The Roots of R&B in Nashville

Nashville may be best known as a country town, but its musical legacy also lies within jazz, rock and blues music. Nashville’s R&B history can be traced back to Jefferson Street and WLAC radio station from the 1950s.

Wilkins, Eskridge and Hicks are part of a growing community of Nashville Black musicians who want to see more representation for their genre on television – but doing so won’t always be straightforward.

Contemporary Christian Artists

In the 1970s, The Ward siblings’ self-taught piano playing and tight harmonies allowed them to create music that resonated with churchgoers and followers of Jesus alike. Thanks to Buck Herring’s experience and access, their production values far surpassed those of their contemporaries – particularly by 1974 when their breakthrough album marked a new era for Christian rock in what became known as Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) era which gained significant support both from record labels as well as worship services.

Christian artists use music to spread a message of faith and hope through song. More than mere performers, these musicians act as worshippers inviting the listener along their spiritual journeys. With genre-spanning styles that have made an indelible mark on contemporary music scenes.

One such group is Avalon Gospel Choir. While their membership has changed over time, their commitment to excellence remains undiminished and their music provides an inspiring alternative to mainstream pop.

Katy Nichole is another prolific Christian music artist. With her charismatic personality and sincere messages of faith, she easily connects with listeners on a deeper level. Her songs reveal insights into her faith journey while telling stories from her personal experiences as an young woman.

Contemporary Christian rock band MercyMe is another stellar example of a group who have successfully broken through genre barriers to make an impressionful statement on Christian music’s scene. Since their formation over 20 years ago, MercyMe have released chart-topping hits. Their sound draws influence from several musical genres including pop, rock and country.

MercyMe members hail from various backgrounds, yet all share an enthusiasm for creating music that touches hearts. Their devotion has earned them worldwide respect; as they continue to push the boundaries of contemporary Christian music while staying true to their faith.


Blues songs are emotional songs that convey pain and sadness through lyrics that rhyme between each four-bar section, often performed with guitar and vocalist. Their music follows 12-bar chord progressions which repeat, often broken up into three phrases of four bars each; AAB lyrics make the lyrics easy to follow by repeating every four bars so the first line also rhymes with every subsequent line; making blues lyrics an engaging experience to listen to and follow along with.

The Blues is a genre of secular folk music developed during the early 20th century in the South by African Americans, becoming one of the most influential styles in American and Western popular music – impacting jazz, rhythm and blues, rock n roll country music, hip hop as well as serving as part of modern foundation for music production and popularity. Today it remains a beloved form of expression within US society and remains widely popular today.

Though Nashville is more widely recognized as a center of country music today, it was once a leading R&B center. Nashville’s Country Music Hall of Fame features an excellent exhibit showcasing this time period from 1945 through 1970 when influence from WLAC R&B station could be felt throughout Southeast. Jefferson Street nightclubs hosted local and touring acts, labels such as Bullet took chances on talent, while Night Train (a precursor to Soul Train) streamed performances into living rooms around the nation.

Many iconic artists of their era, like Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix, honed their craft in Nashville’s clubs and studios. Today, Nashville boasts a vibrant multicultural music scene; evidence of its past is still visible in its contemporary sounds.

Blues may no longer be mainstream music, yet its influences can still be heard today in different genres of music. Blues is noted for its simple harmonic structure which can be heard in rhythm and blues, country, and pop. Furthermore, its distinctive lyrical style incorporates simple language without elaborate embellishments such as poetic descriptions or grandiose settings.


R&B music’s roots can be traced to jazz, blues, and gospel that emerged after World War II America. The exhibit chronicles their development over time as well as how they influenced one another over time. Furthermore, Motown Records and Soul Train helped popularize R&B genre, along with prominent artists like Otis Redding and Jimi Hendrix whose works have helped define R&B genre.

Early 1950s R&B began an almost imperceptible transformation into Rock and Roll music. The transition was dramatic: this new style utilized electric guitars (lead, rhythm and bass) as its dominant instruments while lyrics served more as scene setters than as melodic themes; its volume also increased while becoming louder and sexualized in tone – many pioneers such as Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry and Sister Rosetta Tharp were Black pioneers of this new sound.

Jazz adopted elements from different R&B styles, and its musicians frequently explored musical concepts outside the mainstream. Jazz became known for its fluid nature – something critic Whitney Balliet famously termed it as the “sound of surprise”. Miles Davis’ 1980 album Doo-Bop included hip hop beats while Herbie Hancock’s 1994 release had many stylistic influences incorporated.

R&B and hip-hop influence is becoming more apparent within jazz as time progresses, as contemporary jazz artists incorporate hip-hop inspired beats and R&B vocal interludes into their performances, sparking renewed interest for this form. One notable example was Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album released in 2015 featuring such influences courtesy of jazz musicians such as Thundercat.

Before recently, professional R&B expertise didn’t necessarily translate to opportunities on Music City’s predominately country-oriented stage. That changed with Beyonce and Usher’s emergence, both beginning their careers with local R&B acts before going on to become superstars themselves. These crossover acts have provided musicians of color more opportunities. Museum editor Michael Gray led this effort of making Nashville more welcoming for musicians of all types through creating the Night Train compilation album of his show “Night Train.”


Nashville may be best known as the Country Music Capital of the World, but it is more than that: Nashville boasts an extensive musical history encompassing every genre imaginable. Nashville has been home to some of the most influential artists from every discipline imaginable and music fans can often catch an R&B concert as easily as one with country influences. Each genre influences each other to some degree – this combination forms part of Nashville’s rich musical legacy.

Country music’s roots lie in traditional American folk music and European immigrant folk songs. Country became increasingly popular during the early 1920s via radio shows like Grand Ole Opry which showcased performers such as Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers. By 1940s RCA Victor Records began using “country and western” to market it and it quickly spread throughout North America and beyond.

As with other musical genres, country music has developed many subgenres and stylistic movements throughout its history. While some have separated over time, others have united to form cohesive wholes.

Fusions between country music and rap music have produced some unusual musical hybrids. Country Rap or Hick-Hop has become immensely popular while others remain more obscure; while some musicians with R&B experience have found some success making their way up Nashville’s dominant culture ladder.

Dale Watson recently popularized Ameripolitan country music to set his style apart from mainstream country. His goal was to revive honky-tonk, western swing and rockabilly sounds that had fallen out of fashion in country music’s industry. While some traditional fans criticize its mainstream appeal, many artists embrace Ameripolitan’s popularity to reach a larger audience.