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The Evolution of Country Music
Transcript of The Evolution of Country Music
When did country music start?
Who was the founding artist?
How many different "styles" of Country music are there?
By the early 1900s, the recording industry had begun, but most musicians had to travel to New York City to record their music.
In 1927, Ralph Peer of Victor Records decided to try something different. He went to Bristol, Tennessee, to record local musicians. He thought that old-time and "hillbilly" musicians could be found there.
Two local acts signed recording contracts -- the Carter Family from Virginia and former railroad worker Jimmie Rodgers of North Carolina. While the Carter Family played old-time mountain music, Jimmie Rodgers sang ballads and used a singing style called yodeling. They both became successful nationwide. The Carter Family formed the core of several generations of popular country musicians, and Rodgers's 1928 recording of "Blue Yodel" became one of the first country records to sell a million copies!
Jimmie Rodgers has been called the “Father of Country Music.”
• Born James Charles Rodgers in Meridian Mississippi on September 8, 1897
• He was an amateur entertainer for many years, but became a serious performer in 1925 after retiring from the railroad for poor health
• In 1926, he and his wife moved to Asheville, NC and organized the Jimmie Rodgers Entertainers, a hillbilly band. In 1927, the band broke up before a recording session with Ralph Peer, and Rodgers recorded two songs (“The Solder’s Sweetheart” and “Sleep, Baby, Sleep”) without his band. They liked his sound, and he made more recordings, including “Blue Yodel #1” (also known as “T for Texas”) which sold over a million records and established Rodgers as the premier singer of early country music.
• He died in 1933 at age 35.
• Interestingly, he never appeared on any major radio show or played the Grand Ole Opry
• He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961 because of his significant influence on the genre
Listening Example: "T for Texas"
(or "Blue Yodel #1")
The Carter Family
• “The First Family of Country Music” – comprised of Alvin Pleasant (“A.P.”) Carter, his wife, Sara Carter, and his sister-in-law Maybelle Carter.
• All of them were raised in southwestern Virginia singing mountain gospel music.
• They also recorded with Ralph Peer shortly after Jimmie Rodgers in 1927
• “Keep on the Sunny Side” was one of their biggest hits.
• The family went through some changes, recording on a radio station in Mexico (across border from Del Rio, Texas).
• June Carter joined the group in 1939 when they were in San Antonio, then they moved to Charlotte, NC.
• Their last recording session was October 14, 1941, before the group disbanded. Maybelle continued to perform with her daughters, Anita, June, and Helen, as “Mother Maybelle and the Carter Sisters”
• Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970
Listening Example: "Keep On The
Sunny Side of Life"
These early Bristol recordings laid the groundwork for much of the country music that followed. Because Bristol is not usually thought of as the place where country music began, it was especially important that the U.S. Congress recognized Bristol's contribution to music history. In 1998, Congress passed a resolution recognizing Bristol as the "Birthplace of Country Music."
• This early style of country music evolved from old house parties and ranch dances. It was defined as a blend of Big Band, Blues, Dixieland, and Jazz, among others. It introduced drums and the steel guitar to country music.
• Vocals and other instruments followed the fiddle’s lead.
• These western bands improvised frequently during recordings or performances (as opposed to “horn” bands which tended to stick to the written arrangement).
• Bob Wills is known as the “King of Western Swing”
• Milton Brown is the “Founder of Western Swing”
• Western Swing reached its peak in early 1940s, and declined after the War (WWII)
ROY ACUFF AND
THE GRAND OLE OPRY
Roy Acuff was born in Maynardville, Tennessee on September 5, 1903, is called The “King of Country Music.
He was destined to become an athlete:
He gained 13 varsity letters in high school
He played minor league baseball
He was considered for the NY Yankees, but severe sunstroke ended that career
In 1933 he formed the “Tennessee Crackerjacks” introducing a band member on the dobro, which became Acuff’s defining sound. Here's a clip...
He married Mildred Douglas in 1936.
In 1962 he became the first living musician to be honored as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.
He died November 23, 1992 following a short illness.
“Roy Acuff – “Wabash Canonball”
UNCLE DAVE MACON
• “Uncle Dave Macon” was born David Harrison Macon on October 7, 1870 near McMinnville, Tennessee.
• He was considered the ultimate bridge between the 19th century American folk and vaudeville music and the phonograph and radio-based music of the early 20th century.
• His parents moved to Nashville when 13 years old to run a hotel.
• In 1889 he married Matilda Richardson and moved to a farm near Kittrell and raised six sons.
• In 1900 they opened a freight line between Murfreesboro and Woodbury (“The Macon Midway Mule and Mitchell Wagon Transportation Company”). He would entertain people by singing and playing the banjo at various stops along the way. The auto industry forced him to close down in 1920.
• His first professional performance was in 1921 at a Methodist church benefit. He eventually was offered jobs performing at theaters to entertain crowds. By the age of 50, he was a successful entertainer.
• His first recording made in 1924, and his act included comedy, buck-dancing and old time music.
• On November 6, 1925 he performed at the Ryman Auditorium (the future home of the Grand Ole Opry) – this was just 3 weeks before the WSM Grand Ole Opry was founded.
• He was one of the first performers at the new WSM radio station, and that career lasted 26 years.
• In 1940, Macon, George D. Hay (Opry founder), Roy Acuff, and Dorris Macon his son) took part in Hollywood in the Republic Pictures movie, “Grand Ole Opry.” In the film we see Macon performing a duet with his son (“Take Me Back to My Carolina Home”) (listening example below)) where he (age 69) jumps out of his seat and dances through the second half of the song.
• He continued to tour until March 1, 1952, and died 3 weeks later at Rutherford County Hospital in Murfreesboro. He was buried at Coleman Cemetery near Murfreesboro.
• He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.
• “Uncle Dave Macon Days” occurs annually during the second full weekend in July in Murfreesboro.
“Take Me Back to My Carolina Home”
BILL MONROE AND
• Bill Monroe was born September 13, 1911.
• Bill Monroe is called the “Father of Bluegrass”
• His style underwent several changes over the years; the most notable was when he added Earl Scruggs to his band. Scruggs was a banjo player who created Monroe’s distinctive bluegrass sound.
• His trademark instrument was a 1923 Gibson F5 model “Lloyd Loar” mandolin
• On January 16, 1953 he was critically injured when they were struck by a drunk driver. It took him four months to recover and resume touring.
• The 1950’s saw the rise of rock-and-roll and the new “Nashville sound” of country music, which caused his career to diminish.
• His last performance was March 15, 1996. He suffered a stroke in April and died September 9, 1996 four days before his 85th birthday.
• He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1970, into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971, and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as an “early influential”) in 1997. (Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Hank Williams Sr., and Johnny Cash are the only other performers honored in all three).
The Grand Ole Opry
• The Grand Old Opry began as the WSM Barn Dance in 1925, a radio program.
Its first broadcast was on November 28, 1925 (The Grand Old Opry’s birthday)
• “Judge” Hay joked that the WSM Barn Dance followed a broadcast of classical “grand opera” music, and the name “Grand Ole Opry” was born.
• The Grand Old Opry House was built in 1974 because of the growing popularity and the need to hold huge live audiences.
• The Grand Old Opry House was built adjacent to Opryland USA, and even after Opryland closed in 1997, the Grand Old Opry has continued its rich country music heritage, hosting multiple country music stars and members of the Grand Ole Opry.
Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the Sons of the Pioneers – put the “Western” in Country and Western music, which was written for and brought to the public through the cowboy films of the 30’s and 40’s.
• Roy Rogers was born as Leonard Slye in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1911.
• Began playing mandolin and guitar at local functions during the 1920’s
• First band was “the International Cowboys;” – later, the “Sons of the Pioneers.”
• Began acting, and won a starring role in “Under Western Skies” in 1938
• His horse’s name was Trigger.
• His female partner was Dale Evans (he married her in 1947)
• He starred in over 100 movies and had his own TV show in the mid-1950’s.
• He was a recording artist with RCA-Victor for several years, then recorded for Capitol, Word and 20th Century.
• Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1988
• Estimated to be worth over 100 million dollars at his death.
Orvon Gene Autry
Gene Autry was the most successful of all singing cowboys to break into movies.
• He was born September 29, 1907
• His mother taught him to play guitar.
• After graduation in 1925 became a railroad telegrapher.
• In 1929 he began recording with labels such as Victor, Okey, Columbia, Grey Gull, and Gennett, then regularly on the WLS Barn Dance program for Chicago.
• Starred in several movies, usually with his horse, Champion.
• He was easily the most popular singer of the 1930’s and 40’s with hits like “Yellow Rose of Texas,” “Back in the Saddle Again,” and “You Are My Sunshine.”
• Elected to Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969
• One of his biggest hit is “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer”
"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The Sons of the Pioneers were the foremost vocal and instrumental group in western music, setting the standard for every group that has come since. They were one of the longest surviving country musical vocal groups in existence, going into the seventh decade.
• They were originally called the Pioneer Trio, but a station announcer introduced them as “The Sons of the Pioneers” because they were too young to be pioneers, but maybe sons of pioneers. The name stuck.
• Gene Autry crossed paths with The Sons of the Pioneers when one of their songs, “Tumbleweeds,” was licensed for use as the title of a Gene Autry film.
• A contractual dispute led to the suspension of Gene Autry when he didn’t report for his next movie. Leonard Slye auditioned to replace him, and was then given his new name for his first starring film: Roy Rogers. His new career as an actor was born, but he had to leave the Sons of the Pioneers.
Best known as dancing and drinking music, and loving then losing the one you love
• He was born Hiram King Williams in Georgiana, Alabama, September 17,1923
• He won $15 singing “WPA Blues” at a Montgomery amateur contest, then later formed a band, the Drifting Cowboys.
Alcoholism destroyed him; he became unreliable and was banished from Nashville (even fired from the Grand Ole Opry in August 1952 because of perpetual drunkenness), and abandoned by the love of his life. Only beer joints would hire him.
• He was discovered dead in the back of his chauffeured car on the road early on New Year’s Day 1953 of an apparent heart attack brought on by drinking and drugs.
• He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1961.
LISTENING EXAMPLE: “Hey, Good Lookin’”
• Born Elvis Aaron Presley on January 8, 1935 in Tupelo, Mississippi, one of a set of twins, but his brother was stillborn about 35 minutes before he was born.
• As a child he was very shy. He took guitar lessons and watched people, but decided he would never sing in public.
• In the 6th grade he began bringing in his guitar and singing during lunch, being teased for playing hillbilly music.
• His family moved to Memphis, Tennessee in 1948 when Elvis was 13. He received a C in music in the 8th grade, when his teacher told her he had no aptitude for singing. He brought in his guitar the next day and sang for her, hoping to prove otherwise, knowing that “she just did not appreciate his kind of singing.”
• In high school he grew out his sideburns and styled his hair with rose oil and Vaseline. He competed in a “minstrel” show in 1953, and gained popularity in school when they realized he could sing. By the time he graduated, he knew music would be his future.
• He studied and played by ear—he never took any formal music training or learned to read music.
• On July 5, 1954 he was trying to work up something in a recording session, and just before giving up to go home, he started singing the 1946 blues number, “That’s All Right.” They recorded it and it was an instant hit with listeners, who phoned in trying to find out who he was. Because of his style, it was assumed he was black, and they continually had to clarify his race.
• He began working with Sam Phillips at Sun Records. He popularized “rockabilly,” an up-tempo backbeat-driven fusion of country music and rhythm and blues and was called “The King of Western Bop,” “The Hillbilly Cat,” and “The Memphis Flash” before earning the title of the King of Rock and Roll.
• In 1956 he made his first recordings for RCS in Nashville, recording eight songs, including the rockabilly anthem “Blue Suede Shoes.” The songs were quite varied—two country songs and a pop tune, while the others would define the evolving sound of the new “rock and roll.”
• He became the leading figure of rock and roll after several network television appearances and successful records.
• He starred in several films, served in the military, but returned to the stage in 1968.
• He was successful in many musical genres, including pop, blues, gospel, country, and rock and roll. He is the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, with estimated album sales around 600 million units worldwide.
• He received 3 Grammys, as well as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award at age 36, and has been inducted into multiple music halls of fame, including the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1998. In 1984 he received the Academy of Country Music’s first Golden Hat Award.
• It was not a secret that Elvis had a drug problem, having appeared at several concerts clearly under their influence. Autopsy results said it was a sudden, violent heart attack, but there is little doubt that his drug use contributed significantly to that. He died on August 16, 1977.
LISTENING EXAMPLE: “That’s Alright, Mama”
THE NASHVILLE SOUND
The Nashville Sound was a blend of pop and country music, combining the Big Band, Jazz, and Swing of the ‘30s, ‘40s and early ‘50s with the storytelling of folk and country artists. Three country legends were instrumental in establishing its prominence.
• Jim Reeves was born in 1923 in Galloway, Texas.
• He was a baseball player, and had a minor-league contract with St. Louis Cardinals, but an ankle injury in 1946 ended that career
• He then went to work as a radio announcer and sang occasionally on the program.
• He was asked to perform when Hank Williams failed to arrive for a show in 1952; he signed a contract after that performance with Abbott Records, and joined the Grand Ole Opry.
• He died July 31, 1964 in a plane crash on his way back to Nashville.
• Voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967
LISTENING EXAMPLE: “He’ll Have to Go”
• Patsy Cline was born Virginia Patterson Hensley in Winchester, Virginia on September 8, 1932
• She won an amateur tap-dancing contest at the age of 4
• Began learning piano at 8
• Became a singer a local clubs in her early teens
• An audition in 1948 won her a trip to Nashville to perform at a few clubs.
• She began appearing on the Grand Ole Opry and signed to Four Star Records in 1955.
• She was invited to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1961.
• She died March 5, 1963 in a plane crash in Camden, Tennessee as she was returning home from a Kansas City benefit concert.
• Elected to Country Music Hall of Fame in 1973.
• She was a major influence on singers Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and Patty Loveless.
• She is sometimes called the Queen of Country Music.
• Eddy Arnold was born in Henderson, TN in 1918, he is one of the top-selling country artists of all time
• His father gave him guitar lessons
• Left high school during the early 1930s to help his family run their farm, occasionally playing local barn dances.
• Had a radio debut in Jackson, TN in 1936, and afterward joined Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys as a singer/guitarist, giving him exposure on the Grand Old Opry.
• He signed a contract with RCA Records in 1944.
• He had 92 top ten hits, which is a record among country artists.
• His signature song, “Make the World Go Away,” became an international hit on the country and pop charts.
• He was inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.
LISTENING EXAMPLE: “Make the World Go Away”
The Carter Family
Listening Example: Roy Rogers singing and
yodeling, "It's Home Sweet Home to Me"
Born Dolly Rebecca Parton on January 19, 1946, as one of 12 children to a tobacco farmer, and grew up on a run-down farm in Locust Ridge, TN
At age 12, she was appearing on Knoxville TV show, and at 13, she was recording on a small label and appearing at the Grand Ole Opry.
After graduating High School in Sevier County in 1964, she moved to Nashville.
She married Carl Dean on May 30, 1966.
Porter Wagoner noticed her the next year and put her on his show, The Porter Wagoner Show. She stayed there for 7 years until her fame exceeded Porter’s. She left him and became a solo artist in 1974.
She appeared frequently on TV specials and talk shows, then got her own show, “Dolly” in 1976.
She received her first Grammy in 1977 for Best Female Country Vocal Performance for her song, “Here You Come Again”.
She received an Oscar nomination for writing the title tune in “Nine to Five” in 1980, in which she also acted. She also received Grammies for Best Country Song and Best Female Country Vocal Performance for the same song.
In 1986 she founded Dollywood, a theme park in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
She appeared in 15 movies and TV-movies through the 1990’s and continued to receive more CMA awards.
One of her best-loved songs is “I Will Always Love You,” which has been recorded by many artists, the most well-known being Whitney Houston. It was voted the No. 1 song on CMT’s 100 Greatest Love Songs of Country Music. It has been played on radio and television over six million times, earning a “Six Million-Air Award.”
The song was written when she wanted to leave Porter Wagoner after having worked with him for five years plus an extra 2 years out of respect for him. The song was written to express to him how she felt.
Elvis Presley wanted to record the song as a duet with Dolly, but she turned him down because he wanted 50% of the royalties.
She was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1986. She was inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry on Feb 4, 1969.
She is the godmother of Miley Cyrus.
“I Will Always Love You”
"King of the Cowboys"
The late 1960’s and early 1970’s saw a resurgence of traditional country on Music Row. Artists Charlie Pride and Conway Twitty broke the mold of the Nashville Sound. Other artists, The Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band, David Allan Coe, and The Charlie Daniels Band built their catalogs around more traditional sounds.
• Willie Nelson was born on April 30, 1933 in Abbott, Texas, and raised by his grandparents after his parents separated.
• He was discharged from the Air Force in the early ‘50’s and accepted a job hosting country shows on a Forth Worth station while working at night as a musician in local honky-tonks, and writing on the side.
• He moved to Nashville and was hired as Ray Price’s bass player.
• He wrote “Night Life” (recorded by Ray Price), “Hello Walls” (recorded by Faron Young), and “Crazy” (recorded by Patsy Cline).
• He recorded 18 albums in 3 years and helped the career of Charley Pride.
• He teamed up with Waylon Jennings to top the country singles chart with “Good Hearted Woman” in 1976, leading a new explosion of interest in country music.
• In 1975, his hit “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” broke onto the pop charts, and at the same time, his two biggest hits, “Always On My Mind” and “On the Road Again” were key releases during the Urban Cowboy era.
• He has had several diverse recordings, including a gospel set (The Troublemaker), a tribute to Lefty Frizzell (To Lefty from Willie), and even jazz with guitarist Jackie King (Angel Eyes).
• In 1993 he was elected in to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
“ On the Road Again”
• He was born in Littlefield, Texas on June 15, 1937
• He was influenced heavily by the sound of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry, particularly Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry and Jimmie Rodgers
• He quit high school to pursue music, ending up in Lubbock at a radio station as a popular disc jockey and became friends with Buddy Holly. Jennings became Buddy Holly’s bass player when he put his band together in 1958.
• Chet Atkins was his producer when he achieved success in 1965 at RCA Records.
• In 1979 he achieved a No. 1 single with “Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” recorded with Willie Nelson.
• He fought with cocaine addiction in the early 80’s, while his personal finances came apart, leaving him bankrupt. He kicked the cocaine addiction in the mid-80’s and remained a touring act well into the 90’s, but suffered from bad health.
• He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
• He died Feb 13, 2002 in his sleep from diabetic complications.
“Good Ole Boys”
• Merle Haggard was born April 6, 1937 while the family was living in a converted boxcar in Bakersfield, California after being driven from their farm in dustbowl East Oklahoma.
• When he was nine, his father died (a fiddle player). With his father gone, he got into trouble with the law--petty thefts and frauds, ending up in and out of local prisons.
• In 1957 he was charged with attempted burglary and sentenced to 6 to 15 years in San Quentin.
• While in prison, he heard Johnny Cash perform. When he left jail in 1960, he was determined to be a performer, moving to Bakersfield, a growing country music center.
• He developed an important 50 year friendship with Fuzzy Owen, an Arkansas musician in Bakersfield.
• In 1962, Fuzzy organized some recording sessions. The next year, Haggard made his debut on the country charts. 1965 was a big year with his first Top 10 hit, then more songs hitting the top of the charts, including “I’m a Lonesome Fugitive,” his first No. 1 single.
• His two most famous songs were “Okie from Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me.
“Okie” was written as a joke because of a comment one of his band members made about the habits of Oklahoma natives as they rolled through Muskogee.
• On March 14, 1972, Ronald Reagan gave him a full pardon for his past crimes. This happened right after he achieved another No. 1 country hit with “Carolyn.”
• He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1977 and his success continued through the early ‘80’s.
• Haggard was opening shows for Clint Black by 1991 and several artists worked with him on “Mama’s Hungry Eyes,” a 1994 tribute album to Haggard and his music (Diamond Rio, Lee Roy Parnell and others).
• He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1994.
• He owns 40 No. 1 singles, which is the third-most singles of all time.
“Okie From Muskogee”
John Travolta’s movie, “Urban Cowboy” popularized country music’s move toward pop culture, as well as Dolly Parton’s movie, “9 to 5” and the popularity of the title song. The biggest hits of this time were crossover tunes, including Oak Ridge Boys, “Elvira” and Juice Newton’s “Queen of Hearts.”
• One of country biggest crossover stars was John Conlee, known for having a sad voice.
• He was born and raised on a Kentucky tobacco farm, and was a mortician after high school, but then became a disc jockey at a Fort Knox station.
• He moved to Nashville in 1971, establishing important music contacts and got a contract with ABC records, later bought by MCA, for whom Conlee recorded more than a dozen Top 10 hits.
• His fourth single, “Rose Colored Glasses,” made the country Top 5 in May 1978.
• He signed with Columbia Records in 1986 and got several more Top 10 hits, then moved again to 16th Avenue Records.
• He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1979, the first new member in 5 years.
“Rose Colored Glasses”
• Alabama is one of the most successful country acts of all time. They formed in 1969 at Fort Payne, Alabama
• They signed to GRT (General Recorded Tape) Records in early 1977, and their first hit on the country charts was “I Want to Be With You,” then signed with RCA Records in the early 1980’s.
• They had 21 consecutive No. 1 singles from 1981-1987, which is a record, and the band owns 32 chart-toppers in all. All 16 of their major-label studio albums have reached gold* or platinum* status.
• They won Entertainer of the Year from the CMA from 1982-1984 and from the ACM 1982-1985, earning them a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
• She was born Reba Nell McEntire on March 28, 1955 in McAlester, Oklahoma, named for her maternal grandmother.
• Her father was a World Champion Steer Roper three times. Her mother once wanted to be a country-music artist, but decided to become a schoolteacher instead.
• She taught herself how to play guitar.
• She and her brother Pake and her sister Susie formed a group called the “Singing McEntires.” Reba played guitar and wrote all the songs.
• She attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University, planning to be an elementary teacher (graduated in 1976). While there, she was discovered while singing the national anthem at the 1974 National Rodeo by Red Steagall who brought her to Nashville where she signed a contract with Mercury Records in 1975.
• She released her first solo album in 1977, followed by several more. However, it wasn’t until after signing with MCA Nashville Records, when she took over creative control for her second album with them, that she got two number one singles, “How Blue,” and “Somebody Should Leave” and received the Country Music Association Awards’ Female Vocalist of the Year.
• She became a member of the Grand Ole Opry on January 17, 1986, and won Entertainer of the Year from the Country Music Association that year.
• While on tour for her 1990 album, eight members of her band were killed when their charter jet plane crashed near San Diego, California. Her next album was dedicated to them.
• By 2009, McEntire became the female artist with the most nominations (48) in the 43-year history of the CMA Awards, surpassing Dolly Parton, who has 43.
• She is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 80 million records worldwide. She has released 26 studio albums, had 40 number one singles, 14 number one albums, and 28 albums have been certified gold, platinum or multi-platinum in sales. She has 22 No. 1 singles
• She is sometimes referred to as “The Queen of Country.”
• She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on May 22, 2011.
• He was born Troyal Garth Brooks in Tulsa, Oklahoma on February 7, 1962.
• Raised in Yukon (about 100 miles from Tulsa)
• His father, Ray, was a draughtman for an oil company. His mother, Colleen Carroll, was a country singer in the 1950’s (regularly appeared on Red Foley’s Ozark Jubilee radio and TV shows. She had retired by the time Garth was born.
• His home was filled with country, pop and rock music.
• He received a track scholarship for javelin to Oklahoma State University and graduated with a marketing degree. He had been performing in bars and honky-tonks for several months for 6 nights a week.
• His sister, Betsy Smittle, was Ronnie Dunn’s bass player in the house band at Duke’s night club in Tulsa. After seeing Garth perform one night, she commented that he had written some great songs. So in the summer of 1985 he moved to Nashville for a career in country music, returning home four days later because of rejection.
• However, he successfully signed a writer’s contract in November 1987, then hired Bob Doyle as his manager. Doyle paid a $32.50 entry fee to a Bluebird Café performance, which earned Garth his first record deal. He signed to Capitol Nashville and released his first album in April 1989.
• In terms of worldwide following, albums sold, and accolades achieved, Garth Brooks is the most popular country music artist of all time. He has had over 36 Top 10 hits, and 20 of them were No. 1 hits, as well as six Diamond certified albums to his credit* .
“Friends in Low Places”
Recording Industry of America Awards (RIAA)
GOLD established in 1958 –
Single - 500,000 copies sold;
Album - 500,000 copies sold with $1 million in sales at the manufacturer’s wholesale price;
Multi-Disc Set - 500,000 units sold with $2 million in net sales
Platinum – established in 1976
Single – 2 million copies sold
Album - 1 million copies sold with $2 million in sales at the manufacturer’s wholesale price
Multi-disc set – 1 million units with $4 million in sales at the manufacturer’s wholesale price
Multi-platinum – established in 1984
Single – more than 2 million copies sold
Album – more than 2 million copies sold
Multi-disc set – more than 1 million units sold at a value of $6 million
Diamond – established in 1999
U.S. sales of more than 10 million units for a single title
Download Awards – established in 2004
Digital Gold - 100,000 downloads
Digital Platinum – 200,000 downloads
Digital Multi-Platinum – 400,000 downloads then in increments of 200,000
Please know that there are MANY more country artists who have made their mark in the world of country music throughout this unit and in the years after this unit ends. It would be impossible to cover every artist and their impact, but these artist should give a good picture of how country music has evolved over the past 100 years.
• Ellen Muriel Deason was born August 30, 1919 in Nashville, Tennessee, later changed to Kitty Wells, a name chosen by her husband (whom she married at age 18) after hearing a song called “Sweet Kitty Wells.”
• She learned to play the guitar from her father, and as a teenager, she sang with her sisters, the Deason Sisters, on a radio station.
• For a while, Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys toured with Wright and Wells. Acuff advised Wright not to use Kitty as a headliner for his show, thinking that women could not sell country music records.
• Kitty signed with RCA Victor in 1949 and released a couple of singles which never made the charts. She dropped from the label in 1950 because her promoters weren’t sold on the idea of promoting female singers.
• She was going to retire and stay at home with her children when, in 1952, Paul Cohen from Decca Records asked Kitty to record “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” She agreed. The song was controversial at the time and was banned by many radio stations and even the Grand Ole Opry temporarily. However, audiences loved it. The single took off during the summer of 1952 and sold more than 800,000 copies in its initial release. It was the first single by a female country singer to peak at No. 1 (after the creation of Billboard’s country chart in 1944), and it remained there for six weeks. Because of this success, Wells received a membership to the Grand Old Opry in 1976.
• After Wells’ success, record companies began to issue albums by country female artists, as she proved that they could sell records. She became the first female country singer to issue an LP, the first of which was Country Hit Parade in 1956.
• In 1991, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy Awards. She was ranked No. 15 on CMT’s 40 Greatest Women of Country Music in 2002.
• Kitty Wells died July 16, 2012 from complications of a stroke at the age of 92.
• Wells’ accomplishments and her role of paving the way for other female country music artists earned her the title, “Queen of Country Music”
• He was born J.R. Cash on February 26, 1932 in Kingsland, Arkansas. When he enlisted in the Air Force, he began using John R. Cash (they wouldn’t let him use just initials). When he signed with Sun Records, he assumed the stage name, Johnny Cash.
• He worked in cotton fields as a child. His family’s struggles during The Great Depression inspired many of his songs. His older brother, Jack, was killed in a mill accident when he was 15.
• He was taught to play guitar by his mother and a friend. By the age of 12, he was writing songs.
• On December 4, 1956, Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash starting jamming in the recording studio. The recording equipment was running, and those songs (mostly gospel) have since been released under the title Million Dollar Quartet. This was turned into a musical, debuting on Broadway on April 11, 2010, and was nominated for three awards at the 2010 Tony Awards, winning one.
• In 1957, Cash became the first Sun Record artist to release a long-playing (LP) album, although he left them because of low royalty payments. He signed with Columbia Records where his single, “Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” became one of his biggest hits.
• He married Vivian Liberto after being discharged from the Air Force in 1954. They had four daughters. In the late 1950’s, Cash started drinking heavily and became addicted to drugs. His drug and alcohol abuse, constant touring, affairs, and close relationship with June Carter caused her to file for divorce in 1966. At his lowest, he tried to lose himself and “just die,” passing out on the floor. But at that time, he reports feeling God’s presence in his heart and was able to recover and conquer his addition, although he had several more episodes of drug addition, followed by treatment and rehabilitation throughout his life.
• In 1968, he proposed to June Carter (of The Carter Family). They had one son and continued to work and tour together for 35 years until June died.
• By the early 1970’s, Cash had created his public image as “The Man in Black.” He wore black on behalf of the less fortunate, specifically, the old (neglected), the poor (still poor) and the young dying before their time.
• In 1980, Cash was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame as the youngest living inductee.
• He died September 12, 2003 from complications from diabetes—less than four months after his wife died.
• He recorded songs in many categories, including gospel, folk, blues, rockabilly, and rock and roll, but he was primarily a country music artist. He wrote over 1,000 songs and released dozens of albums. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, and in 2004, Rolling Stone ranked Cash No. 31 on their “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list. He is honored in three major music halls of fame: the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1977), the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992).
Listening Example - this is Johnny's first Number One hit in 1956.
Listening Example: "Blue Moon
Over Kentucky" (original recording)
Listening Example: "Blue Moon
Over Kentucky" (later version)