Country Music History

Country music history: country music started its climb to fame with the invention of the radio.

In the 1930's, country music was beginning to spread, thanks to the invention of the radio. This became a popular source of entertainment in a time of an impoverished economy. Radio was entertaining, and, it was virtually free. Gene Autry, Tex Ritter, and the Carter Family were all making their ways in the expanding world of music.

WSM's Grand Ol' Opry, which began its long-running history in Nashville, Tennessee, started out as a radio show in the 1930's. Because of its large range of popular country singing stars, record companies and "wannabe" singers from all over the United States were drawn to Nashville. It soon became known as "Music City USA."

Every singer had a nickname which pertained to their prominence in the world of country music, and Roy Acuff was no exception. Known to his fans as the "King of Country Music", Acuff and his band, which was called "The Smoky Mountain Boys", joined the Opry in the late 1930's. Acuff's Opry fame lasted many years until he passed away in 1992.

The Grand Ol' Opry went on to showcase many more singers, ladies and gentlemen alike, with the addition of Bill Monroe, Flatt and Scruggs, and Little Jimmy Dickens, just to name a few. In later years, singers who made their marks in the music world would also grace the stage. These included big names like George Jones, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn, and Porter Wagoner.

In the 1950's, the Carter Family was a maternally-directed group that consisted of Maybelle and her three daughters, Anita, June and Helen. This group joined the Grand Ol' Opry and was known as the First Family of Country Music. In years to come, June would gain further public exposure when she changed her name to June Carter Cash by wedding another country singer named Johnny Cash. Even though Cash's early career was plagued by drug and alcohol problems, he pulled through it all and became a popular country star. Cash was known as the "Man in Black" because his outfits were always a solid black shirt, slacks, coat, and boots.

Even though they played basically the same instruments, which most always included guitars and drums, some of the singers and groups that took the stages in the 1980's had their own sounds. While Reba McEntire and Randy Travis had the tradtional country sound, a group known as "Alabama" hit the scene with a country/rock sound. People loved their music, though, and bought their albums as soon as they hit the stores.

Finally, in the 1990's, things changed when Garth Brooks hit the scene. He successfully attracted young people back into country music by crooning his heartfelt ballads. Other singers like the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill and Shania Twain, as well as several other groups came on the scene too, and the audiences applauded their talents. It was also at this time that the controversy about what was and what was not real country music came to be. Shania Twain, for example, was said to have "crossed the line" over to pop music, even though her music was called "country."

Over the years, country music has changed and evolved into being the billion dollar industry that it is today. What direction it will take will undoubtedly be directed by the people. That is, the listening audience who buys and listens to the songs that come out of country music land.

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