Country Music: Overview
Country music has played a large role in the culture of Georgia, as it has in all southern states, and Georgians have played major roles in the history of country music.
A Brief History
The event often referred to as the birth of country music took place in 1927 in Bristol, Tennessee, when the
The repeal of prohibition in 1933 facilitated the growth of the honky-tonk era, which brought a more raucous musical style and lyrical content into country music. Honky-tonks were dance halls where lively music accompanied dancing and drinking. The popularity of honky-tonk musician Hank Williams (an Alabama native) was a turning point, bringing the honky-tonk ethos not only into mainstream country music in the 1950s, but into pop music as well.
During the 1960s and 1970s,
The 1980s saw a return to traditionalism led by artists like Texan George Strait and followed by North Carolinian
During the 1990s country music again experienced a boom in popularity. In fact, country gained the largest radio market share with the best-educated and highest-income audience of any radio format. The musician at the front of this market surge was Oklahoman Garth Brooks. Brooks's musical style is influenced by George Strait's country traditionalism as well as by rock music bands like Kiss and Boston and folk-rock acts like Don McLean and Dan Fogelberg.
Georgians in Country Music
Other notable country music personalities have had significant Georgia connections. The songwriting team of Boudleaux Bryant, from Moultrie, and his wife, Felice, wrote many hits during the mid-twentieth century, including the bluegrass standard "Rocky Top" and all of the Everly Brothers' major hits. Wally Fowler, from Adairsville, was a singer, songwriter, and promoter who founded a gospel group, the Oak Ridge Quartet (later the Oak Ridge Boys), and also helped to launch the careers of Patsy Cline and Hank Williams. He was also largely responsible for a mid-century gospel phenomenon called "All Night Gospel Sings," which took place around the South.
Hank Penny, though not from Georgia, performed on WSB radio's daily "Cross Roads Follies" from 1936 to 1940 and is credited with influencing the development of western swing music. Jack Greene, a 1960s-era country star, began his career by playing in Atlanta. Ray Stevens (born Harold Ray Ragsdale in Clarksdale in 1939) is known for his comedic novelty songs. Guitar wizard and successful songwriter Jerry Reed escaped the poverty of an Atlanta cotton mill village to become a major star in country music and beyond.
Ronnie Milsap graduated from Young Harris College and got his career start in Atlanta. Singer Vern Gosdin grew up in Hampton. Terri Gibbs, popular in the early 1980s, is from Grovetown. Louisianan Eddy Raven spent much of his childhood and teenage years, and first performed publicly, in the tobacco country near Metter.
Noted bluegrass instrumentalist Norman Blake of Rising Fawn has played guitar, dobro, fiddle, and mandolin on many country recordings and is best known for his guitar work on Bob Dylan's "Nashville Skyline Rag" and the Joan Baez version of "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down." The Forester Sisters of Lookout Mountain had many hits during the late 1980s and early 1990s, including the country-feminist standard "Men." Crooner Doug Stone, like Alan Jackson, hails from Newnan. The popular group Confederate Railroad got their start in Marietta and Atlanta. T. Graham Brown, from Arabi in south Georgia, had several hits in the late 1980s and revived his career in 1998 with "Wine into Water."
Patrick Carr, ed., The Illustrated History of Country Music (New York: Times Books, 1995).
Wayne W. Daniel, Pickin' On Peachtree: A History of Country Music in Atlanta, Georgia (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1990).
David Fillingim, Redneck Liberation: Country Music as Theology (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 2003).
Barry McCloud, et al., Definitive Country: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Country Music and Its Performers (New York: Berkley, 1995).
Zell Miller, They Heard Georgia Singing (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1996).
David Fillingim, Shorter College
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