The History of Country Music
Country music was brought over by the first European settlers. In medieval times, storytelling was a tradition that allowed history to be recorded when few were able to read and write. When the first British settlers came to America, they brought this tradition with them, along with songs that they had learned in Europe. The people who settled the Appalachian Mountains and the West did not have an easy life and their music gave them an outlet to express their hardships.
When country music bean in America, there were no professional musicians. The typical musician sang only to entertain himself, his family, or at local events. At first, most country music was sung unaided or played on a lone fiddle or banjo. At the turn of the century, Sears, Roebuck & Co. began advertising affordable guitars in its nationally available catalogs, as well as sheet music and songbooks. The mandolin also became available and soon string bands were being formed with different combinations of instruments.
As vaudeville grew in the early 1900’s, it was mainly composed of northern performers. However, their example showed southern performers that one could make music playing in public. This realization spawned the first generation of “hillbilly” performers. The term “hillbilly” was popularized in the 1920’s after a musician by the name of Al Hopkins. He told his producer to name his band whatever he liked because they were just a bunch of hillbilly’s from North Carolina and Virginia.
As the popularity of the phonograph grew, people across the countrybegan to buy their through the mail. Originally, the music consisted mainly of classical singers and orchestral agreements of sentimental songs. One day in 1922 two Texan fiddlers named Alexander Campbell “Eck” Robertson and Henry Gilliland traveled from Atlanta to New York City to get their music recorded. The two show up at RCA Victor with one dressed as a confederate soldier and the other in a cowboy suit and managed to get an audition as well as a record. The recording of “Ragtime Annie” was among the first known country music recordings in history along with “Arkansas Traveler,” “Sallie Gooden,” and “Turkey in the Straw.”