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    

Girl From The Snow Country / J J Burnel / Uk 7" / Stranglers / Extremely RareJohnny Cash I Walk The Line Gold TriBig Country Fields Of Fire Uk Shaped Picture Disc 7"Various - Country Classic 45s (rsd 10x 7" Vinyl 2017)Shirley Collins & Albion Country Band -no Roses Orig Pegasus 1971 Uk Folk Ex- LpConway Twitty.sweet Sorrow.mgm.7" Vinyl Single.45rpmCollection Of 5 Rare Country Ep.s Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Webb PierceJim Reeves Distant Drums/welcome To My World/heartache Following Me 45Waylon Jennings Forever Rsd 2017 Waylon Jennings Forever Waylon Rsd 2017 Only 250 Printed!!!!!!! No Reserve!!!!!1963 Unopened Decca Records Patsy Cline "crazy" 45 Rpm...ed 270778 Rpm -- Folk Music Of The United States (5 78s) / Album Ii, Loc, Ee+ CountryRare Rockabilly-johnny Moore-country Girl-vaden-hear ItWaylon Jennings 2017 Record Store Day Waylon Forever Vinyl Lp Rsd Limited #250Waylon Jennings 8 Album Lot All Vg++ Or Ex VinylWillie Nelson Live At Third Man Records Tmr 228 Jack White Stripes Neil Young Waylon Jennings .357's Forever Reissue Record Store Day New 12" Lp Ltd EditionLot Of 10 Johnny Cash Sun 45's Original Pressings Rare "cry Cry Cry" Push MarksElvis Presley Lot,sleeves Only,.wild In The Country EtcElmore James "country Boogie" /"she Just Won't Do Right" Checker 78 #777 1953The Sword. Low Country Rsd 2017 Vinyl LpThe Sword - Low Country - Rsd 2017 Sealed Record Store DayThe Sword. Low Country Rsd 2017 Vinyl LpHank Williams-36 Of His Greatest Hits (1st Pressing 3 Lp Set-w-photo Album)10 Record Lot 78 Rpm Hank Williams Sr * Luke The Drifter Original Mgm Yellow Hank Williams Sings 78 Rpm Book Of 4 Mgm Label I Saw The Light Peg Leg Howell And His Gang-country-jelly Roll Blues/beaver Slide Rag-05-vLot Of (29) Johnny Cash 45s - All On ColumbiaSuch A Deal #282 Lot Of (52) All 50's & 60's Early Country 45'sWaylon Jennings Live 55 Vinyl Lp Sealed Rsd 2015 Limited EditionLot Of 17 Original M- Arizona Ramco Label Country 45's + Rsd 45=18 In Ramco BoxWillie Nelson - Teatro 2 X Lp - Record Store Day Rsd 2015 Gold Vinyl - Sealed.Chet Atkins Teensville Trinidad Press Sp Rca 47-7684Henry Mancini Country Gentleman Quadradisc Lp New SealedMerle Haggard's The Strangers - 4 Lps - Honky Tonkin', Instrumental, My Friends Dukes Of Hazzard 1981 Lp Shrink W Hype Sticker "the General Lee" By Johnny CashElvis Presley:12"lp Elvis Country With Bonus Photo 1971{vinyl Nm,cover Ex+} RcaMel Brown Big Foot Country Girl Impulse Abc Lp Nm Promo Gatefold Patsy Cline "showcase" Lp Dl 4202 Near MintLot Of (7) Hank Williams Sr./luke The Drifter 10"/78 Rpm Shellac Records MgmWaylon Jennings - The Eagle Lp Original Vinyl Record Rare! 1990 1p 3080Such A Deal #283 Lot Of (57) All 50's & 60's Early Country 45'sJohnny Cash Country Music 10 Record Set Lot !!Big Boris - Big Country. 7" Single. (rare Unplayed Original U.k. Stereo 45)Johnny Cash Flesh And Blood Rare Norway 45 Norwegian Country This Side Of LawSuch A Deal #281 Lot Of (52) All 50's & 60's Early Country 45'sSuch A Deal #284 Lot Of (57) All 50's & 60's Early Country 45'sWillie Nelson: Willie Nelson 5 Lp Box Set-great Hits And Performances-spec Ed.Johnny Cash Orange Blossom Special Vinyl Lp. Very Good Condition.A Country Fit For Heroes Volume 2 Lp Punk Oi! Skinhead No FutureA Country Fit For Heroes Lp Punk Oi! Skinhead No FutureCountry Fit For Heroes Lp82 Ex Oi Blitzkrieg Violators Chaotic Youth Distortion Patsy Cline 4 Album Lot 1 Vg+ And 3 Ex VinylWillie Nelson And Then I Wrote 1962 Original Rare Stereo Lp Liberty Lst 7239Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison.columbia Carter Family-victor 21434-river Of Jordan/keep On The Sunny Side-03-rare-v++Hank Williams Jr Vinyl Lp Record! Habits Old And New! Elektra 6e-278 Stereo!African System Orch. "fine Country" Afro Soukous Lp All StarsBlue Mountain Eagle '70 •true 1st Press• Rural Psych Acid Roots Cosmic CountryConway Twitty~(7 Lp Lot)~ Records 12 Inch 33 1/3 Vg