Country Music And its history
It was in 1734. Irish or Scottish emigrants set their feet on what is called the ‘new world’ for the first time. They finally tread this new Eden, synonymous with freedom, work, and fortune: the American dream. They have just left the northern plains of Belfast fleeing poverty, semi-slavery, justice, and the King’s Archers. There, a new life is offered to them. Some people can do nothing but take care of the flocks. Except now they’re hoping to own their animals. Others are peasants, more or less specialized workers, small traders lured by the possibility of reclaiming their virginity. Most of them arrive empty-handed. They have with them only a hammer, nails, a scythe, a rake, and some rudimentary musical instruments.
In the evening, after hard work, they gather around the fire to “talk about the country”, make music and sing. Their music is very primary, performed on viols, Lutes, vielles, lyres, Guimaraes and five-string guitars (the sixth did not appear until the end of the 18th century). Little by little, this music cements their community as well as the civilization they are creating. Their music still resembles the one we hear today in the pubs of Cork, Dublin, Glasgow, etc. This music is always inspired by Sean O ‘ Connors, The Cranberries or The Pogues.
II-diversity within a single music
From the 19th century, two fundamentally opposed types of 100 % white country music developed in this large country of the United States of America:
- Bluegrass, country music recording the daily life of the pioneers and their difficulties.
- Square Dance, a Western form of the square that is danced at high-end parties of the new emerging jet set and that has no other purpose than fun, lightness, carefree and gentle flirting.
- But both claim the essential values of this new and profound America: the family, God, morality and, above all, their faith in the spirit of enterprise and individual property.
Conservative, nationalist, puritanical and moralistic: these are the main features of Country Music.
III-the 20th century
In the 1940s, three other styles of country music emerged:
- Hillbilly Boogie, Honky tonk and Cajun (sung by Acadians, French expelled from Canada by the English and emigrating to Louisiana).
- The Hillbilly and Honky tonk appear when the electric guitar becomes more common.
- These two styles both embody City Music (as opposed to the predominantly rural Bluegrass).
- The Honky tonk is played in sleazy bars, cabarets or night clubs where you drink beer and whiskey all night long surrounded by “Easy Girls”.
This music is gradually settling down as well in Louisiana or Texas as in Indiana, Idaho or Wisconsin.
IV-the great pioneers of this music
- The Carter Family
The Carter family, originally from Tennessee, is a caricature of traditional American Music: a vocal ” little prairie house.” Four women and a man, two guitars, a washboard, a violin, this is the ideal formation to sing flowers, fields, straw, rivers, Moonlight, and love.
The Carter Family first recorded in 1927 for the RCA ancestor Victor. She’s the most influential band in Country music.
- Jimmie Rodgers
He’s more like a cowboy. He is also the inventor of the “yodeler” style, a very Tyrolean way of modulating his singing. Coming from a very poor family in Mississippi, he sold nearly five million 78 T in seven years (very short career) before dying of tuberculosis while he just recorded ” TB Blues “, TB meaning ” tuberculosis”.
Jimmie Rodgers is one of Elvis Presley’s favorite artists, along with Hank Williams.
- Hank Williams
His childhood was marked by the absence of a father who left the marital home when he was just six years old. Raised by his mother and sister, he is frail. Solitary, he took refuge in music and owned his first guitar at the age of 9.
At the age of 16, he left school and began a singing career performing on local radio stations in Alabama. His quality performances attract the attention of the Nashville punks who unfortunately run away to the sight of an alcoholic man who is only 20 years old.
In 1943, Hank married Audrey Mae Sheppard, who succeeded in convincing Fred Rose, the publisher, to register her husband. In 1947, Hank Williams released his first single, “Move it on ever”. For a test run, it’s a master stroke. But it was “Honky Tonkin” that allowed him to become a star.
In 1948, he was admitted to the Louisiana Hayride Country Hall. In the process, he recorded “Lovesick blues” which became his biggest hit of the moment. The doors of the Grand Ole Opry are finally opening to him. He was the undisputed star from June 49 to July 52. This is absolute consecration.
But at the same time, he plays with death by associating alcohol and drugs.
Thus, on January 1, 1953, he was clearly found dead of an overdose in the back of his Cadillac when he was barely 30 years old.
Hank Williams can be considered the founder of modern country music.
- The Grand Ole Opry:
Located in Nashville, this place is the dream of all Southern singers who see it as a kind of holy place. Performing at the Grand Ole Opry and gaining some success, there is a stepping stone to fame and fortune.
Every week, a three-hour show is offered to Country lovers, this show being broadcast in all the Southern states.