I include a section from my book to whet your appetite! Links to the book are at the bottom.
Country & Western
The other important fundamental element of Rock ‘n’ Roll was Country & western. C&W also originated in the south of the U.S.A and began to attract nationwide interest in the 40s.It was formed from the kinds of Folk music that the early settlers brought across from Europe. These included British Jigs and Reels. These were types of music that could be played on the light, easily transportable instruments that could fit onto a wagon such as fiddles, guitars and banjos.
In the 1930s the music was dominated by two musical family groups – The Original Hillbillies, Sons of Pioneers and the Carter Family as well as individuals such as Charlie Poole, Roy Acuff and Fiddlin’ John Carson. It then became associated with the cowboy image with Roy Rogers and Gene Autry. There was also the singing Railway man Jimmie Rodgers. He fused the blues and yodelling into a package.
In the 1940s, as with the Blues, it underwent electrification and also adopted the distinctive pedal steel guitar which had featured strongly in Hawaiian music. Around this time it became really popular with radio audiences transmitted from the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman. This enabled it to reach a far wider audience. This popularity was associated with new artists such as Eddy Arnold – the singing plowboy – with his brand of sentimental country ballads. It was the saccharin sweet sound now associated with modern Country and Western as produced by Jim Reeves and co. All easy on the ear and totally safe and consequently ideal radio material.
Meanwhile in the 1940s and 1950s there was a trend towards creating beaty, uptempo branches of country music – Bluegrass in the East – Western Bop or Swing in the West – by incorporating elements of Jazz and Blues.
Seemingly the zeitgeist was at work; simultaneously C&W and Blues/R&B were moving in a similar direction. Country Boogie would give rise to its own branch of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
Western Swing, created by merging Jazz elements, was typified by Bob Wills and their offshoots. Bluegrass was typified by Bill Monroe and their offshoot Flatt and Scruggs. Then there was Red Foley.
In the 1940s a new style started to develop based around the style from the bars and clubs known as Honky Tonks. Honky Tonk C&W was typified by Ernest Tubb and then Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell.
Hank Williams became the foremost and most influential. His single ‘Move it on over’ with its strong beat was a major step towards Rockabilly. It like a dozen other R&B tracks is credited with being the first Rock ‘n’ Roll song. It was one of many. In fact it was a general movement that seemed to infect many musicians at the same time. Hank’s strength lay in his use of melody and lyric and completely dominated the scene between 1946 and 1952. Unfortunately Hank became addicted to alcohol and painkillers and died in the back of his car from heart failure on the way to a gig on Jan 1st 1953. His legacy had a big impact on Rockabilly and C&W. He influenced the Delmore Brothers, Moon Mullican, Arthur Smith, Merle Travis, Kitty Wells, Patsy Cline and Tenesse Ernie Ford. Later people such as Bob Dylan heralded him as a major influence.
Bluegrass, Country Boogie, Western Swing and Honky Tonk all fed into Rock ‘n’ Roll through Rockabilly artists such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins.
Sam Philips brought C&W together with R&B. He set up Sun Records in Memphis Tennessee. He specialised in recording black R&B and uptempo Country music. He brought them together to create Rockabilly, the catalyst being Elvis Presley.
Country music was the style favoured by many Rock ‘n’ Roll artists before they heard Elvis. Artists such as Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and the Everly Brothers all started off with Bluegrass, Honky Tonk and Country Bop.
In the late 60s many bands and artists delved back into the rich tradition of C&W. Gram Parson, the Byrds, Flying Burrito Brothers, Band, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Bob Dylan and Hot Tuna all were leading exponents. Later in the 1970s it featured in the style and repertoire of many with bands such as the Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Jackson Browne.
Country music had left its mark.
Rock has also left its impact on C&W. After a rather slushy period in the 1960s with Jim Reeves, Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette it began to find some balls again with artists like Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Willie Nelson Emmy-Lou Harris and even Townes Van Zandt. Then there was a brief flurry of new Country.
Where would Rock be without it?
||Stand out tracks
||May the circle be unbroken
The Wabash cannonball
Keep on the sunny side
|Sons of the Pioneers
Took my gal a walking
I’m the man who rode the mule around the world
If I Lose I don’t care
Hungry hast house
Take a drink on me
|Fiddlin’ John Carson
||The little old log cabin in the lane
||Great speckled bird
My Chickasay girl
||Back in the saddle again
Do right daddy blues
||Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas)
Blue Yodel No. 8 (Muleskinner Blues)
Pistol packing papa
Hobo Bill’s last ride
Never no more blues
||There’s been a change in me
I wanna play house with you
||Blue moon of Kentucky
Blue grass breakdown
Little cabin home on the hill
San Antonio Rose
|Flatt & Scruggs
||Foggy mountain breakdown
Don’t let your deal go down
||New Jolie Blone
||Walking the floor over you
||Move it on over
Your cheatin’ heart
Cold cold heart
My son calls another man Daddy
Long gone lonesome blues
I just don’t like this kind of living
You’re gonna change (or I’m gonna leave)
Why don’t you love me (like you used to do)
I’m so lonesome I could cry
A mansion on the hill
I heard that lonesome whistle blow
Honky Tonk Blues
You win again
Jambalaya (on the bayou)
Take these chains from my heart
I’ll never get out of this world alive
||Long black veil
If you’ve got the money I’ve got the time
||It wasn’t God who made Honky Tonk Angels
||The wild side of life
Everything you ever wanted to know about Rock Music!
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