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    

L@@k Johnny Cash 1959 Uk=rare=london Tri Center Ep. 45-rpm Country Boy 7"Pre War Country Frank Hutchinson Old Rachel -- Super Guitar Velvetone 7107 V+Blues Country 78, Nap Hayes & Matthew Prater On Okeh 45231, Vg–Conway Twitty Ep-is A Bluebird Blue Plus 3-m.g.m.-***nice Copy***Patsy Cline 1st 1957 *poor Man's Riches/ Walking After Midnight* BrunswickJohnny Cash At Folsom Prison. Vinyl Lp. Original 1968 Stereo Release.Science Hat Artistic Cube Moral Nosebleed Empire [lp] By Country Teasers...Pre-war Country Gwen Foster Wilkes County Blues Victor 20934 Near Mint! 78 Rpm–Humble Pie Town & Country 1969 Uk Lp 1st Press Imsp 027 V. Rare Excon Vinyl*country 78, Bill Chitwood & Bud Landress On Brunswick 2884, Ex-Johnny Cash On Sun 78 241* Country 78, East Texas Serenaders On Decca 5458, Ex To Vg+Cmt Crossroads Willie Nelson And Friends Live Third Man Vault 17 Jack WhiteConway Twitty Ep-it's Only Make Believe Plus 3-m.g.m.-***nice Copy***Johnny Cash American Iv The Man Comes Around V Rare Orig 2002 Us 2lp SetHaunting Rockabilly Country Dennis Roberts Blue Carnation Lonesome Sound Hear1959 Uk Johnny Cash With His Hot And Blue Guitar Lp Lot Of (19) Hank Williams Sr. Mgm 78 Rpm/10" Records Country Blues CollectionMike Ness Social Distortion Hank 3 Kbd Nofx Hellbound Glory Merle Haggard Waylon78rpm Prewar Country €* Country 78, Theron Hale And Daughters On Victor 40019, Vg+Johnny Cash - 45 Record | Sun - Hey Porter | Push Marks | Vg- Condition #221Johnny Cash: At Folsom Prison Lp Columbia Cs 9639/vg+vinyl,vg CoverJohnny Cash Signed Sun Orig SamplePatsy Cline Decca Ed-2759 Dear God Ep -listenBill Madison Sunday Mornin' Hayride Lp Rare Nh Private Country Folk Ssw Vg++1968 Uk Orig Johnny Cash Lp €Neko Case Middle Cyclone Dbl Lp Clear Vinyl Country Rock Anti Dolly Parton & Loretta Lynn, American Eagle Live Show Rare Radio Promo 3 Lp SetRare Prewar Paramount 3088 Country Hillbilly 78 Rpm Wolfe BallardEdison 5076 Old Joe Clark, Fiddlin Powers & Family Blue Amberol Cylinder CountryJohnny Cash Lp At Folsom Prison 1968 Vg Cs-9639 Columbia 2 Eyes* Country 78, Gid Tanner, Skillet Lickers, Riley Puckett On Columbia 15104, Ex+1961 Patsy Cline 7" 45 And Picture Sleeve Walkin' After Midnight Johnny Cash Lp "at Folsom Prison"Lucero / Loggia - Split 7" Rare Oop Alt CountryHank Williams 'moanin The Blues' 10" (mgm D 144) - Very Good Condition!African System Orchestra "fine Country" African Soukous Lp Ras FranceTony Douglas Thunder And Lightning 45 Rare Hillbilly Country Bopper D 1121Nelly Country Grammer Rap 2lp UniversalNeko Case The Worse Things Get.. Dbl Lp + Cd Sealed Anti Booklet Tattoos CountryJohnny Cash Sun Ps Sun Ep 113 I Walk The Line Memphis Rock 'n Roll RockabillyEdison 5246 Cluck Old Hen Fiddlin Powers & Family Blue Amberol Cylinder CountryBrenda Lee Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree Mint Unplayed 1950's Decca 45Johnny Cash; Rebel Johnny Yuma Ep; Lot Of 3 45's; Ballad Of A Teenage Queen; SunJohnny Cash - Orange Blossom Special (sealed) Lp Vinyl Record AlbumPatsy Cline €Johnny Cash - Johnny Cash's New Greatest Hits (japanese Pressing Lp Exc!!! 1976)Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison And San Quentin - Double Lp SetDolly Parton Radio Program Lp: "solid Gold Country" Salute To D.parton 10/13/87Vintage Sun 45s Records, Lot Of 5 Original - Johnny Cash And Jerry Lee Lewis(sealed) Waylon Jennings - "lot Of 3 Factory Sealed Lp's"Hear- Rare Country 78- Carter Family - Foggy Mountain Top - Zonophone -uk ImportJohnny Cash & June Carter-"carryin' On With", Columbia Cs9528 (360 Sound), NmJohnny Cash's Greatest Hits. Volume 1. Vinyl Lp. Original 1967 Stereo Release.Rare 1959 Conway Twitty Rock'n Roll 78 Rpm Record. Danny BoyRick Nelson Country Style Jet7130 Lp An8382Lp Patsy Cline:greatest Hits Decca Dl-74854 Vg+