One of the South’s greatest exports to the world is some good ol’ country music! Country takes its roots from folk, blues and gospel utilizing its signature twang sound and storytellin’ lyrics. Banjos, lush harmonies, steel guitar, fiddles and other unique instruments make up the sound of the south that today is a global delicacy. From Garth Brooks to Taylor Swift, country music today has many different faces but one things for sure, the song must tell a story! A real story from a real place!
The Appalachian region of the U.S. is considered the birthplace of country music over 200 years ago, when people of Irish and Scottish descent immigrated to this area and made it their home. Early country music performed by Irish-Scotch Appalachians focused mostly on playing the fiddle until traveling, vaudeville-like shows introduced new instruments like the fiddle and banjo.
The Grand Ole Opry made its initial broadcast in 1925, bringing country music to a growing audience of radio listeners. Country music celebrities emerging during the 20s and 30s include Bill Monroe and the Carter Family with Jimmie Rodgers. The late 30s also found country music undergoing a significant transformation from bluegrass-style Appalachian banjos and fiddles to more of a “swing” feel echoing sounds of the big bands at the time–Artie Shaw, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller.
The 1940s saw a return to more traditional but pop-tinged country music gracing the airwaves with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry leading the country music industry with songs like “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” and “Cool Water”. In addition, the years after WWII had country music entering the night life of big-city nightclubs and bars. Post-war America also gave country music lovers its first bona-fide superstar–Hank Williams.
Attempts by the country music industry to reach a wider audience in the 1950s culminated in the development of rockabilly, a type of music characterized by heavy backbeats and danceable melodies. Popularized by Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley, rockabilly was also embraced by teenagers searching for music more exciting and provocative than bland pop tunes sung by Patti Page or Pat Boone.
Country music aficionados made the “outlaw movement” in the 1970s mainstream and acceptable by both rock and pop music listeners. Hank Williams, Jr. (Williams’ son), Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson were some of the “outlaw” stars leading this movement. In addition, eclectic musicians and bands like the Flying Burrito Brothers, the Byrds and the Marshall Tucker Band incorporated features of country music into pop and “psychedelic” tunes during the late 60s and early 70s.
Whether you’re a fan of the 70’s Golden Age of country music, The Grand Ole Opry or you love the more recent pop-crossover sound of your favorite modern country artists, test your knowledge of country music stars. Only 6% of people can score higher than 90%! Good luck!