Country music has as many strains as the Mississippi River has tributaries. Many credit singer-guitarist Jimmie Rodgers with originating the country-music style—his style mixed the blues and even some jazz with a kind of hillbilly yodeling. The shellac 78s he recorded for Victor and Bluebird in the late 1920s and early ’30s, particularly his 13 “Blue Yodel” tunes, are classics of the early country sound.

The Carter Family was another country pioneer, adding ringing fiddles to their arrangements and pulling from gospel and folk traditions. Discovered by the same scout as Mississippi’s Jimmie Rodgers, the Virginia-based group had a million-selling-hit in 1928 with Wildwood Flower.” They were also known for “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Keep on the Sunny Side,” which became the theme song of their radio show.

Hank Williams was perhaps the biggest star of the pre-and postwar years. His mournful love songs (“Lovesick Blues,” “Your Cheatin’ Heart”) were balanced by more-cheerful fare (Hey Good Lookin’,” “Jambalaya”). His diversity made Williams a favorite of radio listeners and visitors to Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry alike.

By the 1940s, as country music became more mainstream and pop oriented, traditionalists struck out down a little-explored tributary called bluegrass. In bluegrass, soothing harmonies and relaxing, back-porch rhythms were replaced by frenzied fiddle playing, lightning-fast runs on the mandolin, and virtuoso banjo picking. Bill Monroe, a singer who accompanied himself on the mandolin, surrounded himself with the best of the best, including Lester Flatt on guitar and Earl Scruggs on banjo.

Monroe’s recording career extended from the first years of the 1940s into the 1990s, so his music can be found on 78s, 45s, LPs, and compact discs. One of his most famous early recordings was a 1946 tune called “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” This modest country waltz was made even more famous in 1954, when it was given an upbeat arrangement by Elvis Presley as the B-side of Elvis’ first recording for Sun Records, a 78 called “That’s All Right.”

Another tributary in the river was Western swing, which was kind of a countrified version of the big band swing that was popular in the 1930s. This was the music of Oklahoma (Spade Cooley) and Texas (Bob Wills, Buck Owens) transplanted to Hollywood. In the 1940s, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys appeared in films with Tex Ritter and others. Cooley had a film career, too, as well as his own variety show in the early days of television (Frank Sinatra was one of many guests).

In fact, singing cowboys were a mainstay of Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s. Gene Autry took that title for himself with songs like “Back In the Saddle Again,” but Roy Rogers, wh...

The flip side of songs about the wide open spaces were ballads about cowboys-gone-bad, also known as outlaws. Marty Robbins told tales of murder in the heat of passion (“El Paso”), Johnny Cash sang about unrequited love (“Big River”), and Merle Haggard used a song based on his own years spent in prison as a cautionary tale to others (“Mama Tried”).

Two outlaws who performed together but are best known for their solo careers are Waylon Jennings and Willie Nelson. While Jennings got his start with a 1964 vinyl record called “Waylon at JD’s,” on which he covered everyone from Roy Orbison to Bob Dylan, Nelson was known for penning hits for everyone from Patsy Cline (“Crazy” in 1962) to Ray Price (“Night Life,” in 1963).

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas

Vinyl Divas pays homage to international female opera singers of the LP era. Chronicling more than 800 singers, the… [read review or visit site]

317X

317X

Despite its mysterious title, 317X is plain and simple—an online gallery of vintage LPs, with a 1950s vintage fee… [read review or visit site]

Mybeatles.net

Mybeatles.net

Jesse Barron's collection of Beatles 45s, picture sleeves, magazines, books, and memorabilia. Browse singles and al… [read review or visit site]

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors

This great site, from the Association of Vogue Picture Record Collectors, offers detailed background information an… [read review or visit site]

The Remington Site

The Remington Site

Since 1999, the Remington Site has offered classical music collectors a glimpse into Remington Records, an independ… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Discussion Forums

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Mavericks Music For All Occasions Lp Mca Alt Country Sealed 1995 Old Store StockThe Move " Message From The Country" Superb Uk Rare Orig Harvest Lp Flipback SlvConway Twitty Ep:"hey Little Lucy!".1959 Mgm+picture Cover.excellent Condition.Abbott Lp 5001: 'jim Reeves Sings' Rarest C&w Album EverAfrican System Orchestra Fine Country Tremendous Nigeria Og Highlife Lp ListenJohnny Cash "at Folsom Prison" 1968 Country Mint / Near Mint Condition LpHank 3 Hillbilly Joker Still Sealed Hank Williams Iii RsdHank 3 Damn Right Rebel Proud! Hank Williams Iii RsdJohnny Cash Live In Prague Rsd 2015 Red Colored Vinyl Lp Record Store Day SealedJohn Lee Hooker-sticks Mcghee-highway Of Blues-country Blues 1960 Vinyl LpWaylon Jennings Lot -12 Lp's - O'l Waylon, Taker/tulsa, Folk Country, Live Etc.Johnny Cash - Ep - Country Boy Vinyl V/g Cover Ex/con200 Lot Jukebox 45's R & R, R & B, Doowop, Rockabilly, Country, Pop, ObscureLightnin’ Hopkins – Country Blues – Country Blues Vinyl Lp - 1960Hear! Rockabilly Bopper Canada 45 Bob King & The Country Kings - Hey Honey / MyCarl Perkins Rockabilly & Country Lot Of 8 Original 45's Vg To Nm NrThe Subhumans-day The Country Died.anarcho Punk Oi Bluurg Crass 1st PressingThe Patsy Cline Story Scarce '62 Jukebox 7-inch Stereo 33 Decca Ep 6-song C&wOutlaw Country Lot #6 Johnny Cash,david Allan Coe,willie Nelson, Waylon JenningsDolly Parton "jolene" 1981 Country Excellent Condition Rca Reissued LpDolly Parton Jolene / So Beautiful Tonight Original Rare 1973 Rca Country 45Raw Meat~stand By Girl/ Out In The Country~nm- Fuzz Garage 45 On Blue Hour~wiso78 Rpm -- Johnny Cash, Sun 258, Ee- Rockabilly / CountryJohnny Cash American Iv The Man Comes Around Original 2lp With Picture SleevesThe Louvin Brothers - Tragic Songs Of Life - Country LpWillie Nelson Teatro 2xlp Double Album Gold Vinyl Sealed Lanois 2015 Rsd LitaJohnny Cash Koncert V Praze (in Prague--live) 12" Colored Vinyl Rsd ExclusiveOutlaw Country Lot #5 Johnny Cash, David Allan Coe, Hank Williams Jr, M HaggardCountry Roots Psych Garage Promo 45 Dillard & Clark Out On The Side Byrds HearHear! Rockabilly Wild Instr. 45 Hank "c" Burnette (sweden's One Man Country BandThe Everly Brothers Sing Great Country Hits Vol.3 1964 Mono 7-inch Ep, P/sJohnny Cash At Folsom Prison Vinyl Lp Usa First Pressing Columbia Cs 9639 1a/1aBuzz Busby - The Songs Of Buck Owens 1965 Rare! Su 343Chet Atkins Gallopin Guitar, 1st 10” Lp, 1953Hank Williams Mgm 78 Rpm Records Collection Of 11 Records In Album VintageDance-o-rama Billy Gray And His Western Okies #7 Country And Western Decca 10 InOutlaw Country Lot #1 - Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Waylon, Hank Williams Jr.Johnny Cash (lot Of 6 Record Albums)Mary Jo Chelette / Patsy Elshire On Starday Rare Female Country #123 45 HearElvis Country 10,000 Years Old Lsp-4460 (usa 1971 Original) With PhotoShotgun Willie Nelson Atlantic Lp 1973 Shrink 34e Rec N Pic Slv Ep Johnny Cash 112 SunJohnny Cash The Sound Of Johnny Cash Record Album Bill Nettles Wine-o Boogie 45 Rockabilly Country Bopper Original Starday Label 110+ Lot Jukebox 45's R & R, R & B, Doowop, Rockabilly, Country, Pop, ObscureAdolph Hofner And His San Antonians Dance-o-rama Country And Western #4 DeccaBrenda Lee Lot Of "27" Different 45's See ListGrady Martin And His Winging Strings Dance-o-rama Country And Western #6 DeccaBill Monroe And His Blue Grass Boys - Going Home - Us Picture Sleeve Ps 7" EpBrenda Lee Very Nice French Ep 45 When You Loved Me Country Lot Number Two Of Fifty Country 45 Rpm Records 7 Assorted Country Lp's-hank Williams Jr.- Marty Robbins-kris Kristofferson & MoCountry Lot One Lot Of 12 Lynn Anderson 33 Lp Records Waylon Jennings – Greatest Hits – Nm Country Rock-outlaw Country Vinyl LpJohnny Cash I Walk The Line / Get Rhythm 1956 Sun Rockabilly Country Bopper 45Marty Robbins "gunfighter Ballads" 1963 Country Excellent Condition American LpJohnny Cash,greatest Hits Volume 1,rare Vinyl Lp11t Rec N Pic Slv Brenda Lee Decca 31309Loretta Lynn Lot Of "11" Different 45's See ListJohnny Cash With The Tennessee Two - His Top Hits ♫ Sun Ep-114 Vg++ Rockabilly