Country music originated with blues, Southern gospel, spirituals, old-time, and American folk music like Appalachian, Cajun, Creole, and Western music in the Southern and Southwestern United States of the early 1920s. Bristol, Tennessee is recognized as the “Birthplace of Country Music” as home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Its origins are found in the folk music of working class Americans and blue-collar American life.
It often consists of ballads and dance tunes, folk lyrics, and harmonies by banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitars, fiddles, and harmonicas.
Its first generation acts emerged in the 1920s, with country music in Atlanta playing a major role in launching country’s earliest recording artists like James Gideon “Gid” Tanner and his band, the Skillet Lickers, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Samantha Bumgarner, Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, and Cliff Carlisle.
During the second generation in the 1930s and 1940s, country on the radio became popular, such as the Grand Ole Opry in 1925 by WSM in Nashville. At the same time, Western music acts like Gene Autry were popularized by Hollywood movies. Popular country artist Bob Wills mixed country and jazz known as Western swing and added an electric guitar to his band. Country artists like Johnny Barfield began recording Boogie Woogie in 1939.
The third generation in the 1950s and 1960s included bluegrass acts like Bill Monroe, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and gospel music. Another style became popular in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas. Its basic ensemble consisted of classical guitar, bass guitar, dobro or steel guitar. Larger ensembles featured electric guitars, trumpets, keyboards, banjos, and drums. It had its roots in the Native American, Hispano, and American frontier music of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. By the early 1950s a blend of Western swing, country boogie, and honky tonk was played by most country music bands.
By the late 1950s, rockabilly was brought to country genre by artists like Johnny Cash and became popular. Elvis Presley‘s “Don’t Be Cruel” in July 1956 was an example. From the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, the Nashville sound originated in Nashville, Tennessee and transformed country music with Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves as the most popular Nashville country artists. From the early 1950s through the mid-1960s, Western musicians like Michael Martin Murphey, Marty Robbins, and Al Hurricane rose in prominence.
During the 1960s, the Nashville sound began to give way to the Bakersfield sound and later the outlaw country subgenre in country music as well as the British Invasion in pop music. It resulted in new styles and genres like country rock and country pop which became popular throughout the late 1960s, the 1970s and the 1980s. This is what is known as the fourth generation. Early country pop or countrypolitan artists included Tammy Wynette, Charlie Rich, Charley Pride, Lynn Anderson, Glen Campbell, and George Jones. In the 1970s, John Denver blended country and folk-rock music. By the mid-1970s, Freddie Fender popularized Texas country and Tejano music country styles. In the 1980s, a new style known as neotraditional country was popularized by artists like George Strait. Artists like Jason and the Scorchers, the Long Ryders and Mojo Nixon combined punk rock and country. Neotraditional country style dominated the genre through the late 1980s.
The fifth generation became popular worldwide in the 1990s. Performers included Alan Jackson, Garth Brooks, and the Chicks. Country rock and country pop styles continued to dominate country music in the 2000s to the present. Best-selling country pop musicians include Lady Antebellum, Florida Georgia Line, Carrie Underwood, Trixie Mattel, Orville Peck and Taylor Swift.
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