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 Electrobeam Gennett 6619 Justin Winfield Old Time Country New River Train78rpm Postwar Country €Garth Brooks-self Titled Vinyl Lp Record-country-the DanceCountry 45 Ep Lefty Frizzell Self Titled Columbia B 2822 Sealed Picture Sleeve78rpm Prewar Country €Lp Roosevelt Holts - Presenting The Country Blues (blue Horizon 7-63201) Rare1968 Memphis Country Blues Festival Scarce Orig 1968 Blue Horizon Lp Ex Johnny Cash 45 Ps Ep So Doggone Lonesome 1958 Sun Pic Sleeve Country ExJackie Brown Soundtrack - Quentin Tarantino - Johnny Cash (vinyl Lp Band Apart)George Barnes Country Jazz Brigade 1315 Vg++vg++ Killer!Sun Records Original Johnny Cash 45 Lot Of (15) Mostly Vg+ 241,258,266,279,302Pre-war Country Gwen Foster Wilkes County Blues Victor 20934 Near Mint!Near Mint 78 295 Sun Johnny Cash Guess Things Happen That Way / Come In Stranger78rpm Prewar Country €Lot Of (40) Johnny Cash 45/7" Vinyl Records W/sleeves Vg/nm Man Black Boy Sue Johnny Cash Job Lot 6 Lp Vinyl Records Job Lot Folson Prison !!! Cbs Uk Label ExJohnny Cash 45 Rpm Record-you're The Nearest Thing To Heaven/i Can't Help It/psJohnny Cash - Now Here's Johnny Cash - Country Lp - Signed78 By Johnny Cash On Sun - Hear!Johnny Cash Greatest Hits Vol Iii Stereo Nm- Lp/autographed CoverPre-war Country Rare Gene Autry On Van Dyke 5119-b Why Dont You Come Back?Lot Of (100)-45s-vinyl-northern Soul-pop-rock-country-1950s-80s-jukebox Filler#6Johnny Cash - Without Love Signed 12" SingleDolly Parton "bubbling Over" Rca Rare Quadraphonic! Early Country Sealed Nos LpHank Williams...mgm Yellow Label 78 Rpm 4 Record Lot #178rpm Prewar Country € Hank Williams 78 " Love Sick Blues - Wedding Bells" 195045rpm Rockabilly Waylon Jennings Brunswick Vintage Record Estate Liquidation Johnny Cash Sun Records-home Of The Blues-sep 116 Lee Hazlewood Forty Swedish Lhi Version Lp Country200+ Bulk Record Lot 45 Rpm 50s 60s Pop Rock Country Jukebox Vintage Wall DecorWillie Nelson Stardust Picture Promo Lp " Autographed" By Willie And The BandJohnny Cash 'ring Of Fire' Rare Red Vinyl Dj Promotional 45 With Promo SleeveWashington Apple Lp Delicious Fresh Country Apples Rare Psych Rock Acid RockImpressions - This Is My Country Lp - Curtom Vg++ ShrinkConway Twitty Sings Vol. 3 '59 Orig Mgm Ep X1642 W/sleeve ExcHear- Rare Old-time Country 78- H M Barnes & Blue Ridge Ramblers - Old Joe ClarkCurly Sanders : Dynamite (concept 90)orig Country Bopper Rockabilly 45 HearEx Rare Bill Monroe & Doc Watson - Sing Country Songs - Ltd EdThe Country Hams (paul Mccartney)-walking In The Park With Eloise-uk Emi+psWillie Nelson Stardust Cbs/sony 25ap 2741 Japanese Pressing Obi Vinyl LpCountry : Kirk Mcgee And His Band On Tennessee 808 Ultra Rare Chet Atkins' Gallopin' Guitar 10" Lp - Lpm 3079Barry Thornton Ep " Country Guitar " Slim Dusty C&w On ColumbiaLot Of (100)-45s-vinyl-northern Soul-pop-rock-country-1950s-80s-jukebox Filler#8Lot Of (100)-45s-vinyl-northern Soul-pop-rock-country-1950s-80s-jukebox Filler#7Hank Williams Moanin' The Blues Vol. 2 '56 Orig Mgm X1216 Ep Country Nice!Ricky Nelson Country Fever Decca Pop Vpi Clean! Vg++ Nice! Dj Cover Signed LpBeach Boys - (summer Days) Rare Lp Test Pressing, S. Africa ? Other Country ?Lot Of (23) Webb Pierce 45/7" Original Vinyl Records Country Rockabilly Vg+The Alley Cats : Tramp (t.a.c. 101) Nw? Weird Echo Country Bopper Inst 45 HearHear- Rare Pre-war Country 78- Blue Ridge Hill Billies- Thinking Of Me- BluebirdIvor Cutler "dandruff" 1974 Folk World Country Near Mint ConditionVintage 100+ Record Lot 45 Rpm 50s 60s 70s 80s Pop Rock Country Jukebox MusicRockabilly Marty Robbins 1955 Us Promo *mean Mama Blues*Marty Robbins 1959 Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs Cl 1349 Columbia Records Johnny Cash I Walk The Line Hilltop Js-6097 Us Pressing Vinyl LpLost Highway 10th Anniversary Compilation Lp (vinyl) Ryan Adams/hank Williams +Johnny Cash 78 Come In Stranger / Guess Things Happen That Way Lon Hls 8656 ExRare 45 Record W/johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two- Sun Records #221- Push Marks!