Culture and Recreation


How old is country music?

Old-time music or “hillbilly music,” both early names for country music, emerged in the early decades of the 1900s. By 1920 the first country music radio stations had opened, and healthy record sales in rural areas caused music industry executives to take notice. But it was an event in 1925, in the middle of the American Jazz Age, that put country music on the map: On November 28, WSM Radio broadcast The WSM Barn Dance, which soon became known as The Grand Ole Opry when the master of ceremonies, George D. Hay, took to introducing the program that way—since it was aired immediately after an opera program. The show’s first performer was Uncle Jimmy Thompson (1848–1931). Early favorites included Uncle Dave Macon (1870–1952), who played the banjo and sang, and Roy Acuff (1903–1992), who was the Opry’s first singing star. Millions tuned in and soon the Nashville-based show had turned Tennessee’s capital city into Music City U.S.A. In the 1960s and again in the late 1980s and 1990s, country music reached the height of popularity, while holding on to its small-town, rural-based audience who were the show’s first fans.


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