Country Music in the 1960s

country music 60s

In the 1960s, America experienced an uncertain period marked by rock ‘n roll’s irreverent attitude that challenged traditional values while inspiring feminist ideologies. Domestic violence continued to plague households while country artists found their personal lives thrust under scrutiny.

As a response, country artists embraced a smoother sound that appealed more strongly to adults – this became known as Classic Country.


Honky-tonk music emerged during the 1940s and ’50s in country music’s early days and remains popular today. While not always easy listening, honky-tonk incorporates lyrics about adultery and drinking with twangy guitar chords and an authentic southern accent; its popularity can often be found at cheap bars or dance halls.

Although not widely used until 1894, “honky tonk” likely first gained currency as a colloquial term along a corridor corresponding with cattle drive trails from Texas into south-central Oklahoma and possibly spread by cowboys driving cattle there for market.

Early honky tonk artists included Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb and Kitty Wells. By 1955 to 1953, honky tonk reached its golden age; many of its artists are considered among the greatest country singers ever. Hank Williams dominated this period from 1955-1953 by pioneering new styles of singing and emoting through long melodic phrases and his deep, pure tenor voice; Lefty Frizzell had an equally profound effect in this decade through innovative phrasing and adding emotional intensity into country songs.

George Jones has long been considered the ultimate country music singer. Beginning his career during the honky tonk era, his trademark style flourished during the ’50s and ’60s before transitioning into the 1970s with great success. Though occasionally moving away from it due to the changing times and musical fads, it always reappeared thanks to George’s incredible voice and talent.

Honky Tonk Heroes and Hillbilly Angels by Holly George-Warren is an insightful biography book featuring early country musicians who made an impressionful mark in the genre. Alongside this information are beautiful photographs to accompany these legends’ stories – this must-read book belongs in every country fan’s library – it will bring generations of enjoyment.


Rockabilly was an early precursor to rock and roll, but its influence can also be found in country-and-western rhythm and blues music. This genre emerged through a synthesis of raw country blues from Howlin’ Wolf (such as Jump Blues ) with honky tonk Western swing and hillbilly boogie songs popular in regions with large African American populations; its sounds became appealing to white working-class musicians whose parents heard blues music on radio or church services; these sounds also inspired Patsy Cline who created legendary melodies like Crazy and Sweet Dreams which remain timeless pieces today.

Rockabilly was coined because its sound combined elements from both rock and country music. Prior to that name change, however, this genre was commonly referred to as country and western rhythm and blues or simply country boogie. Rockabilly became more widely recognized during the early 1950s, when Sun Records stars such as Elvis Presley incorporated this genre into their performances. Presley’s 1954 sessions for Columbia Records featured several rockabilly recordings, such as his rendition of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass classic “That’s All Right Mama” that was enhanced with fast timing and provocative undertones. Presley would later perform similar material on Louisiana Hayride radio show where he earned himself the moniker “Hillbilly Cat”, perfectly embodying how this genre bridged blues and country.

Other Sun Records artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Conway Twitty created their own distinctive forms of rockabilly. Some, like Elvis Presley, went on to further develop the genre into rock and roll; others like Johnny Cash stayed close to country music roots. Meanwhile Gene Vincent and Eddie Cochran were heavily influenced by rockabilly yet managed to develop unique sounds of their own.

Rockabilly was traditionally associated with white artists; however, black artists like Chuck Berry used its rhythmic features to transcend racial barriers when the music first reached mainstream popularity – though many later went on to gain greater success through urban R&B or gospel genres.

Rockabilly was popular up until the late 1960s, when it began to fade from public consciousness, though rockabilly has experienced several resurgences since. Still performed today at popular events like Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekend where fans come out in droves to witness bands and artists pay homage to its roots – among these is Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim Phanton’s Stray Cats band; these modern performers may represent one of rockabilly’s enduring legacies!

The New Nashville Sound

In the 1960s, country music underwent dramatic change. Producers such as Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley introduced a refined Nashville sound characterized by sophisticated productions, jazz-influenced instrumentation, and singing styles like crooning to appeal to American middle class listeners by moving away from honky-tonk roots such as alcoholism, failed marriages, drug dependency etc. They instead sang about heartbreak and love but more subtly without as many lyrics about such topics found in honky-tonk songs; instead they sang about heartbreak and love but without as many issues present in honky-tonk songs did.

Many traditional country musicians were dissatisfied with Nashville’s new sound. To address this situation, The Association of Country Entertainers was formed in order to combat country-pop and defend traditional country music values. Some fans even boycotted stations that played Nashville artists’ work – an action which ultimately caused some of country music’s biggest stars such as Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton to leave Nashville altogether.

But the 1960s also witnessed some big successes for country music: Loretta Lynn inked her first record contract, Nashville became home for the Country Music Hall of Fame and CMA Awards held their inaugural ceremony; many iconic artists recorded classic songs that are still beloved today.

The 1960s also marked the advent of countrypolitan, an amalgam of country music and pop. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and Emmylou Harris helped to spread Nashville-style country to wider audiences while expanding its boundaries beyond traditional limits.

Paul Hemphill is an award-winning journalist who has contributed articles to The Atlanta Journal and Birmingham News among others. His memoirs Too Old to Cry and King of the Road have become bestsellers. Additionally, Hemphill serves on both Emory University and Brenau University faculties where he teaches writing. Furthermore, He is co-author of American Literature: A Literary and Cultural Analysis textbook as well as having written extensively on sports and music topics – currently working on a book about country music history!

Women in Country Music

Women have always played a vital role in country music. Without their powerful voices and stories, country music might look entirely different today – something which was especially evident during the 60s when women’s contributions made history in country music.

Country music often portrays hard drinking men, womanizing cowgirls, and seductive country songs as stories about hard partying, womanizing men, and sexualized cowgirls. Yet some of its top female singer/songwriters use their songs to explore more introspective issues surrounding womanhood that often go overlooked. Women such as Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Jeannie C Riley, and Tammy Wynette achieved commercial success as their songs empowered women while giving them voice during women’s liberation movements or Civil Rights struggles – giving women empowerment with voice empowering songs like their songs to express themselves more fully than ever before.

These pioneering female country singers are widely credited with altering how women are viewed within this male-dominated industry. It wasn’t until these ladies made waves that country radio began accepting that women could also make it big in this business.

Country music owes much to Maybelle Carter. She and her daughters Sara, Helen and June made an indelible mark in the industry with their family act that added harmony and emotional directness to country. Through anthems of optimism like “Keep on the Sunny Side” or ballads about sexuality and death such as “Bury Me beneath the Willow”, Maybelle laid down the foundations for what would later become America’s national musical genre – country.

Country music had long been a beloved genre in Southern Appalachia, yet radio stations made its first nationwide broadcasts and the sound really took off. Country fuses Celtic, traditional folk stylings, African-American roots and rural working-class sensibilities into what has since been recognized as country. Thanks to radio promoters, popular names in country like Hank Williams, George Jones and Bob Wills were able to propel it into national popularity and drive its rise into widespread recognition.