Country Music: From Backwood to Hollywood

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For many Americans, country isn’t just a type of music. It’s a lifestyle. From sippin’ sweet tea on the porch, drinking beer at a tailgate or driving a pick up down the backroads, country music has made its way into the hearts and minds of many Americans. It is one of the only truly home grown American art forms. Its relatability and wide appeal has made country music one of the most commercially successful and popular genres in the United States. Using the work of scholars Tichi, Pecknold, and Ellison, I will show how country music grew from its rural southern roots into an integral part of American culture. Country music originated in the Appalachian mountains of the Southern United States and has traditional folk roots that date from the early 20th century. The commercial history of country music began in the Southern United States in the 1920’s, during a ‘period of intense modernization’ (Ellison, 1995). It wasn’t until this time that country was considered a viable music genre. It was first identified as ‘hillbilly’ music in 1925 and later became known officially as ‘country’ by its designation on the Billboard Music charts (Shmoop, 2014). Widely considered the ‘Mother Church’ of country, the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville became the home of many emerging and already established artists (Tichi, 1994:21). Coupled with the rise of radio and barn dance programs, country’s popularity increased greatly. Ellison (1995) describes country’s evolution from ‘rustic radio programs’ to a genre with an ‘extensive national network of fans unparalled in other forms of popular music’. During the 1930’s, the Great Depression assisted in the spread of country music throughout the US, with many poor unemployed Southerners migrating north, t... ... middle of paper ... ... culture from hard times to Heaven. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. Pecknold, Diane. 2007. The Selling Sound: The Rise of the Country Music Industry. Durham: Duke University Press. RIAA [Web site]. RIAA - Top Selling Artists. Accessed 25 May 2014 at: http://www.riaa.com/goldandplatinum.php?content_selector=top-selling-artists Shmoop Editorial Team. Country Music History Timeline of Important Dates. Shmoop.com [Web site]. Accessed 21 May 2014 at: http://www.shmoop.com/country-music-history/timeline.html Tichi, Cecelia. 1994. High lonesome: the American culture of country music. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. World Guides [Web site]. Nashville Tourist Information and Tourism. Nashville Travel Guide and Tourist Information: Nashville, Tennessee. Accessed 18 May 2014 at: http://www.world-guides.com/north-america/usa/tennessee/nashville/

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