Friday, March 9, 2012

Old School Country: Rockers and Cowboys

The joys of the crossover.

One of the reasons country grew popular as quickly and as broadly as it did in the 1950s and 60s was because of the number of crossover artists. Even as country began to shift away from its blues, Gospel, and rock foundations, the big name artists who released country records gave it new life.

Arguably the most important of these crossover artists was Ray Charles, whose album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music was important both for its musical impact (mixing blues and country, and influencing the next generation of country artists) and for its social impact, exposing white people to soul and black people to country. It included songs like country singer Don Gibson's I Can't Stop Loving You:

And Hank Williams' Hey Good Lookin'

Ray Charles kept up his relationship with country music, eventually releasing singles and albums, including the hit with Willie Nelson Seven Spanish Angels


Yet another crossover artist was Elvis, who through his career covered numerous country songs, including (early on) the Bill Munroe favorite Blue Moon of Kentucky


Jerry Lee Lewis likewise crossed into country when he covered Ray Price's Crazy Arms


Chuck Berry's first hit Maybellene was a remix of an old Bob Wills Western ballad (which also provided the inspiration for Cotton Eyed Joe):

Crossovers into country have continued down to the present day, including artists like Bob Dylan, Kid Rock, Bon Jovi, Uncle Kracker, ZZ Top, and countless others.

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