Introduction | War Years | Country

During the 1940s and 1950s country music coalesced from various and disparate sub-styles of regional music and emerged as a distinct genre. Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry was central to this newfound sense of identity, as it rose in popularity from an obscure local radio broadcast to a national entertainment institution.

For decades, beginning in the 1930s, country music became almost synonymous with the Grand Ole Opry, as its weekly broadcast became a stepping-stone and platform for some of rural music’s leading figures, including Uncle Dave Macon, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb and a host of other artists representing a variety of rural musical styles.

It was in the early 1940s that Billboard, the music industry’s leading trade publication, first begrudgingly acknowledged country music’s emerging popularity. The magazine’s first chart devoted to country was instituted in 1942 and called, somewhat improbably, the ‘Western And Race’ charts. Later that year, country releases were lumped into a chart called ‘American Folk Records’. It wasn’t until 1949 that Billboard created its first dedicated ‘Country And Western’ chart. Bluegrass (and its precursor, mountain string-band music), honky-tonk and even occasional strains of early country-pop, were just a few of the disparate sub-styles that began to fold into and shape this relatively new genre, which was dramatically on the rise by the late 1940s. By the mid-1950s, Nashville’s country-record industry finally reached critical mass in the national marketplace and started to put its own imprimatur on country music, while shaping and promoting it with a self-conscious finger on the pulse of changing national tastes and trends. Along with the music industry’s increased commercial self-consciousness came the inevitable tensions between traditionalism and progressivism, rural and urbane.

Key Artists

Eddy Arnold
Lefty Frizzell
The Louvin Brothers
Ernest Tubb
Hank Williams

Styles & Forms | War Years | Country
Inside the Music | The Grand Ole Opry | War Years | Country

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


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