country and western music
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.
country and western music,American popular music form originating in the Southeast (country music) and the Southwest and West (western music). The two regional styles coalesced in the 1920s when recorded material became available in rural areas, and they were further consolidated after musicians from various sections met and mixed during service in World War II. The primary traditional difference between the two styles is that country music is simpler and uses fewer instruments, relying on guitar, fiddle, banjo, and harmonica, whereas the music of the Southwest tends toward steel guitars and big bands whose style verges on swing (e.g., The Light Crust Doughboys). Bluegrass, exemplified by Bill MonroeMonroe, Bill
(William Smith Monroe), 1911–96, country singer, musician, and songwriter, often called the "father of bluegrass," b. Rosine, Ky. A mandolin and guitar player, Monroe founded the Blue Grass Boys in 1938, and the group began playing country and western music
..... Click the link for more information. , is a style of country and western music traditionally distinguished by a driving, syncopated rhythm, high-pitched vocals, and an emphasis on the banjo, mandolin, and fiddle. Progress bluegrass will also use electrified and other nontraditional instruments and employ styles and songs derived from other forms of music.
Country and western music is directly descended from the folk songs, ballads, and popular songs of the English, Scottish, and Irish settlers of the U.S. southeastern seaboard. Its modern lyrics depict the emotions and experience of rural and (currently) urban poor whites; they often tell frankly of illicit love, crime, and prison life. Over the last 50 years country and western music has gained a nationwide audience. Since 1925 the "Grand Ole OpryGrand Ole Opry,
weekly American radio program featuring live country and western music. The nation's oldest continuous radio show, it was first broadcast in 1925 on Nashville's WSM as an amateur showcase.
..... Click the link for more information. ," a Saturday night performance featuring country and western singers, has been broadcast weekly from Nashville, Tenn.
Many of the musicians have been influenced by African-American blues (see jazzjazz,
the most significant form of musical expression of African-American culture and arguably the most outstanding contribution the United States has made to the art of music. Origins of Jazz
Jazz developed in the latter part of the 19th cent.
..... Click the link for more information. ) and gospel musicgospel music,
American religious musical form that owes much of its origin to the Christian conversion of West Africans enslaved in the American South. Gospel music partly evolved from the songs slaves sang on plantations, notably work songs, and from the Protestant hymns they
..... Click the link for more information. , but the performers and audience are almost all white. Leading performers include Jimmy Rodgers, the Carter FamilyCarter Family,
group of singers that specialized in traditional music of the Southern Appalachian Mountains; it consisted of A(lvin) P(leasant) Carter, 1891–1960, b. Maces Spring, Va.; his wife, Sara (Dougherty) Carter, 1898–1979, b. Flatwoods, Va.
..... Click the link for more information. , Hank WilliamsWilliams, Hank,
1923–53, American country singer and songwriter, b. near Georgiana, Ala., as Hiram Williams. He is widely regarded as the leading figure in the history of country music (see country and western music).
..... Click the link for more information. and his son, Tex Ritter, Chet AtkinsAtkins, Chet
(Chester Burton Atkins), 1924–2001, American country guitarist, singer, and record company executive, b. Luttrell, Tenn. Part of a musical family, he played fiddle and guitar as a youngster and performed professionally while still a teenager.
..... Click the link for more information. , Patsy ClineCline, Patsy,
1932–63, American country singer, b. Winchester, Va., as Virginia Patterson Hensley. She began singing locally while still in her teens and signed her first recording contract in 1953, but did not become well known until after the release of her first hit,
..... Click the link for more information. , Johnny CashCash, Johnny,
1932–2003, American singer and songwriter, b. Kingsland, Ark. Born to a farm family, he went to Memphis in 1955 and recorded such hits as "I Walk the Line" (1956) and "Ring of Fire" (1963); the latter was written with his second wife, singer June Carter Cash
..... Click the link for more information. , June Carter-Cash, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, George Jones, Loretta LynnLynn, Loretta,
1935–, American country singer and songwriter, b. Butcher Hollow, Ky. One of the most successful singers in modern country music, she has a distinct voice and a style reminiscent of earlier traditional country singers.
..... Click the link for more information. , Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride, Charlie Rich, Dolly PartonParton, Dolly,
1946–, country singer, songwriter, and actress, b. Sevier County, Tenn. Among the most popular country singers of the 1970s and 80s, Parton is known for her Nashville-style flamboyance, talent for self-parody, and intelligent and witty approach to popular,
..... Click the link for more information. , and Willie NelsonNelson, Willie,
1933–, American country singer, guitarist, and songwriter, b. Abbott, Tex. Nelson began playing professionally at 10 and joined a western swing band as a teenager.
..... Click the link for more information. . In the 1960s and 70s, country and western music significantly influenced the development of rock music. Since then, it has undergone a national revival with performers such as Ricky Scaggs, Garth Brooks, the Judds, Tanya Tucker, and Reba McEntire achieving great popularity.
See B. C. Malone, Country Music USA (1968); P. Hemphill, The Nashville Sound (1971); C. Brown, Music USA: America's Country and Western Music (1985); K. Sparkman, A People and Their Music (2000); D. Jannings, Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music (2008).