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By Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman

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By Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman

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Sample text

Malone has noted that the majority worked as textile mill workers, coal miners, farmers, railroad men, cowboys, carpenters, wagoners, painters, common laborers, barbers, and even an occasional lawyer, doctor, or preacher. One important exception to this rule was Vernon Dalhart (1883-1948), a Texas-born former light-opera singer who recorded the first big country music hit. Dalhart’s recording career, which had begun in 1916, had started to wane, and he talked the Victor Company into letting him record a hillbilly number, in an effort to cash in on the genre’s growing popularity.

Although Chicago’s black neighborhoods were well established before World War II, they grew particularly rapidly during the 1940s, as millions of rural migrants came north in search of employment in the city’s industrial plants, railroad shops, and slaughterhouses. The South Side’s nightclubs were the center of a lively black music scene that rivaled New York’s 36 The leading artist of the 1950s Chicago blues scene, Muddy Waters influenced artists in genres ranging from rhythm-and-blues to country, from folk to jazz.

Bottom left: Hank Snow is credited with launching Elvis Presley’s career at the Grand Old Opry in 1954. Bottom right: Charley Pride is one of the Top 20 best-selling country artists of all-time. 59 eclectic set of influences, but the Nashville sound is especially prominent among them. Good illustrations of this would be his 1961 hit “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and his 1965 recording of “Crying in the Chapel,” originally a country hit in 1953. It might seem surprising that the Nashville sound’s influence extended into rhythm & blues in the early 1960s, but given the constant interchanges between white and black musicians throughout the history of American popular music, this really shouldn’t strike us as unexpected.

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