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History of Country Music

Country music is a genre of American popular music that originated in the rural regions of the Southern United States in the 1920s. It has roots in traditional folk music, Celtic music, gospel music, and old-time music and evolved rapidly in the 1920s.  Blues modes have been used extensively throughout its recorded history and it was further influenced by African-American blues, Cajun and Latin folk music. Country music often consists of ballads and dance tunes with generally simple forms and harmonies accompanied by mostly string instruments such as banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, fiddles, and harmonicas. 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.

Immigrants to the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North America brought the music and instruments of the Old World along with them for nearly 300 years. They brought some of their most important valuables with them, and to most of them this was an instrument. The Irish fiddle, the German derived dulcimer, the Italian mandolin, the Spanish guitar, and the African banjo were the most common musical instruments. The interactions among musicians from different ethnic groups produced music unique to this region of North America. Appalachian string bands of the early twentieth century primarily consisted of the fiddle, guitar, and banjo. This early country music along with early recorded country music is often referred to as Old-time music.

During the 1930s and 1940s two new substyles emerged, “Western Swing” and “Honky-Tonk”. The style called “honky-tonk”, used small electrified bands, and flourished in rural Texas and Oklahoma taverns. People turned curios to see and hear the fast-rising sounds of steel guitars and drums. During this time western cowboy songs also became popular by “singing cowboys”. Another style that also emerged during this time period was “Bluegrass” music. By the early 1950s a blend of Western swing, country boogie, and honky tonk was played by most country bands.

country_music_guitarRockabilly was most popular with country fans in the 1950s, and 1956 could be called the year of rockabilly in country music. Rockabilly was a mixture of rock-and-roll and hillbilly music. Established country stars and younger performers immersed in the Opry tradition of country music had to decide on how to appeal to a rapidly evolving audience. It was around this time that record companies replaced the label “hillbilly” with the term “country and western”, which included adding more amplified instruments and slicker, pop-style arrangements to country music in an attempt to make it more accessible and appealing to a broader audience, thus the “Nashville Sound” was developed.  During the early 1960s, the Nashville sound turned country music into a multimillion-dollar industry.

The emergence of rock and roll in the mid to late 1950s transformed the music business, in an effort to appeal to a rapidly evolving audience. Country Music has enjoyed a rich history over the years, and the Country Music Foundation has released what many are considering to be the ultimate history book concerning the genre with the issue of The Encyclopedia of Country Music. The Country Music Association undertakes various initiatives to promote country music internationally. In South America, on the last weekend of September, the yearly “San Pedro Country Music Festival” takes places in the town of San Pedro, Argentina. The festival features bands from different places of Argentina, as well as international artist from Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, Peru and the United States.