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    

Buck Owens On Pep Records 78rpm Rockabilly!Gaylads - Africa / Never Let Your Country Down Ja Orig 7" –Hank Williams Iii / Those Poor Bastards Pills I Took Very Rare Oop 7" 45 1/500!Lot Of 3 Johnny Cash Sun Ep Covers Only-no Records-112, 114, 117!!!Wow!! Lp Signed By Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, & Jerry Lee Lewis-w/ Coa-must See!Rare Blues 45 Elmore James Checker Records Country Boogie / Wont Do Right Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison~rare Orig '68 Columbia Lp~360 Stereo Lbl~in ShirnkThird Man Records Vault #17 Jack White Willie Nelson Record Booth SingleJohnny Cash & Tennessee Two..i Walk The Line / Get Rhythm Sun-241.. 1956 Rare 78John Martyn The Tumbler Island Ilps 9091 Beverley Martyn Folk Country Rare VinylJohnny Cash~man In Black~rare Sealed Original 1971 Columbia Promo LpPatsy Cline~sentimentally Yours~rare Original '61 Decca Stereo Lp~near MintBill Johnson & The Dabblers--umm Boy You're My Baby-rockabilly Country 1st PressJohnny Cash & The Tennessee Two On Sun 78 241Johnny Cash I Walk The Line Sun Ep Record 45 Ep-113Johnny Cash - Rare Sun 78 Rpm - "i Walk The Line" / "get Rhythm Johnny Cash 4 Lp Lot - Folsom, The Fabulous, Sound Of Etc. Vinyl RecordJohnny Cash Sun Records Original "hey Porter" And "cry! Cry! Cry" 45rpmLot Of Over 300 Indie Country 45rpm Records - Over 35 Pounds Of Who Are They?Ep-hank Williams"i Saw The Light(no 1)"1956 Uk Ep Near Mint'55 Texas Country Red & Carolyn All Alone Blues/old Rendezvous Tnt 9004 M- Hear!Vintage Colored Vinyl 45 Rpm Dj Record Lot 70s 80s Jukebox Red Blue Country PopWillie Nelson~stardust~rare Mastersound Limit Edit ½speed Mastered Audiophile LpConway Twitty On Mercury 78 78086Ep-hank Williams"1st Uk Ep Move In On Over +3"1954 Uk Ep Ex+/near MintJohnny Cash - At Folsom Prison (cbs 63308) Uk 1968 Lp A2/b2 Near MintPatsy Cline~patsy Cline Showcase~rare Orig '62 Decca Stereo Lp~beautifulHank Williams 78 Rpm Lot Of 26 + 2 33's Immortal The Drifter Dear Mansion The Move "message From The Country" Uk 1971 1st Harvest Roy Wood Jeff LynneSteve Earle~guitar Town~rare Original 1986 Mca Lp~outlaw Country MilestoneHank Williams "hank Williams As Luke The Drifter" (e3267) - Vinyl / Lp / ExGram Parsons Flying Burrito Brothers - Sleepless Nights Lp 1976 Country Rock A&mCountry Blues 78, Jimmie Rodgers On Victor V-40014, Ex-Johnny Cash The Fabulous Vol.1 Columbia Ep B-12531 W/ Cover Rare Vg+ Hear ItHank Williams On Mgm 78 12535Luke Mcdaniel You're Still On My Mind/homeward Mule Venus Ala Country Bop 200+ Bulk Record Lot 45 Rpm 50s 60s Country Pop Rock Jukebox Vintage Wall DecorJohnny Cash W His Hot & Blue Guitar Lp Nm- Sun Mono Rare 1st Issue! Lot Of 150+ Reissue 45 Rpm Records Double-sided Hits Rock Pop Country 1950's-80sMerle Haggard & The Strangers Original Capitol Lp In Shrink 1968Lot Of 8 Rockabilly 45 Rpm Records-buddy Holly Ricky Nelson Johnny Cash Everly'sHymns By Johnny Cash Coulumbia 6 Eye Logo Dg Lp Mint Sealed Johnny Cash Sings The Songs That Made Him Famous Sun 1235 Dg Lp N Mint In ShrinkRay Price - Bullet 701 78 Rpm "jealous Lies" - His First Record, 1950Bulk Lot Of 3000+ Vinyl 45rpm Records-rock, Country - 50's Thru 80's LiquidationChet Atkins *whispering* 1961 Spanish Ep Compact 33 DoubleVintage 100+ Record Lot 45 Rpm 50s 60s 70s 80s Pop Rock Country Jukebox Music8n Rec N Pic Slv Brenda Lee Decca 311494n Rec N Pic Slv Brenda Lee Decca 31454Northern Soul Bw/ Country Answer --gilbert Lee-- Hear Both - Alanbama FranticImperial 5336- Boo Breeding- Country Woman/low And Lonesome- Promo CopyRare Robert Fuller / Laramie Tv Show 45 & Picture Sleeve-yellow Vinyl-country 45Waylon Jennings Rca Lp 1971 In ShrinkMega Rare George Strait Country Lp 1st Record!! 1981 Country Western Promo StampThe Fabulous Johnny Cash 180gram Vinyl Mono Lp Numbered Sealed Black Friday RsdBuck Owens And The Buckaroos It's A Monster's Holiday Nm Vinyl Lp Monster CoverChet Atkins Lp "caribbean Guitar" Original Rca Living Stereo Nm-Roger Tillison Album Atco Lp 1971 Wlp Promo Ssw Country Rock With Jesse Ed DavisBuck Owens ~ 3 Lp Box Set Levon Helm American Son Lp Mca 1980 The Band Country Rural Rock Americana