Country music originated in the 1920s in the Southern United States with influences from American folk music, Western music, and the Blues. Country music also has heavy rock and roll, soul, and rap influences. When country music first debuted, it was commonly referred to as "hillbilly music." Since the 1940s, the more popular term became "country music".
Instruments that are typically characteristic of country music include guitars (bass, electric, steel, pedal steel), drums, pianos, keyboards, banjos, mandolins, fiddles, and harmonicas). Some of these instruments were brought by immigrants to the Southern Appalachian Mountains in the U.S.: the Irish settlers brought the fiddle, the Germans brought the dulcimer, the Italians brought the mandolin, and the West Africans brought the banjo.
Some of the first recognized country songs include "Turkey in the Straw" and "Arkansas Traveler" by fiddlers Henry Gilliland and A.C. (Eck) Robertson, released in 1922. Two years later, Vernon Dalhart was the first country singer to have a national hit song with "Wreck of the Old 97". In that same year, "Aunt" Samantha Bumgarner and Eva Davis became the first female musicians to record and release country tunes. In 1925, "Grand Ole Opry," a weekly country music stage concert in Nashville, Tennessee featured country music artists, barn dances, skits, and comedic performances. It still airs to this day.
Singing cowboys and Western swing became popular in the 1930s and 1940s. The most notable artists in these genres were Gene Autry and Roy Rogers. Patsy Montana subsequently became the first cowgirl.
In the 1950s and 1960s, country music was most heavily influenced by Western swing, country boogie and honky tonk. Rockabilly, a combination of rock-and-roll and hillbilly music, took the country by storm. A few of the most famous artists topped the Billboard charts in this genre: Carl Perkins with "Blue Suede Shoes," Johnny Cash with "I Walk the Line" and Elvis Presley with "Heartbreak Hotel".
Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Eagles, and The Rolling Stones popularized country music in the 1970s with a more country rock focus. At the same time, country pop emerged with Olivia Newton-John, Marie Osmond, and Dolly Parton topping the charts.
The 1980s were characterized by more traditional country sounds that focused on the honky-tonk, folk, and bluegrass sounds from country music's origins.
By the 1990s, country music dominated AM and FM radio stations with hits by the Dixie Chicks, Reba McEntire, Faith Hill and Shania Twain.
The 2000s premiered artists such Carrie Underwood (winner of the fourth season of "American Idol"), Lady Antebellum (winner of five Grammys), Taylor Swift (winner of seven Grammys thus far), all of whom are still popular country artists today.
There are plenty of museums across the United States that depict the history of country music such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tennessee. There are also music venues with live country music bands in Nashville, Tennessee such as Music City Roots, or The Abbey Pub in Houston, Texas.
The CMA Music Festival, which is a country music fan fair, will take place in Nashville, Tennessee June 5-8, 2014. It will celebrate its 43rd year.
For more info about country music and other popular American music genres: InterExchange Top U.S. Cultural Picks – Music
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Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Ani is a fan of exploring new places through photography and the local cuisine. After earning her BFA in photography from NYU and gaining communications experience at International Planned Parenthood Federation, she joined InterExchange in 2012, and worked as the Marketing Producer until 2016.