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    

Bob Marley Rainbow Country 12" Single Daddy Kool Vg++ Reggae Ian Anderson's Country Blues Band Stereo Death Breakdown Uk With Chris TurnerBronco Lp Country Home Uk Pink Island 1st PressTony Joe White – Black And White ~ Rare Country Rock - 1969 Monument1959 Uk Orig. Johnny Cash Ep “johnny Cash No. 2”Country Negro Jam Session Butch Cage 12" 33rpm Lp Rare Arhoolie Blues Folk Ex !Johnny Cash Ep On Sun I Walk The Line Country Rock Rockabilly 45Johnny Cash 78rpm Canada Only On Columbia # 41251 " What Do I Care " From 1958Immediate Humble Pie -town And Country - 1969 RecordPatsy Cline 1958 Coral Ep Picture Sleeve 45 Svg+/svg Honky Tonk Merry Go Round+3Johnny Cash - Home Of The Blues (rockabilly Original)Elvis Presley Wild In The Country Rare 1965 Australian Only Portrait Pic SleeveLot Of 27 Johnny Cash 45 Records --- Some W/ Jukebox Strips --- Vg+Hearts And Flowers Now Is The Time For Capitol Mono Psych Country Rock LpOctober Country My Girl Friend Is A Witch Psych Canada Epic 45Wild Country (alabama) Their 1st Rare Recording On Lsi, 1975, NmCountry Teasers - Science Hat Artistic Cube...empire Lp Test Press 2002 Orig ItrMose Allison Trio: Back Country Suite Prestige Lp / Mono Dg Rvg1958 Uk Orig. Johnny Cash Sings Hank Williams EpFrankie Marvin / Blue Yodel - Edison Electric Needle Type 78 - Pre-war CountryBill Monroe & His Blue Grass Boys, Bluebird B-8813 Tennessee Blues E- 78 Pre-war'59 Bluesy Rocker Nat Robertson Country Boy/my Darling Please Return Hear Both!Heroes Johnny Cash Waylon Jennings Album Lp Vinyl Record Country Western Lp Lot Of 25 All SealedElectronic "idiot Country" Vinyl Acetate Smiths New Order Pet Shop Boys FactoryChet Atkins' Gallopin' Guitar 10" Lp Rca Victor Lpm 3079Loretta Lynn 45 + Picture Sleeve Coal Miner's Daughter Promo Willie Nelson Audiophile Half-speed Mastered Lp Sealed Jerry Lee Lewis "a Taste Of Country" Ep W/pic Sun Ep-114Early Country 78 Cranford And Thompson...gennett 6636 Mountain Sweetheart...g+Lot Of (16) Johnny Cash 7"/45 Rpm Vinyl Records Columbia/sun Greatest/best Of.. Bob Wills And His Texas Playboys Lp The Tiffany Transcriptions Vol.1Lot Of 20,000 (+/-) Vinyl 45s From 1950s-'90s, Many In Sleeves ♫ Rnr,r&b,countryLot Of 9 Original Ep's & Box Sets Country Classics -hank Williams/hank Snow/Rare 78 Rpm Superior 2637 Gene Autry Pistol Packing Papa Blue Yodel No. 8 Stringin' Along With Chet Atkins 10" Lp Rca Victor Lpm 3163Patsy Cline X 2 Festival Ep'sRockabilly Johnny Cash I Walk The Line Sun Ep _113 Rare Oop OriginalWillie Nelson Always On My Mind Master Sound Half Speed Mastered Vinyl LpWillie Nelson Tougher Than Leather Master Sound Half Speed Mastered Vinyl LpChet Atkins Picks On The Beatles Jukebox Only 7” Ep Little Lp + Inlay CardsPatsy Cline The Story Country Jukebox Only 7” Ep Little Lp Nm-Rockabilly Wlp 45ep Janis Martin "love Me To Pieces"/hank Snow On Rca 1957 Patsy Cline & Jordanaires Showcase Decca Lp Sealed Lot Of 75 Single 45 Rpm Records Late 50's Early 60's Rockabilly--pop--countryJohnny Cash - At Folsom PrisonThe Black Country Three - Uk Private Press 5 Trk 7" Ep - Wolverhampton FolkJohnny Cash / At San Quentin Lp 1st Press StereoThe Cats *one Way Wind/ Country Woman* 1970 LebanonJim Reeves - My Happiness / Yours Rare '59 German 7" (with Silver Tri-centre)Conway Twitty 20 Lp Lot Country Western + Loretta LynnThe George Jones Story Rare Starday Mono Double Vinyl Lp 12" Rockabilly Vg+ Johnny Cash - The Fabulous Johnny Cash - Phillips Bbl 7298 Near MintMose Allison Back Country Suite Lp Records Vinyl Album Prestige Lp 7091Patsy Cline Promo Ep Patsy Cline Label Epf-16 Vg+ Lot Of (9) Johnny Cash 12"/33 Rpm Lp Vinyl Records San Quentin Hello Cash Willie Nelson "highwayman" 1985 Columbia Records Fc 40056 LpSam Mcgee Grand Dad Of The Country Guitar Pickers 12" 33rpm Lp Arhoolie Folk Nm!Rare Country 45 - Johnny Rebel - The Money Belongs To Us - Rebel # 511Patsy Cline ~ The Patsy Cline Story ~ 2xlp On Mca! Near Mint Minus! Mono! 1963!