Country music got its start in the Appalachian Mountains with simple instruments that could be easily transported up through the hills and through the peaks. It had a simple, pleasant, folksy sound that quickly grew on people.
The genre took flight in the 1920s once the radio was invented, people loved it. When the demand for live music surfaced, the Grand Ole Opry House emerged and was dubbed “country music’s biggest stage”. It’s been a staple in the country music community and plays host to a weekly concert and live radio show that has been running since 1925! It remains the longest running weekly radio program ever!
In the 1940s honky-tonk became popular, named after “honky-tonk” bars in the south that featured pianos & fiddles. The songs frequently mentioned cheating, drinking, and heartbreak which is still present theme in today’s music like Carey Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”.
Outlaw country started in the 60s & 70s. Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson were known for having an unpolished and raw sound. The lyrics were hard and rough around the edges, there wasn’t much interest in being eloquent and being widely accepted, the outlaw era was about telling it like it is. Early Hip Hop took notes from the outlaws and followed a similar trajectory when rap became popular. The music was about the same things, governmental overreach, squabbles with the local sheriff, and wanting to be left alone to enjoy life the way they saw fit.
Both Country music and Hip Hop took the same turn (although many years apart) and lyrics about freedom and autonomy turned into lyrics about partying, fancy cars, and pretty women. The Pop & Rock influences at the time shaped what we now refer to as modern country music.
Now you hear Pop, Rock, Hip Hop, and even elements of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) present in today’s country. Taylor Swift was the first major country-pop crossover (besides Shania of course), later on, we saw Miley Cyrus, and most recently a hip-hop collaboration between Billy Ray Cyrus and Lil Nas X for their smash viral hit “Old Town Road”.
Country music has remained popular in the mainstream with tracks like “Save A Horse Ride A Cowboy”, the viral Tik Tok and Instagram dance sensation “The Git Up” from Blanco Brown, Luke Bryan’s signature “Country Girl” and Hunter Hayes’ “Fancy Like”, which graced television sets all last summer during an ad campaign for Applebees.
The music genre continues to grow in the mainstream and in the underground. While Massive country music festivals like Stagecoach Festival are popping up every year from Nashville to San Diego, there still remains a vibrant scene for fans of more traditional country western music. Through all the latest trends and styles, the genre we all know and love is continually getting more popular and more accessible. From its humble roots in the Appalachian Mountains to its star-studded “fancy” Applebee’s commercials, and weekend-long festivals, country music has proven that it’s here to stay for the long haul.
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