Country Music in the 1940s

Country music began to evolve in the 1930s, influenced by Western swing, jazz and Gene Autry’s cowboy films. Bob Nolan composed Tumblin’ Tumbleweeds – a hit for Autry and Roy Rogers that became an iconic tune for The Sons of Pioneers as well.

In the Plains and Appalachians, music evolved to a “hillbilly” style led by guitars. Later, an amplified, rougher sound emerged for dancing in honky-tonks.

Honky Tonk

When people think of country music, they often picture cowboy boots and lots of dancing. But there’s so much more to it than that!

The 1940s marked a transformation in country music. One major development was the introduction of honky tonk, an innovative blend of Western Swing elements with classic country songs.

Hodgepodge music was made popular by Hank Williams and Kitty Wells, two singers widely considered to be responsible for popularizing this new genre of music. These two singers are widely recognized for their contributions to honky tonk culture around the globe.

Hank Williams’ songs were powerful and emotive, as he could weave stories through music. Additionally, his distinctive voice allowed for many hit songs that remain popular today.

Honky tonk music has many styles, but they all share one characteristic: strong beats and lyrics lamenting misfortune. This influential style of country music can be heard today from artists such as Miranda Lambert.

Another essential characteristic of honky tonk music is the steel guitar sound. This adds a classic, country vibe that resonates with listeners, making the music more believable and relatable for them.

Country music’s biggest genre during the 1940s and it will remain so for a long time to come. You can hear this type of music today in many top country musicians like Miranda Lambert and Trace Adkins.

In the 1940s, jukebox charts – also known as country music charts – were introduced. These rankings were based on record store and honky tonk popularity.

These records would then climb the chart if more people played them, helping country music become increasingly commercial and popular as entertainment.

New Nashville Sound

As America underwent significant industrial and social transformations, country music too was significantly impacted. Its popularity declined and sales began to dip, prompting many industry professionals to reevaluate their approach towards the genre as a whole.

Nashville became the epicenter of a unique style of country music known as The New Nashville Sound. This sound combined contemporary pop influences with classic country elements to create something new.

The New Nashville Sound emerged as Nashville’s recording industry expanded and Music Row emerged around Sixteenth Avenue studios. It provided a convenient geographic nexus for those aspiring to build a music business in Nashville, as well as helping cement its reputation as an area where country artists could flourish.

By the 1950s, several major record labels had invested in Nashville’s growing recording industry. Paul Cohen of Deccas Records led this charge and struck a deal with Owen Bradley whose duplex studio on Sixteenth Avenue quickly became home to many prestigious recording sessions.

When Bradley opened his studio, he created an acoustical environment that enabled many performers to make beautiful recordings. To achieve this effect, he hung burlap bags and blankets on the walls of his workspace which gave it a more open feel that appealed to a variety of musicians.

Music Row’s recording facilities spread and as the neighborhood of Music Row developed, many country artists began incorporating pop styles into their work. This was part of a movement to create an updated sound for country music that would attract a wider audience and help the genre remain popular.

Another significant influence on the Nashville Sound was the introduction of electric guitars into country music. This choice proved popular since they sounded much cleaner and more refined than fiddle, steel guitar, or banjo instruments.

Some country artists were spurred to experiment with this new sound, including Jim Reeves. His records from the 1950s are often credited as pivotal moments in developing what is now known as the New Nashville Sound.

Women in Country

In the 1940s, country music experienced a resurgence with several popular artists. Stars such as Roy Rogers, Patsy Montana and Jenny Lou Carson made names for themselves within this genre.

Women in country music were an integral part of the genre during the 1940s. Some of these women achieved fame and changed public perceptions of what a woman could accomplish within this industry.

Minnie Pearl was one of the most beloved female artists in country music during this era. As both a singer and actress, she revolutionized how men perceived women in country music by her hick, boy-crazy persona. Through this influence, she made an indelible mark on all aspects of country music today.

She achieved great fame in country music and was an integral part of the Grand Ole Opry. Her songs continue to be played today and her fans hail from all corners of the globe.

Loretta Lynn was another well-known female artist during the 1940s. She achieved great success in country music with her song Paper Roses being a hit on the Grand Ole Opry and landing her album Paper Roses a place of honor on country music charts. Through Loretta Lynn’s success in music, many other female artists followed suit – making an impact across genres and charts alike.

Her songwriting abilities and singing prowess have made her a major star in country music. Her singing is high pitched with plenty of emotion infused in it – making for an unforgettable combination.

Dolly Parton is an iconic artist, with her song “Coat of Many Colors” becoming one of the most beloved country music classics. As a pioneer in country music, Dolly remains popular to this day.

Other female artists that made waves in country music during the 1940s include Judy Canova, Lulu Belle and Rose Maddox. All three women achieved great success during this era and revolutionized the industry of country music forever.

Red Foley

Red Foley was one of country music’s biggest stars during the post-war era. His silky voice helped make country music popular across America, selling 25 million records over his career and helping establish country music as a viable mainstream endeavor.

Clyde Julian Foley was born June 17, 1910 in Blue Lick, Kentucky and began playing harmonica and guitar at an early age. At seventeen, he won first prize in a statewide talent contest and went on to study music at Georgetown College where he also took part in their annual talent contest.

In the late 1930s, John Lair was chosen to perform on the National Barn Dance, broadcast over WLW in Cincinnati and produced by John Lair (who also ran the Cumberland Ridge Runners).

His popularity increased, leading him to record in Nashville and reach a wider audience with songs like Smoke On the Water, At Mail Call Today, Tennessee Saturday Night and Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy from the 1940s.

His career took a turn for the worse in the early 1950s when he began abusing alcohol and drugs. He was ultimately fired from the Grand Ole Opry and joined Hank Williams on his Louisiana Hayride tour, but returned to singing with the Grand Ole Opry after becoming sober in 1953.

He briefly enjoyed a comeback with his 1967 duet “Hello Number One” with Kitty Wells, which reached the Top 50. The following year, “Happiness Means You” entered the Top 60 chart.

Foley’s Gospel recordings were particularly successful, including the first million-selling gospel hit single, “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me”)”.

This CD features some classic tracks from Red’s post-war career. The reissue includes twenty songs from his Decca albums as well as some transcription recordings.

For an enjoyable introduction to the man, this collection is hard to beat. It includes both his early songs as well as some of his later hit singles.

Some of Foley’s finest performances are his duets with R&B legend Cecil Gant, which will come as a surprise to those who haven’t heard them before. Their voices sound similar – Foley having a smoother tone than Gant – and their harmony singing has some soulfulness to it. Furthermore, there are several gospel tracks on this album which don’t overly lean into preachy cliches that would become the mainstay of Foley’s career later on.