Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The First Country Song Ever Recorded

I heard some news the other day about how a station in Australia was being 'punished' by the government for breaking format (the government controls radio formats there and most other places in the world). To correct the error, they were forced to play more Country music. Do they really hate Country music that much Down Under?

Country music pre-dates recorded music. For nearly 300 years, USA immigrants who settled in the Southern Appalachian Mountains of North America brought music and instruments of the Old World along with them. The Irish fiddle, the German dulcimer, the Italian mandolin, the Spanish guitar, and the African banjo were the most common musical instruments.

Musicians from different ethnic groups interacted to produce a new type of music that became unique to the region. Appalachian string bands of the early twentieth century primarily consisted of fiddle, guitar, and banjo. This early music became known as old-time music. Throughout the 1800's, these immigrant groups, who came from Ireland, Germany, Spain and Italy moved to Texas where they interacted with Spanish-Mexican and Native Americans, who were already established in Texas.

Columbia Records started issuing "hillbilly" music in their "Old Familiar Tunes" series as early as 1924. A year earlier, on June 14, 1923, Fiddlin' John Carson recorded Little Log Cabin In The Lane for Okeh Records. Vernon Dalhart was the first country singer to have a nationwide hit in May 1924 with Wreck Of The Old '97. But the very first commercial recording one might call Country Music was an instrumental called Sallie Gooden performed by fiddler A.C. (Eck) Robertson in 1922 for Victor Records.

We now know that this song was recorded either on June 30, 1922 or July 1, 1922 in New York City. Although it is indeed possible, if not likely, that country or hillbilly performers had been recorded earlier, these sessions with Texas fiddler Eck Robertson are the earliest documented recording sessions of a country performer. The recordings were not released until about a year after they were recorded, somewhere in 1923.

You're going to hear some classic Country tunes on MusicMaster Oldies, mixed right in with everything else. That's because Country music was "instrumental" in the formation of rock and roll, along with Gospel and Rhythm and Blues, which was actually known as "race music" in the early days. Country music splintered into Rockabilly. Elvis Presley was a pioneer of rock and roll because of his exposure and interest in all three of these musical genres. His first record on Sun was a cover of an R&B record by Arthur Crudup, done in a Rockabilly style, by a guy who had Gospel music in his heart at all times. It was the ultimate blend, which sold a ton of records and spawned a whole bunch of imitators. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Here's Sallie Gooden by Eck Robertson.

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