derived from the traditional Western and honky tonk musical styles of
the late 1950s and 1960s, 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
term outlaw country is traditionally associated with Willie Nelson,
Jerry Jeff Walker, Hank Williams, Jr., Merle Haggard, Waylon
Jennings, Joe Ely, Steve Young, David Allan Coe, John Prine, Billy
Joe Shaver, Gary Stewart, Townes Van Zandt, Kris Kristofferson,
Michael Martin Murphey, Tompall Glaser, Steve Earle, and the later
career renaissance of Johnny Cash, with a few female vocalists such as
Jessi Colter, Sammi Smith, Tanya Tucker and Rosanne Cash. It was
encapsulated in the 1976 album Wanted! The Outlaws. A related subgenre
is Red Dirt.
Main article: Country pop
John Denver in 1975
Country pop or soft pop, with roots in the countrywoman sound, folk
music, and soft rock, is a subgenre 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 music. It started with pop
music singers like Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry, John Denver, Olivia
Newton-John, Anne Murray, B. J. Thomas, The Bellamy Brothers, and
Linda Ronstadt having hits on the country charts. Between 1972 and
John Denver released a series of hugely
successful songs blending country and folk-rock musical styles ("Rocky
Mountain High", "Sunshine on My Shoulders", "Annie's Song", "Thank God
I'm a Country Boy", and "I'm Sorry"), and was named Country Music
Entertainer of the Year in 1975. The year before, 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 response George
Jones, Tammy Wynette,
Jean Shepard and other traditional Nashville
country artists dissatisfied with the new trend formed the short-lived
Association of Country Entertainers in 1974; the ACE soon unraveled in
the wake of Jones and Wynette's bitter divorce and Shepard's
realization that most others in the industry lacked her passion for
During the mid-1970s, Dolly Parton, a successful mainstream country
artist since the late 1960s, mounted a high-profile campaign to cross
over to pop music, culminating in her 1977 hit "Here You Come Again",
which topped the U.S. country singles chart, and also reached No. 3 on
the pop singles charts. Parton's male counterpart, Kenny Rogers, came
from the opposite direction, aiming his music at the country charts,
after a successful career in pop, rock and folk music with The First
Edition, achieving success the same year with "Lucille", which topped
the country charts and reached No. 5 on the U.S. pop singles charts,
as well as reaching Number 1 on the British all-genre chart. Parton
and Rogers would both continue to have success on both country and pop
charts simultaneously, well into the 1980s. Artists like Crystal
Ronnie Milsap and
Barbara Mandrell would also find success on
the pop charts with their records. In 1975, author Paul Hemphill
stated in the Saturday Evening Post, "
Country music isn't really
country anymore; it is a hybrid of nearly every form of popular music
During the early 1980s, country artists continued to see their records
perform well on the pop charts.
Willie Nelson and
Juice Newton each
had two songs in the top 5 of the
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 in the early
eighties: Nelson charted "Always on My Mind" (No. 5, 1982) and "To All
the Girls I've Loved Before" (No. 5, 1984, a duet with Julio
Iglesias), and Newton achieved success with "Queen of Hearts" (No. 2,
1981) and "Angel of the Morning" (No. 4, 1981). Four country songs
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 in the 1980s: "Lady" by Kenny Rogers,
from the late fall of 1980; "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, "I Love a Rainy
Eddie Rabbitt (these two back-to-back at the top in early
1981); and "Islands in the Stream", a duet by
Dolly Parton and Kenny
Rogers in 1983, a pop-country crossover hit written by Barry, Robin,
and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees. Newton's "Queen of Hearts" almost
reached No. 1, but was kept out of the spot by the pop ballad
juggernaut "Endless Love" by
Diana Ross and Lionel Richie. The
move of country music toward neotraditional styles led to a marked
decline in country/pop crossovers in the late 1980s, and only one song
in that period—Roy Orbison's "You Got It", from 1989—made the top
10 of both the Billboard Hot Country Singles" and Hot 100 charts, due
largely to a revival of interest in Orbison after his sudden
death. The record-setting, multi-platinum group Alabama was
named Artist of the Decade for the 1980s by the Academy of Country
Main article: Country rock
A reunited Eagles in 2008
Country rock is a genre that started in the 1960s but became prominent
in the 1970s. 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 in the 1960s and 1970s included Bob Dylan,
who was the first to revert to country music with his 1967 album John
Wesley Harding (and even more so with that album's follow-up,
Nashville Skyline), followed by Gene Clark, Clark's former band The
Gram Parsons on Sweetheart of the Rodeo) and its spin-off
The Flying Burrito Brothers
The Flying Burrito Brothers (also featuring Gram Parsons), guitarist
Michael Nesmith (
The Monkees and the First National
Band), the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Commander Cody, The Allman
Brothers, The Marshall Tucker Band, Poco, Buffalo Springfield, and
Eagles, among many, even the former folk music duo Ian & Sylvia,
who formed Great Speckled Bird in 1969. The Eagles would become the
most successful of these country rock acts, and their compilation
Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975)
Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) remains the second
best-selling album of all time in the US with 29 million copies
The Rolling Stones
The Rolling Stones also got into the act with songs like
"Dead Flowers" and a country version of "Honky Tonk Women".
AllMusic as the "father of country-rock", Gram
Parsons' work in the early 1970s was acclaimed for its purity and for
his appreciation for aspects of traditional country music. Though
his career was cut tragically short by his 1973 death, his legacy was
carried on by his protégé and duet partner Emmylou Harris; Harris
would release her debut solo in 1975, an amalgamation of country, rock
and roll, folk, blues and pop. Subsequent to the initial blending of
the two polar opposite genres, other offspring soon resulted,
including Southern rock, heartland rock and in more recent years,
alternative country. In the decades that followed, artists such as
Juice Newton, Alabama,
Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank Williams, Jr. (and, to an even greater
Hank Williams III), Gary Allan, Shania Twain, Brooks &
Dunn, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, Steve
Earle, Dolly Parton,
Rosanne Cash and
Linda Ronstadt moved country
further towards rock influence.
In 1980, a style of "neocountry disco music" was popularized by the
film Urban Cowboy, which also included more traditional songs such
as "The Devil Went Down to Georgia" by the
Charlie Daniels Band.
It was during this time that a glut of pop-country crossover artists
began appearing on the country charts: former pop stars Bill Medley
(of The Righteous Brothers), "England Dan" Seals (of England Dan and
John Ford Coley), Tom Jones, and
Merrill Osmond (both alone and with
some of his brothers; his younger sister
Marie Osmond was already an
established country star) all recorded significant country hits in the
early 1980s. Sales in record stores rocketed to $250 million in 1981;
by 1984, 900 radio stations began programming country or neocountry
pop full-time. As with most sudden trends, however, by 1984 sales had
dropped below 1979 figures.
Truck driving country
Main article: Truck-driving country
Truck driving country music is a genre of country music and is a
fusion of honky-tonk, country rock and the Bakersfield sound. It
has the tempo of country rock and the emotion of honky-tonk, and
its lyrics focus on a truck driver's lifestyle. Truck driving
country songs often deal with the profession of trucking and love.
Well-known artists who sing truck driving country include Dave Dudley,
Red Sovine, Dick Curless, Red Simpson, Del Reeves, The Willis Brothers
and Jerry Reed, with
C. W. McCall and
Cledus Maggard (pseudonyms of
Bill Fries and Jay Huguely, respectively) being more humorous entries
in the subgenre. Dudley is known as the father of truck driving
Main article: Neotraditionalist country
During the mid-1980s, a group of new artists began to emerge who
rejected the more polished country-pop sound that had been prominent
on radio and the charts, in favor of more, traditional,
"back-to-basics" production. Many of the artists during the latter
half of the 1980s drew on traditional honky-tonk, bluegrass, folk and
western swing. Artists who typified this sound included Travis Tritt,
Reba McEntire, George Strait, Keith Whitley, Alan Jackson, Ricky
Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, and
The Judds. Beginning in 1989, a confluence of events brought an
unprecedented commercial boom to country music. The arrival of
exceptionally talented artists coincided with new marketing strategies
to engage fans, technology that more accurately tracked the popularity
of country music, and a political and economic climate that focused
attention on the genre.
Garth Brooks ("Friends in Low Places") in
particular attracted fans with his fusion of neotraditionalist country
and stadium rock. His stadium concerts promised the same quality of
special effects that fans expected from rock stars, while his music
drew equally from
George Strait and Journey. Other artists such as
Brooks and Dunn
Brooks and Dunn ("Boot Scootin' Boogie") also combined conventional
country with slick, rock elements, while Lorrie Morgan, Mary Chapin
Kathy Mattea updated neotraditionalist styles.
Fifth generation (1990s)
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See also: 1990s in music § Country
Country music was aided by the U.S. Federal Communications
Commission's (FCC) Docket 80–90, which led to a significant
FM radio in the 1980s by adding numerous higher-fidelity
FM signals to rural and suburban areas. At this point, country music
was mainly heard on rural
AM radio stations; the expansion of FM was
particularly helpful to country music, which migrated to FM from the
AM band as AM became overcome by talk radio (the country music
stations that stayed on AM developed the classic country format for
the AM audience). At the same time, beautiful music stations already
in rural areas began abandoning the format (leading to its effective
demise) to adopt country music as well. This wider availability of
country music led to producers seeking to polish their product for a
wider audience. Another force leading to changes in the country music
industry was the changing sound of rock music, which was increasingly
being influenced by the noisier, less melodic alternative rock scene.
"New country" ended up absorbing rock influence from more electric
musicians that were too melodic for modern rock but too electric for
the classic country music sound. (A number of "classic rock" artists,
Southern rock ones such as
Charlie Daniels and Lynyrd
Skynyrd, are more closely associated with the modern country music
scene than that of the modern rock scene.)
In the 1990s, country music became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to
Garth Brooks, who enjoyed one of the most successful
careers in popular music history, breaking records for both sales and
concert attendance throughout the decade. The
RIAA has certified his
recordings at a combined (128× platinum), denoting roughly 113
million U.S. shipments. Other artists that experienced success
during this time included Clint Black, Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippin,
Alan Jackson and the newly formed duo of Brooks &
Dunn; George Strait, whose career began in the 1980s, also continued
to have widespread success in this decade and beyond.
Toby Keith began
his career as a more pop-oriented country singer in the 1990s,
evolving into an outlaw persona in the late 1990s with Pull My Chain
and its follow-up, Unleashed.
Female artists such as Reba McEntire, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill,
Martina McBride, Deana Carter, LeAnn Rimes, Mindy McCready, Lorrie
Morgan, Shania Twain, and
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter all released
platinum-selling albums in the 1990s. The
Dixie Chicks became one of
the most popular country bands in the 1990s and early 2000s. Their
1998 debut album
Wide Open Spaces
Wide Open Spaces went on to become certified 12x
platinum while their 1999 album Fly went on to become 10x platinum.
After their third album, Home, was released in 2003, the band made
political news in part because of lead singer Natalie Maines's
comments disparaging then-President
George W. Bush
George W. Bush while the band was
overseas (Maines stated that she and her bandmates were ashamed to be
from the same state as Bush, who had just commenced the
Iraq War a few
days prior). The comments caused a rift between the band and the
country music scene, and the band's fourth (and most recent) album,
2006's Taking the Long Way, took a more rock-oriented direction; the
album was commercially successful overall but largely ignored among
country audiences. After Taking the Long Way, the
band broke up for a decade (with two of its members continuing as the
Court Yard Hounds) before embarking on a reunion tour in 2016.
Shania Twain performing during her
Up! Tour in 2004
Shania Twain became the best selling female country artist of the
decade. This was primarily due to the success of her breakthrough
sophomore 1995 album, The Woman in Me, which was certified 12x
platinum sold over 20 million copies worldwide and its follow up,
1997's Come On Over, which was certified 20x platinum and sold over 40
million copies. The album became a major worldwide phenomenon and
became one of the world's best selling albums of 1998, 1999 and 2000;
it also went on to become the best selling country album of all time.
Unlike the majority of her contemporaries, Twain enjoyed large
international success that had been seen by very few country artists,
before or after her. Critics have noted that Twain enjoyed much of her
success due to breaking free of traditional country stereotypes and
for incorporating elements of rock and pop into her music. In 2002,
she released her successful fourth studio album, titled Up!, which was
certified 11x platinum and sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
Twain has been credited with breaking international boundaries for
country music, as well as inspiring many country artists to
incorporate different genres into their music in order to attract a
wider audience. She is also credited with changing the way in which
many female country performers would market themselves, as unlike many
before her she used fashion and her sex appeal to get rid of the
stereotypical 'honky-tonk' image the majority of country singers had
in order to distinguish herself from many female country artists of
In the early-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. In contrast,
artists such as
Don Williams and
George Jones who had more or less had
consistent chart success through the 1970s and 1980s suddenly had
their fortunes fall rapidly around 1991 as these new artists rose to
Alt country and cowpunk
Wilco performing in Spain in 2007
The musical combination of punk, alternative rock and country was
pioneered by the "cowpunk" scene in Southern California during the
1980s, which included bands such as The Long Ryders,
Lone Justice and
The Beat Farmers, as well as the established punk group X, whose music
had begun to include country and rockabilly influences. Other
artists from outside California who were associated with early
alternative country included singer-songwriters such as Lucinda
Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle, the Nashville country rock band
Jason and the Scorchers and the British post-punk band The Mekons.
Earle, in particular, was noted for his popularity with both country
and college rock audiences: He promoted his 1986 debut album Guitar
Town with a tour that saw him open for both country singer Dwight
Yoakam and alternative rock band The Replacements.
These early styles had coalesced into a genre by the time the Illinois
Uncle Tupelo released their influential debut album No
Depression in 1990. The album is widely credited as being the
first "alternative country" album, and inspired the name of No
Depression magazine, which exclusively covered the new genre.
Following Uncle Tupelo's disbanding in 1994, its members formed two
significant bands in genre:
Wilco and Son Volt. Other acts who became
prominent in the genre during the 1990s and 2000s included The Bottle
Rockets, The Handsome Family, Blue Mountain, Robbie Fulks, Blood
Oranges, Bright Eyes, Drive-By Truckers,
Old 97's and Whiskeytown,
whose lead singer
Ryan Adams later had a successful solo-career.
Some alt-country songs have been crossover hits to mainstream country
radio, including Lucinda Williams' "Passionate Kisses", which was a
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1993, and Ryan Adams's "When The
Stars Go Blue," which was a hit for
Tim McGraw in 2007.
Sixth generation (2000s–present)
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See also: 2000s in music § Country, and 2010s in music § Country
The sixth generation of the country continued the crossover between
country and pop music.
Richard Marx crossed over with his Days in
Avalon album, which features five country songs and several singers
Alison Krauss sang background vocals to Marx's single
"Straight from My Heart." Also,
Bon Jovi had a hit single, "Who Says
You Can't Go Home", with
Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland. Kid Rock's
collaboration with Sheryl Crow, "Picture," was a major crossover hit
in 2001 and began Kid Rock's transition from hard rock to a
country-rock hybrid that would later produce another major crossover
hit, 2008's "All Summer Long." (Crow would also cross over into
country with her hit "Easy.") Darius Rucker, former frontman for the
1990s pop-rock band Hootie & the Blowfish, began a country solo
career in the late 2000s, one that to date has produced three albums
and several hits on both the country charts and the Billboard Hot 100.
Unknown Hinson became famous for his appearance in
the Charlotte television show Wild, Wild, South, after which Hinson
started his own band and toured in southern states. Other rock stars
who featured a country song on their albums were
Don Henley and
Carrie Underwood at the 2009 American Music Awards
In 2005, country singer
Carrie Underwood rose to fame as the winner of
the fourth season of
American Idol and has since become one of the
most prominent recording artists of 2006 through 2016, with worldwide
sales of more than 65 million records and seven Grammy Awards.
With her first single, "Inside Your Heaven", Underwood became the only
solo country artist to have a #1 hit on the
Billboard Hot 100
Billboard Hot 100 chart in
the 2000–2009 decade and also broke Billboard chart history as the
first country music artist ever to debut at No. 1 on the Hot 100.
Underwood's debut album, Some Hearts, became the best-selling solo
female debut album in country music history, the fastest-selling debut
country album in the history of the SoundScan era and the best-selling
country album of the last 10 years, being ranked by Billboard as the
#1 Country Album of the 2000–2009 decade. She has also become the
female country artist with the most number one hits on the Billboard
Hot Country Songs chart in the Nielsen SoundScan era (1991–present),
having 14 No. 1s and breaking her own
Guinness Book record of ten. In
2007, Underwood won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, becoming
only the second Country artist in history (and the first in a decade)
to win it. She also made history by becoming the seventh woman to win
Entertainer of the Year at the
Academy of Country Music Awards, and
the first woman in history to win the award twice, as well as twice
consecutively. Time has listed Underwood as one of the 100 most
influential people in the world. In 2016, Underwood topped the Country
Airplay chart for the 15th time, becoming the female artist with most
number ones on that chart.
Carrie Underwood was one of several country stars produced by a
television series in the 2000s. In addition to Underwood, American
Idol launched the careers of Kellie Pickler, Josh Gracin, Bucky
Covington, Kristy Lee Cook,
Danny Gokey and
Scotty McCreery (as well
as that of occasional country singer Kelly Clarkson) in the decade,
and would continue to launch country careers in the 2010s. The series
Nashville Star, while not nearly as successful as Idol, did manage to
bring Miranda Lambert,
Kacey Musgraves and Chris Young to mainstream
success, also launching the careers of lower-profile musicians such as
Buddy Jewell, Sean Patrick McGraw, and Canadian musician George
Canyon. Can You Duet? produced the duos
Steel Magnolia and Joey +
Rory. Teen sitcoms also have influenced modern country music; in 2008,
Jennette McCurdy (best known as the sidekick Sam on the teen
sitcom iCarly) released her first single, "So Close", following that
with the single "Generation Love" in 2011. Another teen sitcom star,
Miley Cyrus (of Hannah Montana), also had a crossover hit in the late
2000s with "The Climb" and another with a duet with her father, Billy
Ray Cyrus, with "Ready, Set, Don't Go." Jana Kramer, an actress in the
teen drama One Tree Hill, released a country album in 2012 that has
produced two hit singles as of 2013. Actresses
Hayden Panettiere and
Connie Britton began recording country songs as part of her role in
the TV series Nashville.
In 2010, the group
Lady Antebellum won five Grammys, including the
coveted Song of the Year and
Record of the Year
Record of the Year for "Need You Now, a
UK number 15 hit on the mainstream singles chart, a rarity for a
country song these days ". A large number of duos and vocal groups
emerged on the charts in the 2010s, many of which feature close
harmony in the lead vocals. In addition to Lady Antebellum, groups
such as Herrick The Quebe Sisters Band, Little Big Town, The Band
Perry, Gloriana, Thompson Square, Eli Young Band,
Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band and
British duo The Shires have emerged to occupy a large portion of the
new country artists in the popular scene along with solo singers Kacey
Musgraves and Miranda Lambert.
Taylor Swift at the Time 100
One of the most commercially successful country artists of the late
2000s and early 2010s has been singer-songwriter Taylor Swift. Swift
first became widely known in 2006 when her debut single, "Tim McGraw,"
was released when Swift was only 16. In 2006, Taylor released her
first studio album, Taylor Swift, which spent 275 weeks on Billboard
200, one of the longest runs of any album on that chart. In 2008,
Taylor Swift released her second studio album, Fearless, which made
her the second-longest Number One charted on Billboard 200 and the
second best-selling album (just behind Adele's 21) within the past 5
years. At the 2010 Grammys,
Taylor Swift was 20 and won Album of the
Year for Fearless, which made her the youngest artist to win this
award. Swift has received ten Grammys already. Buoyed by her teen idol
status among girls and a change in the methodology of compiling the
Billboard charts to favor pop-crossover songs, Swift's 2012 single "We
Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" spent the most weeks at the top
Hot Country Songs chart of any song in nearly five
decades. The song's long run at the top of the chart was somewhat
controversial, as the song was largely a pop song without much country
influence and its success on the charts driven by a change to the
chart's criteria to include airplay on non-country radio stations,
prompting disputes over what constitutes a country song; many of
Swift's later releases, such as "Shake It Off," were released solely
to pop audiences.
September 11 attacks
September 11 attacks of 2001 and the economic recession helped
move country music back into the spotlight. Many country artists, such
Alan Jackson with his ballad on terrorist attacks, "Where Were You
(When the World Stopped Turning)", wrote songs that celebrated the
military, highlighted the gospel, and emphasized home and family
values over wealth. Alt-Country singer
Ryan Adams song "New York, New
York" pays tribute to New York City, and its popular music video
(which was shot 4 days before the attacks) shows Adams playing in
front of the Manhattan skyline, Along with several shots of the city.
In contrast, more rock-oriented country singers took more direct aim
at the attacks' perpetrators; Toby Keith's "The Angry American
(Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue)" threatened to "a boot in" the
posterior of the enemy, while Charlie Daniels's "This Ain't No Rag,
It's a Flag" promised to "hunt" the perpetrators "down like a mad dog
hound." These songs gained such recognition that it put Country music
back into popular culture. The influence of rock music in country
has become more overt during the late 2000s and early 2010s as artists
like Eric Church, Jason Aldean, and
Brantley Gilbert have had success;
Aaron Lewis, former frontman for the rock group Staind, had a
moderately successful entry into country music in 2011 and 2012. Also
rising in the late 2000s and early 2010s was the insertion of rap and
spoken-word elements into country songs; artists such as Cowboy Troy
Colt Ford have focused almost exclusively on country rap (also
known as hick hop) while other, more mainstream artists (such as Big
& Rich and Jason Aldean) have used it on occasion.
Main article: Bro-country
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line whose hit song "Cruise" drew attention to the
In the 2010s, "bro-country", a genre noted primarily for its themes on
drinking and partying, girls, and pickup trucks became particularly
popular. Notable artists associated with this genre are Luke
Bryan, Jason Aldean, Blake Shelton, and
Florida Georgia Line
Florida Georgia Line whose
song "Cruise" became the best-selling country song of all
time. Research in the mid-2010s suggested that about 45
percent of country's best-selling songs could be considered
bro-country, with the top two artists being
Luke Bryan and Florida
Georgia Line. Albums by bro-country singers also sold very
well—in 2013, Luke Bryan's
Crash My Party
Crash My Party was the third best-selling
of all albums in the US, with Florida Georgia Line's Here's to the
Good Times at sixth, and Blake Shelton's Based on a True Story at
ninth. It is also thought that the popularity of bro-country
helped country music to surpass classic rock as the most popular genre
in America in 2012. The genre however is controversial as it has
been criticized by other country musicians and commentators over its
themes and depiction of women, opening up a divide
between the older generation of country singers and the younger bro
country singers that was described as "civil war" by musicians,
critics, and journalists." In 2014, Maddie & Tae's "Girl in a
Country Song", addressing many of the controversial bro-country
themes, peaked at number one on the Billboard
Country Airplay chart.
Main articles: Canadian country music, Canadian Country Music
Association, and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame
Shania Twain in 2011
Outside of the United States, Canada has the largest country music fan
and artist base, something that is to be expected given the two
countries' proximity and cultural parallels. Mainstream country music
is culturally ingrained in the prairie provinces, the British Columbia
Interior, Ontario, and in Atlantic Canada. Celtic traditional
music developed in
Atlantic Canada in the form of Scottish, Acadian
and Irish folk music popular amongst Irish, French and Scottish
immigrants to Canada's Atlantic Provinces (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia,
New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island). Like the southern
United States and Appalachia, all four regions are of heavy British
Isles stock and rural; as such, the development of traditional music
in the Maritimes somewhat mirrored the development of country music in
the US South and Appalachia. Country and Western music never really
developed separately in Canada; however, after its introduction to
Canada, following the spread of radio, it developed quite quickly out
of the Atlantic Canadian traditional scene. While true Atlantic
Canadian traditional music is very Celtic or "sea shanty" in nature,
even today, the lines have often been blurred. Certain areas often are
viewed as embracing one strain or the other more openly. For example,
in Newfoundland the traditional music remains unique and Irish in
nature, whereas traditional musicians in other parts of the region may
play both genres interchangeably.
Don Messer's Jubilee was a Halifax, Nova Scotia-based country/folk
variety television show that was broadcast nationally from 1957 to
1969. In Canada it out-performed
The Ed Sullivan Show
The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast from
the United States and became the top-rated television show throughout
much of the 1960s.
Don Messer's Jubilee followed a consistent format
throughout its years, beginning with a tune named "Goin' to the
Barndance Tonight", followed by fiddle tunes by Messer, songs from
some of his "Islanders" including singers
Marg Osburne and Charlie
Chamberlain, the featured guest performance, and a closing hymn. It
ended with "Till We Meet Again".
The guest performance slot gave national exposure to numerous Canadian
folk musicians, including
Stompin' Tom Connors
Stompin' Tom Connors and Catherine McKinnon.
Some Maritime country performers went on to further fame beyond
Canada. Hank Snow, Wilf Carter (also known as Montana Slim), and Anne
Murray are the three most notable.
The cancellation of the show by the public broadcaster in 1969 caused
a nationwide protest, including the raising of questions in the
Parliament of Canada.
The Prairie provinces, due to their western cowboy and agrarian
nature, are the true heartland of Canadian country music. While
the Prairies never developed a traditional music culture anything like
the Maritimes, the folk music of the Prairies often reflected the
cultural origins of the settlers, who were a mix of Scottish,
Ukrainian, German and others. For these reasons polkas and Western
music were always popular in the region, and with the introduction of
the radio, mainstream country music flourished. As the culture of the
region is western and frontier in nature, the specific genre of
country and western is more popular today in the Prairies than in any
other part of the country. No other area of the country embraces all
aspects of the culture, from two-step dancing, to the cowboy dress, to
rodeos, to the music itself, like the Prairies do. The Atlantic
Provinces, on the other hand, produce far more traditional musicians,
but they are not usually specifically country in nature, usually
bordering more on the folk or Celtic genres.
Many traditional country artists are present in eastern and western
Canada. They make common use of fiddle and pedal steel guitar styles.
Some notable Canadian country artists include Shania Twain, Anne
Murray, k.d. lang, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte-Marie, George
Canyon, Blue Rodeo, Tommy Hunter, Rita MacNeil, Stompin' Tom Connors,
Stan Rogers, Ronnie Prophet, Carroll Baker, The Rankin Family, Ian
Tyson, Johnny Reid, Paul Brandt, Jason McCoy, George Fox, Carolyn Dawn
Johnson, Hank Snow, Don Messer, Wilf Carter, Michelle Wright, Terri
Clark, Prairie Oyster, Family Brown, Johnny Mooring, Marg Osburne,
Lindsay Ell, Doc Walker, Emerson Drive, The Wilkinsons, Corb Lund and
the Hurtin' Albertans, Crystal Shawanda, Dean Brody, Shane Yellowbird,
Gord Bamford, Chad Brownlee, The Road Hammers, Rowdy Spurs, Colter
Wall and The Higgins.
Main article: Australian country music
Olivia Newton-John singing in
Sydney in 2008
Australian country music
Australian country music has a long tradition. Influenced by American
country music, it has developed a distinct style, shaped by British
and Irish folk ballads and Australian bush balladeers like Henry
Banjo Paterson. Country instruments, including the guitar,
banjo, fiddle and harmonica, create the distinctive sound of country
music in Australia and accompany songs with strong storyline and
Folk songs sung in Australia between the 1780s and 1920s, based around
such themes as the struggle against government tyranny, or the lives
of bushrangers, swagmen, drovers, stockmen and shearers, continue to
influence the genre. This strain of Australian country, with lyrics
focusing on Australian subjects, is generally known as "bush music" or
"bush band music". "Waltzing Matilda", often regarded as Australia's
unofficial national anthem, is a quintessential Australian country
song, influenced more by British and Irish folk ballads than by
American country and western music. The lyrics were composed by the
Banjo Paterson in 1895. Other popular songs from this tradition
include "The Wild Colonial Boy", "Click Go the Shears", "The
Queensland Drover" and "The Dying Stockman". Later themes which endure
to the present include the experiences of war, of droughts and
flooding rains, of Aboriginality and of the railways and trucking
routes which link Australia's vast distances.
Pioneers of a more Americanised popular country music in Australia
Tex Morton (known as "The Father of Australian Country
Music") in the 1930s. Author Andrew Smith delivers a through research
and engaged view of Tex Morton's life and his impact on the country
music scene in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s. Other early stars
included Buddy Williams,
Shirley Thoms and Smoky Dawson. Buddy
Williams (1918–1986) was the first Australian-born to record country
music in Australia in the late 1930s and was the pioneer of a
distinctly Australian style of country music called the bush ballad
that others such as
Slim Dusty would make popular in later years.
During World War II, many of Buddy Williams recording sessions were
done whilst on leave from the Army. At the end of the war, Williams
would go on to operate some of the largest travelling tent rodeo shows
Australia has ever seen.
In 1952, Dawson began a radio show and went on to national stardom as
a singing cowboy of radio, TV and film.
Slim Dusty (1927–2003) was
known as the "King of Australian Country Music" and helped to
popularise the Australian bush ballad. His successful career spanned
almost six decades, and his 1957 hit "A Pub with No Beer" was the
biggest-selling record by an Australian to that time, and with over
seven million record sales in Australia he is the most successful
artist in Australian musical history. Dusty recorded and released
his one-hundredth album in the year 2000 and was given the honour of
singing "Waltzing Matilda" in the closing ceremony of the
Olympic Games. Dusty's wife
Joy McKean penned several of his most
Chad Morgan, who began recording in the 1950s, has represented a
vaudeville style of comic Australian country;
Frank Ifield achieved
considerable success in the early 1960s, especially in the UK Singles
Reg Lindsay was one of the first Australians to perform at
Grand Ole Opry
Grand Ole Opry in 1974. Eric Bogle's 1972 folk lament
Gallipoli Campaign "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda"
recalled the British and Irish origins of Australian folk-country.
Singer-songwriter Paul Kelly, whose music style straddles folk, rock,
and country, is often described as the poet laureate of Australian
Keith Urban in 2007
By the 1990s, country music had attained crossover success in the pop
charts, with artists like James Blundell and
James Reyne singing "Way
Out West", and country star
Kasey Chambers winning the ARIA for Best
Female Artist in 2003. The crossover influence of Australian country
is also evident in the music of successful contemporary bands The
Waifs and the John Butler Trio.
Nick Cave has been heavily influenced
by the country artist Johnny Cash. In 2000, Cash, covered Cave's "The
Mercy Seat" on the album American III: Solitary Man, seemingly
repaying Cave for the compliment he paid by covering Cash's "The
Singer" (originally "The Folk Singer") on his Kicking Against the
Pricks album. Subsequently, Cave cut a duet with Cash on a version of
Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry" for Cash's American IV:
The Man Comes Around album (2002).
Popular contemporary performers of
Australian country music
Australian country music include
John Williamson (who wrote the iconic "True Blue"), Lee Kernaghan
(whose hits include "Boys from the Bush" and "The Outback Club"), Gina
Jeffreys, Forever Road and Sara Storer. In the United States, Olivia
Sherrié Austin and
Keith Urban have attained great
Country music has been a particularly popular form of musical
expression among Indigenous Australians.
Troy Cassar-Daley is among
Australia's successful contemporary indigenous performers, and Kev
Archie Roach employ a combination of folk-rock and country
music to sing about Aboriginal rights issues.
Tamworth Country Music Festival
Tamworth Country Music Festival began in 1973 and now attracts up
to 100,000 visitors annually. Held in Tamworth, New South Wales
(country music capital of Australia), it celebrates the culture and
heritage of Australian country music. During the festival the CMAA
Country Music Awards of Australia ceremony awarding the
Golden Guitar trophies. Other significant country music festivals
include the Whittlesea Country Music Festival (near Melbourne) and the
Mildura Country Music Festival for "independent" performers during
October, and the
Canberra Country Music Festival held in the national
capital during November.
Country HQ showcases new talent on the rise in the country music scene
down under. CMC (the Country Music Channel), a 24‑hour music channel
dedicated to non-stop country music, can be viewed on pay TV and
features once a year the
Golden Guitar Awards, CMAs and CCMAs
alongside international shows such as The Wilkinsons, The Road
Hammers, and Country Music Across America.
Country music is popular in the United Kingdom, although somewhat less
so than in other English-speaking countries. There are some British
country music acts and publications. Although radio stations devoted
to country are among the most popular in other Anglophone nations,
none of the top 10 most-listened-to stations in the UK are country
stations, and national broadcaster
BBC Radio does not offer a country
station, although it does offer a country show on
BBC Radio 2 each
week hosted by Bob Harris. As of 2015, the
BBC has broadcast a
pop-up station dedicated purely to country music.
BBC Radio 2 Country
airs programming presented by radio 2 presenters and popular American
country stars in March alongside the
C2C festival. UK
Country music is
presided over by the British Country Music Association.
The most successful
British country music
British country music act of the 21st Century are
Ward Thomas and The Shires. In 2015, The Shires' album Brave, became
the first UK country act ever to chart in the Top 10 of the UK Albums
Chart and they became the first UK country act to receive an award
from the American Country Music Association. In 2016, Ward Thomas
then became the first UK country act to hit number 1 in the UK Albums
Chart with their album Cartwheels.
There is the C2C: Country to Country festival held every year, and for
many years there was a festival at Wembley Arena, which was broadcast
on the BBC, the International Festivals of Country Music, promoted by
Mervyn Conn, held at the venue between 1969 and 1991. The shows were
later taken into Europe, and featured such stars as Johnny Cash, Dolly
Parton, Tammy Wynette, David Allan Coe, Emmylou Harris, Boxcar Willie,
Johnny Russell and Jerry Lee Lewis. A handful of country musicians had
even greater success in mainstream UK music than they did in the US,
despite a certain amount of disdain from the music press; Faron Young,
Slim Whitman and (at least from number of top 40 pop singles) Garth
Brooks are some examples. The UK's largest music festival Glastonbury
has featured major US country acts in recent years, such as Kenny
Rogers in 2013 and
Dolly Parton in 2014.
From within the UK, few country musicians achieved widespread
mainstream success. Tom Jones, by this point near the end of his peak
success as a pop singer, had a string of country hits in the late
1970s and early 1980s. The
Bee Gees had some fleeting success in the
genre, with one country hit as artists ("Rest Your Love on Me") and a
major hit as songwriters ("Islands in the Stream"). Singer Engelbert
Humperdinck, while charting only once in the U.S. country top 40 with
"After the Lovin'," achieved widespread success on both the U.S. and
UK pop charts with his faithful covers of Nashville country ballads
such as "Release Me," "Am I That Easy to Forget" and "There Goes My
Everything." The songwriting tandem of Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway
wrote a number of country hits, in addition to their widespread
success in pop songwriting; Cook is notable for being the only Briton
to be inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Welsh
Bonnie Tyler initially started her career making country albums
and was even nominated for Top New Female Vocalist at the Academy of
Country Music Awards before her huge crossover hit "Total Eclipse of
the Heart" lead her towards more commercial pop and rock. In 2013,
Tyler returned to her roots, blending the country elements of her
early work with the rock of her successful material on her album Rocks
and Honey which featured a duet with American country icon Vince Gill.
Tyler subsequently announced that she was making a new country rock
album in Nashville with John Carter Cash, son of the legendary Johnny
Cash, slated for release in 2018.
Other international country music
Tom Roland, from the
Country Music Association
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. The
Country Music Association
Country Music Association undertakes
various initiatives to promote country music internationally.
Regional Mexican is Mexico’s version of country music. It includes a
number of different genres and subgenres, depending on where they
originated, and in what regions they are popular. One specific song
style, the ranchera, found its origins in the Mexican countryside and
was first popularized with mariachi, and has since also become popular
with banda, norteño,
Duranguense and other regional Mexican styles.
The corrido, a different song style with a similar history, is also
performed in many different regional styles. Other song styles
performed in regional Mexican music include ballads, cumbias, boleros,
among others. American country music is also popular in Mexico, but
most prominently in the northern region of the country, where a number
of artists perform the genre while singing in Spanish.
In Brazil, a musical genre known as música sertaneja, a very popular
genre of music in Brazil, is very similar to American country music,
sharing the music's rich history of development in the countryside. In
South America, on the last weekend of September, the yearly San Pedro
Country Music Festival takes place in the town of San Pedro,
Argentina. The festival features bands from different places of
Argentina, as well as international artists from Brazil, Uruguay,
Peru and the United States.
In India, the
Anglo-Indian community is well known for enjoying and
performing country music. An annual concert festival called "Blazing
Guitars" held in
Chennai brings together
from all over the country (including some who have emigrated to places
like Australia). The year 2003 brought home - grown Indian, Bobby Cash
to the forefront of the country music culture in
India when he became
India's first international country music artist to chart singles in
TG4 began a quest for Ireland's next country star called
Glór Tíre, translated as "Country Voice". It is now in its sixth
season and is one of TG4's most watched TV shows. Over the past ten
years country and gospel recording artist
James Kilbane has reached
multi-platinum success with his mix of Christian and traditional
country influenced albums.
James Kilbane like many other Irish artists
are today working closer with Nashville. A recent success in the Irish
arena has been Crystal Swing. In Sweden,
Rednex rose to stardom
combining country music with electro-pop in the 1990s. In 1994, the
group had a worldwide hit with their version of the traditional
Southern tune "Cotton-Eyed Joe". Artists popularizing more traditional
country music in
Sweden have been Ann-Louise Hanson, Hasse Andersson,
Elisabeth Andreassen and Jill Johnson. In
international country music festival, known as Piknik Country, has
been organized in
Masuria since 1983. There are more and
more country music artists in France. Some of the most important are
Liane Edwards, Annabel[fr], Rockie Mountains, Tahiana, and Lili West.
French rock and roll superstar
Eddy Mitchell is also very inspired by
Americana and country music.
In Iran, country music has appeared in recent years. According to
Melody Music Magazine, the pioneer of country music in
Iran is the
English-speaking country music band Dream Rovers, whose founder,
singer and songwriter is Erfan Rezayatbakhsh (elf). The band was
formed in 2007 in Tehran, and during this time they have been
trying to introduce and popularize country music in
Iran by releasing
two studio albums and performing live at concerts, despite the
difficulties that the Islamic regime in
Iran makes for bands that are
active in the western music field.
In Japan, electronic music producer and DJ
Yasutaka Nakata started to
create a country-folk style of music for model and entertainer Mito
Natsume. Mito's activities as a singer has yielded to her debut studio
album, Natsumelo, in 2017.
In Philippines, country music has found their way into Cordilleran way
of life, often compared
Igorot way of life to cowboys. Baguio City has
a FM station that caters to country music, 99.9 Country. And Bombo
Radyo Baguio has a segment on Sunday slot for Igorot, Ilocano and
Performers and shows
Main articles: List of country music performers, List of country
performers by era, and List of country television and radio shows
US cable television
Six U.S. cable TV networks are at least partly devoted to the genre:
Country Music Television
Country Music Television and
CMT Music (both owned by Viacom), Rural
Free Delivery TV (owned by Rural Media Group), Great American Country
(owned by Scripps Networks), Heartland (owned by Luken
The Country Network
The Country Network (owned by TCN Country, LLC).
The first American country music video cable channel was The Nashville
Network, launched in the early 1980s as a channel devoted to southern
culture. In 2000, after it and CMT fell under the same corporate
ownership, the channel was stripped of its country format and
rebranded as The National Network, then Spike, and finally Paramount
Network. TNN was later revived from 2012 to 2013 after Jim Owens
Entertainment (the company responsible for prominent TNN hosts Crook
& Chase) acquired the trademark and licensed it to Luken
Communications; that channel renamed itself Heartland after Luken was
embroiled in an unrelated dispute that left the company bankrupt.
Only one television channel is currently dedicated to country music in
CMT (Canada) owned by
Corus Entertainment (90%) and Viacom
(10%). In the past, country music had an extensive presence,
especially on the Canadian national broadcaster, CBC Television. The
Don Messer's Jubilee significantly affected country music in
Canada; for instance, it was the program that launched Anne Murray's
career. Gordie Tapp's
Country Hoedown and its successor, The Tommy
Hunter Show, ran for a combined 36 years on the CBC, from 1956 to
1992; in its last nine years on air, the U.S. cable network TNN
carried Hunter's show.
Australian cable television
The only network dedicated to country music in Australia is the
Country Music Channel
Country Music Channel owned by Foxtel.
Main article: List of country music festivals
Country music portal
Academy of Country Music
American Country Countdown Awards
Canadian Country Music Association
CMT Music Awards
Country Music Association
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
Country and Irish
Culture of the Southern United States
Grand Ole Opry
Great American Country
List of country genres
List of country music performers
List of RPM number-one country singles
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame
Western Music Association
Western music (North America)
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Bill Legere (). E[lectrical] T[anscription]s: Transcription
Library of Bill Legere. Mississauga, Ont.: B. Legere. 3 vols., each of
which is thrice perforated and looseleaf. N.B.: Vol. 1–2, Country
Artists—vol. 2, Pop Artists. Without ISBN
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