The Early Recordings
Country Music has been played throughout the southern part of the United States for over three hundred years now. However, it was not always as popular as it is today (where it is one of the most popular music genres in the United States). In fact, up until the 1920s very few people outside of the Appalachian area had even heard of this music style. This all changed pretty quickly though.
It was the booming industry in Atlanta which kicked started country music history in recordings. During the early days of Atlanta many people who lived in the Appalachian area started to work in the cotton mills. Just like their ancestors had done all of those years ago, they took their instruments on their travels. This means that country music started to hit Atlanta.
In the 1920s the recorded music industry was just getting started. It was particularly popular in Atlanta. In fact, Atlanta was the hub for a lot of recorded music for over twenty years. The recordings sadly started to die down in the 1950s.
Anyway, during the 1920s everybody was looking to make money with commercial music. However, nobody thought that country music would sell. Many people, including Fiddlin’ John Carson tried to get their music recorded. They were turned down by record company after record company. This was until somebody discovered that country music was actually marketable. In fact, these marketing geniuses believed that it would resonate particularly well amongst those that worked in agriculture. What a brain wave this was. It was this very idea that kicked off country music history as we know it today.
Around this time, country music was a blend of styles. It really had no definition. People just played it how they wanted. One of the first recordings launched which was regarded as country came from Henry Gilliland and A.C. Robertson. They released ‘Turkey in the Straw’ and ‘Arkansas Traveller’. Both of these musicians were fiddlers. This is a far cry from the country music that we know nowadays which tends to be dominated by guitar players.
It was the high sales of these records which really got the country music ball rolling. Fiddlin’ John Carson, previously turned down by all of those record labels was signed by Okeh Records. He released his much beloved song ‘Little Log Cabin in the Lane’ in 1923. Vernon Dalhart was the first country singer to take the country by storm though. His hit, Wreck of the Old 97, released in 1927, was absolutely fantastic. It really pushed the commercial value of country music.
Nobody had such an impact in the 1920s as the Carter Family though. Their music style was unique. Over the course of 17 years they went on to released 300 different songs. Many of which people sing to this very day. In fact, the music that the Carter Family released was meant to showcase this history of Southern America. As you can probably guess, they sold millions of records.
This is just a very brief introduction to country music history in 1920s. As you know, the style evolved from there. What we know as country though originated in these recordings. It was distinctly different to the music from three hundred years ago (although built on the same principles). It really would be interesting to see where country music takes us from here on out.