Country Music in the 1950s and 60s

country music 50s 60s

At this time, Country Music was at its height, appealing to a generation that had seen war and experienced population shifts.

Kitty Wells and Patsy Cline both achieved fame, while Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys revived traditional country music through syncopated rhythms and instrumental prowess. Furthermore, rock musicians such as Buddy Holly, Gene Vincent and the Everly Brothers began blending country with rock.

The Nashville Sound

The Nashville Sound is a subgenre of country music that emerged during the 1950s. This style replaced traditional honky tonk style with a smoother, less honky tonk sound produced by Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley to reach out to America’s middle class through music; their producers removed steel guitars and fiddles in favor of lush string sections with background vocal choruses to appeal more directly. This new sound proved successful and created crossover hits between country and pop charts that reached #1.

Producers responsible for developing this sound also influenced how artists dressed and presented themselves. They encouraged artists to abandon cowboy hats for more feminine attire, helping break down stereotypical associations between country music and gendered clothing and increasing mainstream appeal while opening up opportunities for female artists within this genre to thrive within its ranks.

Patsy Cline was among the many artists to benefit from the Nashville Sound. Her deep, emotional voice perfectly fit with that sound – her songs of heartbreak and lost love resonated deeply with many listeners, while she had an enormous audience reach thanks to being capable of singing both country and pop music genres.

Though many purists criticized Nashville sound for being too orchestrated and diluting true country, it proved profitable and was generally well received. Artists like Jim Reeves were successful at adapting their voices to fit within its parameters, becoming major stars as a result.

Nashville sound also brought tube microphones that provided warm, rich tones that improved vocal performances compared to prior microphones that provided scratchy tones for vocalists.


Rockabilly was an underground genre that emerged during the 1950s from mainstream country music and quickly made waves on the music scene. Rockabilly can be traced back to producer Sam Phillips, one of the most pivotal figures in US history for his contribution in helping white and black music merge and eventually give rise to rock & roll. Rockabilly was also widely credited with altering how country musicians related to black culture as a whole. At first, music listeners viewed rockabilly with great trepidation; even great stars like Elvis Presley were met with fierce opposition when performing at the Grand Ole Opry. Yet quickly enough they came around, with rockabilly flourishing quickly enough that Elvis reached five Billboard country chart number ones in less than a year and become known as “The King of Western Bop”.

Rockabilly was heavily influenced by rhythm and blues music, performed mainly by young, white working class singers from legitimate country backgrounds who switched over for short-lived experiences in rockabilly music with strong beats. Only in later ’50s did female artists such as Kitty Wells and Wanda Jackson begin carving out a place in this genre.

Carl Perkins released “Blue Suede Shoes,” his iconic rockabilly single recorded at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in 1955, at Sam Phillips’ Sun Records in 1955. Though Elvis would later make headlines with his version, many consider Perkins’ original recording to be the epitome of rockabilly music and its success set the bar for future artists and genres to follow suit.

The New Nashville Sound

After rock ‘n’ roll took hold, country music producers needed a way to appeal to a wider audience. One solution was the Nashville Sound; an approach focused on production quality and smooth singing with lush string arrangements; this created crossover hits from artists such as Patsy Cline, Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.

Some audiences were dismayed at this new softer form of country, as some criticised it for not being “country enough.” Crooning was a signature element in this production style that used soft singing techniques that focused on conveying emotion rather than using high vocal ranges; another feature included using more sophisticated themes and outfits than were typically associated with cowboy and hillbilly characters.

As one example of Nashville Sound music, Patsy Cline sings of feeling heartbroken by someone who has left her. Wearing a satin dress and hat that stands in stark contrast to what would usually be worn at honky-tonk bars, she wears her signature satin look in “I Fall to Pieces.” Stunning background vocals and lush string arrangements characterize her performance while her polished voice sans any trace of twang are also hallmarks of Nashville Sound music.

The Nashville Sound is considered to be a significant precursor of modern country, which emphasizes melody and lyrics over instrumentation. Since its debut, this genre has gone through many changes since its inception, yet remains an integral part of American musical landscape despite these fluctuations in taste, technology and politics.

Women in Country Music

Even though female country music artists exist, women remain underrepresented on radio playlists and award show stages. Their absence leads many people to assume that only a limited number are participating and that no high-quality female music exists – something which simply isn’t true.

Over the decades, female country music artists have used country music to highlight aspects of womanhood often overlooked or hidden away from public view. Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette helped women feel seen and validated through songs about infidelity, raising children, substance abuse and much more.

Other artists pushed the limits of country music, like blues singer Bobbie Gentry with her catchy “Ode to Billy Joe.” Her style set her apart in what had previously been male-dominated industry.

More recently, female artists have taken a stand against the sexism and stereotypes inherent to country music. Maddie & Tae made headlines for releasing an anti-bro-country track titled “Girl in a Country Song” back in 2014. Remarkably, Sheryl Crow of Sheryl and the Dead recently lambasted the genre for its use of “sexist imagery” in its videos as well as for featuring male backup dancers dressed as women performing sensuously-clad positions on camera. She noted that only 12 percent of country songwriters are women, suggesting systemic sexism within the industry. Even though country’s popularity may have diminished for some, female musicians continue to redefine it in creative ways.


Country music has long been known for its intricate vocal arrangements and harmonious duets, from romantic love ballads to songs about long-term relationships that explore them. Some of its most celebrated male and female singers have found great success as duet partners; famous pairings like Johnny Cash and June Carter, George Jones and Tammy Wynette and Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton all established themselves with flawless harmonies and emotive lyrics that became iconic names within country music history.

Early 1950s saw a new subgenre of country emerge with the birth of country boogie music, or hillbilly boogie. Country boogie (or hillbilly boogie) combined elements of country, blues, rockabilly, and traditional folk with rockabilly music for an appealing genre that combined traditional with contemporary elements. Artists such as Johnny Barfield whose “Freight Train Boogie” reached country charts; Kitty Wells was the first woman ever to achieve No.1 country single with her 1952 hit, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”, thus opening doors for other musicians like Dickey Lee and Moon Mullican to establish themselves within it.

Country boogie has grown increasingly popular as modern artists such as Rhonda Vincent, Alison Krauss and Union Station have taken to performing this vibrant musical genre. Boogie can be traced back to country music’s shift from traditional to modern with its unique sound and message striking chords with audiences worldwide.

Country music continues to flourish today as its roots change and expand with each passing decade, becoming a combination of styles with varied influences. Alternative country is one of the genre’s most prominent subgenres, renowned acts like Bottle Rockets, Old 97’s My Morning Jacket and Avett Brothers enjoying massive success within it.