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    

78 Rpm Seven Foot Dilly, Vocalion 5419, E- CountryRoy Roberts - Country Star Lp - House Of Roton - Rare Modern Soul Vg++ ListenLoretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose Third Man Records Blue Vinyl Jack WhiteThird Man Records Vault 17. Willie Nelson Jack WhiteJohnny Cash - American Iv : The Man Comes Around 0600753463673 Eu 2lp 180g VinylRare 45 Records Lot Of (52) 50's / 60's Bluegrass & Country Starday King PrivateJohnny Cash Now There Is A Song Lp Cbs 1960 Bpg 6028 Signed!!Johnny Cash - American Recordings 0600753441695 Eu Lp 180g VinylJohnny Cash Songs That Made Him Famous.near Mint 1958 Guaranteed Original Sun LpFlora Molton & Truth Band: Living Country Blues Usa Vol. 3 L+r Lp / Germany NmJohnny Cash Signed Lp " Bitter Tears " Record IndianRobert Pete Williams: Sugar Farm Blues Beacon Lp / Country Blues SealedJohnny Cash - American V : A Hundred Highways 0600753441688 Eu Lp 180g VinylJohn Lee Hooker - The Country Blues Of. Original 1959 Mono Riverside Rlp-12-838Herman E. Johnson: Louisiana Country Blues Arhoolie Lp / Baton Rouge NmJohnny Cash - American Vi : Ain't No Grave 0600753441671 Eu Lp 180g Vinyl'51/'52 Country Blues Big Boy Crudup Pearly Lee/lookin' For My Baby Rca M- Hear!Loretta Lynn: I'm A Honky Tonk Girl / Whispering Sea - Country (zero) 45rpm Johnny Cash - American Ii : Unchained 0600753461433 Eu Lp 180g VinylJohnny Cash At Folsom Prison Lp Columbia Cs 9639 2-eye Stereo OriginalWillie Nelson - Tmr Vault #17 - Jack White - Sealed - Complete 2-lp, 7" +poster Massive Record Lot Soul Blues Rock Country Estate Fresh. Super Clean. 120x LpsThe Country Blues Of John Lee HookerJohnny Cash 5lp Lot Ring Of Fire Ride This Train Folsomprison Gospel Road SundaySnooks Eaglin "country Boy Alberta" Storyville Near Mint Country 45 Johnny Cash - Folsom Prison Blues / So Doggone Lonesome On SunJohnny Cash Sun 283 Vg Big River Ballad Of A Teenage QueenJohnny Cash -big River / Ballad Of A Teenage Queen - 78 Rpm - 1958 Vg++ Quality **rare** Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs - 78 Rpm Lot (4 Records) Columbia / MercuryPopcorn Bw/ Lonesome Murderer Country--tommy Uhr - Hear Both- D J 20th FoxImpressions - This Is My Country Lp - Curtom Vg++Orig 1978 Waylon Jennings Willie Nelson Waylon & Willie Lp Brand New Sealed RcaMemphis Sun Label " Johnny Cash & Tennessee Two " I Walk The Line & Get Rhythm"Johnny Cash - American Iii : Solitary Man 0600753441701 Eu LpAgnes Baltsa Songs My Country Taught Me Dgg Ed.1 Digital 419236-1 NmSongs By Patsy Cline How Can I Love You Tomorrow 45 Ed 2768The Country Girls! 1927-1935 Origin Jazz Library Lp / Ojl-6 Mono SealedCountry Rockabilly 45 Paul Westmoreland "howl And Prowl" On 4 Star 1953Big Country - Rare - Angle Park / Close Action - Plastic 7"Conway Twitty 1958 Rockabilly 45 Double Talk Baby Original Wlp Clean NrJohnny Cash Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous Lp Sun Slp 12351987 Merle Haggard Willie Nelson Seashores Of Old Mexico Lp Sealed Hype Sticker!Johnny Cash Fulsom Prison Blues Ep Boy Named Sue/san Quentin/jacksonSercy Tea~movers (*club Ska* Hit)/ Country Town~charmers (original Ja *islam*) ♫Sun 283-78 Rpm Johnny Cash "train Of Love & There You Go ++ RockabillyHear It Obscure Country Bluegrass Ira Bowes And The Bowes Bros. Moonlight 111Johnny Cash Vinyl 45 Sun Records 221 Hey Porter / Cry Cry Cry U-150 U-151Picture Disc`s Lot Of 6 Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Pete Rose, Ronstdant + 2 Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger Lp 1975Johnny Cash Bonanza! Ll391 Ep Wd0043Mississippi John Hurt: Last Sessions Vanguard Lp / Country Blues Stereo '72Sealed!!! Parliament Osmium • 1970 Funk Psych Country Gospel Clinton Hazel LpJohnny Cash The Man Comes Around 2 X Lp American Iv LpSun 78 # 258 Vg Johnny Cash There You Go, Train Of Love50s Country Hillbilly Bopper - T. Texas Tyler - Bumming Around - Vg. Hear!Buck Owens 45 Pep Late 50s CountryWillie Nelson Shotgun Willie Lp 1973George Jones Country Church Time Lp Mercury1982 Merle Haggard Willie Nelson Poncho & Lefty Lp New Sealed W/ Hype Sticker!!!Carl Smith On Columbia Go Boy Go Classic Country Bop Rockabilly 45 Hear