Old Time Radio Western Music Sampler

“What kind of music do you usually have here?” “Oh, we’ve got both kinds. We’ve got Country and Western!”

“Both Kinds”

Maybe it was a better joke in the Blues Brothers than it is here, but it brings us to the point: Just what is Country and Western Music?

Country Music and Western Music were two distinct styles of music until they were lumped together by Billboard Magazine for charting purposes. Both have their roots in the folk music of the British Isles.

What would become Country or “Hillbilly Music” came from the folk music of the Appalachians and the American Old South. The cultural diversity of the South lent a variety of instruments to Hillbilly Music- the Irish fiddle, the German dulcimer, the Spanish Guitar, and the Italian mandolin. Different cultural styles of music blended as well; Negro Spirituals, Blues, English Ballads all would shape Country.

Western music is thought to have developed around the cowboys campfire. The migration of Southerners to the Southwest mixed styles with the music of the Mexican Cowboys. The distinctive result would be glorified by Hollywood and Radio with the rise of the Singing Cowboys.

A fusion of many styles played in Dance Halls became known as Western Swing. Along with Western and Country music, elements of Dixieland jazz, polka, blues, and Big Band sounds combined to become very danceable and popular music in the pre-War years. In contrast to the tightly arranged, horn driven Big Band sound, Western Swing usually follows the Fiddle’s lead, and stylistically allows for more on-stage improvisation.

Western Swing didn’t die, but it was gravely injured during WWII when the Federal Government placed an 30% excise tax on “Dancing Night Clubs.”

Western and Country Music is growing in popularity, even among those who didn’t spent the day breathing cattle dust of spreading what the cows left on the crops. Many of these shows from the Golden Era feature a lot of comedy, but fair warning- this is also the forum where “Corn-ball” humor developed.

 

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