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]



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]

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    

Larry Jon Wilson Sojourner Lp Monument Soul Funk Country SealedTony Joe White Dangerous Lp Columbia Soul Funk Country Sealed Cut OutThird Man Records Vault Package #17 Complete: Willie Nelson 12", 6" Vinyl, ExtraSun Rock 'n Roll 78 : Johnny Cash & The Tennessee Two On Sun 232Jack Earls Slow Down / A Fool For Lovin' You 1956 Sun Rockabilly Country Bop 45Gary Scruggs-rare Psych Rock-7"45 Rpm-i Need Someone/gentle When You Say The WorJohnny Cash Home Of The Blues Us Sun EpPick Up Only 1600 Lp Albums Records Vinyl Collection Ohio Rock Country ClassicalBig Country - Why The Long Face - Vinyl Lp - Stuart Adamson - The SkidsLoretta Lynn - Van Lear Rose - In Shrink 2010-lp/vinyl/recordGeorge Jones The Crown Prince Of Country Music 1960 Starday Mono Lp Orig CoverCmt Crossroad Willie Nelson And Friends Live 12" 2xlp Third Man Records Vault 1778 Rpm Country – Robert Howell / Holland Puckett – Herwin 75562Move Message From The Country Harvest Shsp 4013 Roy Wood Elo Idle Race Uglys LpPre-war Country 78 Rpm Tom Darby Jimmie Tarlton Columbia 15330-d Rare 1929At Folsom Prison By Johnny Cash Lp SealedRockabilly Bw/ Lonesome Country Xo Teen-- Linda Brannon --hear Both- 1957 RamEugene Chadbourne Lsdc&w Uk Press Free Jazz Country RockSun 309 78 Rpm Johnny Cash "it's Just About Time" Rockabilly Vg+/++The Country Blues Of John Lee Hooker - Rare Original Pressing Riverside (1959)Lot Of (21) Hillbilly/bluegrass/early Country 78rpm/10" Records Miss Lee MorsePre-war Country 78 Rpm Charlie Poole Columbia 15146-d Sunset March 1928 BanjoCash Box Top 100 - Festival Ep - Brenda Lee, Earl Grant, Jackie Wilson, ClineLot Of (18) Hank Williams/luke The Drifter 78rpm/10" Records Country Mgm G To VgJess Hillard Arkansas Traveler Montgomery Ward 4988 Country 78 Ultra Mega RareHank Williams Iii Straight To Hell 2006 Promo 12" Picture Disc Vinyl BrucCountry Rock Johnny Cash The Legend Of Uk Double Heavy Vinyl Lp MintGram Parsons-grievous Angel-rare Original 1974 Country Rock Lp-promo-near Mint78 Rpm Herwin 75543 Old Time Country Brown And Bradshaw E Shape NiceBig Country - Chance 12 Inch Test Pressing - Stuart Adamson The SkidsJohnny Cash The Man Comes Around Sealed Original Us 2lp Willie Nelson Red Headed Stranger Cbs Mastersound Half Speed NmJohnny Cash,luther Played The Boogie,london Tri Centre,hls 8847,year 1958The Pink Panther Country Album - Picture Disc-lp/vinyl/recordRoy Orbison Ooby Dooby / Go! Go! Go! Original 1956 Sun Rockabilly Country Bop 45Disneyland 3810 Walt Disney Story & Songs From Robin Hood 1973 Roger Miller VgElvis Ez Country Programming Rare New Zealand Nz Lp Chet Atkins78 Rpm Prewar Country – Herwin 75504Victor Scroll 78 Rpm Mac (harry Mciintock) - 21704 Country - Big Rock Candy Va -the Million Dollar Quartet -sun Uk Lp Elvis Carl Perkins Johnny CashJohnny Cash 5 Lp's Lot Songs Of Our Soil * The World Of * Big HitsEddie Noack Barbara Joy / Sleeping 45 On K-ark -- Rare Country -- ListenMerle Haggard-1968 Country Promo-7"45 Rpm-mama Tried/you'll Never Love Me Now-nmCountry 78 : Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs On Columbia Hall Of Fame Series 52025Waylon Jennings & Shooter Jennings Fenixon Lp Sealed Rsd Country Rock Bca Elvis Country Rca Stereo Lsp-4460 W/ Bonus Photo Vg Original Inner Slv 12" 33rpmRay Charles "nm Wax" Modern Sounds In Country And Ipp-80643 Obi Lp Ap3767Big Country Broken Heart 12" ( Red Vinyl ) Limited Edition With Free PosterJack Scott I Remember Hank Williams Lp Uk Top Rank 1960 Mono First PressingLot 8 Johnny Cash Lp Records Orange Blossom Show Time Junkie & The Juice PromoLot Of 8 Johnny Cash Lp Records Sunday Down South Mean As Hell June CarterWillie Nelson "and Then I Wrote" Autographed Lp - Liberty Lrp-3239 - Mono78 Rpm Original Sun Record 258 Johnny Cash Train Of Love There You Go 78 Rpm Prewar Country – Herwin 75503Rockabilly-- Willie Nelson - No Dough -hear Both -1958 Promo LibertyHank Williams A Teardrop On A Rose Mgm 12029 Rare 78 Rpm Stock Sleeve 1955 RareHank Williams Ep # X-1135 Looks Unplayed - From EstateHear- Rare Rock & Roll/country 45 - Johnny Cash- Luther Played The Boogie - Sun Marty Robbins, Pretty Mama/ Don`t Let Me Hang AroundLot Of 6 Bill Monroe Lps