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. Nashvilleâ€™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 musicâ€™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 industryâ€™s leading trade publication, first begrudgingly acknowledged country musicâ€™s emerging popularity. The magazineâ€™s first chart devoted to country was instituted in 1942 and called, somewhat improbably, the â€˜Western And Raceâ€™ charts. Later that year, country releases were lumped into a chart called â€˜American Folk Recordsâ€™. It wasnâ€™t until 1949 that Billboard created its first dedicated â€˜Country And Westernâ€™ 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, Nashvilleâ€™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 industryâ€™s increased commercial self-consciousness came the inevitable tensions between traditionalism and progressivism, rural and urbane.
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