A Brief History Of...Hillbilly Music


26 Ene 2008, 23:50

The description and playlist below are from the weekly radio show (A Brief History Of…) that my friend and I host on WSUM 91.7fm Madison. We selected songs we felt were either historically important or just representative of each specific topic. Please comment if you feel we missed something or just to give your opinion. Remember, however, that we do this show in an hour (about 50 minutes of music). Track length is a major factor in our decisions (shorter is usually better). Thanks!

Until about the time of The Carter Family’s break-up in the mid-1940s, what we know as country music was called "Hillbilly Music." A Brief History of…Hillbilly Music traces American traditional music from the first million-selling hillbilly record in 1924 to the first major televised country music performance in 1953. Major themes of the show include the Afro-, Anglo-, and Scotch-Irish origins of this traditionally white music, the impact of the 1920s radio boom in the creation of the first superstars, and the rise of the Grand Ole Opry to a national stage. Country music continued to develop and important topics from the second half of the show include the influence of swing and pop music on hillbilly music in the 1940s, the acceptance of hillbilly music as a legitimate and complex musical form, and finally, the effects of film and television in the creation of “western” music.

Here's the playlist we used for this show:

The Prisoner's Song by Vernon Dalhart (1924). Dalhart was a light-opera tenor from New York (although raised in Texas). He recorded for Thomas Edison’s record company and with “The Prisoner’s Song,” Dalhart was the first million-selling country music artist.

Blue Yodel No. 1 (T for Texas) by Jimmie Rodgers (1928). Jimmie Rodgers, the “Father of Country Music” and the first country music superstar, combined blues, yodeling, and white folk sounds (thus creating the standard country music sound).

Big Rock Candy Mountain by Harry Mcclintock (1928). Big Rock Candy Mountain is about a hobo’s idea of paradise. The song’s origin can be traced directly to about 1900 and indirectly to a broadside ballad from 1665.

I'm Thinking Tonight of My Blue Eyes by The Carter Family (1929). The Carter Family was literally an inbred family (stereotypes always have a starting point). However, they sang some of the most authentic mountain folk music to ever be recorded. Second generation Carter Family member June became the second wife of Johnny Cash.

I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart by Patsy Montana (1935). Patsy Montana was one of the “Girls of the Golden West.” "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart" was the first million-selling country record by a female. Montana's unique vocal style included Swiss-style yodeling.

Wabash Cannonball by Roy Acuff (1936). Acuff was the first star on the Grand Ole Opry (a nationally broadcast Saturday night radio show from WSM Nashville) and managed the show for years following, bringing it even greater success.

Back in the Saddle Again by Gene Autry (1939). Autry was most popular artist of his day; his popularity made the 1930s the decade of the singing cowboy. Autry’s costume led to the cowboy image becoming a part of country music – now the music was country and western.

New San Antonio Rose by Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (1940). Wills incorporated blues, jazz, and pop influences into rural dance songs. The genre became known as Western Swing.

You Are My Sunshine by Jimmie Davis (1940). Davis, future two-time governor of Louisiana, recorded “You Are My Sunshine” in 1940. The Recording Industry Association of America included the song in their list of the 100 songs of the century.

Rodeo: 4. Hoe-Down by Aaron Copland (1942). Country and western music was not just the working-man’s music. In 1942, Copland, the leading mid-century American composer, wrote a ballet titled Rodeo about a wedding on a ranch.

Pistol Packin' Mama by Al Dexter (1943). "Pistol-Packin’ Mama" was one of the most popular songs of WWII. Al Dexter owned a honky-tonk, which was at first just a type of bar or saloon, but that became a subgenre of country music.

Don't Fence Me In by Bing Crosby & The Andrews Sisters (1944). WWII caused a shortage of new records across all genres and allowed for many cross-over hits from other genres. By the mid-‘40s country and western music often crossed over to the pop markets or was recorded by pop artists. By far the most successful pop artist to record country songs was Bing Crosby.

Deep In The Heart Of Texas by Bob Wills (1947)

Tumbling Tumbleweeds by Sons of the Pioneers (1948). Sons of the Pioneers was the group from which Roy Rogers emerged as a star. In the ‘40s, Rogers eclipsed Gene Autry in popularity as both a singer and actor. The group recorded some of the most complex Hillbilly Music.

Goodnight Irene by Ernest Tubb & Red Foley (1950). Already a star in the ‘40s, in 1950 Red Foley charted five successful singles, including this duet with Ernest Tubb.

Your Cheatin' Heart by Hank Williams (1952). The honky-tonk style of country took off with Hank Williams. Williams' work generally marks the transition from Old-Time Country and Western or Hillbilly Music to the period of Classic Country. Williams recorded “Your Cheatin’ Heart” during his final recording sessions in 1952. He died of alcohol and drug abuse early in the morning New Years Day 1953.

High Noon - Do Not Forsake Me by Tex Ritter (1953). A cowboy film star in the ‘30s and ‘40s and a radio star in the ‘40s, Ritter performed the movie-title song “High Noon” live at the first televised Academy Awards in 1953. He received an Oscar for Best Song.

Happy Trails by Roy Rogers & Dale Evans (1951)


  • aibom

    I'm surprised this journal has no comments. I'm definitely going to be checking those out. Thanks for the heads up. Quality journal.

    9 Sep 2008, 8:21
  • downtownthomas

    ` yee-ha!!'

    8 Dic 2008, 20:52
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