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    

Johnny Cash - Stunning Lot! 4 X Early Eps! All Listed London & Philips Ex!Super Rare Hank Williams Calling You/never Again Sterling 201 First RecordCountry 78, Sam & Kirk Mcgee On Vocalion 5169, Vg+Hugh (u Madoo) Pop Style /country Gal Sweet /jah Jah / Sensi / Baby Dont Go-1987Country 78, W.t. Narmour & S.w. Smith On Okeh 45424, Vg+ To Ex-18a Extended Play Rec N Pic Slv Johnny Cash Sun 114Lot Of (54) Johnny Cash 45/7" Vinyl Records Greatest Hits/best Of...columbia 17a Extended Play Rec N Pic Slv Johnny Cash Sun 113Sun Records, Johnny Cash, "the Ways Of A Woman In Love", Ex+, Usa,78 Rpm, Nr!Waylon Jennings Don't Think Twice Country Lp Sealed A&mJohnny Cash ...country Boy Rare Sealed Sun Lable Ep/epa-112 The Rock Island LineJohnny Cash €Brenda Lee - Let's Jump The Broomstick - Aus. EpWaylon Jennings Four Strong Winds 45 Aussie Festival 1964 Promo CountryCountry 78, The Carter Family On Victor 23599, Vg To Vg+Johnny Cash €Roger Taylor Queen My Country Rare Uk 7"singleJohnny Cash The Fabulous Country Lp Sealed ColumbiaWillie Nelson & Family Country Lp Sealed RcaLot Of (6) Garth Brooks Best Of/greatest Hits 7"/45 Vinyl Records Country 1 Jbo!Country Bopper 45 - Chuck Goddard - The Moon Won't Tell - Trepur - Mp3Waylon Jennings Just To Satisfy You Country Lp Sealed RcaThe Fabulous Johnny Cash - Rare Original White Label Promo Lp2lps Chris Ledoux Years Of Country Music 1979 Ger Jupiter Gtf *rare Country*Slim Dusty Orig Oz Promo Lp Songs For Rolling Stones Vg+ '61 Columbia Country  Willie Nelson - Stardust (vinyl 4 Disc Single Sided 45rpm Classic) **sealed**Waylon Jennings Leavin' Town Country Lp Shrink RcaGeorge Strait Strait Country Country Lp Sealed McaJohnny Paycheck The Lovin' Machine Country Lp Shrink Little Darlin'Waylon Jennings Folk-country Country Lp Sealed RcaLee Hazlewood House Safe For Tigers Lp Light In The Attic Sealed Country RockWillie Nelson Shotgun Willie Atlantic Sd 7262Vintage Johnny Cash Sun Records With His Hot And Blue Guitar!Cx System ( Dbx ) Audiophile Lp * Sampler Test Tone * Billy Joel Willie NelsonCountry Funk 45 - Wayne Edmondson - Let The Dog Die - Sound Track -mp3 -obscure!Brenda Lee Rockin Around The Christmas Tree 45 Brunswick 1962Willie Nelson Live Country Music Concert Country Lp Shrink RcaPatsy Cline 7" Golden Hits Llp Dl 74854 Mini 33 1/3 Juke Box Lp Record Album VgWillie Nelson Texas In My Soul Country Lp Sealed RcaAudiophile Mercury Living Stereo 90219 Cb Country Gardens Fennell Nm/ex Great'56 Checker R&b Instros Gene Barge Country/way Down Home M- Vinyl Dj Hear Both!Marty Robbins A White Sport Coat Mint Wlp Dj 1950's Promo Copy 45 Orig SleeveJohnny Cash I Walk The Line Lp Shrink Columbia 2 Eye 1-1 Matrix 360 SoundWillie Nelson Laying My Burdens Down Country Lp Sealed RcaLot Of 5 Usa Country Folk Lp's. Folkways, Rounder. Appalachians. Gid Tanner. ExCountry Bopper 45 - Frank Dunsmore - Painting The Town - Kippo - Mp3Country Bopper 45 - Shorty Long - I Got Nine Little Kisses - Valley - Mp3Conway Twitty Lost In The Feeling (warner Bros 23869-1) Autographed Lp Record ExNice Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison - Stereo Lp - Columbia Records - Cs-9639Marty Robbins Long Tall Sally Vg+(+) 45 Rpm Rockabilly Promo78 Rpm Original Sun Record 10" Johnny Cash "ballad Of A Teenage Queen" Big RiverElvis Country Special Edition 2-lp Edition 180 Grams Vinyl Dmm Mastering FtdHank Snow The One And Only Very Rare Two Side Test Pressing Johnny Paycheck Gospeltime Country Lp Sealed Little Darlin'Hear - Rare Country/christmas 45 - Rapid Robert - Christmas On The Moon - SpaceDemo Rare Cx System ( Dbx ) Audiophile Lp * Billy Joel * Willie Nelson LoverboyMarty Robbins Gunfighter Ballads & Trail Songs Cl 1349 Vinyl LpRare Country/christmas 45 - Jimmy Drake- The Orphan's Christmas Song- As- Is- M-Sealed Lp George Jones - From The HeartFashion Funktion Sun Country Tashamba 12" Hear Sealed