Sunday, 3 November 2013

Top 10 Most Influential Men in Country Music - Part One

10. Buck Owens

Buck Owens, with his band The Buckaroos, was responsible for the cultivation of what became known as the Bakersfield Sound in the 1960s, combining the traditional Honky-Tonk sound with elements of 50's R&B. At the heart of the Owens' sound lay the Fender Telecaster Guitar which was used to play twangy high notes like a steel guitar. One of the other main features of his music was its use of the 'Bakersfield Shuffle' which combined swing rhythms with a walking bass line, giving the music a real 'drive'. Owens' Bakersfield Sound was so influential in Country Music as it directly opposed the slick Country-Pop that was being produced in Nashville at the time and succeeded in its aim of keeping the true Country music tradition alive.

9. George Strait 

George Strait arrived during the first wave of Neotraditionalism in the 1980s and was one of the key pioneers of the movement which resurrected earlier, distinctive styles of Country music and updated them with modern recording studio techniques. George Strait's own brand of Neotraditionalism married Honky-Tonk with the 1930s Western Swing of Bob Wills, heavily emphasising the twang of the fiddle and steel guitar. In terms of commercial success Strait was unsurpassable, amassing forty-four number one Billboard Country hits and achieving eleven number one singles in a row. Strait's success is even more impressive with the knowledge that he was able to gain commercial popularity whilst ensuring his music was centered on the roots of Country music.

8. Bill Monroe

The 'Father of Bluegrass', Bill Monroe, is credited with the creation of an entire musical style. Beginning with his brother as the Monroe Brothers in the 1930s, Bill went on to form his Blue Grass Boys which really took shape in 1945 with the addition of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. The latter's three-finger banjo-picking style would be the main characteristic of the Bluegrass sound and would give the music its 'drive'. Other than as its creator, Monroe's contribution to Bluegrass music was mainly evident in his role as a bandleader: generations of musicians learned their trade as members of his band which was a training ground for Bluegrass players. Monroe also developed a different style of Mandolin playing which imitated the intricate melodies played on the fiddle, transforming the instrument from a supportive one into a leading one. In short, Bluegrass music owes its entire existence to Monroe!

7. Jimmie Rodgers

Jimmie Rodgers is seen as the 'Father of Country Music' but not in the same way that Bill Monroe created Bluegrass music. From being discovered during the Bristol Sessions in 1927, Jimmie Rodgers went on to become the first big star of Country music - in 1929, Rodgers made a short movie for Columbia Pictures called The Singing Brakeman in which he sang three songs. He was the first artist to adopt the image of the 'tragic troubadour' and his personal life and recordings came to represent the very essence of Country music - his battle with tuberculosis ultimately led to his early death but his influence did not die with him as he inspired the next generation of Country performers such as Ernest Tubb and Gene Autry.

6. Willie Nelson

Despite the fact that Willie Nelson has not always stayed within the boundaries of Country Music, he is still seen as one of the most iconic Country stars of the second half of the 20th century. Nelson began as a songwriter during the Nashville Sound era of the 1960s and wrote hit songs such as 'Hello Walls' which was sung by Faron Young and 'Crazy' for Patsy Cline. Willie Nelson's most notable success came with the beginning of the Outlaw movement which saw a move away from the rigid Nashville production style to independent studios in Texas and ensured the artist more control over their work. His 1975 album, Red Headed Stranger, was a clear product of the movement with its sparse texture reflecting the barren lands of his native Texas - it was a huge success and was named number one on CMT's 40 Greatest Albums in Country Music.

Part Two of the Top 10 Most Influential Men in Country Music will be posted on Wednesday 6th November. 

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