- CONTAINS DEFINITION OF -
- Blues Music -
- Cajun Music -
- Country Music -
- Gospel Music (Black) -
- Gospel Music (White) -
- Honky-Tonk Music -
- Jazz Music -
- Rock And Roll Music -
- Spirituals -
- Zydeco Music -
- In the 1890s several new musical forms arose in the black communities of the southern
and border states. Among the most important of these forms were ragtime, jazz, and blues.
that created this new music had been born in the years immediately following the Civil war, the first
generation of blacks that did not directly experience slavery.
As this generation reached maturity in the
1890s, there arose within it a restlessness to try out new ideas and new courses of action.
''Good morning, Mister Blues,
I ain't doin' nothin' an' I would like to get a job with you''
social, and political institutions were created to provide a network of mutual support within the black
community in the face of a hardening of discriminatory patterns of race relations and Jim Crow
Pentecostal denominations with a more emotional style of worship arose to meet the spiritual
needs of many who were trying to improve their lot in life and cope with problems of urban migration,
industrialism, and unemployment.
These social changes were reflected in new developments in the arts at all levels – formal, popular, and
folk – and in none of the arts was the ferment as intense as in music. In border states like Missouri, Kansas,
and Kentucky, where blacks had greater opportunities to obtain formal training in music and were exposed
to a variety of popular and even classical music forms, they created ragtime. At this same time the first
stirrings of jazz were heard in southern cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, particularly in New
Orleans. Blues, on the other hand, was created in the rural areas and small towns of the Deep South,
particularly in the areas of large plantations, such as the Mississippi Delta, and in industries that required
heavy manual labor, such as mining, logging, levee and railroad construction, and freight loading. Those who
sought work as sharecroppers and harvesters on the plantations and in the other industries were hoping to
escape the drudgery and hopelessness of life on tiny plots of worn-out farmland and earn some cash for their
labor. With little education or property, and no political power in a completely segregated society, they often
encountered intolerable working conditions and moved frequently from one plantation or job to another.
Out of this dissatisfaction arose the blues, a music that reflected not only the social isolation and lack
of formal training of its creators but also their ability to make do with the most basic of resources and to
survive under the most adverse, oppressive circumstances. Blues drew from Western formal music in only
the most superficial ways and instead was comprised almost entirely or resources and elements taken from
the existing black folk music tradition. Unlike ragtime and jazz, blues has never been fully accepted
by mainstream America as a distinct major musical form. Instead it has tended to reviewed as a rather
simple and limited, though at times charming and powerfully expressive, type of music, suitable mainly as
raw material for jazz, rock and roll, or some other more complex popular music. In the history of these
other types of music, blues is viewed as one of the ''roots''.
Blues introduced a number of new elements into American musical consciousness. The most novel in
its initial impact, and now one of the most pervasive elements in American popular music, is the ''blue
note''. Blue notes generally occur at the third and seventh degrees of the scale, though sometimes at other
points as well, and can be either flatted notes, neutral pitches, waverings, or sliding tones occurring in the
range between the major and minor of these points on the scale. Another primary musical characteristics is
the role of the accompanying instrument as a second voice. The musical accompaniment in blues is not
simply a rhythmic and harmonic background to the singing. It constantly interacts with, punctuates, and
answers the vocal line. Finally, the blues introduced a new realism combined with greater individualism into
American popular song. During the 1890s most popular songs were either humorous, sentimental, or
tragic, dramatizing unusual or exotic situations. The ''coon songs'' that depicted black life generally portrayed
either nostalgic scenes of the old plantation, romantic love, or absurd humor. Blues, on the other hand, dealt
with everyday life and met its subjects head-on in an open-ended celebration of life's ups and downs.
Although blues focused on relationships between men and women, it did not avoid commenting on such subjects as working conditions, migration, current events, natural disasters, sickness and death, crime and punishment, alcohol and drugs, sorcery, and racial discrimination. As a secular music, blues generally avoided making religious statements, although it could ridicule preachers and discuss the temptations and powers of the devil, and as a highly individualistic statement it seldom mentioned family and organized community life other than the immediate context of the dance or party where the music was performed.
Blues developed an extraordinary compactness of form and startling poetic imagery in order to make its
points on such a broad range of subjects.
The basic vocal material for early folk blues came from hollers that were sung by workers in the fields and
in other occupations requiring manual labor. Hollers were sung solo in freely embellished descending
lines employing blue notes and a great variety of vocal timbres. The words tended to be traditional
commonplace phrases on the man-woman relationship or the work situation, with successive lines linked to
one another through loose the-masc associations and contrasts. Hollers appeared to be a direct reflection of
the singer's state of mind and feelings poured out in a stream of consciousness. This type of singing had
existed long before the 1890s. It was noted by observers during the slavery period and has clear parallels
in some singing traditions in Africa and other Afro-American cultures, but it was in the American South that
these free, almost formless, vocal expressions were set to instrumental accompaniment and given a musical
structure, an expanded range of subject matter, and a new social context.
The accompaniment was most often played on instruments that had been rarely used in older forms of
black folk music-the piano, the harmonica, and especially the guitar. For the guitar unorthodox tunings were
often used to obtain drone effects. The technique of bending strings helped to achieve blue notes, and
sometimes the player would slide a knife, bottleneck, or other hard object along the strings to produce a
whining tone, a technique adapted from African stringed instruments. At times the performer established a
simple rhythmic pattern behind the singing and then answered the vocal lines with short repeated
melodic/rhythmic figures on the guitar. Blues of this sort is basically instrumentally accompanied hollers,
and they allow much of the vocal freedom of the older type of song to be preserved. A few rural blues singers
still compose and perform blues in this manner. Other performers, however, saw the need for greater
structure in their blues and began to fit the vocal lines taken from hollers to existing harmonic patterns.
Usually these patterns accommodated stanzas of 8, 12, or 16 measures, but the blues singers left space at
the ends of their lines for the instrument to answer the vocal.
The pattern that proved to be predominant by the early 20th century contained three lines of four
measures each. The second line repeated the first, and the third line was different but rhymed with the first
two. The lines began, respectively, with harmonies in the tonic, subdominant, and dominant chords but
always resolved to the tonic. This now-familiar 12-bar AAB pattern derived from 3-line patterns found in
such folk ragtime tunes as ''Bully Of The Town'' and blues ballads like ''Stagolee'' and ''Boll Weevil''. Blues
singers slowed the tempos of these tunes and left room at the ends of the lines for their instrumental
As the blues spread in the early 20th century, local and regional performance traditions developed in
different parts of the South. At the local level, performers would share a repertoire of traditional verses and
melodic and instrumental phrases, recombining these endlessly and often adding further musical and lyrical
elements of their own creation to form blues that sounded original yet familiar at the same time. Within
broader geographic regions the performers generally shared an overall musical stylistic approach and
sometimes variants of certain songs in their repertoire. For instance, in the Mississippi Valley and adjacent
areas the folk blues was the most intense rhythmically and emotionally, more modal and less harmonic in
conception, often structured upon short repeated melodic/rhythmic phrases, and tending to extract the
maximum expression from each note. Variants of tunes like ''Catfish Blues'' and ''Rolling And Tumblin'' are
familiar to many blues singers throughout this region.
In Texas the guitarists often set up a constant thumping rhythm in the bass, while treble figures were
played in a rather free rhythmic style in response to vocal lines that tended more to float over the constant
bass rhythm. From Texas guitarists like Aaron''T-Bone'' Walker came the contemporary style of lead
guitar playing, in which the guitar lines often seem to float over a steady rhythm supplied by the other
instruments in the band. In Virginia and the Carolinas, as well as some parts of Georgia and Florida, another
style developed featuring lighter, bouncier rhythms, virtuoso playing, a harmonic rather than modal
conception, and a pervasive influence of ragtime music on the blues. In whatever region the early folk blues
was performed, the contexts were usually the same. Generally this music was played at house parties,
roadhouses called juke joints, outdoor picnics for dancing, and for tips from onlookers on sidewalks,
railroad stations, store porches, and wherever else a crowd might gather.
In the first decade of the 20th century professional singers in traveling shows began to incorporate blues
into their stage repertoires as they worked in the towns and cities of the southern states. W.C. Handy, at that
time the leader of a band sponsored by a black fraternal organization in Clarksdale, Mississippi,
encountered folk blues and was so impressed by the music's appeal to both black and white audiences that
he began to arrange these tunes for his own group of trained musicians. His success led him to Memphis,
and there he published his first blues in sheet music form in 1912. Other blues was published that same
year, and soon s flood of new blues compositions appeared from southern songwriters, both black and
white, drawing on the resources of folk blues. The songwriters considered folk blues raw material to be
extensively reworked and exploited.
At first the general public perceived blues as a novel type of ragtime tune with the unusual features of
blue notes and three-line stanzas. The professional singers were generally women accompanied by a pianist
or a small jazz combo. They performed in both the North and South in urban cabarets and vaudeville
theaters and sometimes in traveling shows that visited small southern towns. This professionalized type of
blues first appeared on phonograph records by black singers like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Clara Smith,
and Ida Cox, beginning in 1920. By 1926 the record companies began to record folk blues artists, mostly
male singers playing their own guitar accompaniments, like Blind Lemon Jefferson from Texas, Charley
Patton and Tommy Johnson from Mississippi, and Peg Leg Howell and Blind Willie McTell from Georgia.
By the end of the 1920s the companies were also recording many boogie-woogie and barrelhouse pianists
such as Pinetop Smith and Roosevelt Sykes.
String bands, brass bands, and vocal quartets had incorporated blues into their repertoires by the first
decade of the 20th century, but by the late 1920s there had arisen new types of ensembles created mainly to
perform blues. Perhaps the closest to folk blues were the jug bands, which generally consisted of a guitar
and harmonica supplemented by other novelty or homemade instruments such as a jug, kazoo, washboard,
or one-stringed bass. Jug bands were recorded in Louisville, Cincinnati, Memphis, Birmingham, and
Dallas, and similar kinds of ''skiffle'' bands existed in many other cities and town in the South and North.
The combination of a full chorded rhythmic piano and guitar playing melodic lead lines also became
popular at this time. The chief exponents of this style of blues were pianist Leroy Carr and guitarist
Francis ''Scrapper'' Blackwell, who were based in Indianapolis. Pianist Georgia Tom (Thomas A. Dorsey)
and guitarist Tampa Red (Hudson Whitaker) also made many popular recordings at this time, often
performing ''hokum'' blues that contained humorous verses and double entendre refrains. Various
combinations of stringed instruments as well as jug bands also performed hokum blues. By the mid-1930s
blues bands not uncommonly consisted of a string section made up of blues musicians and a horn-and-rhythm
section made up of artists with a jazz background. One of the most popular of such groups, the
Harlem Hamfats, featured trumpet, clarinet, piano, guitar, second guitar or mandolin, string bass, and
The continuing influence of jazz and the rise to prominence of the electric guitar served to reshape the
sound of the blues in the years following World War II. Small ''jump'' bands of jazz-influenced musicians
became popular in the late 1940s and 1950s, often performing a mixture of blues and sentimental popular
songs. Folk blues guitarists in the rural South converted to the new electric guitar, and a new type of blues
combo appeared consisting usually of one or two electric guitars, bass, piano or electric organ, drums,
and sometimes an amplified harmonica. This type of blues reached its peak of development in Chicago in
the 1950s with the bands of artists such as Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield) and Howlin' Wolf
(Chester Burnett), both originally from Mississippi.
A synthesis of the hard down-home style of blues and the sophisticated jump blues was achieved by
Aaron ''T-Bone'' Walker from Texas and B.B. King, a Mississippian who had moved to Memphis. Both men
had strong roots in the folk blues tradition and had learned to play electric lead guitar fronting a large band
of trained musicians. Their vocals were delivered in an impassioned shouting style showing the influence
of gospel singing. This type of blues, developed by Walker in the 1940s and brought to its peak of
development by King in the 1950s, remains the most popular blues style.
While blues has had a history of its own, it has also had a profound influence upon other types of
popular music in the 20th century. When popular blues began to be published in 1912 and performed by
trained musicians, it was perceived as a new type of ragtime tune with a novel three-line verse form and the
exotic element of blue notes. The use of blue notes not only helped to loosen up the formalism of ragtime
but also soon paved the way for improvisatory jazz performance. The bulk of the repertoire of the early jazz
bands consisted of blues tunes and ragtime tunes incorporating blue notes. The blues form has continued to
be a staple for jazz compositions, and whenever jazz has seemed to become overly sophisticated, one
usually hears calls for a return to the blues.
In the years before World War 1, southern Anglo-American folk musicians began performing blues
learned from black musicians. By the 1920s ''hillbilly'' artists from all parts of the South were recording the
blues. Beginning in 1927 the Mississippi singer and guitarist Jimmie Rodgers popularized a distinct type of
blues by combining folk blues learned from black artists with a yodeling refrain derived from both black
field hollers and German/Swiss yodeling that had been popularized on the vaudeville stage. Over the years
blues has given to varieties of country music, such as western swing and honky-tonk, not only the blues
form but the qualities of improvisation and greater realism as well.
In the 1950s blues-influenced country music combined with black rhythm and blues to produce a new
form of music that came to be known as rockabilly and rock and roll. The blues form and blues
instrumental techniques were very prominent in most rock-and-roll styles through the 1960s and have
continued to be important factors in this music's development up to the present. Blues gave rock and roll
not only an important verse form but also its basic instrumentation and instrumental technique as well as a
frankness in dealing with themes of love and sex that proved attractive to an adolescent audience.
Finally, blues could even be said to have influenced gospel music. Thomas A. Dorsey, generally
considered the ''father of gospel music'', was a former blues pianist and songwriter. By the early 1930s he
was composing gospel songs using blue notes and showing a greater individualism and worldliness in the
themes. While gospel has seldom utilized the blues verse form, it has shown blues influence through its use
of blues tonality and emphasis on the individual.
Most Americans today are probably more familiar with blues-influenced music than they are with
blues itself. Nevertheless, blues is still a thriving form of music, existing in a variety of styles. In the South
there are still excellent solo performers of folk blues, while small combos featuring electric lead guitar
perform regularly in black communities in the region as well as in northern and West Coast cities. Blues can
be heard today in forms close to the earliest folk blues, showing that it is still in touch with its roots, and
within modern jazz and rock and roll, showing the enormous impact it has had over the last century.
– Cajun music blends elements of American Indian, Scotch-Irish, Spanish, German, Anglo-
American, and Afro-Caribbean musics with a rich stock of western French folk traditions. The music traces
back to the Acadians, the French colonists who began settling at Port Royal, Acadia, in 1604. The Acadians
were eventually deported from their homeland in 1755 by local British authorities after years of political and
In 1765, after 10 years of wandering, many Acadians began to arrive in Louisiana,
determined to re-create their society. Within a generation these exiles had so firmly re-established themselves
as a people that they became the dominant culture in south Louisiana, absorbing other ethnic groups around
Most of the French Creoles (descendants of earlier French settlers), Spanish, Germans, and Anglo-
Americans in the region eventually adopted the traditions and language of this new society, thus creating the
south Louisiana mainstream. The Acadians, in turn, borrowed many traits from these other cultures, and this
cross-cultural exchange produced a new Louisiana-based community – the Cajuns.
The Acadians' contact with these various cultures contributed to the development of new musical styles and
repertoire. From Indians, they learned wailing styles and new dance rhythms, from blacks, they learned the
blues, percussion techniques, and improvisational singing; from Anglo-Americans, they learned new fiddle
tunes to accompany Virginia reels, square dances, and hoedowns. The Spanish contributed the guitar and
even a few tunes. Refugees and their slaves who arrived from Santo Domingo at the turn of the 19th century
brought with them a syncopated West Indian beat. Jewish-German immigrants began importing diatonic
accordions (invented in Vienna in 1828) toward the end of the 19th century when Acadians and black Creoles
began to show an interest in the instruments. They blended these elements to create a new music just as they
were synthesizing the same cultures to create Cajun society.
The turn of the 20th century was a formative period in the development of Louisiana French music. Some of
its most influential musicians were the black Creoles who brought a strong, rural blues element into Cajun
music. Simultaneously, blacks influenced the parallel development of zydeco music, later refined by Clifton
Chenier. Although fiddlers such as Dennis McGee and Sady Courville still composed tunes, the accordion
was rapidly becoming the mainstay of traditional dance bands. Limited in the number of notes and keys it
could play in, it simplified Cajun music; songs that could not be played on the accordion faded from the
active repertoire. Meanwhile, fiddlers were often relegated to playing a duet accompaniment or a simple
percussive second line below the accordion's melodic lead.
By the mid-1930s, Cajuns were reluctantly, though inevitably, becoming Americanized. Their French
language was banned from schools throughout south Louisiana as America, caught in the melting pot
ideology, tried to homogenize its diverse ethic and cultural elements. In south Louisiana, speaking French
was not only against the rules, it became increasingly unpopular as Cajuns attempted to escape the stigma
attached to their culture. New highways and improved transportation opened this previously isolated area to
the rest of the country, and the Cajuns began to imitate their Anglo-American neighbors in earnest.
The social and cultural changes of the 1930s and 1940s were clearly reflected in the music recorded in this
period. The slick programming on radio (and later on television) inadvertently forced the comparatively
unpolished traditional sounds underground. The accordion faded from the scene, partly because the old-style
music had lost popularity and partly because the instruments were unavailable from Germany during the war.
As western swing and bluegrass sounds from Texas and Tennessee swept the country, string bands that
imitated the music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys and copies Bill Monroe's ''high lonesome sound''
sprouted across south Louisiana. Freed from the limitations imposed by the accordion, string bands readily
absorbed various outside influences. Dancers across south Louisiana were shocked in the mid-1930s to hear
music that came not only from the bandstand, but also from the opposite end of the dance hall through
speakers powered by a Model-T behind the building. The electric steel guitar was added to the standard
instrumentation and drums replaced the triangle as Cajuns continued to experiment with new sounds
borrowed from their Anglo-American neighbors. As amplification made it unnecessary for fiddlers to bear
down with the bow to be audible, they developed a lighter, lilting touch. Moving away from the soulful
styles of earlier days.
By the late 1940s, the music recorded by commercial producers signaled an unmistakable tendency toward
Americanization. Yet an under current of traditional music persisted. It resurfaced with the music of Iry
Lejune, who accompanied the Oklahoma Tornadoes in 1948 to record ''La Valse du Pont d'Amour'' in the turn
of the century Louisiana style and in French. The recording was an unexpected success, presaging a revival
of the earlier style, and Iry Lejune became a pivotal figure in a Cajun music revival. Dance halls providing
traditional music flourished, and musicians such as Lawrence Walker, Austin Pitre, and Nathan Abshire
brought their accordions out of the closet and once again performed oldstyle Cajun music, while local
companies began recording them. Cajun music, though bearing the marks of Americanization, was making a
dramatic comeback, just as interest in the culture and language quickened before the 1955 bicentennial
celebration of the Acadian exile.
Alan Lomax, a member of the Newport Folk Festival Foundation who had become interested in Louisiana
French folk music during a field trip with his father (John Lomax) in the 1930s, encouraged the
documentation and preservation of Cajun music. In the late 1950s, Harry Oster began recording a spectrum
of Cajun music ranging from unaccompanied ballads to contemporary dance tunes. His collection, which
stressed the evolution of the music, attracted the attention of local activists, such as Paul Tate and Revon
Reed. The work of Oster and Lomax was noticed by the Newport Foundation, which sent fieldworkers Ralph
Rinzler and Mike Seeger to south Louisiana. Cajun dance bands had played at the National Folk Festival as
early as 1935, but little echo of these performances reached Louisiana. Rinzler and Seeger, seeking the
unadorned roots of Cajun music, chose Gladius Thibodeaux, Louis ''Vinesse'' LeJune, and Dewey Balfa to
represent Louisiana at the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Their ''gutsy'', unamplified folk music made the
Louisiana cultural establishment uneasy, for such ''unrefined'' sounds embarrassed the upwardly mobile
Cajuns who considered the music chosen for the Newport festival crude – ''nothing but chanky-chank'.
The instincts of the Newport festival organizers proved well-founded, as huge crowds gave the old-time
music standing ovations. Dewey Balfa was so moved that he returned to Louisiana determined to bring the
message home. He began working on a small scale among his friends and family in Mamou, Basile, and
Eunice. The Newport Folk Foundation, under the guidance of Lomax, provided money and fieldworkers to
the new Louisiana Folk Foundation ''to water the roots''. With financial support and outside approval, local
activists became involved in preserving the music, language, and culture. Traditional music contests and
concerts were organized at events such as the Abbeville Dairy Festival, the Opelousas Yambilee, and the
Crowwley Rice Festival.
In 1968 the state of Louisiana officially recognized the Cajun cultural revival, which had been brewing under
the leadership of the music community and political leaders, such as Dudley LeBlanc and Roy Theriot. In
that year, it created the Council for the Development of French in Louisiana (CODOFIL), which, under the
chairmanship of James Domengeaux, began its efforts on political, psychological, and educational fronts to
erase the stigma Louisianans had long attached to the French language and culture. The creation of French
classes in elementary schools dramatically reversed the policy that had formerly barred the language from
Domengeaux's efforts were not limited to the classroom. Influenced by Rinzler and Balfa, CODOFIL
organized a first Tribute to Cajun Music festival in 1974 with a concert designed to present a historical
overview of Cajun music from its origins to modern styles. The echo had finally come home. Dewey Balfa's
message of cultural self-esteem was enthusiastically received by an audience of over 12,000.
Because of its success, the festival became an annual celebration of Cajun music and culture, not only
providing exposure for the musicians but presenting them as culture heroes. Young performers were attracted
to the re validated Cajun music scene, while local French government officials, realizing the impact of the
grass-roots, began to stress the native Louisiana French culture. Balfa's dogged pursuit of cultural
recognition carried him father than he had ever expected. In 1977 he received a Folk Artist in the Schools
grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to bring his message into elementary school classrooms.
Young Cajuns, discovering local models besides country and rock stars, began to perform the music of their
heritage. Yet they did not reject modern sounds totally. Performers such as Michael Doucet and Beausoleil
are gradually making their presence known in Cajun music, replacing older musicians on the regular
weekend dance hall circuit and representing traditional Cajun music at local and national festivals.
- Although country music is a powerful cultural presence in the United States and an
international export of growing magnitude, it is difficult to define. It has been a creation and organic
reflection of southern working-class culture, changing as that society has changed, but it has been
simultaneously a dynamic element of American popular culture.
In the 60 years or so since Texas fiddler
Eck Robertson made the first documented phonograph recording by a white rural entertainer, the music has
become a massive industry with an appeal that cuts across social, generational, and geographic lines.
Country music had its origins in the folk culture of the South – a diverse culture that drew upon
the interrelating resources of Europe and Africa. It was British at its core but eclectic in its borrowing.
Long before the decade of the 1920s, when the radio and recording industries made their first exploitations
of southern folk talent, fiddlers, banjoists, string bands, balladeers, and gospel singers proliferated
throughout the South. Most of their performances were given at house parties, fish fries, or corn shucking,
but many were able to function on a broader basis, and in a quasi-professional manner, at fiddle contests or
in medicine or vaudeville shows. Musicians drew upon their inherited folk resources for songs and
performing styles, but they also picked up any compatible material that was adaptable to their styles and that
fit their community aesthetic standards from black entertainers or from the vast panoply of 19th-century
popular music. The establishment of radio stations in the South after 1920 (including WSB in Atlanta, WSM
in Nashville, WBAP in Fort Worth) and the recording of rural performers after 1922 encouraged
further professionalization as well as the development of an ''industry''.
The early entertainers were rural, for the most part, but not exclusively agricultural. Country music
has always been a working-class music (although not self-consciously so until the 1960s). The performers of
the early period, who were usually part-time musicians, worked as railroad men, coal miners, textile
workers, carpenters, wagoners, sawmill workers, cowboys, and even occasionally as country lawyers,
doctors, and preachers. Whatever their occupation, their dialects, speech patterns, and performing styles
reflected the rural South. Given the social context of the 1920s, when the rural and socially conservative
South seemed greatly out of step with a dynamic nation, and when its rural inhabitants seemed given over to
strange oddities and eccentricities, such as snake handling, tenantry, and night-riding, it is not surprising that a
term such as ''hillbilly'' should be affixed to the rural music of the region.
The commercialization of southern rural music had both positive and negative consequences. On one
hand, folk styles and folksongs received a wider hearing and, presumably, longer leases on life than they
otherwise would have had; on the other hand, folk styles were homogenized and diluted, and traditional
songs were gradually replaced with newly composed ones. But too much has been made of this change.
Folk styles were never pure; folksongs were drawn from a multitude of sources, and folk musicians were
never reluctant to accept or seek some kind of reward for their talents.
The string bands of country music's first decade, including such colorful examples of self-parody as
the Skillet Lickers, the Fruit Jar Drinkers, the Possum Hunters, and Dr. Smith's Champion Hoss Hair Pullers,
as well as the more conventionally named groups such as the North Carolina Ramblers and the East
Texas Serenaders, played hoedown tunes and British dance tunes, but they were also receptive to current
popular dance tunes and especially to ragtime, which remained a national passion in the World War I period.
Songs originally designed for the parlor piano, such as ''Chicken Reel'', ''Redwing'', or ''Over The Waves'' or
for marching bands, such as ''Under The Double Eagle'' made their way into the repertoires of stringband
musicians and have become permanently ensconced in the country music repertoire. Singers also
ranged far and wide for their songs.
A large percentage of the early hillbilly songs came from 19th-century popular music, the ''parlor
songs'', which had originally been written by professional composers and disseminated on lavishly
illustrated sheet music among the nation's urban middle class. Such songs as ''The Letter Edged In Black'',
''Little Rosewood Casket'', ''Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane'', ''Listen To The Mockingbird'', and ''Molly
Darling'' found a home among rural southerners long after ceasing to be fashionable with their original
audience. Many of these sentimental favorites are still performed regularly by bluegrass and old-time
Country entertainers, therefore, were torn between tradition and modernity. They were loyal to their
own communities but were eager to build a wider audience. Neither they nor promoters (radio and recording
men, booking agents, advertisers) were quite sure whether the most feasible promotional method would
involve a rustic or an urbane approach. Country performers might have preferred conventional suits or even
formal attire, but they were encouraged to clothe themselves in rustic or cowboy costumes. The conflict
between rusticity and urbanity has been a factor in country music development, in sound as well as in image.
Although string bands and homespun acts predominated on early hillbilly recordings and on radio shows,
the star system soon asserted itself and individual talents rose to the top. Vernon Dalhart (born Marion
T. Slaughter in Jefferson, Texas) contributed to the music's commercial acceptance by recording, in 1924,
such nationally popular songs as ''The Prisoner's Song'' and ''Wreck Of The Old 97''. Uncle Dave Macon,
a comedian, singer, and five-string banjoist from Tennessee, was one of the first stars of the Grand Ole
Opry and a repository of 19th-century folk and popular songs. Although there were a host of pioneer
performers, the most seminal, the one whose impacts are still felt in the music today, were the Carter Family,
from Virginia, and Jimmie Rodgers, from Mississippi, both from whom were first recorded in early August
1927 in Bristol, Tennessee. No group better embodied the mood and style of the family parlor and country
church than the Carters; their three-part harmony, Maybelle's unique guitar style, and their large collection
of vintage songs (such as ''Wildwood Flower'' and ''Will The Circle Be Unbroken'') still influenced
country singers today. In Jimmie Rogers, the former railroad brakeman from Meridian, Mississippi, the
music found its first superstar. Rodgers personified the rambling man, an image in sharp juxtaposition to
that which the Carter Family projected. His ''blue yodel'', his appealing personal style and tragic early death,
plus his eclectic repertoire of blues, hobo, train, rounder, and love songs, made him, posthumously, the
''father of country music''.
Country music not only survived the Great Depression but also solidified its position in American
popular culture and greatly broadened its market. The 1930s were the heyday of live radio programming,
and cowboy singers, duets, string bands, yodelers, and balladeers could be heard everywhere, even in New
York City. Radio barn dances – Saturday night variety shows with a rural or folk flavor – prevailed in many
cities, but none was more important than WLS's National Barn Dance (Chicago) or WSM's Grand Ole Opry
in Nashville. The Grand Ole Opry, which first went on the air in 1925, really affirmed its status as a
national institution when it gained network affiliation on NBC in 1939. The 50,000-watt, clear-channel
stations, such as WSM and KWKH in Shreveport, Louisiana, played crucial roles in circulating country
music, but no stations had a more profound impact in the national dissemination of country and gospel
music than the Mexican-border stations – popular called X-stations because of their call letters (XERF,
XEG, and the like). Their powerful transmission, sometimes surpassing 100,000 watts, blanketed North
America with rural music (from the Carter Family to the Stamps Quartet), evangelism, and incessant
advertising, which have become part of our national folklore. Radio exposure led to broadened public
appearances and the emergence of booking agents and the complex framework of music business promotion.
As the professionalism and commercialization of country music proceeded, the nature of the music
also changed. Traditional songs continued to appear with great frequency in the repertoires of such groups as
the Blue Sky Boys and Mainer's Mountaineers. Nevertheless, newly composed songs gradually edged the
older ones aside, and fledgling performers increasingly sought to find a commercial formula as successful as
that of Jimmie Rodgers. Stylistically, the southeastern hoedown-oriented string bands and the ''brother
duets'' (acts such as the Monroe Brothers who usually featured mandolin and guitar accompaniment) relied
heavily on old-time songs and ballads and remained conservative in performance and material. On the other
hand, musicians from the southwestern part of the South (Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma) were more
innovative, producing dynamic styles that would revolutionize country music. Very few observes recognized
distinctions within country music before World War II, and performers with widely varying styles and
repertoires often appeared together on radio shows or on radio barn dances. Whether cowboy singer,
mandolin-and-guitar duet, or hot string band, they all conveyed a homespun or down-home feeling, and
hillbilly was the rubric that covered them all. Nevertheless, a modern perspective suggests the great
difference among them. In 1934 Gene Autry, a radio hillbilly singer from Texas, went to Hollywood, where
he became the first great singing cowboy in film. The romance of the cowboy would have been appealing to
country singers in any case, but Autry's Saturday afternoon horse operas, his syndicated Melody Ranch
radio show, and his very popular recordings magnified the appeal while providing country musicians with an
identity much more respectable than that of the hillbilly. The romantic movie-cowboy songs declined
significantly after World War II, but singers wearing cowboy costumes endured long after that.
More strongly reflective of evolving southwestern culture than the movie cowboy songs was western
swing, the jazz-influenced string-band music popularized by Milton Brown and his Musical Brownies, the
Light Crust Doughboys, and Bob Wills and the Texas .Playboys. The western swing bands were electric
in repertories and were receptive to new stylistic ideas, including the use of drums, horns, and
electrified instruments. Developing alongside western swing, and drawing its inspiration even more directly
from the bars and dance halls of the Southwest, was honky-tonk music. Country music's entrance into
white roadhouses, which were called generically ''honky-tonks'', divested the music of much of its
pastoral innocence and tone. The result was a realistic musical sound that documented the movement of
country people into an urban industrial environment.
World War II was both the major catalyst for change in country music and the chief agent in
its nationalization. The country music industry itself languished under wartime restrains: shellac
rationing (which limited personal appearances). On the other hand, jukeboxes became ubiquitous
accoutrements in bars, cafes, and penny arcades, and country records began appearing on them in cities like
Detroit, Chicago, and Los Angeles (in part, a reflection of the movement of southerners to northern and
western industrial centers). The Grand Ole Opry gained its reputation as a mecca for country fans during the
1940s, and Tennessean Roy Acuff, who joined the show in 1938, became the unquestioned king of country
music during those years, taking his roadshows to all parts of the United States and holding down the most
important time slots on the Saturday night Opry. His versions of ''Wabash Cannon Ball'' and ''The Great
Speckled Bird'' made both his name and that of the Opry famous throughout America. Above all, in the
wartime crucible of economic and demographic change and heightened migration, the mood, style, and
appeal of country music were destined to change significantly.
Country music's first great commercial boom came in the years immediately following the war, continuing
to about 1955. Postwar prosperity and the ending of wartime restraints generated an unprecedented demand
for amusement. Record labels proliferated; new barn dances, such as the Louisiana Hayride, competed with
the Grand Ole Opry; and thousands of jukeboxes reverberated with the songs of such country entertainers
as Eddy Arnold, Kitty Wells, Lefty Frizzell, and Hank Williams. By the time Williams died on January 1,
1953, pop singers were ''covering'' his songs, and country music was winning commercial acceptance and
respectability that had earlier been scarcely dreamed of. Just a few short years later, country music's
''permanent plateau of prosperity'' had been shattered by the revolution wrought by Elvis Presley and the
rockabillies. All forms of traditional country music suffered temporarily as promoters and recording men
began heir urgent searches for young and vigorous stylists who could re-create what Elvis had done and who
could hold that youthful audience that now dominated American music. One consequence of this quest was
the creation of a pop style of country music, known generally as ''country pop'' or ''the Nashville Sound''.
This form of music was considered to be a compromise that would appeal to both old-time country fans and
the newly sought pop audience. By using vocal choruses and a sedate form of instrumentation (vibes,
violins, piano, a muted bass), country-pop singers would avoid the extremes of both rockabilly and hillbilly.
Commercially, country music's development since the late 1950s has been one of the great success stories
of American popular culture. Country performers now enjoy patronage around the world, and country
concerts are regularly presented in the White House and on the Mall of the Smithsonian Institution. Country
music's spectacular ascent and expansion have been accompanied by self-doubts and contradictions, and
by anguished debates among performers and fans concerning the music's alleged dilution or loss of
identity. Many adherents fear that the music may lose its soul as it gains the world. Although the quest for
crossover records remains of older country forms have periodically taken place since the rock-and-roll era.
Honky-tonk music lives in the performances of men like George Jones, Merle Haggard, Moe Bandy, and the
father of the style, Ernest Tubb. Bill Monroe and his fellow bluegrass practitioners have preserved the
acoustic style of instrumentation and the ''high lonesome'' style of singing, bluegrass festivals are held
somewhere almost every weekend from May until November. Doc Watson, Grandpa Jones, and Wilma Lee
Cooper periodically revive the older country songs, even dipping occasionally into the songbag of ancient
One of the most remarkable manifestations of interest in older songs and styles has through the
performances of youthful entertainers, or through older musicians who have catered to youth. Emmylou
Harris, who was raised in Virginia, came to ''hard country'' through the influence of her friend and mentor,
the country-rock singer Gram Parsons. Her fresh, uncluttered style of singing and her choice of material are
considerably more traditional then most of the women singers who grew up in the country music world.
Willie Nelson, a veteran honky-tonk singer from Texas and one of country music's greatest writers, has
probably done most to bridge the gap between the rock-oriented youth audience and country music. He has
done so by being receptive to their music and their heroes and by affecting a lifestyle and mode of dress
(beard, earring, jogging shoes) that put them at ease. In the process, he has introduced his young fans to the
best of older country and gospel songs. The 1980s has seen the emergence of young performers such as
Ricky Scaggs, Dwight Yoakum, Randy Travis, Steve earl, and George Strait, who consciously revive and
update traditional forms of country music.
Country music, then, endures in many manifestations. Yet it remains as resistant to definition as it did
over 60 years ago when it was first assuming an organized commercial identity. It has become a
phenomenon with worldwide appeal, but it maintains its southern identification. Nashville remains its
financial hub, the center of a multimillion-dollar music business. Country singers still come from southern
working-class backgrounds in surprising numbers, and both they and the lyrics of their songs convey the
ambivalent impulses that have always lain at the center of country music and southern culture: uritanism and
hedonism, a reverence for home and a fascination with rambling, the sense of being uniquely different and
at the same time more American than anyone else. Country songs convey a down-home approach to life and
a element view of love, home, and patriotism that are absent from other forms of American music. In an age
of computerized complexity, country music owes its appeal to the yearning for simplicity and rootedness
that permeates modern American society.
GOSPEL MUSIC (BLACK) -
Despite its immense popularity, widespread appeal, and influence on American popular music, Afro-
American gospel music is a comparably recent music phenomenon. Rooted in the religious songs of the late
19th century urban revival, in shape-note songs, spirituals, blues, and ragtime, gospel emerged early in the
The term ''gospel music'' suggests many things to different people. In its most general application, the word
simply refers to any religious music, regardless of the music's age or origin. Congregational songs, ring
shouts, quartets, sacred harp choirs, sanctified groups, and even some work songs would all qualify.
Sanctified Church of God in Christ, Clarksdale, Mississippi, 1968
broadly, the term ''gospel'' refers to an innovative, popular style of music combining secular forms,
particularly ragtime and blues, with religious texts.
Composed, modern black gospel music became an important style during the 1930s. Thomas A. Dorsey is
generally regarded as its ''father'', although it could be argued that C.A. Tindley should wear that mantle.
Tindley was actively composing during the first decade of the 20th century, but his songs did not gain
widespread popularity among blacks until the 1920s and 1930s. Dorsey himself was inspired by Tindley's
reworkings of older revival songs, blues, and spirituals. Dorsey's own songs, however, made up the first
wave of modern gospel music during the Depression.
Thomas A. Dorsey began his career as a blues and gospel singer. He enjoyed an immensely successful stint
as a professional blues musician during the 1920s. By the early 1930s he had turned his attention entirely to
religious music. During the 1930s and 1940s Dorsey worked with two influential figures, Mahalia Jackson
and Sallie Martin. In addition he toured the country as a performer and lecturer and wrote some 500 gospel
songs including ''There Will Be Peace In The Valley'' and ''Precious Lord, Take My Hand''.
Reverend Herbert W. Brewster, another important composer from this period, was pastor of the East Trigg
Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee. A contemporary of Dorsey, Brewster composed scores of gospel
songs beginning in the early 1930s. Many of his compositions were written specifically for his choir of the
Brewster Singers, but two of his songs, ''Move On Up A Little Higher'' and ''Surely, God Is Able'' gained
The music and language of these early gospel songwriters helped to promote an interest in their
compositions. Although the compositions of Dorsey and others are formally notated and printed, they almost
always undergo a transformation during performances. One of the strong appeals of this music, in fact, is that
it encourages participation and improvisation on the part of an audience that feels comfortable with the use
of primary chords, standardized chord progression, metaphorical language, and frequent biblical illusions.
By the mid-1930s, the appeal of gospel music within black culture was quite evident, and it was soon
embraced by commercial record companies wishing to capitalize on its popularity. Radio stations and the
major radio networks featured its music on their live broadcasts. These attempts at mass marketing quickly
let to a sense of professionalism among the performers. By the onset of World War II a small but growing
cadre of people made their living singing, writing, or promoting black gospel music.
In the decade following 1945 the popularity of groups such as the Spirit of Memphis, Alex Bradford, the
Soul Stirrers, Queen C. Anderson, Sallie Martin, and the Famous Blue Jay Singers grew. Dozens of
professional and semiprofessional groups appeared on programs throughout the country and recorded for an
expanding network of local and regional companies. The interest is well illustrated by Mahalia Jackson's
recording of ''Move On Up A Little Higher'' and the Carla Ward Singers's version of ''Surely, God Is Able'',
which both sold a million copies in 1950.
Interest in black gospel music gripped the country and every city and small town in the South staged gospel
music programs in churches and auditoriums. New artists such as the Dixie Hummingbirds and Shirley
Caesar emerged, initially as second line acts, then as headliners. Soloists such as Ira Tucker of the Dixie
Hummingbirds and Claude Jeter of the Swan Silvertones became well known among devotees. Lavish gospel
programs were staged by Joe Bostic in New York City and Erskine Fausch of New Orleans. With widespread
appeal, groups could afford extravagant costumes and could travel in comfort. Local nonprofessional black
gospel groups emulated the dress and singing styles of more popular musicians and even adopted their
names. Nearly a half dozen local or semiprofessional groups exploited the ''Soul Sisters'' name, for instance.
This increasing popularity and professionalism ultimately turned some of the more conservative church
members away from contemporary gospel music. By the mid to late 1950s there was something of a
backlash against ''secularization'', most clearly manifested in the opulent manner in which some singers
Black gospel music has changed greatly since the middle 1950s. It has become more sophisticated,
particularly in terms of marketing and musical diversity. Popular singers such as William Gaither and Andrae
Crouch have had formal musical training and education, which have led to more complicated arrangements.
These changes are part of a natural musical and cultural evolution. Black gospel music changed as the
demands of popular culture increased and as Afro-Americans strove toward middle-class status. Black gospel
music remains however, essentially conservative, and its principal mission remains constant – to lift the
spirits of its participants and to help them express their religion.
Musical Million Memorialized Aldine S. Kieffer.
The periodical, Musical Million, was founded in 1870 by Aldine Silliman Kieffer (1840–1904). Kieffer was
the grandson of Joseph Funk (1777–1862), a publisher of "shape-note" music. The shape-note notation gave
different shapes to notes of different pitch, making it possible for untrained singers to read music. After he
served in the Confederate Army, Kieffer and other family members re-established his grandfather's business,
which had been disrupted by the war. At the height of its popularity, Musical Million had as many as ten
Keiffer also offered singing schools and helped found the Virginia Normal Music
School, which later became a part of Shenandoah University.
GOSPEL MUSIC (WHITE)
For most people, the term ''white gospel music'' connotes a type of music characterized not so much by style
as by content. Although the sound of different types of white southern gospel can range from that of a sedate
vocal quartet to an amplified country band, or from a singing convention assembly of 300 voices to the
simple brother duet harmony framed by mandolin and guitar, the message of the music is usually a direct and
often optimistic reflection of a working-class Protestant ethos. Since white gospel music emerged as a
recognized form in the 1870s and 1880s, it has tended to graft this message onto a rich variety of vernacular
musics, both folk and pop, this has given white gospel an ambiguous and confusing stylistic identity. To
any southerners, though, white gospel is associated with vocal quarters of family groups, singing in three or
four-part harmony, accompaniment by a piano, guitar, or other stringed instruments. Also, for many of
them, gospel is not a formal church music to be used in regular Sunday service, but a brand of Christian
entertainment to be enjoyed at special church singings, at concerts, on television and radio, and on records.
The roots of gospel music lie in pre – Civil War southern hymnody traditions such as camp-meeting songs,
sacred harp singings, and revival music, but the real beginnings of modern southern gospel can be traced to
two events occurring in the 1870s – the emergence of the Ruebush-Kieffer publishing business in the
Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and the publication and popularity of a series of books of ''general hymns'' by
two northern-based song leaders, Ira D. Sankey and Phillips P. Bliss. Aldine S. Kieffer, the main force behind
the Shenandoah Valley traditions, was a Confederate veteran who happened to be the grandson of Joseph
Funk, whose 1851 song book ''Harmonia Sacra'' (or ''Hominy Soaker'', as it was fondly called in the South)
as published in a format using seven shapes for different notes – as opposed to the four shapes in the sacred
harp tradition. After the war, as the older four-shape systems lost favor, Kieffer began his company in 1866
with an old friend, Ephraim Ruebush, whom he helped free from a Union prison camp, and began a 50-year
campaign to popularize the seven-shape note system. He did this by founding the South's first Normal
Singing School at New Market, Virginia, in 1874, by starting a periodical called ''The Musical Million'', to
help develop singing conventions and spread news of backwoods singing schools, in 1870; by training and
sending across the South singing-school teachers; and by publishing a series of songbooks, such as ''The
Christian Harp'' (1877), a collection of lively, ''singable'' songs designed for ''special singing'' rather than for
use in regular church service. Not only did the seven-shape notation system of the Ruebush-Kieffer
Company take root in the South, but the company provided a training ground for hundreds of later writers
and singers; and the company itself, with its multifaceted operation, became a model for dozens of other
gospel publishing companies in the South from 1875 to 1955.
The type of song that filled these new books had its prototype in Sankey's and Bliss's 1875 collection
''Gospel Hymns and Sacred Tunes''. Published in New York and Cincinnati. Although the term ''gospel
music'' had been used in print as far back as 1644 in London, the intense popularity of the Sankey-Bliss c
ollection, as well as its use by the popular evangelist Dwight L. Moody from 1875 to 1899, was the real
source of the term ''gospel music'' in American culture. The songs in this collection and in others that
followed in the 1880s and 1890s derived from the rise of Sunday schools songs in the 1890s, songs that were
deliberately designed for younger singers; they were more rhythmical than the older hymns, more
sentimental, more optimistic, and often patterned on popular secular songs. Though popular nationwide, the new gospel hymns were especially successful in the South, where many of them even entered folk tradition: ''Bringing In The Sheaves'', ''What A Friends We Have In Jesus'', Sweeping Through The Gates'', and ''Let The Lower Lights Be Burning''. The rise of southern shape-note publishers in the late 19th century provided outlets for hundreds of amateur songwriters to follow in the gospel song tradition. By the turn of the century graduates of the Ruebush-Kieffer Company had started publishing companies in Georgia (A.J. Showalter, J.B. Vaughan), Texas (Trio Music, Showalter-Patton), Arkansas (Eureka Music Company), and Tennessee (E. T. Hildebrand).
The most successful and influential of these publishers, though, was to be a Giles County, Tennessee, native
named James D. Vaughan (1864-1941). Early in life Vaughan studied with Ruebush-Kieffer graduate E.T.
Hildebrand and later worked with B.C. Unseld, who had been the first teacher in the Ruebush-Kieffer normal
schools. Vaughan became a singing-school teacher and composer and by 1903 had settled in Lawrenceburg,
Tennessee, where he began publishing songbooks using the seven-shape system. By 1909 he was selling
30,000 books a year; by 1912, 85,000 books a year. One or two new books were published each year, often
in paperback form and often containing as much as 75 percent new material and 25 percent old standards or
favorites. Some rural churches used Vaughan's books in regular service, but most of the books were used in
country or statewide singing conventions and specialty singing.
Vaughan's business sense, talent, and personality allowed him to build his company into the South's largest
and to establish his own singing schools at Lawrenceburg, making it the citadel of modern gospel music. He
also, however, used a number of important innovations to publicize his work. Like Ruebush-Kieffer, he
started a magazine, ''Vaughan's Family Visitor'' (1912-present), to announce singing schools, news, and
songbooks; in 1922 he began his own record company, Vaughan Records, to help popularize new songs and
aw it become the south's first home-based record company. He bought his own radio station, WOAN, and
encouraged his singers to perform on other commercial stations. Most important of all, though, he used
quartets made up of his singing teachers to tour the South, giving free concerts of Vaughan's music. The
Vaughan quartets were spectacular success wherever they went, and soon the company had 16 different
quartets on the payroll; some of these quartets became popular in their own right and soon eclipsed the
company they were rep[resenting. By the late 1920s groups like the McDonald Quartet, from southern
Missouri, were able to travel independently and make a living with their music. The classic southern gospel
quartet – four men and a piano – comes from Vaughan's innovations.
The Vaughan Company continued to publish until 1964, but its alumni set up important rival companies that
were even more innovative and aggressive. One of Vaughan's editors, V.O. Stamps, joined forces with J.R.
Baxter, Jr., to form the Stamps-Baxter Music and Printing Company in 1926. Using as their theme song,
''Give The World A Smile Each Day'', Stamps-Baxter sought out the best of the new, younger songwriters,
helped get their quartets record contracts with major labels like RCA Victor, Columbia, and Brunswick, and
used radio shows to sell their songbooks. With its effective base of operations in Dallas, the company soon
shared the dominance of the market with Vaughan; they made an important move toward taking gospel
music out of the church and into the realm of pure entertainment when they staged an ''all-night sing'' in the
Cotton Bowl in 1940 – thus creating a format that would characterize southern gospel for years.
During the 1930s – when the paperback gospel songbook publishers were at their height – Vaughan claimed
cumulative sales of over 5 million books, and some 40 to 50 independent publishers issued such books. In
addition to Vaughan and Stamps-Baxter, leaders included Hartford (Arkansas), R.E. Winsett (Tennessee),
J.M. Henson (Atlanta), and the Stamps Quartet Company (Texas, formed by Frank Stamps, V.O.'s brother).
During this decade, too, independent singing groups arose, and, although not formally associated with the companies, they used their songs for their repertoire. The most successful of these was the Texas family known as ''The Chuck Wagon Gang'', who recorded and broadcasted widely, featuring such tunes as ''After The Sunrise'', ''Jesus Hold My Hand'', and ''A Beautiful Life''.
By the end of World War II the balance of power had shifted away from the song-publishing companies to
the quartets and gospel groups, major country radio shows like the Grand Ole Opry had gospel groups as
regular members, and in 1946 the Homeland Harmony Quartet of Atlanta saw its ''Gospel Boogie''
''Everybody's Gonna Have A Wonderful Time Up There'') become a nationwide pop hit. In the late 1940s
Georgian Wally Fowler left his country band, formed the Oak Ridge Quartet, and began promoting package
tours of new gospel stars, often renting an auditorium for a commercialized version of the ''all-night sings''. A
nationwide fad for pop-gospel music in the early 1950s attracted huge audiences for young groups like the
Blackwood Brothers (all-night singing at Ellis Auditorium, Memphis, Tennessee), the Statesmen, the
Jordanaires, and the Happy Goodman Family. Country artists like the Bailes Brothers, James and Martha
Carson, Molly O'Day, and the Louvin' Brothers made gospel a major part of their repertoire, while the newly
emerging bluegrass bands often borrowed gospel repertoire and quartet singing styles.
By the end of the 1950s the quartet style no longer dominated southern gospel. Family groups such as the
Speer Family and the Rambos injected country and even pop music into their performances, and groups like
the Inspirations and the Kingsmen sometimes used five or six singers and a battery of back-up instruments.
The 1970s saw the rise of smooth, sophisticated ''praise music'' by singers like Dallas Holm and
''contemporary Christian music'' by singers like Amy Grant and Texan Cynthia Clawson, who had more in
mmon with Broadway music and even rock than southern gospel. The southern gospel style was by the
mid-1970s being referred to as ''traditional gospel'' and, although no longer on the cutting edge of American
religious music, was still the most popular form of nonprofessional music across the South, still heard in
homes, in churches, and at gatherings from Virginia to Texas.
– Honky-tonk, also called ''hard country'' or ''beer-dinking music'', projects the
mood and ambiance of its birthplace, the beer joint.
Born in the 1930s, honky-tonk became virtually the
sound of mainstream country music from the late 1940s to about 1955, when rock and roll forced changes in
all forms of American popular music. Since then it has endured as a vigorous subbgenre of country music,
with such important musicians as Ray Price, George Jones, and Moe Bandy making crucial contributions to
Although conditions that contributed to its development prevailed throughout the South and on the West
Coast, honky-tonk music experienced its most significant development in the states of Texas, Louisiana, and
There, in the oil-boom atmosphere of the mid-1930s, the combined forces of prohibition repeal
and increased professionalization in the stil-new hillbilly music field led to the movement of musicians into
the taverns and beer joints where their music was welcomed. When country music entered the honky-tonks,
its performing styles and thematic content changed significantly. Musicians sought a beat that could be felt
even if it could not be heard above the din and merriment of weekend revelers, and they effected
instrumental changes that would enhance and diversify their sounds; hence the adoption of electric
instruments. Above all, much of the tone of country music changed in this atmosphere of wine, women, and
song, where potential danger lurked behind the gay facade and where ''honky-tonk angels'' lured their men.
No force has proved more important in diminishing the pastoral impulse of country music, nor in
documenting the transition made by rural southerners to urban industrial culture.
If the 1930s were important as years of nourishment, the war years were absolutely indispensable in both the
maturation and popularization of honky-tonk music. As never before in southern history, people fled
agriculture and made their way by the thousands to the towns and industrial centers of the South, as well as
to cities in the Midwest and on the West Coast. While civilians changed their locales and occupations, their
military sons and daughters moved to training camps both in and out of the South and to combat theaters
around the world. For a people in transition, who were urban in residence, yet rural in style and outlook, the
adjustment was often fraught with frustration and pain. Adjustments were made in diverse ways and with
varying degrees of success, but many men sought to reaffirm their identities in a sympathetic setting, over a
bottle of beer in a honky-tonk. Servicemen fought the loneliness of enforced separation from loved ones and
friends, while their civilian relatives sought relief from the pressures of work and family responsibilities. The
music of the honky-tonks, whether performed by live bands or jukeboxes, reflected increasingly the
preoccupations of socially and geographically displaced people. Never before had a form of music so
effectively mirrored the concerns of the southern working class.
Rustic sounds still thrived in country music during the 1940s; the decade, after all, marked the heyday of
Roy Acuff as well as the beginning of the acoustic-based bluegrass style. But sounds introduced and
nourished in the honky-tonks of Texas predominated, and names like Bob Wills, Ted Daffan, Cliff Bruner,
Moon Mullican, Al Dexter, and Ernest Tubb dominated the jukeboxes. Many of their songs described the
world of the honky-tonk itself, detailing the pleasures to be found ''Down at the Roadside Inn'', or confessing
the sorrows that might come from overindulgence (''Driving Nails in My Coffin'', ''Headin' Down the Wrong
Highway''). Al Dexter's ''Pistol Packin' Mama'', the giant country hit of 1943 and a ''crossover'' of the first
magnitude, grew out of its singer-composer's experiences in the oil-town-honky-tonk atmosphere of east
Texas in the 1930s. More often, though, the songs concentrated on matters that had little or nothing to do
with the honky-tonk. Instead, they commented on the private concerns of listeners. Voicing the cry-in-yourbeer
side of honky-tonk, almost to the point of suicidal impulse, were such songs as Rex Griffin's ''The Last
Letter'', Ted Daffan's ''Born To Lose'', and Floyd Tillman's ''It Makes No Different Now'', which poured forth
from a thousand jukeboxes and were carried around the world by lonely homesick southern servicemen.
When Ernest Tubb moved to the Grand Ole Opry in 1943, his Texas-born, beer-joint-shaped style gained a
national forum. As he won disciples, his style influenced the music of country entertainers from West
Virginia to California.
In the prosperous years that followed World War II, as country music enjoyed its first great period of national
expansion, the Texas sounds and styles continued to attract the patronage of country fans everywhere. The
honky-tonk style never exercised a complete monopoly during the period, but, for all practical purposes, it
had become the all-pervasive sound of mainstream country music. The typical band was small and featured a
fiddle, a steel guitar, a ''takeoff'' guitar (one that could take lead, solo passages), a rhythm guitar whose
chords were played in closed, percussive fashion, a string bass, and often a piano. The musicians were
capable of performing the hot instrumental licks pioneered by the western swing bands of the 1930s, but
instrumentation, while crucial and distinctive, was generally subordinated to the needs of a vocalist. A new
generation of honky-tonk singers had emerged, men like Hank Thompson, Webb Pierce, and Lefty Frizzell,
who were among the most distinctive stylists that the country music field has seen. Surpassing them all,
however, was the young singer from Alabama, Hank Williams, whose career marked the greatest commercial
flowering of the honky-tonk style.
When Williams died in 1953, few could have anticipated that very soon the honky-tonk style would be
driven from recordings and that country music as a whole would be in shambles. As the rock-and-roll wave
inundated American music, traditional country music was driven underground to small record labels and
back to the bars as promoters and recording men began their frantic search for young, vigorous performers
who could imitate Elvis Presley. The rock-and-roll invasion proved temporary, but it left in its wake a
continuing consciousness of the youth market and a decision by the Nashville music industry to produce a of
all country styles honky-tonk has most closely reflected southern working-class culture and has best marked
the evolution of the southernmiddle-of-the-road product that would be appealing to both country and pop
audiences. Honky-tonk music, of course, did not die, but it could not remain dominant in such a social
context. In an industry obsessed with ''crossovers'', the hard honky-tonk sound was unwelcome and even
embarrassing. Furthermore, the temptation among performers to cross over to the more lucrative and
respectable country-pop field was irresistible.
Honky-tonk music remains a vigorous subgenre of country music, but few entertainers are consistently
faithful to it. In the late 1950s and early 1960s Ray Price with his band the Cherokee Cowboys, made crucial
contributions to the modern honky-tonk sound, featuring duet harmonies on vocal choruses and a thoroughly
electrified sound built around a pedal steel guitar, a heavely bowed fiddle, and walking electric bass patterns.
But after popularizing the sound among a host of disciples, Price abandoned the style for the country-pop
field he had earlier resisted. George Jones, the Texas singer whose supple style resembled the moaning, bent
notes of the pedal steel guitar (first introduced on Webb Pierce records), remains faithful to the honky-tonk
sound, but his producers often smother him under a barrage of string instruments and vocal choruses. Buck
Owens, who claims both Texas and California, became country music's leading vocalist in the early 1960s
with an exciting sound that reflected both the honky-tonks of California and the energy of rockabilly music.
He too has since abandoned the style.
At the beginning of the 1980s only Moe Bandy (born in Meridian, Mississippi, and reared in San Antonio,
Texas) seemed able to prosper in the honky-tonk genre. His clean, crisp articulation of lyrics dealing with
those staples of honky-tonk music, drinking, cheating, and heartbreak, are complemented perfectly by a
fiddle, pedal steel guitar, and walking bass. The mid-1980s witnessed a revival of honky-tonk music with
young entertainers such as Randy Travis and George Strait.
Of all country styles honky-tonk has most closely reflected southern working-class culture and has best
marked the evolution of the southern folk from rural to urban industrial life. Although intimately associated
with the urban adjustment of southern plain folk, honky-tonk music has been ignored by folklorists because
it is not pastoral and because it does not protest. It is dismissed by many, perhaps, because it is too real.
Honky-tonk instrumentation both attracts and repels: to many, the whine of the pedal steel guitar and bounce
of the shuffle beat evoke elemental impulses and emotions. Honky-tonk music conjures up distasteful, seedy
images. The lyrics and instrumentation of honky-tonk music evoke emotional pain, isolation, and human
weakness that everyone has shared. The songs can be so full of trite self-pity that they drown listeners in
their sentimentality. But at its best, honky-tonk music speaks to loneliness and the need for human empathy
felt by each person.
– ''Jazz started in New Orleans'', Ferdinand La Menthe ''Jelly Roll'' Morton pronounced confidently to
Alan Lomax in 1938. Morton's magisterial oral autobiography-history resounds with invaluable insights into
the story of jazz, New Orleans in the 1890s, and southern life and culture.
But like many great insights, this
is a mythic truth.
Jazz was an agglomeration of black and white folk music, a rich synthesis that occurred in southern,
southwestern, midwestern, and eastern urban centers in the last decade of the 19th century.
Jazz began in New
Orleans as well – but ragtime and blues musicians wandered the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta, the
redlight districts of Washington, Baltimore, Kansas City, New York City, and St. Louis.
Early black folk
music became widely identified as southern in its associations with vaudeville, theater, circuses, as part of a
vast cultural myth of the Old south plantation days, building on Stephen Foster's songs, on the spirituals of
the Fisk Jubilee Singers, and on the tradition of blackface minstrelsy.
New Orleans, the most cosmopolitan and urbane center in the South before and after the Civil War, provided
a hospitable climate for local and itinerant musicians and had a long tradition of musical culture, high and
low. In the second half of the 19th century New Orleans mixed a vivid combination of musics – brass band
marches, parlor music, Creole and Cajun folksongs, Caribbean musics, church music – and produced a style
known as ''ragtime'', after the spicy, syncopated piano music of the Mississippi River Valley. By about 1915,
this new music was often called ''jass'' or ''jazz''. Other musical centers flourished at the same time: Memphis,
with its bawdy Beale Street district featuring W.C. Handy's dance orchestra; Kansas City, with legions of
ragtime writers and publishers; St. Louis, a repository for even more intense ragtime playing, composing,
Jazz drew on local scenes and traditions, indigenous southern sensibilities and languages. Handy captured
blues songs from the Delta, with resonant lines like ''I'm going where the Southern cross the Dog'', a nearmystical
reference to a Mississippi railroad junction of the Southern and the Yazoo-Delta lines (''Yellow Dog
Blues''). Or Jelly Roll Morton could sing, ''Michigan water tastes like sherry wine, Mississippi water tastes
like turpentine'' (''Michigan Water Blues''). Local customs and scenes were paid homage by southern
musicians, as Morton hailed the lake Pontchartrain resort area in ''Milenberg Joys'' or Louis Armstrong
recalled a Basin Street brothel in ''Mahogany Hall Stomp''.
Jazz in the South was created and exported by blacks and whites, by musicians of every ethnic background –
Irish, Italian, French-Spanish-Creole, Jamaican, German, Greek, Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish. This
diversity of backgrounds guaranteed variety within the music. Place-name blues celebrated the region:
''Atlanta Blues'', ''Vicksburg Blues'', ''Memphis Blues'', New Orleans Blues''. Other kinds of jazz registered
local color: ''Beale Street Blues'', ''South Rampart Street Parade'', ''Bogalusa Strut'', ''Chattanooga Stomp'',
''Ole Miss'', ''Chef Menteur Joys''. Jazz drew from church music – ''Sing On'', ''When The Saints Come
Marching In'', ''Down By The Riverside'' – and from popular exotica – ''Big Chief Battle-Ax'', ''Hindustan'',
''Lena From Palesteena'', ''The Sheik Of Araby'', ''Chinatown''. The music consciously echoed opera, military
bands, call-and-response church singing, ethnic dance music, country blues singing, genteel parlor songs,
light classic, and Tin Pan Alley productions.
Southern music absorbed cosmopolitan influences easily and converged with a wide world of vaudeville and
minstrel shows, road companies of musicals and operettas, and the long-established French Opera in New
Orleans's ''Vieux Carre''. The most local and original of New Orleans traditions, Mardi Gras, adopted as its
musical theme ''If Ever I Cease To Love'', a ditty from a New York musical. And another ''jazz standard'' was
created from a New York publisher's arrangement of a novelty march by Yale student Porter Steele, ''High
The turn of the century witnessed an explosion of popular music creation and dissemination. Phonograph
records, piano rolls, and sheet music made possible a nationwide popular musical culture on a large scale.
Scott Joplin's ''Maple Leaf Rag'' (1899) probably sold a million copies in sheet music form, published first in
Sedalia, Missouri. Local publishers and artists sprang up everywhere, with important centers in southern and
midwestern cities: St. Louis, New Orleans, Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Chicago. Southern music was
exported on a grand scale, and local fairs and exhibitions held in Atlanta and New Orleans, the Chicago
Columbian Exposition of 1893, and the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904 brought Americans into direct contact
with the new southern music.
In New Orleans instrumental music was in constant demand for parties, formal dances, in neighborhood
dance halls, cabarets, and social clubs. Popular social dances like the waltz, mazurka, schottische, quadrilles,
and reels along with black vernacular dances created a need for a wide rage of highly rhythmic
accompaniment. By the 1890s strongly syncopated dance music of the sort echoed in piano ragtime was
provided by various instrumental combinations. In the regulated redlight district (sardonically nicknamed
''Storyville'' after the alderman who proposed its legislation), ragtime and blues piano players worked in
bordellos. In the rest of the city, bandmen played for dances and parties.
Charles ''Buddy'' Bolden, a black cornetist, was the best-known leader of a rough-and-ready early jazz band
of the 1890s. ''Papa'' Jack Laine, a white drummer-entrepreneur, organized many dance and marching bands
around 1900. John Robichaux formed a long-lived 'society'' orchestra that read popular music scores. Freddie
Keppard, another cornet virtuoso, led a group called That Creole Band on extensive vaudeville tours from
New Orleans after 1910. But the New Orleans band that created a nationwide (ultimately worldwide)
consciousness for a new popular music was the Original Dixieland Jazz Band – five white New Orleanians
from Jack Laine's stable who went to Chicago, New York, then London, making in 1917 and 1918 the first
New Orleans jazz records and achieving a monumental success in vaudeville and cabaret appearance.
The repertoire of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band was that of New Orleans jazz as it had developed for
some 20 years: ''Tiger Rag'', ''Livery Stable Blues'', ''Clarinet Marmalade'', ''Ostrich Walk'', ''Bluin The
Blues'', and others became jazz staples and were drawn from the shared traditions of black and white
musicians. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band Americanized jazz and jazzified America. Imitations of their
music were heard everywhere, and ''jazz'' passed from the argot of the ''demimonde'' (where it meant either
sexual intercourse or sexual fluids) into the vocabulary of middle America as the name of this new physical,
sensual music. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band was followed by a continuous out-migration of southern
musicians to Chicago, New York, the West Coast, and Europe. What had been a provincial oddity, a local
delicacy like hog's maw, grits, or pralines, a purely regional music, became a significant force in world
A ''second generation'' of musicians who grew up in the earliest days of New Orleans jazz disseminated it as
a complex and sophisticated musical forms, a form based on individual improvisational styles blended into
an intuitive whole: Jelly Roll Morton (piano-composer); Joseph ''King'' Oliver (cornet), who took young
Louis Armstrong to Chicago in 1922; Sidney Bechet (clarinet, soprano sax), who took jazz genius to Europe
in 1919 with the Southern Syncopated Orchestra; Johnny Dodds (clarinet); Edward ''Kid'' Ory (trombone);
Warren ''Baby'' Dodds (drums). The New Orleans Rhythm Kings, Clarence Williams's bands, and many other
New Orleans bands recorded and brought live jazz to the speakeasies of 1920s America.
The impact of the new jazz recordings was catalytic. Jazz was absorbed and imitated by society dance bands
everywhere by 1920s, with great financial success realized by white bandleaders like Art Hickman, Paul
Specht, and Paul Whiteman. ''Jazz'' to most Americans of the mid-1920s was simply synonymous with ''pop
music'' of any description, and novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald could create the idea of a ''Jazz Age''. Jazz was
identified with youth, excess, exuberance, sin, and license, with gin mills and crime, and with some of the
old relight-district stigma.
In the 1920s and 1930s jazz was established in Chicago and New York, with luminaries like Fletcher
Henderson (from Birmingham), Edward ''Duke'' Ellington (from Washington, D.C.), Jack Teagarden (from
Texas), and others rising to the top of the jazz world. Jazz also flourished in the South, especially in so-called
''territory'' bands that succeeded regionally. Top-flight big bands created their own versions of jazz (now
known more frequently as ''swing'') in Kansas City (Bennie Moten, Harlan Leonard, Walter Page), Missouri
(Charlie Creatch, Jesse Stone, the Missourians), Memphis (Jimmie Lunceford), Texas (Don Albert, Alphonso
Trent), and New Orleans (Sam Morgan, Fate Marable, Armand J. Piron). Some of these groups made the
national scene: Bennie Moten's band became the great Count Basie orchestra of the 1930s; the Missourians
became Cab Calloway's band; and Jimmie Lunceford created one of the most innovative bands of the era.
Other southern jazz stars became nationally known: blues singers like Gertrude ''Ma'' Rainey, Bessie Smith,
and Ethel Waters rose from backgrounds in minstrelsy and vaudeville to great fame. Jazz virtuoso like Louis
Armstrong, Jimmie Noone, Sidney Bechet, and others established exalted standards for playing. Intinerant
blues pianists like Pinetop Smith, Jimmy Yancey, Eurreal ''Little Brother'' Montgomery, Crippled Clarence
Lofton, Albert Ammons, Meade Lux Lewis, and Pete Johnson popularized a form of Deep South keyboard
style most commonly called ''barrelhouse'' or ''boogie-woogie'' piano, which enjoyed a wild vogue in the late
1930s. A rough, powerful form of piano blues, the music was familiar in turpentine camps and rural juke
joints a generation before it reached the nation's radios and phonographs.
The South supplied vernacular dances to America after jazz became a national phenomenon in 1918. The
brisk one-step ''animal dances'' of 1910 – the Grizzly Bear, Bunny Hug, Turkey Trot, Cubanola Glide – were
superseded by the Charleston, The Black Bottom, Varsity Drag, tangos, the Lindy Hop, Suzie-Q, and dozens
of variants based on old black social dance patterns. Formalized versions of such dances could be seen at big
dance halls, in revues like the famous Cotton Club extravaganzas in Harlem, and in vaudeville routines by
such stars as Bill ''Bojangles'' Robinson, Florence Mills, Snakehips Tucker, and John Bubbles. Jazz was
music for dancing, and long before aficionados made it intellectually respectable, America voted with its feet
for the new music.
By the 1930s radio had joined with the phonograph to popularize jazz. Radio promotion helped establish
bands like those of Duke Ellington and Bennie Goodman, while jazz-oriented dance bands like the Coon-
Sanders Orchestra, the Casa Loma Orchestra, Paul Whiteman's band, and others brought jazz into the
nation's parlors nearly every day over network radio. What started as a provincial cultural phenomenon in
one generation became the best-known trademark of America, a symbol for the nation's youthful vitality and
melting-pot variety. In Europe, jazz was studied, imitated, and admired to the point of worship by young
students and musicians.
The movements of modern jazz after the 1930s have been nationwide, with important centers of activity on
East and West coasts. The South, however, has continued to contribute major jazz artists, such as pianistcomposer
Thelonious Monk, the Adderly brothers, Nat and Julian (''Cannonball''), and young trumpet
virtuoso Wymton Marsalis. Jazz of every variety flourishes in southern cities, from ''revivalist'' centers like
New Orleans’s French Quarter, Memphis's Beale Street area, and St. Louis's Gaslight Square to cabarets and
concert-hall performances in every major city. Since the 1950s, jazz has moved from the center of popular
musical culture to become a kind of ''alternative culture'' of great vigor and variety.
Jazz was woven into the fabric of southern life. An urban synthesis of rural musics, it reflected the
development of the modern South after the turn of the century. Created by black musicians from a
multi-ethnic culture, jazz unified the nation's sensibility. Jazz radically altered its listeners through its feelings
about freedom, equality imagination, joy, and physical vitality.
ROCK AND ROLL -
Rock and Roll is the generic term used to describe the dominant strain of
American popular music from 1955 to 1965. In general, rock and roll was teenage-oriented dance
music that synthesized elements of black and white folk and popular music styles, specifically and
most conspicuously, rhythm and blues and country (or hillbilly) music, is superseded by Elvis Presley,
born in Tupelo, Mississippi, and reared in Memphis, Tennessee.
All of the other subsequent rock and
roll innovators, with the arguable exception of Chuck Berry (born, San Jose, California, 1926), were
Carl Perkins (born, Bermis, Tennessee, 1932), Jerry Lee Lewis (born, Ferriday,
Louisiana, 1935), Buddy Holly (born, Lubbock, Texas, 1936), Fats Domino (born, New Orleans,
Louisiana, 1928), Little Richard (born, Macon, Georgia, 1932).
From 1955 to 1958 rock and roll remained largely a southern phenomenon. Two principal regional
recording centers were Memphis and New Orleans, each of which produced a distinctive idiom of its
Memphis, long a cultural crossroads where various southern musical traditions flourished,
especially Mississippi Delta blues and hillbilly music, produced a dynamic hybrid known as
Rockabilly was firmly rooted in country music but drew heavily from black sources, most notably
gospel and rhythm and blues. It was characterized by small ensembles (often a trio), stringed
instrumentation, and a persistent yet light beat layered over frenzied vocalizing and an echo
produced in the recording studio. The classic rockabilly sound, engineered by Sam Phillips and
performed by Elvis Presley (vocal and acoustic rhythm guitar), Scotty Moore (electric lead guitar),
and Bill Black (acoustic upright bass) was first recorded at Phillips' Sun Records studio in Memphis
in July 5-6, 1954. Sun soon attracted dozens of aspiring young musicians from across the South who
performed in a style similar to Presley's. Important Sun artists after Elvis Presley were Carl
Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Billy Riley, Sonny Burgess, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich and
Conway Twitty. A definitive rockabilly group from Memphis, which recorded for the New Yorkbased
Coral label, was the Rock And Roll Trio (Johnny Burnette, Dorsey Burnette, and Paul
After 1955 the basic Memphis rockabilly sound underwent a gradual modification. Elvis Presley
moved toward a mainstream rock and roll sound after signing with RCA Victor in November 1955.
Jerry Lee Lewis introduced his own boogie-woogie-based piano style into rockabilly with his first
Sun releases in 1955. Beginning in 1957 Buddy Holly created an original pop-influenced variant of
rockabilly, exemplified by such recordings as "That'll Be The Day" (1957), "Peggy Sue" (1957), and
"Rave On" (1958). In Louisiana, Dale Hawkins recorded in a strong blues-influenced style, which
gained its greatest expression in the hit recording "Suzie Q" (1957). Numerous influential rockabilly
artists lived and recorded in Los Angeles after 1955, including Gene Vincent (originally from
Virginia), whose best-known song was "Be Bop A Lula" (1956), Wanda Jackson (originally from
Oklahoma), the most talented female rockabilly performer; Eddie Cochran, next to Carl Perkins,
the finest rockabilly songwriter, who recorded such definitive items as "Summertime Blues" (1958)
and "Something Else" (1959), and Ricky Nelson (born in New Jersey), who sold more rockabilly
recordings than anyone other than Elvis Presley. Nelson and the Nashville-based Everly Brothers
followed Presley and Holly in moving rockabilly in the direction of pop music by removing much of
the rawness and dynamism from the idiom. The Everly Brothers were especially significant for
introducing the traditional hillbilly duet style into rock and roll. Their best recordings such as
"Wake Up Little Susie" (1957), and "Bye, Bye Love" (1957), retained much of the potency of early
rockabilly. A few mainstream country performers also recorded in a rockabilly mode, most notably
Marty Robbins and Johnny Horton.
The New Orleans sound, which formed the second major component of southern rock and roll, was
infused with the blues. It was characterized by small ensembles (usually five or six pieces) whose
central instrument was the piano. Accompaniment usually consisted of saxophones, drums, electric
bass, and horns. It was noted for a heavy, rolling beat and Carribean-derived polyrhythms. New
Orleans vocalists, most of whom were black, sang with the thick inflections indigenous to the city.
Most of the songs identified with New Orleans rock and roll were exuberant, joyous, and urgent, yet
less frenzied than those from rockabilly music. Lyrics were seldom teen oriented.
Though no record label of comparable importance to Sun Records existed in New Orleans - most of
the city's recordings were released by West Coast companies such as Imperial and Specialty -
virtually every recording made in the city came from the studio of engineer and producer Cosimo
Matassa. Matassa and Dave Bartholomew, a musician, writer, and producer, were key figures in the
evolution of a distinctive New Orleans rock and roll style.
The quintessential New Orleans rock and roll performer was Fats Domino, a musical heir of the
great rhythm and blues pianist Professor Longhair (Henry Roeland Byrd). Domino was a popular
rhythm and blues recording artist in the early 1950s, and he made his entry onto the national pop
charts in 1955 with "Ain't That A Shame". In the 1955-60 period, Domino produced a remarkable
series of hit recordings, including "Blueberry Hill" (1956) and "I'm walking" (1957).
Other important contributors to the New Orleans sound included Lloyd Price, Smiley Lewis, Huey
Smith, Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Frankie Ford, Bobby Charles, and Jimmy Clanton. Clanton, a
white performer, accomplished the closest approximation of the New Orleans style to a mainstream
rock and roll sound with recordings like "Just A Dream" (1958). The only non-Louisiana artist to
play a significant role in the popularization of the New Orleans style was Little Richard (Penniman)
of Macon, Georgia. Little Richard became one of the most dynamic and controversial rock and roll
performers of the 1950s with such hits as "Tutti Frutti" (1955) and "Rip It Up" (1956).
By the early 1960s rockabilly music had largely been subsumed by the rock and roll mainstream.
The New Orleans sound remained a vital and distinctive regional rock and roll form, though it too
declined in popularity and experienced a certain degree of accommodation with the mainstream
approach. Both Memphis and New Orleans ceased to be important recording centers. Most southern
musicians left to work in Los Angeles, New York, or Nashville where, if successful, they tended to
produce recordings of minimal regional identity. Southern rock and roll, which, in the forms of
rockabilly and New Orleans music, had exerted a formative influence on the creation of a national
rock and roll style, now merely existed as one element within the broad form as evinced by such
representative recordings of the period as Johnny Tillotson's "Poetry In Motion" (1960), Johnny
Burnette's "You're Sixteen" (1960), and Elvis Presley's "Return To Sender" (1962).
After 1963 American rock and roll began to succumb to the so-called British Invasion, spearheaded
by the Beatles, who were soon followed by such groups as the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and
Gerry and the Pacemakers. Ironically, the British invaders were themselves extremely indebted to
the southern-derived forms of early rock and roll and thus revived much of the southern character
and identity of the music. The most successful American rock and roll recording artist of the mid-
1960s was Johnny Rivers, a native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana (born 1940), who had begun his
musical career as a rockabilly stylist. Rivers's music combined many varied styles, from urban folk
music to rockabilly, but retained its essential southern character.
By 1966 the Beatles and Bob Dylan (another musician devoted to southern musical forms) led the
way toward "rock" as contrasted to rock and roll. Rock had a general, national (and even
international) identity. It was a form oriented more toward concerts than dance and was
linguistically and thematically sophisticated and complex. Only in the early 1970s, with the
emergence of the Allman Brothers Band and the attendant success of Capricorn records of Maco,
Georgia, did a specific, self conscious, and identifiable southern rock style evolve.
– Spirituals are Afro-American sacred folksongs, sometimes also called anthems, hymns,
spiritual songs, jubilees, or gospel songs. Distinctions between these terms have not been precise, different
terms being used in different communities at different times.
The term spiritual song was widely used in
English and American hymnals and tunebooks during and after the 18th century, but spiritual was not found
in print before the Civil war. Descriptions of the songs that came to be known by that name appeared at least
20 years earlier, and Afro-American religious singing recognized as distinct from white psalms and hymns
was described as early as 1819.
The musical elements that distinguished Afro-American songs from European folksong were described by
travelers and traders in Africa in the early 17th century. The elements that appeared exotic and unfamiliar to
these Europeans included strong rhythms, accompanied by bodily movement, stamping, hand-clapping, and
other percussive devices to accent rhythm, gapped scales, general group participation, improvised texts
(frequently derisive or satiric in natural), and the call-and-response form in which leader and responding
chorus overlapped. To the European observers the music seemed wholly strange, although later analysts
would find elements common to European music. The performance style of African music was one of its
unique aspects, one that has survived in many forms of Afro-American music.
In Africa, song played a prominent role in religion, public ceremonies, and work, in which song was used to
regulate the pace. Though scholars do not agree about whether harmony was present, the simultaneous
sounding of more than one pitch was common. Vocal embellishments were widely used, and a strong,
rasping voice quality was admired. These musical elements continued among the Africans transported to the
New World and were reported by numerous witnesses of slave singing throughout the West Indies and the
North American mainland during the mid-17th century. Songs to accompany dancing were most frequently
reported, with work songs a close second. Not much is yet known about the transmission of African religious
to North America, so the relation of the spirituals to African religious song is still largely a matter of
The conversation of African to Christianity, considered a prerequisite to the development of the spiritual,
proceeded slowly. In the 17th century individual slaves were often converted by the families with whom they
lived on low country plantations; although in the southern colonies some planters opposed the baptism of
their slaves in the belief that baptism might disrupt the master-slave relationship. Where planters permitted
religious instruction, the African responded with enthusiasm; but the few missionaries sent from England
were kept too busy ministering to the widely separated white population to permit much attention to the
blacks or the Indians. By the mid-18th century a few Presbyterian ministers, led by Samuel Davies of
Hanover, Virginia, made special efforts to convert blacks within their neighborhoods, using Isaac Watts's
hymnbooks shipped from England. The style of singing European hymns may have been influenced by
African musical patterns, but scholars have no concrete information about the singing of African songs
during this period.
Toward the end of the 18th century Methodist itinerants, such as Bishop Francis Avery, assisted by the black
exhorter Harry Hosier, began to hold meetings lasting several days. Large crowds overflowed the meeting
rooms, and blacks and whites attended these meetings together. On the frontier, where the population was
very widely scattered and organized churches were few, the camp meeting developed, beginning with the
Cane Ridge, Kentucky, meeting in August 1801. Black worshipers attended this meeting, and they
participated in white camp meetings throughout the antebellum period. As blacks and whites worshiped and
sang together in an atmosphere highly charged with emotion mutual influences were inescapable. The calland-
response style of singing was ideally suited to this kind of participatory service, where vast numbers of
people required musical responses they could learn on the spot. The practice of ''lining out'' in which a leader
sang or read two lines of a hymn to the congregation who then repeated them, was widely used in churches
with illiterate members or with too few books to go around. The camp meeting provided an introduction for
both groups to the sound and style of each others singing.
The first documented reports of distinctive black religious singing date from the early 19th century, somewhat
earlier than the first organized missions to plantation slaves. Spirituals were not transcribed in musical
notation until the Civil War, and, when they were, conventional musical notation was inadequate to convey
the distinctive features of the music as it was performed. Whatever degree of acculturation may have existed,
certain elements in the music could not be represented in a notation developed for European music. The
more sensitive transcribers explicitly stated that their transcriptions could not capture all they heard, notes
outside the scale system, ''blue'' notes, swoops, glissando's, growls, rhythmic complexities, and the
overlapping of leader and chorus in the call-and-response style.
In the South during the antebellum period spirituals were sung widely and were discussed in letters, diaries,
and the periodical press, but they were largely unknown in the North. When wartime conditions brought
plantation slaves into contact with northern whites, the songs became known to a wider public. Individual
songs were published as sheet music or in magazine articles, and a comprehensive collection was published
in 1867, ''Slave Songs Of The United States'', edited by Williams Francis Allen, Charles Pickard Ware, and
Lucy McKim Garrison. Although the transcriptions had to omit many of the characteristic and distinctive
features of the music because of the notational system, the collection was an attempt to preserve songs that
otherwise might have been lost. The collection set a pattern for transcribing the songs in conventional
musical notation (despite its shortcoming) that was followed in more influential collections of songs as sung
by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, the Hampton Singers, and other touring groups from predominantly black
schools in the South. The college groups had been trained in European music and were conscious of their
mission to herald the emerging black population. After northern and European audiences heard spirituals,
their popularity was firmly established. Songs were modified in their arrangement for concert performance,
although the extent of this modification has not been determined.
As the spirituals grew more popular, elaborate arrangements that departed still more widely from the folk
originals were made, for both solo singers and for choirs. Beginning in 1892 a theory was developed that
spirituals were based on European folk hymns and other forms of white popular music, a theory based solely
on the examination of the published transcriptions. The elements of improvisation and the performance style
were not considered. Only with the advent of sound recording has it been possible to study the performance
itself. Current performances cannot fully replicate antebellum ones, but they can capture much of the
excitement described by 19th-century listeners. Ethnomusicologists may be able to reconstructs the music as
it was performed in earlier eras by utilizing field recordings and contemporary descriptions.
– Zydeco is a fast, syncopated dance music of Louisiana's black Creole population.
Played in urban and rural dance halls from St. Martinville and Lafayette to Houston's black French Fifth
Ward, it has evolved in Louisiana over the last 150 years, influenced by Cajun, Afro-American, and Afro-
Some zydeco musicians may prefer a more Cajun sound, while other musicians,
especially in urban settings, mix blues and soul into the music, reflecting the increasing impact of Afro-
American mainstream culture.
But nearly all zydeco groups maintain a rhythmic complexity in their music
that harkens to their Afro-Caribbean inheritance, an in-heritance also found in the early spasm bands of New
Orleans jazz and the great ''second-line'' rhythm-and-blues pianists like Huey ''Piano'' Smith, Professor
Longhair, and Fats Domino.
Zydeco reflects the multicultural and multiracial background of the Creole population on the French Gulf
Coast from southern Louisiana and the French Caribbean, the term ''Creole'' originally referred both to
descendants of the French and Spanish colonists from the Old World and to African slaves born in the New
World. This original meaning of ''Creole'', which refers to the planter class as well as to people from New
Orleans and southeastern Louisiana, still persists. The other meaning of ''Creole'' (the one used here)
developed later. It refers to the French-speaking people whose mixed ancestry may include black slaves from
the Caribbean and American South, ''gens libres de couleur'' (free people of color), and Spanish, French, and
German planters and merchants, local Indian tribes, Anglo-Americans, and Cajuns.
Many persons in southwestern French Louisiana who identify themselves as Creole or noir have some
parentage from the Cajuns or Arcadians – the peasant farming, fishing, and trapping people who entered the
area over a 30-year period(1760s to 1800), following their expulsion from what is now called Nova Scotia.
The cultural ties between Creoles and Cajuns are more significant than the genetic ties: the two cultures
share, in part, essential features of life, including religion, festivals, foods, language, and music.
The largest numbers of black and mulatre (''mulatto'') French-speakings people came to Louisiana either as
slaves for French planters in the second half of the 18th century or as ''gens libres de couleur'' both before and
after the Haitian revolution of 1791-1803. In general, to be of ''mixed'' blood or ''mulatre'' carried greater
social status. The shift in the use of the term ''Creole'' may have come from its use by such persons of
''mixed'' blood claiming their European ancestry, and from an attempt to distinguish the descendants of
French culture from the English-speaking ''Americain'' (Americans), who acquired the territory in 1803.
The word ''zydeco'' is thought to be a creolized form of the French ''Ies haricots'' (snapbeans). Zydeco music
is said to take its name from a dance tune in both the Cajun and Creole traditions called ''Les Haricots Sont
Pas Sales'' (The Snapbeans Are Not Salted). The spelling of zydeco used here is one found on posters
advertising dances and promoting bands in south Louisiana and southeast Texas. Alternate spellings are
''zodico'', ''zordico'', and ''zologo''. All of these are English spellings used to represent the Creole
pronunciation. A closer phonetic spelling would be ''zarico'' (stress on the last syllable), which preserves the
French a and r.
Zydeco refers not only to the fast, syncopated dance numbers in a Creole band's repertoire, but also to the
dance event itself. Old-time musicians Bebe Carriere of the Louisiana prairie town of Lawtell says that in the
old days word of a dance would be left at the general store or someone would ride around the countryside on
horseback yelling, ''Zydeco au soir... chez Carriere''! (Zydeco tonight at the Carriere's place)! Similarly, in
urban Houston, the lyrics of ''Bon Ton Roulet'' by Clarence Garlow describe people going ''way out in the
country to the zydeco''.
Because of the cultural interchange between Cajuns and Creoles in southwest Louisiana, there has been a
tendency to overlook the differences between Cajun music and zydeco. Cajun music places more emphasis
on developing the melodic line, while zydeco melodies are played much faster and consist of Acadian or
Afro-American blues tunes placed in an Afro-Caribbean rhythmic framework. The rhythms are highly
syncopated, with accents often shifting to various beats.
Whether the original Cajun tunes is a one-step – a ''la la'' – or a two-step dance, it can be transformed into a
zydeco by the Creole musician, with faster tempo, melodic simplification, and increased syncopated. The
rhythm may also change when a Cajun two-step, melodic simplification, and increased syncopation. The
rhythm may also change when a Cajun two-step – which accents the first and third beats – is played with the
accents on the second and fourth beats. The melody, although simplified to a repeated figure, remains
Even genres from outside the Afro-Caribbean and Acadian cultural sources, such as Afro-American blues
and the Central European polka and mazurka, may be performed in a zydeco style. This is also true of the
waltz, which the Creoles probably inherited from the Cajun and other traditions.
The repertoire and style of individual zydeco musicians may be either more Cajun, more Afro-American, or
more Afro-Caribbean. For example, Creole musicians such as Fremont Fontenot of Basile and the Carriere
brothers of Lawtell often play in a Cajun style because of their strong European cultural affiliations (though
these performers do play zydeco and blues). On the other hand, the Lawtell Playboys of Frilot Cove and
Swampy and the Bad Habits of Carencro show more Afro-Caribbean and Afro-American inclinations
(though they also play waltzes and enjoy ''French music''). As young accordionist Clinton Broussard says,
''Zydeco bands, they all plays the same tunes, but everybody got their own style to do it''.
Although West Indian influences on Louisiana culture can be traced in language, foods, folk beliefs, and in
music, a musical form called zydeco or sounding like zydeco did not exist in the French West Indies. This
suggests the importance of contact between Cajuns and black Creoles in generating a music form unique to
One item that does survive more directly from the Afro-French West Indian inheritance (although in
modified form) is the dance ''Calinda''. A dance called ''Calinda, Kolenda, Kolinda'', and other names is
mentioned in travelers' accounts as appearing in the French West Indies – Martinique, Guadeloupe, and
Santo Domingo – as well as Trinidad from the late 18th century onward. Recent anthropological studies also
note the presence of the dance in contemporary French West Indies in the contexts of ''vodoun'' (voodoo)
worship and social dancing, Mardi Gras, and Rara festivities. The ''kalinda'' may involve such diverse
activities as mock stick fighting and erotic courtship gesture.
Slaves gathering in New Orleans’s Congo Square in the early 19th century were said to have danced the West
Indian style ''Calinda''. In rural French Louisiana, ''Calinda'' was transformed by Cajuns into a two-step and
by Creoles into a zydeco. It has become part of the dance band repertoire, and hints of eroticism or
extraordinary behavior have been submerged in the lyrics, which refer to dancing the old dances in a way
that will make old women mad. Thus, ''Calinda'' becomes the name of a young woman enticed by her beau to
dance too close while her mother is not looking. That ''Calinda'' may still have Afro-Caribbean influences is
indicated by its heavily syncopated beat and by accordionist Delton Broussard's comment that ''back toward
New Iberia (in the area with more French West Indies influence), they want ''Calinda'' to dance wild to. You
get to Lake Charles, and they want that French waltz''. Removed from its West Indies source, ''Calinda'' is
now a part of most Cajun and zydeco bands' repertoires.
At dances in the Creole community today, zydeco musicians usually choose fewer waltzes and more blues
and fast two-steps than do Cajun musicians. While Cajun bands make wide use of the violin (an Acadian
inheritance), they rarely play the vest ''frottoir'' (a metal rubbing board worn as a vest and played with
spoons, can openers, or thimbles). Played by old-time and rural zydeco groups, the vest ''frottoir'' has its
antecedents in Africa and the Caribbean as a scraped animal jaw, notched stick, and later, a washboard. The
current model, made in Louisiana by tinsmiths, became popular in the 1930s when sheet metal was
introduced to the area for roofing and barn siding. Also popular is the Cajun ''bas trang'' or ''tite fer''
The accordion, used in both zydeco and Cajun music, was probably introduced to the area by German
immigrants in the 1870s. The traditional model, and the one made by a number of local accordion makers, is
the ''une ragee'' (one row) diatonic push-pull instrument. It is used by Cajuns and most rural and old-time
zydeco musicians. Urban performers have also experimented with the two- and three-row button accordion,
and the chromatic piano accordion.
Cajun music and zydeco are meant for dancing. Indeed, the choice of dance halls and preferred musical style
often mark the boundaries of Cajun and Creole communities. Performance of both of these types of
Louisiana French music in a club setting is usually highly amplified for dancing, and the lyrics are difficult
to hear above the music or noise of the club. In general, lyrics to the dance tunes are not as elaborate as those
of the home singing traditions. They are often fragmentary and tend to convey a ''feeling'' rather than a story.
While Cajun music has been influenced by country and western music in style and instrumentation (the steel
guitar), zydeco has been affected more by rhythm and blues and soul music. Urban bands, such as Sampy
and the Bad Habits and Mike and the Soul Accordion Band, have dropped the ''frottoir'' and ''violin'',
switching to two- and three-row accordions and sometimes adding a lead guitar. Though these bands play
relatively slower zydeco numbers at a dance, the continued impact of the Creole and Cajun repertoire in
urban areas is retained, as both bands still play waltzes and highly syncopated numbers.
Afro-American traditions have long existed side by side with the Afro-Caribbean and Cajun traditions in
south Louisiana's Creole community. But since World War II they have become heavily integrated with
Creole traditions and lifestyles. These changes in zydeco music reflect the acculturation of the Creole
population into English-speaking Afro-American culture.
Creole culture remains strongest in the countryside, and here the dance hall is an essential social institution.
Men and women come to dance well-dressed in sport coats and ties, pantsuits, carefully set hair, and jewelry.
At a rural dance hall like the Ardoins' Club Morris in Duralde, entire families, from children to grandparents,
come to dance. Zydeco is also performed at church dances, barbecue picnics, occasional ''fais-do-do'' (house
dances), and in a variety of urban clubs that alternate bookings with disc jockeys and soul bands. The new
popularity of such bands as Terrence Semiens and the Mallet Playboys, Buckwheat Ils Sont Partis Band, and
Fernest Arceneaux and Thunder reflect this change. On the other hand, more traditional groups such as
Delton Broussard and the Lawtell Playboys, the Lawrence Ardoin Band, and John Delafose and the Eunice
Playboys perform in a more French-influenced style. The new broader range of zydeco styles as projected in
films, television programs, records, radio and at the newly formed (1983) Zydeco Festival in Opelousas
suggests that Creole music is increasingly a symbol for cultural emergence of the Afro-French people of
rural and urban south Louisiana.
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