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Country Music: The Sound of Music

Aug 17, 2007
Country music (also known as country and western music or just country western), is a blend of popular Southern US musical. With its roots deeply set in folk music, Celtic tunes, blues, and gospel music it evolved rapidly in the 1920s. The term Country Music began to be commonly used in the 1940s and was fully accepted and embraced by the mass in the 1970s, while the use of terms like country and western declined. However, country music is actually a one-size-fits-all category that embraces several different genres of music like the Nashville sound, bluegrass, a fast mandolin, banjo and fiddle-based music popularized by Bill Monroe and by Flatt and Scruggs; Western, which encompasses traditional Western cowboy campfire ballads and Hollywood cowboy music made famous by Roy Rogers, The Sons of the Pioneers, and Gene Autry the list can go on forever.

Whatever be the style, each is unique in its execution, its structural chord and its use of rhythms and many songs have been adapted to the different country styles and cater to different tastes and palates. One example of one tune used by many in different styles is the tune Milk Cow Blues, an early blues tune by Kokomo Arnold that has been performed in a wide variety of country styles by everyone from Aerosmith to Bob Wills to Willie Nelson, George Strait to Ricky Nelson and Elvis Presley.

In the 80 plus years of country music history, the chords, sound and style has changed dramatically, at least in some respects. In its infant years, it was the honky-tonk sound from the likes of Ernest Tubb and Hank Williams that made up the genre of country music. It was a crowd puller in roadside pubs and meeting houses throughout Oklahoma and Texas that were packed every Friday and Saturday evening with fans and curiosity seekers alike, anxious to listen to the fast-rising sounds of steel guitars and drums. Those pubs were popular not just for the latest craze in American music, but the repeal of prohibition in 1933 also relaxed the minds of many when it came to public drinking; now the audiences could enjoy their favorite music and alcoholic beverages at the same time.

Although Tubb and Williams had their share of popularity with the honky-tonk tune, it was Al Dexter who cut the first label with the words honky-tonk in 1936. Tubb's single, Walking the Floor Over You, released in 1941, would go on to sell more than one million copies quite a feat in any form of music even now. Your Cheatin Heart, cut by Williams in 1953, is perhaps one of the best-known records of the honky-tonk era. It was not his only hit though; in his lifetime Williams went on to record more than one hundred songs.

While honky-tonks were filled with its fans, theatres were filled with fans of the cowboy songs made popular, again, in Texas and Oklahoma. The often-romanticized and thrilling life of the cowboy; heroic but lonely, drifting, fit in perfectly with this style of music that took its sound from the hills of Tennessee and the bayous of Louisiana. Those days, more often than not at least one part of the western song would include a lonesome whistle from the flute or other mellow sounding wind instrument. This went on to be known as the country western style.

Some of those famous for this western style were Gene Autry, Americas singing cowboy, and Roy Rogers, who later teamed with wife Dale Evans to become a famous due of the genre. Rogers also had been a part of The Sons of the Pioneers, a band that brought the frontier sound to over 80 westerns between 1935-1948.

Mix n Match of these styles always resulted in something interesting. Country music morphed once again in the early 1950s with a sound that became known as rockabilly a mix of the southern hills music and the blues. This sound was made popular by many performers who developed staying power in the country music industry. They include the Everly Brothers, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, Carl Perkins, and, of course, the king himself Elvis Presley.

This form of country, with its faster paced sound and constant rhythm, quickly worked its way up the record charts as Americans, too, found themselves living a lifestyle that was a much quicker pace than the generation of their parents.

Today country music is perhaps at its highest peak of popularity the road to success paved by Cline, Tubbs, Williams, Wells, and others is now treaded upon by mega-stars like Garth Brooks, the team of Brooks and Dunn, Reba McIntire, Vince Gill, and dozens of others who are quoted with their thanks and gratitude to the pioneers of the sound of country music. The Sound of Music goes on and on.
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