Strange as it may seem, country has roots in Scots-Irish heritage. Most believe that a mix of European folk songs, with African-American blues has created the basic ‘formula’ of country as we now know it.
Many attribute Jimmie Rodgers or the gospel-singing Carter Family as the original founders of this new style in the early 1950s. Country artists such as Merle Haggard, George Jones and Johnny Cash began to gain as much of a following as Rock ‘n Roll, another musical genre rising at about the same time. Artists like Hank Williams Sr. and Elvis Presley became pop stars as well.
The industry grew into a multi-million dollar business by the 60s and is still, for the most part, headquartered in Nashville. There was also a movement outside Nashville by country artists who created a new type of Country called the Bakersfield sound. By the 1980s there was more of a rift between Rock and Country, and there were fewer crossover hits, with traditionalists like Garth Brooks, Brooks and Dunn, and Reba McEntire. Contemporary country music is changing quite rapidly, with artists like Shania Twain and the Dixie Chicks whose crossover status make them difficult to label as either Country or Rock.
Even though Country has changed much, the culture around it still remains the same. Though they may be referred to as “hicks” by outsiders, the country folk enjoy the type of lifestyle of a modern-day cowboy who appreciates the rural frontier way of life. Generally, the subject matter of Country music is usually about the work-for-the-wages man, often in a failing relationship, a problem with alcohol, or some other sympathetically sad situation. There is an old joke that says that if you play country music backwards, you hear: “I got my wife back, I got my dog back, my truck got fixed…”