For other uses, see Country music (disambiguation).
|Other names||Country and western|
|Cultural origins||1920s, Southern U.S.|
Country (also called country and western) is a genre of popular music that takes its roots from genres such as blues and old-time music, and various types of American folk music including Appalachian, Cajun, and the cowboy Western music styles of Red Dirt, New Mexico, Texas country, and Tejano.
Its popularized roots originate in the Southern United States of the early 1920s.
Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally simple forms, folk lyrics, and harmonies mostly accompanied by string instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, steel guitars (such as pedal steels and dobros), and fiddles as well as harmonicas.
According to Lindsey Starnes, the term country music gained popularity in the 1940s in preference to the earlier term hillbilly music; it came to encompass Western music, which evolved parallel to hillbilly music from similar roots, in the mid-20th century.
In 2009 in the United States, country music was the most listened to rush hour radio genre during the evening commute, and second most popular in the morning commute.
The term country music is used today to describe many styles and subgenres.
It has been inspired by American popular music, and American folk music which had its roots in Celtic music, traditional English ballads, cowboy songs, corridos, African-American music, French folk music, and other folk musical traditions.
The main components of the modern country music style date back to music traditions throughout the Southern United States and Southwestern United States, while its place in American popular music was established in the 1920s during the early days of music recording.
Country music was "introduced to the world as a Southern phenomenon.”
Immigrants to the southern Appalachian Mountains, of the Southeastern United States, brought the folk music and instruments of Africa, Europe, and the Mediterranean Basin along with them for nearly 300 years, which developed into Appalachian music.
In the Southwestern United States, it was the Rocky Mountains, American frontier, and Rio Grande that acted as a similar backdrop for Native American, Mexican, and cowboy ballads, which resulted in New Mexico music and the development of Western music, and its directly related Red Dirt, Texas country, and Tejano music styles.
Role of East Tennessee
Main article: Music of East Tennessee
Since 2014, the city has been home to the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.
Historians have also noted the influence of the less-known Johnson City sessions of 1928 and 1929, and the Knoxville sessions of 1929 and 1930.
In addition, the Mountain City Fiddlers Convention, held in 1925, helped to inspire modern country music.
Before these, pioneer settlers, in the Great Smoky Mountains region, had developed a rich musical heritage.
The first generation emerged in the 1920s, with Atlanta's music scene playing a major role in launching country's earliest recording artists.
James Gideon "Gid" Tanner (1885–1960) was an American old-time fiddler and one of the earliest stars of what would come to be known as country music.
His band, the Skillet Lickers, was one of the most innovative and influential string bands of the 1920s and 1930s.
Its most notable members were Clayton McMichen (fiddle and vocal), Dan Hornsby (vocals), Riley Puckett (guitar and vocal) and Robert Lee Sweat (guitar).
New York City record label Okeh Records began issuing hillbilly music records by Fiddlin' John Carson as early as 1923, followed by Columbia Records (series 15000D "Old Familiar Tunes") (Samantha Bumgarner) in 1924, and RCA Victor Records in 1927 with the first famous pioneers of the genre Jimmie Rodgers and the first family of country music the Carter Family.
Many "hillbilly" musicians, such as Cliff Carlisle, recorded blues songs throughout the 1920s.
During the second generation (1930s–1940s), radio became a popular source of entertainment, and "barn dance" shows featuring country music were started all over the South, as far north as Chicago, and as far west as California.
During the 1930s and 1940s, cowboy songs, or Western music, which had been recorded since the 1920s, were popularized by films made in Hollywood, many featuring the king of the "singing cowboys", Gene Autry.
Wills was one of the first country musicians known to have added an electric guitar to his band, in 1938.
The third generation (1950s–1960s) started at the end of World War II with "mountaineer" string band music known as bluegrass, which emerged when Bill Monroe, along with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs were introduced by Roy Acuff at the Grand Ole Opry.
Gospel music remained a popular component of country music.
Another type of stripped-down and raw music with a variety of moods, became popular among poor communities in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas; the basic ensemble consisted of classical guitar, bass guitar, dobro or steel guitar, though some larger ensembles featured electric guitars, trumpets, keyboards (especially the honky-tonk piano, a type of tack piano), banjos, and drums.
By the early 1950s a blend of Western swing, country boogie, and honky tonk was played by most country bands.
Rockabilly was most popular with country fans in the 1950s, and 1956 could be called the year of rockabilly in country music, with Johnny Cash emerging as one of the most popular and enduring representatives of the rockabilly genre; rockabilly was also a starting point for eventual rock-and-roll superstar Elvis Presley, who would return to his country roots near the end of his life.
Beginning in the mid-1950s, and reaching its peak during the early 1960s, the Nashville sound turned country music into a multimillion-dollar industry centered in Nashville, Tennessee; Patsy Cline and Jim Reeves were two of the most broadly popular Nashville sound artists, and their deaths in separate plane crashes in the early 1960s were a factor in the genre's decline.
Starting in the early 1950s, and during the mid-1960s, Western singer-songwriters such as Michael Martin Murphey and Marty Robbins rose in prominence as did others, throughout Western music traditions, like New Mexico music's Al Hurricane.
The late 1960s in American music produced a unique blend as a result of traditionalist backlash within separate genres.
In the aftermath of the British Invasion, many desired a return to the "old values" of rock n' roll.
At the same time there was a lack of enthusiasm in the country sector for Nashville-produced music.
What resulted was a crossbred genre known as country rock.
Between 1972 and 1975 singer/guitarist John Denver released a series of hugely successful songs blending country and folk-rock musical styles.
During the early 1980s country artists continued to see their records perform well on the pop charts.
In 1980 a style of "neocountry disco music" was popularized.
During the mid-1980s a group of new artists began to emerge who rejected the more polished country-pop sound that had been prominent on radio and the charts in favor of more traditional "back-to-basics" production; this neotraditional movement would dominate country music through the late 1980s and was typified by the likes of George Strait.
During the fifth generation (1990s), country music became a worldwide phenomenon.
The Dixie Chicks became one of the most popular country bands in the 1990s and early 2000s.
The sixth generation (2000s–present) has seen a certain amount of diversification in regard to country music styles.
The influence of rock music in country has become more overt during the late 2000s and early 2010s.
First generation (1920s)
The first commercial recordings of what was considered instrumental music in the traditional country style were "Arkansas Traveler" and "Turkey in the Straw" by fiddlers Henry Gilliland & A.C. on June 30, 1922, for Victor Records and released in April 1923. (Eck) Robertson
Columbia Records began issuing records with "hillbilly" music (series 15000D "Old Familiar Tunes") as early as 1924.
The first commercial recording of what is widely considered to be the first country song featuring vocals and lyrics was Fiddlin' John Carson with "Little Log Cabin in the Lane" for Okeh Records on June 14, 1923.
The flip side of the record was "Lonesome Road Blues", which also became very popular.
In April 1924, "Aunt" Samantha Bumgarner and Eva Davis became the first female musicians to record and release country songs.
Many "hillbilly" musicians, such as Cliff Carlisle, recorded blues songs throughout the decade and into the 1930s.
Other important early recording artists were Riley Puckett, Don Richardson, Fiddlin' John Carson, Uncle Dave Macon, Al Hopkins, Ernest V. Stoneman, Blind Alfred Reed, Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers and the Skillet Lickers.
A scene in the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?
depicts a similar occurrence in the same timeframe.
Rodgers fused hillbilly country, gospel, jazz, blues, pop, cowboy, and folk, and many of his best songs were his compositions, including "Blue Yodel", which sold over a million records and established Rodgers as the premier singer of early country music.
Beginning in 1927, and for the next 17 years, the Carters recorded some 300 old-time ballads, traditional tunes, country songs and gospel hymns, all representative of America's southeastern folklore and heritage.
Second generation (1930s–1940s)
See also: 1940s in music § Country
Record sales declined during the Great Depression, but radio became a popular source of entertainment, and "barn dance" shows featuring country music were started by radio stations all over the South, as far north as Chicago, and as far west as California.
WSM's 50,000-watt signal (in 1934) could often be heard across the country.
Many musicians performed and recorded songs in any number of styles.
Between 1947 and 1949, country crooner Eddy Arnold placed eight songs in the top 10.
From 1945 to 1955 Jenny Lou Carson was one of the most prolific songwriters in country music.
Singing cowboys and western swing
In the 1930s and 1940s, cowboy songs, or Western music, which had been recorded since the 1920s, were popularized by films made in Hollywood.
Country music and western music were frequently played together on the same radio stations, hence the term country and western music.
Cowgirls contributed to the sound in various family groups.
Patsy Montana opened the door for female artists with her history-making song "I Want To Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart".
This would begin a movement toward opportunities for women to have successful solo careers.
At its height, Western swing rivaled the popularity of big band swing music.
Drums were scorned by early country musicians as being "too loud" and "not pure", but by 1935 Western swing big band leader Bob Wills had added drums to the Texas Playboys.
In the mid-1940s, the Grand Ole Opry did not want the Playboys' drummer to appear on stage.
Although drums were commonly used by rockabilly groups by 1955, the less-conservative-than-the-Grand-Ole-Opry Louisiana Hayride kept its infrequently used drummer back stage as late as 1956.
By the early 1960s, however, it was rare for a country band not to have a drummer.
Bob Wills was one of the first country musicians known to have added an electric guitar to his band, in 1938.
A decade later (1948) Arthur Smith achieved top 10 US country chart success with his MGM Records recording of "Guitar Boogie", which crossed over to the US pop chart, introducing many people to the potential of the electric guitar.
For several decades Nashville session players preferred the warm tones of the Gibson and Gretsch archtop electrics, but a "hot" Fender style, using guitars which became available beginning in the early 1950s, eventually prevailed as the signature guitar sound of country.
The trickle of what was initially called hillbilly boogie, or okie boogie (later to be renamed country boogie), became a flood beginning in late 1945.
In 1948, Arthur "Guitar Boogie" Smith achieved top ten US country chart success with his MGM Records recordings of "Guitar Boogie" and "Banjo Boogie", with the former crossing over to the US pop charts.
The hillbilly boogie period lasted into the 1950s and remains one of many subgenres of country into the 21st century.
Bluegrass, folk and gospel
Main article: Bluegrass music
That was the ordination of bluegrass music and how Bill Monroe came to be known as the "Father of Bluegrass."
Gospel music, too, remained a popular component of bluegrass and other sorts of country music.
In the post-war period, country music was called "folk" in the trades, and "hillbilly" within the industry.
In 1944, Billboard replaced the term "hillbilly" with "folk songs and blues," and switched to "country" or "country and Western" in 1949.
Another type of stripped down and raw music with a variety of moods and a basic ensemble of guitar, bass, dobro or steel guitar (and later) drums became popular, especially among poor whites in Texas and Oklahoma.
Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys personified this music which has been described as "a little bit of this, and a little bit of that, a little bit of black and a little bit of white ... just loud enough to keep you from thinking too much and to go right on ordering the whiskey."
These "honky tonk" songs associated barrooms, were performed by the likes of Ernest Tubb, Kitty Wells (the first major female country solo singer), Ted Daffan, Floyd Tillman, and the Maddox Brothers and Rose, Lefty Frizzell and Hank Williams, would later be called "traditional" country.
Williams' influence in particular would prove to be enormous, inspiring many of the pioneers of rock and roll, such as Elvis Presley and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Chuck Berry and Ike Turner, while providing a framework for emerging honky tonk talents like George Jones.
Webb Pierce was the top-charting country artist of the 1950s, with 13 of his singles spending 113 weeks at number one.
He charted 48 singles during the decade; 31 reached the top ten and 26 reached the top four.
Third generation (1950s–1960s)
By the early 1950s, a blend of Western swing, country boogie, and honky tonk was played by most country bands.
Western music, influenced by the cowboy ballads, New Mexico, Texas country and Tejano music rhythms of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico, reached its peak in popularity in the late 1950s, most notably with the song "El Paso", first recorded by Marty Robbins in September 1959.
Western music's influence would continue to grow within the country music sphere, Western musicians like Michael Martin Murphey, New Mexico music artists Al Hurricane and Antonia Apodaca, Tejano music performer Little Joe, and even folk revivalist John Denver, all first rose to prominence during this time.
This Western music influence largely kept the music of the folk revival and folk rock from influencing the country music genre much, despite the similarity in instrumentation and origins (see, for instance, the Byrds' negative reception during their appearance on the Grand Ole Opry).
The main concern was largely political: most folk revival was largely driven by progressive activists, a stark contrast to the culturally conservative audiences of country music.
During the mid-1950s a new style of country music became popular, eventually to be referred to as rockabilly.
In 1953, the first all-country radio station was established in Lubbock, Texas.
The music of the 1960s and 1970s targeted the American working class, and truckers in particular.
As country radio became more popular, trucking songs like the 1963 hit song Six Days on the Road by Dave Dudley began to make up their own subgenre of country.
These revamped songs sought to portray American truckers as a "new folk hero", marking a significant shift in sound from earlier country music.
The song was written by actual truckers and contained numerous references to the trucker culture of the time like "ICC" for Interstate Commerce Commission and "little white pills" as a reference to amphetamines.
Main article: Rockabilly
Rockabilly was most popular with country fans in the 1950s; one of the first rock and roll superstars was former Western yodeler Bill Haley, who repurposed his Four Aces of Western Swing into a rockabilly band in the early 1950s and renamed it the Comets.
1956 could be called the year of rockabilly in country music.
The number two, three and four songs on Billboard's charts for that year were Elvis Presley, "Heartbreak Hotel"; Johnny Cash, "I Walk the Line"; and Carl Perkins, "Blue Suede Shoes" Thumper Jones (George Jones) Cash and Presley placed songs in the top 5 in 1958 with No.
3 "Guess Things Happen That Way/Come In, Stranger" by Cash, and No.
5 by Presley "Don't/I Beg of You."
Presley acknowledged the influence of rhythm and blues artists and his style, saying "The colored folk been singin' and playin' it just the way I'm doin' it now, man for more years than I know."
Within a few years, many rockabilly musicians returned to a more mainstream style or had defined their own unique style.
The program showcased top stars including several rockabilly artists, some from the Ozarks.
As Webb Pierce put it in 1956, "Once upon a time, it was almost impossible to sell country music in a place like New York City.
Nowadays, television takes us everywhere, and country music records and sheet music sell as well in large cities as anywhere else."
The late 1950s saw the emergence of Buddy Holly, but by the end of the decade, backlash as well as traditional artists such as Ray Price, Marty Robbins, and Johnny Horton began to shift the industry away from the rock n' roll influences of the mid-1950s.
The Country Music Association was founded in 1958, in part because numerous country musicians were appalled by the increased influence of rock and roll on country music.
The Nashville and countrypolitan sounds
Main article: Nashville sound
Beginning in the mid-1950s, and reaching its peak during the early 1960s, the Nashville sound turned country music into a multimillion-dollar industry centered in Nashville, Tennessee.
Under the direction of producers such as Chet Atkins, Bill Porter, Paul Cohen, Owen Bradley, Bob Ferguson, and later Billy Sherrill, the sound brought country music to a diverse audience and helped revive country as it emerged from a commercially fallow period.
This subgenre was notable for borrowing from 1950s pop stylings: a prominent and smooth vocal, backed by a string section (violins and other orchestral strings) and vocal chorus.
Instrumental soloing was de-emphasized in favor of trademark "licks".
The "slip note" piano style of session musician Floyd Cramer was an important component of this style.
The Nashville Sound collapsed in mainstream popularity in 1964, a victim of both the British Invasion and the deaths of Reeves and Cline in separate airplane crashes.
By the mid-1960s, the genre had developed into countrypolitan.
Countrypolitan was aimed straight at mainstream markets, and it sold well throughout the later 1960s into the early 1970s.
Despite the appeal of the Nashville sound, many traditional country artists emerged during this period and dominated the genre: Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, Porter Wagoner, George Jones, and Sonny James among them.
Main article: Country soul
In 1962, Ray Charles surprised the pop world by turning his attention to country and western music, topping the charts and rating number three for the year on Billboard's pop chart with the "I Can't Stop Loving You" single, and recording the landmark album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music.
Another subgenre of country music grew out of hardcore honky tonk with elements of Western swing and originated 112 miles (180 km) north-northwest of Los Angeles in Bakersfield, California, where many "Okies" and other Dust Bowl migrants had settled.
It relied on electric instruments and amplification, in particular the Telecaster electric guitar, more than other subgenres of the country music of the era, and it can be described as having a sharp, hard, driving, no-frills, edgy flavor—hard guitars and honky-tonk harmonies.
Ken Nelson, who had produced Owens and Haggard and Rose Maddox became interested in the trucking song subgenre following the success of Six Days on the Road and asked Red Simpson to record an album of trucking songs.
Haggard's White Line Fever was also part of the trucking subgenre.
Western music and the cowboy ballad becoming part of country music
See also: Western music (North America)
The country music scene of the 1940s until the 1970s was largely dominated by Western music influences, so much so that the genre began to be called "Country and Western".
West of the Mississippi river, many of these Western genres continue to flourish, including the Red Dirt of Oklahoma, New Mexico music of New Mexico, and both Texas country music and Tejano music of Texas.
During the 1950s until the early 1970s, the latter part of the Western heyday in country music, many of these genres featured popular artist that continue to influence both their distinctive genres and larger country music.
As Outlaw country music emerged as subgenre in its own right, Red Dirt, New Mexico, Texas country, and Tejano grew in popularity as a part of the Outlaw country movement.
Originating in the bars, fiestas, and honky-tonks of Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas, their music supplemented outlaw country's singer-songwriter tradition as well as future rock-inspired alternative country and hip hop-inspired country rap artists.
Fourth generation (1970s–1980s)
Main article: Outlaw country
Songs such as the 1963 Johnny Cash popularized "Ring of Fire" show clear influences from the likes of Al Hurricane and Little Joe, this influence just happened to culminate with artists such as Ray Price (whose band, the "Cherokee Cowboys", included Willie Nelson and Roger Miller) and mixed with the anger of an alienated subculture of the nation during the period, outlaw country revolutionized the genre of country music.
"After I left Nashville (the early 70s), I wanted to relax and play the music that I wanted to play, and just stay around Texas, maybe Oklahoma.
Waylon and I had that outlaw image going, and when it caught on at colleges and we started selling records, we were O.K.
The whole outlaw thing, it had nothing to do with the music, it was something that got written in an article, and the young people said, 'Well, that's pretty cool.'
And started listening."
It was encapsulated in the 1976 album Wanted! . The Outlaws
Main article: Country pop
Although the term first referred to country music songs and artists that crossed over to top 40 radio, country pop acts are now more likely to cross over to adult contemporary music.
It started with pop music singers like Glen Campbell, Bobbie Gentry, John Denver, Olivia Newton-John, Anne Murray, B. , J. Thomasthe Bellamy Brothers, and Linda Ronstadt having hits on the country charts.
Between 1972 and 1975, singer/guitarist John Denver released a series of hugely successful songs blending country and folk-rock musical styles ("Rocky Mountain High", "Sunshine on My Shoulders", "Annie's Song", "Thank God I'm a Country Boy", and "I'm Sorry"), and was named Country Music Entertainer of the Year in 1975.
The year before, Olivia Newton-John, an Australian pop singer, won the "Best Female Country Vocal Performance" as well as the Country Music Association's most coveted award for females, "Female Vocalist of the Year".
In response George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Jean Shepard and other traditional Nashville country artists dissatisfied with the new trend formed the short-lived "Association of Country Entertainers" in 1974; the ACE soon unraveled in the wake of Jones and Wynette's bitter divorce and Shepard's realization that most others in the industry lacked her passion for the movement.
During the mid-1970s, Dolly Parton, a successful mainstream country artist since the late 1960s, mounted a high-profile campaign to cross over to pop music, culminating in her 1977 hit "Here You Come Again", which topped the U.S. country singles chart, and also reached No.
3 on the pop singles charts.
Parton's male counterpart, Kenny Rogers, came from the opposite direction, aiming his music at the country charts, after a successful career in pop, rock and folk music with the First Edition, achieving success the same year with "Lucille", which topped the country charts and reached No.
5 on the U.S. pop singles charts, as well as reaching Number 1 on the British all-genre chart.
Parton and Rogers would both continue to have success on both country and pop charts simultaneously, well into the 1980s.
In 1975, author Paul Hemphill stated in the Saturday Evening Post, "Country music isn't really country anymore; it is a hybrid of nearly every form of popular music in America."
During the early 1980s, country artists continued to see their records perform well on the pop charts.
5, 1982) and "To All the Girls I've Loved Before" (No.
2, 1981) and "Angel of the Morning" (No.
Four country songs topped the Billboard Hot 100 in the 1980s: "Lady" by Kenny Rogers, from the late fall of 1980; "9 to 5" by Dolly Parton, "I Love a Rainy Night" by Eddie Rabbitt (these two back-to-back at the top in early 1981); and "Islands in the Stream", a duet by Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers in 1983, a pop-country crossover hit written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb of the Bee Gees.
Newton's "Queen of Hearts" almost reached No.
The move of country music toward neotraditional styles led to a marked decline in country/pop crossovers in the late 1980s, and only one song in that period—Roy Orbison's "You Got It", from 1989—made the top 10 of both the Billboard Hot Country Singles" and Hot 100 charts, due largely to a revival of interest in Orbison after his sudden death.
The only song with substantial country airplay to reach number one on the pop charts in the late 1980s was "At This Moment" by Billy Vera and the Beaters, an R&B song with slide guitar embellishment that appeared at number 42 on the country charts from minor crossover airplay.
The record-setting, multi-platinum group Alabama was named Artist of the Decade for the 1980s by the Academy of Country Music.
Main article: Country rock
See also: Cowpunk
Country rock is a genre that started in the 1960s but became prominent in the 1970s.
The late 1960s in American music produced a unique blend as a result of traditionalist backlash within separate genres.
In the aftermath of the British Invasion, many desired a return to the "old values" of rock n' roll.
At the same time there was a lack of enthusiasm in the country sector for Nashville-produced music.
What resulted was a crossbred genre known as country rock.
Early innovators in this new style of music in the 1960s and 1970s included Bob Dylan, who was the first to revert to country music with his 1967 album John Wesley Harding (and even more so with that album's follow-up, Nashville Skyline), followed by Gene Clark, Clark's former band the Byrds (with Gram Parsons on Sweetheart of the Rodeo) and its spin-off the Flying Burrito Brothers (also featuring Gram Parsons), guitarist Clarence White, Michael Nesmith (the Monkees and the First National Band), the Grateful Dead, Neil Young, Commander Cody, the Allman Brothers, the Marshall Tucker Band, Poco, Buffalo Springfield, and Eagles, among many, even the former folk music duo Ian & Sylvia, who formed Great Speckled Bird in 1969.
The Eagles would become the most successful of these country rock acts, and their compilation album Their Greatest Hits (1971–1975) remains the second-best-selling album in the US with 29 million copies sold.
Described by AllMusic as the "father of country-rock", Gram Parsons' work in the early 1970s was acclaimed for its purity and for his appreciation for aspects of traditional country music.
Though his career was cut tragically short by his 1973 death, his legacy was carried on by his protégé and duet partner Emmylou Harris; Harris would release her debut solo in 1975, an amalgamation of country, rock and roll, folk, blues and pop.
In the decades that followed, artists such as Juice Newton, Alabama, Hank Williams, Jr. (and, to an even greater extent, Hank Williams III), Gary Allan, Shania Twain, Brooks & Dunn, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Dwight Yoakam, Steve Earle, Dolly Parton, Rosanne Cash and Linda Ronstadt moved country further towards rock influence.
It was during this time that a glut of pop-country crossover artists began appearing on the country charts: former pop stars Bill Medley (of the Righteous Brothers), "England Dan" Seals (of England Dan and John Ford Coley), Tom Jones, and Merrill Osmond (both alone and with some of his brothers; his younger sister Marie Osmond was already an established country star) all recorded significant country hits in the early 1980s.
Sales in record stores rocketed to $250 million in 1981; by 1984, 900 radio stations began programming country or neocountry pop full-time.
As with most sudden trends, however, by 1984 sales had dropped below 1979 figures.
Truck driving country
Main article: Truck-driving country
Truck driving country songs often deal with the profession of trucking and love.
Well-known artists who sing truck driving country include Dave Dudley, Red Sovine, Dick Curless, Red Simpson, Del Reeves, the Willis Brothers and Jerry Reed, with C. and W. McCallCledus Maggard (pseudonyms of Bill Fries and Jay Huguely, respectively) being more humorous entries in the subgenre.
Dudley is known as the father of truck driving country.
Main article: Neotraditionalist country
During the mid-1980s, a group of new artists began to emerge who rejected the more polished country-pop sound that had been prominent on radio and the charts, in favor of more, traditional, "back-to-basics" production.
Many of the artists during the latter half of the 1980s drew on traditional honky-tonk, bluegrass, folk and western swing.
Artists who typified this sound included Travis Tritt, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Keith Whitley, Alan Jackson, Ricky Skaggs, Patty Loveless, Kathy Mattea, Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam, and the Judds.
Beginning in 1989, a confluence of events brought an unprecedented commercial boom to country music.
New marketing strategies were used to engage fans, powered by technology that more accurately tracked the popularity of country music, and boosted by a political and economic climate that focused attention on the genre.
Other artists such as Brooks and Dunn ("Boot Scootin' Boogie") also combined conventional country with slick, rock elements, while Lorrie Morgan, Mary Chapin Carpenter, and Kathy Mattea updated neotraditionalist styles.
Fifth generation (1990s)
See also: 1990s in music § Country
Country music was aided by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) Docket 80–90, which led to a significant expansion of FM radio in the 1980s by adding numerous higher-fidelity FM signals to rural and suburban areas.
At this point, country music was mainly heard on rural AM radio stations; the expansion of FM was particularly helpful to country music, which migrated to FM from the AM band as AM became overcome by talk radio (the country music stations that stayed on AM developed the classic country format for the AM audience).
At the same time, beautiful music stations already in rural areas began abandoning the format (leading to its effective demise) to adopt country music as well.
This wider availability of country music led to producers seeking to polish their product for a wider audience.
In 1990, Billboard, which had published a country music chart since the 1940s, changed the methodology it used to compile the chart: singles sales were removed from the methodology, and only airplay on country radio determined a song's place on the chart.
In the 1990s, country music became a worldwide phenomenon thanks to Garth Brooks, who enjoyed one of the most successful careers in popular music history, breaking records for both sales and concert attendance throughout the decade.
Other artists who experienced success during this time included Clint Black, Sammy Kershaw, Aaron Tippin, Travis Tritt, Alan Jackson and the newly formed duo of Brooks & Dunn; George Strait, whose career began in the 1980s, also continued to have widespread success in this decade and beyond.
Success of female artists
Female artists such as Reba McEntire, Patty Loveless, Faith Hill, Martina McBride, Deana Carter, LeAnn Rimes, Mindy McCready, Lorrie Morgan, Shania Twain, and Mary Chapin Carpenter all released platinum-selling albums in the 1990s.
The Dixie Chicks became one of the most popular country bands in the 1990s and early 2000s.
After their third album, Home, was released in 2003, the band made political news in part because of lead singer Natalie Maines's comments disparaging then-President George W. Bush while the band was overseas (Maines stated that she and her bandmates were ashamed to be from the same state as Bush, who had just commenced the Iraq War a few days prior).
The comments caused a rift between the band and the country music scene, and the band's fourth (and most recent) album, 2006's Taking the Long Way, took a more rock-oriented direction; the album was commercially successful overall among non-country audiences but largely ignored among country audiences.
After Taking the Long Way, the band broke up for a decade (with two of its members continuing as the Court Yard Hounds) before reuniting in 2016 and releasing new material in 2020.
Shania Twain became the best selling female country artist of the decade.
This was primarily due to the success of her breakthrough sophomore 1995 album, The Woman in Me, which was certified 12x platinum sold over 20 million copies worldwide and its follow up, 1997's Come On Over, which was certified 20x platinum and sold over 40 million copies.
The album became a major worldwide phenomenon and became one of the world's best selling albums of 1998, 1999 and 2000; it also went on to become the best selling country album of all time.
Unlike the majority of her contemporaries, Twain enjoyed large international success that had been seen by very few country artists, before or after her.
Critics have noted that Twain enjoyed much of her success due to breaking free of traditional country stereotypes and for incorporating elements of rock and pop into her music.
In 2002, she released her successful fourth studio album, titled Up! , which was certified 11x platinum and sold over 15 million copies worldwide.
Twain has been credited with breaking international boundaries for country music, as well as inspiring many country artists to incorporate different genres into their music in order to attract a wider audience.
She is also credited with changing the way in which many female country performers would market themselves, as unlike many before her she used fashion and her sex appeal to get rid of the stereotypical 'honky-tonk' image the majority of country singers had in order to distinguish herself from many female country artists of the time.
Line dancing revival
In the early-mid-1990s, country western music was influenced by the popularity of line dancing.
This influence was so great that Chet Atkins was quoted as saying, "The music has gotten pretty bad, I think.
It's all that damn line dancing."
By the end of the decade, however, at least one line dance choreographer complained that good country line dance music was no longer being released.
In contrast, artists such as Don Williams and George Jones who had more or less had consistent chart success through the 1970s and 1980s suddenly had their fortunes fall rapidly around 1991 when the new chart rules took effect.
Country influences combined with Punk rock and alternative rock to forge the "cowpunk" scene in Southern California during the 1980s, which included bands such as the Long Ryders, Lone Justice and the Beat Farmers, as well as the established punk group X, whose music had begun to include country and rockabilly influences.
Simultaneously, a generation of diverse country artists outside of California emerged that rejected the perceived cultural and musical conservatism associated with Nashville's mainstream country musicians in favor of more countercultural outlaw country and the folk singer-songwriter traditions of artists such as Woody Guthrie, Gram Parsons and Bob Dylan.
Artists from outside California who were associated with early alternative country included singer-songwriters such as Lucinda Williams, Lyle Lovett and Steve Earle, the Nashville country rock band Jason and the Scorchers and the British post-punk band the Mekons.
Earle, in particular, was noted for his popularity with both country and college rock audiences: He promoted his 1986 debut album Guitar Town with a tour that saw him open for both country singer Dwight Yoakam and alternative rock band the Replacements.
Yoakam also cultivated a fanbase spanning multiple genres through his stripped-down honky-tonk influenced sound, association with the cowpunk scene, and performances at Los Angeles punk rock clubs.
The album is widely credited as being the first "alternative country" album, and inspired the name of No Depression magazine, which exclusively covered the new genre.
Although Wilco's sound had moved away from country and towards indie rock by the time they released their critically acclaimed album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot in 2002, they have continued to be an influence on later alt-country artists.
Other acts who became prominent in the alt-country genre during the 1990s and 2000s included the Bottle Rockets, the Handsome Family, Blue Mountain, Robbie Fulks, Blood Oranges, Bright Eyes, Drive-By Truckers, Old 97's, Old Crow Medicine Show, Nickel Creek, Neko Case, and Whiskeytown, whose lead singer Ryan Adams later had a successful solo-career.
Alt-country, in various iterations overlapped with other genres, including Red Dirt country music (Cross Canadian Ragweed), jam bands (My Morning Jacket and the String Cheese Incident), and indie folk (the Avett Brothers).
Despite the genre's growing popularity in the 1980s, '90s and 2000s, alternative country and neo-traditionalist artists saw minimal support from country radio in those decades, despite strong sales and critical acclaim for albums such as the soundtrack to the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
In 1987, the Beat Farmers gained airplay on country music stations with their song "Make It Last", but the single was pulled from the format when station programmers decreed the band's music was too rock-oriented for their audience.
However, some alt-country songs have been crossover hits to mainstream country radio in cover versions by established artists on the format; Lucinda Williams' "Passionate Kisses" was a hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter in 1993, Ryan Adams's "When the Stars Go Blue" was a hit for Tim McGraw in 2007, and Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel" was a hit for Darius Rucker in 2013.
In the 2010s, the alt-country genre saw an increase in its critical and commercial popularity, owing to the success of artists such as the Civil Wars, Chris Stapleton, Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell, Lydia Loveless and Margo Price.
In 2019, Kacey Musgraves – a country artist who had gained a following with indie rock fans and music critics despite minimal airplay on country radio – won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year for her album Golden Hour.
Sixth generation (2000s–present)
Main article: Australian country music
Australian country music has a long tradition.
Folk songs sung in Australia between the 1780s and 1920s, based around such themes as the struggle against government tyranny, or the lives of bushrangers, swagmen, drovers, stockmen and shearers, continue to influence the genre.
This strain of Australian country, with lyrics focusing on Australian subjects, is generally known as "bush music" or "bush band music".
"Waltzing Matilda", often regarded as Australia's unofficial national anthem, is a quintessential Australian country song, influenced more by British and Irish folk ballads than by American country and western music.
The lyrics were composed by the poet Banjo Paterson in 1895.
Later themes which endure to the present include the experiences of war, of droughts and flooding rains, of Aboriginality and of the railways and trucking routes which link Australia's vast distances.
Pioneers of a more Americanised popular country music in Australia included Tex Morton (known as "The Father of Australian Country Music") in the 1930s.
Author Andrew Smith delivers a through research and engaged view of Tex Morton's life and his impact on the country music scene in Australia in the 1930s and 1940s.
Buddy Williams (1918–1986) was the first Australian-born to record country music in Australia in the late 1930s and was the pioneer of a distinctly Australian style of country music called the bush ballad that others such as Slim Dusty would make popular in later years.
During the Second World War, many of Buddy Williams recording sessions were done whilst on leave from the Army.
At the end of the war, Williams would go on to operate some of the largest travelling tent rodeo shows Australia has ever seen.
In 1952, Dawson began a radio show and went on to national stardom as a singing cowboy of radio, TV and film.
His successful career spanned almost six decades, and his 1957 hit "A Pub with No Beer" was the biggest-selling record by an Australian to that time, and with over seven million record sales in Australia he is the most successful artist in Australian musical history.
Dusty's wife Joy McKean penned several of his most popular songs.
Chad Morgan, who began recording in the 1950s, has represented a vaudeville style of comic Australian country; Frank Ifield achieved considerable success in the early 1960s, especially in the UK Singles Charts and Reg Lindsay was one of the first Australians to perform at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry in 1974.
By the 1990s, country music had attained crossover success in the pop charts, with artists like James Blundell and James Reyne singing "Way Out West", and country star Kasey Chambers winning the ARIA Award for Best Female Artist in 2000, 2002 and 2004, tying with pop stars Wendy Matthews and Sia for the most wins in that category.
In 2000, Cash, covered Cave's "The Mercy Seat" on the album American III: Solitary Man, seemingly repaying Cave for the compliment he paid by covering Cash's "The Singer" (originally "The Folk Singer") on his Kicking Against the Pricks album.
Popular contemporary performers of Australian country music include John Williamson (who wrote the iconic "True Blue"), Lee Kernaghan (whose hits include "Boys from the Bush" and "The Outback Club"), Gina Jeffreys, Forever Road and Sara Storer.
During her time as a country singer in the 1970s, Newton-John became the first (and to date only) non-American winner of the Country Music Association Award for Female Vocalist of the Year which many considered a controversial decision by the CMA; after starring in the rock-and-roll musical film Grease in 1978, Newton-John (mirroring the character she played in the film) shifted to pop music in the 1980s.
Urban is arguably considered the most successful international Australian country star, winning nine CMA Awards, including three Male Vocalist of the Year wins and two wins of the CMA's top honour Entertainer of the Year.
Country music has been a particularly popular form of musical expression among Indigenous Australians.
Troy Cassar-Daley is among Australia's successful contemporary indigenous performers, and Kev Carmody and Archie Roach employ a combination of folk-rock and country music to sing about Aboriginal rights issues.
The Tamworth Country Music Festival began in 1973 and now attracts up to 100,000 visitors annually.
Held in Tamworth, New South Wales (country music capital of Australia), it celebrates the culture and heritage of Australian country music.
Other significant country music festivals include the Whittlesea Country Music Festival (near Melbourne) and the Mildura Country Music Festival for "independent" performers during October, and the Canberra Country Music Festival held in the national capital during November.
Country HQ showcases new talent on the rise in the country music scene down under.
CMC (the Country Music Channel), a 24‑hour music channel dedicated to non-stop country music, can be viewed on pay TV and features once a year the Golden Guitar Awards, CMAs and CCMAs alongside international shows such as The Wilkinsons, The Road Hammers, and Country Music Across America.
Outside of the United States, Canada has the largest country music fan and artist base, something that is to be expected given the two countries' proximity and cultural parallels.
Celtic traditional music developed in Atlantic Canada in the form of Scottish, Acadian and Irish folk music popular amongst Irish, French and Scottish immigrants to Canada's Atlantic Provinces (Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island).
Like the southern United States and Appalachia, all four regions are of heavy British Isles stock and rural; as such, the development of traditional music in the Maritimes somewhat mirrored the development of country music in the US South and Appalachia.
Country and Western music never really developed separately in Canada; however, after its introduction to Canada, following the spread of radio, it developed quite quickly out of the Atlantic Canadian traditional scene.
While true Atlantic Canadian traditional music is very Celtic or "sea shanty" in nature, even today, the lines have often been blurred.
Certain areas often are viewed as embracing one strain or the other more openly.
For example, in Newfoundland the traditional music remains unique and Irish in nature, whereas traditional musicians in other parts of the region may play both genres interchangeably.
In Canada it out-performed The Ed Sullivan Show broadcast from the United States and became the top-rated television show throughout much of the 1960s.
Don Messer's Jubilee followed a consistent format throughout its years, beginning with a tune named "Goin' to the Barndance Tonight", followed by fiddle tunes by Messer, songs from some of his "Islanders" including singers Marg Osburne and Charlie Chamberlain, the featured guest performance, and a closing hymn.
It ended with "Till We Meet Again".
Some Maritime country performers went on to further fame beyond Canada.
The cancellation of the show by the public broadcaster in 1969 caused a nationwide protest, including the raising of questions in the Parliament of Canada.
The Prairie provinces, due to their western cowboy and agrarian nature, are the true heartland of Canadian country music.
While the Prairies never developed a traditional music culture anything like the Maritimes, the folk music of the Prairies often reflected the cultural origins of the settlers, who were a mix of Scottish, Ukrainian, German and others.
For these reasons polkas and Western music were always popular in the region, and with the introduction of the radio, mainstream country music flourished.
As the culture of the region is western and frontier in nature, the specific genre of country and western is more popular today in the Prairies than in any other part of the country.
No other area of the country embraces all aspects of the culture, from two-step dancing, to the cowboy dress, to rodeos, to the music itself, like the Prairies do.
Furthermore, she is the only woman in history to have three consecutive albums be certified Diamond.
Mexico and Latin America
Other international country music
Tom Roland, from the Country Music Association International, explains country music's global popularity: "In this respect, at least, Country Music listeners around the globe have something in common with those in the United States.
In Germany, for instance, Rohrbach identifies three general groups that gravitate to the genre: people intrigued with the American cowboy icon, middle-aged fans who seek an alternative to harder rock music and younger listeners drawn to the pop-influenced sound that underscores many current Country hits."
One of the first Americans to perform country music abroad was George Hamilton IV.
He was the first country musician to perform in the Soviet Union; he also toured in Australia and the Middle East.
He was deemed the "International Ambassador of Country Music" for his contributions to the globalization of country music.
Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Keith Urban, and Dwight Yoakam have also made numerous international tours.
The Country Music Association undertakes various initiatives to promote country music internationally.
An annual concert festival called "Blazing Guitars" held in Chennai brings together Anglo-Indian musicians from all over the country (including some who have emigrated to places like Australia).
The year 2003 brought home – grown Indian, Bobby Cash to the forefront of the country music culture in India when he became India's first international country music artist to chart singles in Australia.
In Iran, country music has appeared in recent years.
The band was formed in 2007 in Tehran, and during this time they have been trying to introduce and popularize country music in Iran by releasing two studio albums and performing live at concerts, despite the difficulties that the Islamic regime in Iran makes for bands that are active in the western music field.
Mito's activities as a singer has yielded to her debut studio album, Natsumelo, in 2017.
Bombo Radyo Baguio has a segment on its Sunday slot for Igorot, Ilocano and country music.
And as of recently, DWUB occasionally plays country music.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Country music.