In This Article American Country Music

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Dictionaries and Encyclopedias
  • Discographies
  • Cultural Studies of Country Music
  • Country and Folk Music
  • Biographical Sketches
  • Music-Analytic Approaches
  • The Country Music Industry
  • Country Music and Politics

Music American Country Music
by
Travis Stimeling
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 June 2015
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0148

Introduction

What is now known as “country music” in the United States, Canada, and much of Europe has gone by a variety of monikers since the first recordings of the genre were made in the early 1920s—including “hillbilly,” “old familiar tunes,” and “country and western,” among others—and has encompassed any of a number of subgenres, including western swing, honky tonk, and bluegrass, among many others. Scholars frequently use the term “country music” to describe this wide array of musical practices and music industry marketing terms. Country music scholarship is fundamentally multidisciplinary, with strong roots in the fields of American history, folklore, literary studies, sociology, anthropology, and, more recently, musicology and ethnomusicology. Moreover, many record collectors, amateur historians, and journalists have also contributed useful—and, in some cases, indispensible—studies and resources to the field of country music studies. This multidisciplinarity of country music studies is evident from the earliest published research on the subject, which dates from the mid-1960s and can be traced to the folk revival movement that spread across college and university campuses across the United States and Canada during the 1950s and 1960s. In addition to documenting the genre’s history, published studies from the first decade of country music studies reveals sociology’s central role in shaping country music studies. As a consequence, country music studies has been quite interested in exploring the social forces that have had an impact on country music production, consumption, and reception, as well as music’s corollary role in shaping society.

General Overviews

The dominant narrative of country music history traces the genre’s emergence from 19th-century vernacular practices to its present commercialized state. Following Malone and Neal 2010, this narrative focuses almost exclusively on country music’s status as a mass-mediated popular music. Bufwack and Oermann 2003 offers dramatically fuller coverage than Malone and Neal 2010 through its engagement with women’s roles in the genre. The essays and illustrations in Kingsbury, et al. 1994 provide an illustrated version of this narrative. Peterson 1997 grapples with one of the central questions in the genre’s reception: its perceived “authenticity.” Cusic 2008 offers a useful overview of the changing country music industry and its place within the broader American popular music industry, while Jarrett 2014 documents changing recording practices in country music from the earliest days to the present. Lewis 1993 also provides a valuable resource documenting a wide range of country music practices while also marking an important moment of transition in the field of country music studies.

  • Bufwack, Mary A., and Robert K. Oermann. Finding Her Voice: Women in Country Music, 1800–2000. Nashville and London: Vanderbilt University Press/Country Music Foundation Press, 2003.

    E-mail Citation »

    A wide-ranging study of women’s participation in country music from its roots in southern vernacular musical traditions through the “hot country” era of the late 1990s. Focuses primarily on biographical sketches, although some cultural context and critical analysis is offered. Expanded from 1993 Crown Publishers edition.

  • Cusic, Don. Discovering Country Music. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008.

    E-mail Citation »

    In what is ostensibly a textbook, Cusic—a longtime music industry journalist and expert on the Nashville scene—traces the evolution of the country music industry. Although country music receives minimal coverage as a musical practice in this text, Cusic’s industry insights are valuable.

  • Jarrett, Michael. Producing Country: The Inside Story of the Great Recordings. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 2014.

    E-mail Citation »

    A collection of oral histories detailing the history of country music record production from the earliest days to the present. This study is noteworthy for its breadth and scope.

  • Kingsbury, Paul, Alan Axelrod, and Susan Costello, eds. Country: The Music and the Musicians from the Beginnings to the ‘90s. New York: Abbeville, 1994.

    E-mail Citation »

    Narrative history of country music, lushly illustrated with artifacts from the Country Music Foundation Library.

  • Lewis, George H., ed. All That Glitters: Country Music in America. Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1993.

    E-mail Citation »

    Collection of essays exploring a variety of themes related to the cultural value of country music. Although several of these essays do appear in other venues, the volume as a whole is recommended for its breadth.

  • Malone, Bill C., and Jocelyn R. Neal. Country Music, U.S.A. 3d rev. ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010.

    E-mail Citation »

    Foundational history of country music. First published in 1968. In its most recent expansion and update, Malone enlisted Jocelyn Neal to bring the coverage up to date. Offers an encyclopedic treatment of country music history. Bibliographic essays are also particularly useful guides for further reading.

  • Peterson, Richard A. Creating Country Music: Fabricating Authenticity. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

    E-mail Citation »

    Widely cited study of the ways in which the music industry constructs authenticity in country music, focusing especially on biography and costume. Peterson’s study is widely accepted as the standard text on the construction of authenticity in popular music.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.

Purchase an Ebook Version of This Article

Ebooks of the Oxford Bibliographies Online subject articles are available in North America via a number of retailers including Amazon, vitalsource, and more. Simply search on their sites for Oxford Bibliographies Online Research Guides and your desired subject article.

If you would like to purchase an eBook article and live outside North America please email onlinemarketing@oup.com to express your interest.

Article

Up

Down