Country Music

By: Josie Moreno

History of Country Music

There is a lot to country music than what people see it for today. Country music first came to the U.S from English and Scots-Irish immigrants in the mid-1700s (Kallen 9). This music did not start out with Johnny Cash, or Willie Nelson. Country music not only started with the immigrants of Europe, but also the African American soul music and jazz of the south (Kallen 10). In time, people used country music as a "healing tonic" to mend the soul (Kallen 10). In Kallen's prospective "Traditional country music is divided into categories, such as bluegrass, western swing, honky-tonk, and the Nashville sound" (10). In other words Kallen is saying that country music isn't just one kind of genre. It has many different ways to reach its listeners. Not only has country music evolved and created a new image for itself it has also morphed itself into rock, pop, hip-hop, and so much more to draw in other listeners (Kallen 10).

Country Folk

Folk music was one of the very first types of country music that became popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s (Kallen 6). Folk music broke itself down into forms of religious and hillbilly tunes. The religious side of folk music is where it really began. It Started with love ballads, and British hymns that made their ways into churches all across the U.S (Kallen 13). Hillbilly music branched off of the classic stringed tunes and attracted a more wild group of people known specifically as hillbillies (Kallen 14). The New York Journal describes people who attended a Southern square dance: "A Hill Billie is a free and untrammeled white citizen of Alabama, who lives in the hills, has no [job] to speak of, dresses as he can, talks as he pleases, drinks whiskey when he can get it, and fires off his revolver as the fancy takes him" (16). In other words, hillbillies were in some way a lesser person to most of the city folk in the U.S at the time. This kind of country folk was a way for the "lesser" people to be able to express themselves in a way that they wanted to.


Cowboy Music & Western Swing

Classical country music had another name before our current generation. It boiled itself down to cowboy music and western swing. To people nowadays classic country is anything older than the 1990s, when in reality classic country is the age of the westerns (Kallen 30.) Western swing and cowboy music was a max of polka, country and folk tunes (people.eku.edu). The known cowboys for writing and starting the cowboy music, were not actually real cowboys most of the time. Bands that formed such as the Lonesome Cowboys, had not actually been roping and riding as their music said. most men in the newly founded bands were men from over crowded cities, or even Canada (Kallen 30). according to Bill C. Malone, "The cowboy of popular culture carried little of the grime, sweat and manure of the cattle kingdom but instead appealed to Americans as fearless, independent, moral, and a white knight of the Plains" (30). In other words real cowboys were down and dirty men, but society made them look shiny and polished. They made people actually want to be a cowboy when in reality it was the opposite.

Honky-Tonk

Honky-tonk music became popular during the Great Depression in the 1930s. This kind of music was brought to the surface because people got tired of listening to religious messages (Kallen 45). They wanted their music to reflect the struggles and hardships of their own lives (Kallen 45). Honky-tonk wasn't just music. It was a dance that would be held at dance halls or even bars. The music that was played there was an up beat and wild music later named after the dances themselves (Kallen 46). A man named Al Dexter had heard of the word honky-tonk but didn't know exactly what it was. According to his song writing partner, James B. Paris, "These beer joints up and down the road where girls jump in cars and so on. Use your thinker-upper [brain] and let's write a song like that" (47). What Paris was saying to Al was that honky-tonks are a lively place even woman want to go to, so he gave him the idea to write a song like that so everyone would want to listen to it. That's how honky-tonk started.


Alternative Pop Country

Alternative pop country music is a newer kind of music that became popular in the early 2000s (Kallen 106). It is a mix of honky-tonk, rock, blues, punk, and other typers of music (Kallen 106). Alternative country music sometimes is hard to find a definition for and to a lot of people nowadays it gets commonly mixed in with what people call the "Nashville Sound" (Kallen 107). Many familiar artists that incorporated themselves with alternative country are Toby Keith, Carry Underwood, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, and many more recent artist. "The sound is lively, edgy, and rarely heard on the radio" (Kallen 106). In this quote alternative pop country was very rare to the people who listened to country music. Nowadays this is one of the most popular kind of country music played on the radio.

Work Cited

Kallen, Stuart A. The History of Country Music. San Diego, CA: Lucent, 2003. Print.


"Cowboy Songs and Western Music." Cowboy Songs and Western Music. N.p., n.d. Web. 06 Nov. 2013.