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    

White Rhino Farm In The Country 45 Galactic Weird Freak Folk Psych Private Vg+Liza Jane Taylor Merry Christmas Viet Nam 45 Mid State Weird Country Xmas Vg++Excellent 1958 Rock/bopper 45 E.p. - Johnny Cash "home Of The Blues" Sun #116Neil Young 45 Pic Sleeve Like A Hurricane/old Country Waltz Reprise GermanyWaylon Jennings-bcr Presents Live In Concert Volume 2 (2015 Black Friday/rsd Lp)Elvis Presley "great Country & Western Hits" Spd 26 Ultra RareJon, Michael Raven, Jean Ward -songs Of Black Country &west Mids 1968 Uk Folk LpSturgill Simpson "metamodern Sounds In Country Music" Lp 2015 (pink Color Vinyl)78- Decca 30221- Patsy Cline -walkin' After Midnight/ Poor Man's RosesBronco Lp "country Home" Uk Pink Island Orig. Gatefold George Barnes "country Jazz" Brigade Lp Rare Guitar InstrumentalWillie Nelson "band Of Brothers" Lp 2014 Sony Legacy (180 Gram Vinyl)Grayson & Whitter Victor 40135 Country 78 Rpm Record E-/v+The Sword "high Country" 2lp 2015 Razor & Tie (purple Vinyl W/ Neon Green Splat)Jon Raven "ballad Of The Black Country" 1975 Orig Uk Folk Broadside LpJohnny Cash - Big River / Ballad Of A Teenage Queen 10” 78rpm Vg Johnny Cash - Guess Things Happen That Way / Come In Stranger 10” 78rpm Vg+ **brenda Lee - Let's Jump With Ep - Rare Italy Debut Ps/epExcellent 1959 Country 45 - Johnny Cash "little Drummer Boy" Columbia RecordsJohnny Cash-(10") 78rpm; Sun 302; E- / E- (vjm); Country; 1958Hear It Obscure Country Bopper Jimmy Murphy Rca 51-21 Big Mama BluesJohnny Cash The Christmas Spirit Vinyl Record Columbia Cs8917 Lp Album Shrink Lost Highway 10th Anniversary Compilation Lp (vinyl) Ryan Adams/hank Williams +Bob Dylan - Nashville Skyline - Lp - 1969 - 1st Press In Shrink - Johnny CashUltra Rare Outlaw Country Blaze Foley Sealed Vital Records Sheffield SoundCountry Blues Of John Lee Hooker Riverside 1st Press Scarce BluesJohnny Cash With His Hot And Blue Guitar 33 Lp Record Near Mint Jimmy Bryant Capitol Ep 1314 Country Cabin JazzRudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer 78 Rpm Christmas Record Gene Autry If It Doesn'tCowboy Copas & Hawkshaw Hawkins 4 Lp 50's Country Lot Vg+ To Nm Nr VpiHank Williams Lot Of 6 Lps Promo Mgm 45 Doxy 180 Gram Imports Nm Vinyl Long DearWillie Nelson "to All The Girls..." 2lp 2013 Duets W/ Dolly Parton/norah Jones +Lot (63) Christmas/holiday 12"/33 Rpm Vinyl Records Various Classic/pop/countryDixie Ramblers Bluebird 6352 Country 78 Rpm Record E-Country Funk 1969-1975 By Various Artists 2lp 2012 Light In The Attic (vinyl)4 Johnny Cash Country Lp Record Albums! Folsom Prison Blues, Boy Named Sue, Big100+ 7” 45 Jukebox Lot Northern Soul 60s Pop Soul Jazz R&b Doo Wop Vocal CountryJohnny Cash Lp The Christmas Spirit, Org. Cl-2117, Johnny Cash - Ep - The Rock Island Line - Sun - 112Johnny Cash "the Fabulous Johnny Cash" Lp 2012 Columbia (180 Gram Vinyl) [mono]Johnny Cash Auto Signed Sun Records "country Boy" Epa-112 Record Jacket OnlyBig Country Through A Big Country 12" Lp..signed Stuart Adamson Vg Mega Rare 1959 Johnny Horton Patriotic Country 78 Rpm Record. Johnny RebRare 1958 Johnny Cash Country 78 Rpm Record. Don't Take Your Guns To TownLot Of (61) Christmas/holiday 7"/45 Rpm Vinyl Records Classic/pop/country XmasBang Boys (excellent!) And Roy Acuff Arc Sweet Daddy Siki-country Music Lp Arc 1972 Pro Wrestling Canada Wrestler 2 Nr Mnt Hank Williams Country Record Albums: 1973 2-lp Set Legend, + 1976 Best2 Nr Mnt+ Patsy Cline Country Record Albums! 2-lp Story Set, Today Tomorrow &Hillsiders (cascades)1965 Signed By Sonny Webb Etc Play Their Country Hits Uk LpWillie Nelson And Friends Live At Third Man Records Vault 17 Vinyl Sealed NewLot Of (17) Johnny Cash 12"/33 Rpm Lp Vinyl Records Greatest Hits/best Of Vg/exLot Of 7 Johnny Cash Lp's ~ Country ~ Nice ConditionLee Conway Adultery 1970 Sweet Peach Label Oz Country Folk Lp Rare As Hens TeethWest Virginia Country Teen 45 Eric Chambers Landfill Hear **Country 78's - Hank Williams - Lot Of 3 - Hey Good Lookin - Ramblin Man - MgmEstate Clearance Lot Chet Atkins 14 Lp Country Guitar Lot Super Clean NrClean Original Hank Williams Mgm 10832 Moanin' The BluesBrenda Lee . Break It To Me Gently / So Deep . Ep-2716 . Decca The Carter Family "wildwood Flower" 78rpm