Here are few words about the history of Rockabilly and its birth
Old Time music and Hillbilly:
Old time music developped in the late XVIII in the appalaches.
English and Irish settlers had only the Bible and celtic singings for entertainement.
And yet, with the traditionnal songs from the European pionners,
rose the futur Country Music. A title like " Barbara Allen " sung by
"Les Cotes De Fer" for example, was interpreted 3 centuries later
by the Everly Brothers.In fact, the isolation of these regions has
preserve the music from Britain. Most of the time, music was played
with fiddle and borrowed his rythm to the irish dancings. But quite
quickly the hillbillies began composing more personnal themes using
the dulcimer, the african banjo and the italian mandoline. At the
begining of this century appears the word "Hillbilly Music".
The first records were recorded in New York by two violonists,
Eck Robertson and Gilliland on june 30th of 1922 including a country dance,
"Arckansaw Traveler". Country Music was just born. Then came the
other pionners, Fiddling John Carson in 1923, Uncle Dave Macon,
Vernon Dalhart, Riley Puckett and Gid Tanner in 1924, Charlie
poole in 1925, The Skillet Lickers in 1926 (Puckett, Tanner and
Clayton McMichen), Sam McGhee, Dock Boggs, the Carter Family and
Jimmie Rodgers in 1927. Jimmie developped his own and
unique style : Bluesy Cowboy Songs with yodel very close to the White Blues.
This is a popular music created by the Negroes emancipated
after the secession war. Blues, song of 12 times and
his famous blue notes (Eb and Bb in C), was at the
beginning, jazz and of course boogie-woogie (way to play
the blues to the piano). In fact blues has influenced all
kind of musics: Jimmie Rodgers' and Hank Williams' country,
Bill Monroe's bluegrass, Bob Wills' western swing,
Moon Mullican's Hillbilly Boogie and the rock'n roll of
the pioneers from the fifties. With 3 blues chords you
can easily accompany several thousands of country,
Rockabilly and rock pieces. The first blues were
recorded in the 20's. Surprise in 1927 with Blind Lemon
Jefferson's "Matchbox Blues" that would be next a
classical RaB piece with Carl Perkins (R.I.P) and his
famous "Matchbox" repeated too by Jerry Lee Lewis,
Ronnie Hawkins and The Beatles! Among the best of the
delta blues we can quote Robert Johnson, the king of
the bottle neck. However Johnson took the example of
Son House, initiator of the bottleneck style in the
blues. This bottleneck came from the hawaician guitar
very popular in the US since the beginnig of the XX
centuary. From this guitar rose the Dobro then the
pedal steel guitar that suit to the Negroes' blues and
the Whites' Country. Cliff Carlisle was Jimmie Rodgers'
guitarist and that was nice with Jimmie's cowboy's
blues with Yodel.
American folklore didn't developpe exculsively in the
Appalaches. Especially Texas, with his vast plains and
his cowboys, was propicious to the creation, in the XIX
century, of a range of western folksongs. Let's quote
"Texas Ranger" (recorded by the Cartwright Brothers)
sung before in the West around 1830: "Texas Soldier Boy".
Cowboy songs, originally interpreted a cappella
or with a single fiddle accompaniment (guitar, common
in the South since 1850, is common in the West only
since the dawn of the XX century) related most of the
time the personnal experience of the pionneers. The same
musical theme was utilisated for different stories,
only few things changed. Most of the musics they used
came from the britanic folklore. But the poet cowboys
wrote their own and personnal texts. Among them we can
quote Carl T. Sprague (1925), Harry Mc Clintock,
Jules Verne Allen, Jack Webb, Billie Maxwell,
J. D. Farley, Powder River Jack and Kitty Lee, and the
famous Ken Maynard who was the first Singing Cowboy
Ken Maynard who played in westerns was the pioneer of
these singing cowboys in 1930,followed by Gene Autry
in 1934, the first great vocalist of country music's history.
The singing cowboys became very populars in the 30's and
the 40's. The songs were often stemed from western
folklore, but this time the performers are true
professional singers accompagned by an elaborated
scoring. Actually the first sort of commercial
country music was born. The best exponents were
The Sons Of The Pioneers, Roy Rogers, Tex Ritter,
Johnny Bond, Johnny Western and a lot of other unknowns.
In a sort they were pioneers for country and western
and they imposed their own songs in spite of the repeats
from folk. Jimmie Davis' "You Are My Sunshine" became
the greatest classic of Country Music (even in
rock'n'roll and Rockabilly!) thanks to
Gene Autry's repeat in 1941. However these singing
cowboys, bad taste dressed, were not appreciated
by some other musicians like Bill Monroe who has
developped at the same time ('35-'55) a music
inspirated by the Old Time and the BlueGrass from Kentucky.
The most creative period for
Bill Monroe is the decade that follow the world war II.
Vocal perch on the shrill, vocal harmonies elaborated, fast beat, virtuosity
(conversation between banjo, mandoline, guitar and fiddle),
are the characteristics of this style reserved to very good
Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys are often excellent musicians.
Let's quote as an exemple Lester Flat & Earl Scruggs, Carl
Story, David Akeman, Clyde Moody, Chubby Wise, Jimmy Martin,
Mac Wiseman, Bill Keith and Peter Rowan. Lots of artists
are inspirated by
Bill Monroe: Stanley Brothers, Jim & Jesse, Osborne Brothers,
Doyle Lawson, Kentucky Colonels, Kenny Baker, Lilly Brothers,
Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Larry Sparks, Charlie Moore,
Don Reno & Red Smiley, Bill Narrell, Don Stover, Joe Val,
Vern Williams, J. D. Crowe, Bluegrass Cardinals, Jethro Burns,
Vassar Clements,... The vogue of Bluegrass stop when the rock'n'roll
Today, Newgrass (the new Bluegrass) is close to
Don't forget that two titles from
Bill Monroe are two classics of Rockabilly
and Rock'n'Roll: "Blue Moon Of Kentucky" (by
Elvis Presley) and "Rocky Road Blues" (by
Gene Vincent). In 1935, while
Bill Monroe is looking for his style, a Texan has just find his own style,
and Milton Brown are the great artists of this style that
incorporate the instruments of jazz and above all its swing
to the String Bands of texan folklore. Bob and Milton record
together in 1932 before leading band each one on his side.
For the very first time, White musicians bands make people
from Texas and Oklahoma dance on a crazy rythm borrowed to Black
music of jazz swing. An amazing and explosive mixture that has
influenced Country from the Thirties to nowadays.
This music has the slapin bass from Rockabilly,
the electric steel guitar, the fiddle, the brass, the piano
from Honky Tonk, drums... All of these instruments are
a revolution (most of these intruments aren't here on the
music from Appalaches). I'm going to mention some famous
artists of wertern swing: The Light Crust DoughBoys,
Bill Boyd, Cliff Bruner, Jimmy Revard, Adolph Hoffner,
Buddy Jones, Johnny Lee & Billy Jack Wills, Roy Newman,
Spade Cooley and Tex Williams. What is the name of
first band? The Four Aces Of Western Swing. It is very
amazing to ear Bill's yodels!
Due to the cost of such a big band, little bands rise.
This is the birth of an
Ernest Tubb's Honky Tonk. This artist
keeps the fiddle bass (slappin bass), the electrique guitar and
the swing of Western Swing. His vocal is an
Hillbilly one. Moon Mulican's
Hillbilly Boogie develop too during the war.
Honky Tonk and Hillbilly Boogie:
Rockabilly is a lead guitar, a rhythm guitar and a upright bass.
Real true rockabilly... well you get too carried away till a drummer can't keep up with it! --- Charlie Feathers, 1979 ---
Country and Western: