Country music (sometimes called Country & Western) is a form of music that has been enjoyed by people all over the United States for decades. Famous singers from this genre include Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, the Judds, Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Kenny Rogers, Loretta Lynn, Randy Travis, Tanya Tucker, Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire, Garth Brooks and Toby Keith.
Country music's strongest appeal is with American rural and small-town populations, but many American cities have a large audience. The music also has listeners in Canada, in England, and worldwide. The popularity of Country comes and goes with each decade. Sometimes a new movie (like Midnight Cowboy or Urban Cowboy), hit record (like "She Believes In Me" by Kenny Rogers), or new performer (like Randy Travis in the 1980s) raises new interest.
Country music has its roots and beginnings in folk music. The old cowboy and pioneer songs of the American frontier were popular in the early twentieth century, and so were arrangements of pop music songs by rural (or rural-sounding) performers. Country musicians also adapted new musical instruments, like the Hawaiian steel guitar.
Modern-day Country music started in the years after World War II. The Sons of the Pioneers and The Carter Family performed old and new songs, in a way that reminded people of singalongs and jamborees of the past. Hank Williams is often called the first songwriter of country music. His songs were easy to learn and remember, and their lyrics said things felt by many people. His music is still performed today. Some of the early rock and roll musicians, like Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, began as country performers.
Nashville, Tennessee became the center of Country music, much like New Orleans became the center of Jazz. The Grand Ole Opry broadcast performances by The Carter Family and others, and became an important breaking ground in Country music. A television series, Hee-Haw, was a long-running showcase for Country performers, and was hosted by musicians Buck Owens and Roy Clark. When cable television became popular in the United States, The Nashville Network (TNN) and Country Music Television (CMT) brought Country music videos and related programming to nationwide audiences. (In later years, as interests changed, TNN changed its programming. It also changed names, first to "The National Network", then to Spike TV, which is its name today.) Country music began in the Southern United States at 1920. And Bob Wills had developed the Western Swing.
Country-styled comedy is also popular, with writers and performers like Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Larry the Cable Guy, and others. Many comedians have appeared with Country acts, including Andy Griffith, Ray Stevens, and George Lindsey. Lindsey, Lulu Roman and Junior Samples were cast members of Hee-Haw, and so were Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl. Homer and Jethro and Pinkard & Bowden were duos of musicians who made parodies of Country and pop songs.
The Beverly Hillbillies, a CBS television series, included music by Flatt and Scruggs. Members of the cast appeared in character at Country concerts, and on other television shows, to entertain audiences.
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- Roughstock - country music resource; also has a history of the genre
- CMT (Country Music Television)
- Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum
- The Country Music Association (America)
- Country Weekly magazine
- Grand Ole Opry website
- Hear Country music (music and interviews) on the Pop Chronicles (1969).