’50s Country Essentials

’50s Country Essentials

Since country was a key ingredient of first-generation rock 'n' roll, in retrospect it's not too surprising that the former's path in the '50s somewhat mirrored that of the latter. The first half of the '50s were something of a honky-tonk holdover, with the hard-driving, heavy-drinking barroom country sounds established in the '40s by rough-edged trailblazers like Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb continuing to hold sway. And when rock 'n' roll hit mid-decade, the rockabilly crossover of artists like Johnny Cash kept some roughage in the country diet. But just as rock began to grow more polished and less punky toward the end of the decade, so did country. Even Cash's recordings were being layered with background vocal harmonies, and the emergence of artists like Patsy Cline as a major force in Nashville underlined the rise of the Nashville Sound, which favored pop-friendly productions over the rough-and-ready appeal of honky-tonk.

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