Introduction | Mainstream Country

Major changes occurred in country music during the 1970s and 1980s, and country icons came and went as the music escaped from the stereotypical image of the 1960s, when it had been gingham dresses for the ladies and rhinestone suits for the men.

Now country music had a new face: Dolly Parton’s extravagant dress sense and the shaggy-haired Outlaw acts, coupled with Loretta Lynn, whose songs spoke of everyday life, which was not how women were used to being perceived by Nashville executives and portrayed in the news media or television. Not since Kitty Wells and ‘It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels’ (1952) had female acts seen such success as that achieved by Parton, Lynn and Tammy Wynette – all of whom had started out successfully in the 1960s.

The difference lay in the fact that they became superstars, each with their particular type of country music. Acts such as Alabama and the storyteller Tom T. Hall, whose songs Bobby Bare often recorded, were also cut from a different cloth. Singer/songwriter/actor Ed Bruce, Vern Gosdin, John Anderson and John Conlee held tight to tradition, while others who were less committed fell away.

By the end of the 1980s, the compact-disc format had all but taken over from vinyl, and the ‘hat’ acts arrived, resulting in innumerable videos shown on Country Music Television (CMT), which became a popular, expensive and essential trend.

Major female newcomers included Barbara Mandrell, Canadian songbird Anne Murray and Tanya Tucker, who after having been tempted into the world of pop, returned to a music she had stormed at the age of 13, displaying unbelievable maturity. To paraphrase the title of the Waylon Jennings hit, Hank sure never did it this way.

Key Artists

Loretta Lynn
Dolly Parton
Tammy Wynette

Styles & Forms | Mainstream Country
Inside the Music | The Gospel Influence | Mainstream Country

Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music, consultant editor Bob Allen


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