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A History of Country Vol. 6: Before Rock & Roll – 1950-51

January 12th, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

After a hiatus of a few months we return to the history of country music. In the last narrative instalment (Volume 4) we noted the rise of female country singers; some of them will feature in this mix, which covers the years 1950-51, and its follow-up, 1952-53. In the course of the 1950s we will also review country’s contribution to rock & roll, and discuss some of the artists featured. What follows then is a brief overview of country music in the 1950s.

Country had always been a diverse genre. New forms emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Bluegrass took country back to its rural roots, with a sound based primarily on the interplay of string instruments “” banjo, guitar, fiddle, mandolin. The pioneer of bluegrass was Bill Monroe, a big fellow with a small mandolin, who in 1939 had formed a band called the Blue Grass Boys. The line-up kept changing, with the most consequential incarnation, in 1946/47, including the hitherto unknown Lester Flatt and Earl Sruggs, who soon would form their own band, have a massive hit with the instrumental Foggy Mountain Breakdown (revived later as a theme for the film Bonnie And Clyde), and enjoy long careers together and separately. Bluegrass has never become mainstream. Various revivals and dedicated musicianship have kept the sub-genre alive; it is possibly more popular now than it ever was, thanks to the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack  and the efforts of singers such as Ralph Stanley, Doc Watson, Ricky Skaggs, Del McCoury, Alison Krauss and Dolly Parton.

Rockabilly borrowed from western swing, boogie woogie and the new genre of black music, rhythm & blues. It had in fact been around for a while: the record commonly identified as the first ever rockabilly record was Buddy Jones” Rockin’ Rollin’ Mama in 1939, with its boogie woogie piano solo and guitar work that anticipates the sound of the 1950s. The evolution of rockabilly is key to the birth of rock & roll as much as R&B. The slap bass style of playing which was so integral to early rock & roll was a common western swing and rockabilly technique (Bob Wills argued that he had been playing rock & roll since 1928). Western swing artist Bill Haley turned into a rock & roll pioneer via rockabilly. Carl Perkins was first and foremost a rockabilly musician. Elvis Presley was initially regarded as a rockabilly singer who also did R&B “” and, as mentioned before, he was a regular on the Louisiana Hayride, having made one appearance at the Opry (supporting Hank Snow).

Other acts initially rooted in country would become rock & roll legends, such as the Everly Brothers  (who were so well served by Nashville songwriters Felice and Boudleaux Bryant), Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. And the folk scene that had begun growing from New York City in the late 1940s (and would reach its zenith with the rise of Bob Dylan in the 1960s) had its roots in country. Woody Guthrie was initially regarded as a country artist (before the term was in wide use, the label “folk” was often employed to describe the genre).

The 1950s also saw a revival of cowboy music, with Marty Robbins enjoying some big success with his Gunfighter Ballads And Trail Songs and its pop #1 El Paso.

Finally, the 1950s launched the biggest, most important star in country: Johnny Cash. Cash”s influence on almost all areas of country cannot be underestimated. And it was Cash who pioneered a new trend in country: the outlaw movement.

1. Eddie Kirk – Sugar Baby
2. Moon Mullican – I’ll Sail My Ship Alone
3. Cotton Thompson – How Long
4. Red Foley – Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy
5. Tennessee Ernie Ford – Mr And Mississippi
6. Tex Williams – Wild Card
7. Ole Rasmussen – Sleepy Eyed John
8. Bill Monroe – Alabama Waltz
9. Jesse James – Rag Mop
10. Ted Daffan”s Texans – I”ve Got Five Dollars And It”s Saturday Night
11. Bill Strength – Black Coffee Blues
12. Lefty Frizzell – I Love You In A Thousand Ways
13. Leon Chappel – True Blue Papa
14. Stuart Hamblin – Remember Me, I’m The One Who Loves You
15. Tex Ritter – High Noon
16. Wilf Carter (Montana Slim) – Apple, Cherry, Mince And Choc’late Cream
17. Bill Haley – Rose Of My Heart
18. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys – Brown Skin Gal
19. Carl Smith – Mr Moon
20. Hank Williams – Baby, We’re Really In Love
21. Lefty Frizzell – I Want To Be With You Always
22. Johnny Bond – Sick, Sober And Sorry
23. Flatt & Scruggs – Don’t Get Above Your Raisin’
24. Carolina Cotton with Bob Wills – You Always Keep Me In Hot Water
25. Pee Wee King’s Golden Cowboys – Slow Poke
26. Hank Snow & Anita Carter – Bluebird Island
27. Gene Autry – Peter Cottontail
28. Spade Cooley – Indian Summer
29. Cliffie Stone – Jump Rope Boogie
30. Tennessee Ernie Ford – Rock City Boogie

(includes front and back covers. PW here)

GET IT:L https://rapidgator.net/file/4661628d9ef0ea7672a895291b587d8f/Cntry50-51.rar.html


Previously in A History of Country
More CD-mixes


  1. paul
    January 12th, 2011 at 11:18 | #1

    brilliant,this series is fantastic,thanks a lot

  2. Brian
    January 12th, 2011 at 12:49 | #2

    Thanks for this …… I’ve been waiting since that last instalment! This really is the very best examination of country music around (aside of the differently configured Folkways Anthology of Folk Music) and deserves much wider circulation. And I love the artwork too!

  3. Don B
    January 13th, 2011 at 03:37 | #3

    Agreed. A terrific compilation with professional artwork. My knowledge of Country is sketchy but i can see that we’ve had a good mix of icons and also-rans. I’m learning a lot and look forward to each installment. I’m curious to see how far the series will take us.

  4. graham
    January 13th, 2011 at 21:53 | #4

    Apologies for not praising earlier. Rude. This series has been and is still, bloody AWESOME-

    Thank you so much – you really know your Country and its many offshoots and country cousins

    Bless you
    Graham C

  5. January 16th, 2011 at 08:23 | #5

    Great compilation. Here’s a possible print companion:


    Maybe some of your readers are unfamiliar with Tosches, and maybe this will be to their liking…

    Your blog is terrific.

  6. January 17th, 2011 at 09:20 | #6

    I have to join the chorus: Amazing stuff. Thanks.

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