The Importance of the Guitar in Country Music

Country music has one of the biggest fan bases in all of music, coming in second just behind rock and roll. Country music has evolved tremendously over the decades. One of the very first things older generations will remember about country music is how simply it started out. When country music was just becoming popular, there were no big extravagant concerts. A concert usually consisted of a few singers or bands coming together in a concert hall, where they would take turns performing for the audience. There were no big productions. The stage usually consisted of the singer or band, a microphone, guitar players and maybe drummers. Today country concerts are light shows, with dozens of electronics piping out sound to thousands of fans. And most concerts now will only showcase one or two singers.

If you look back through country music history, no other instrument has shaped the sound of country more than the guitar. Most country artists got their starts by performing on stage at various Nashville, Tennessee bars with just their guitar and songs in hand. And when they made it big, the single thing that every country artist looked forward to is playing on The Grand Old Opry. Today that is still one of the greatest honors of any country star. To be showcased on the Grand Old Opry stage, is to have made it in country. What is amazing about the Grand Old Opry is that it is still a simple show, with minimal use of technology on stage. Acoustic guitars were the only guitars allowed at the Grand Old Opry until 1941. It was then that Earnest Tub had enlisted a guitarist to use an electric guitar on the recording of his hit “Walking The Floor Over You”. That steel guitar sound established Tub’s style and it was after that hit went to number one (on the charts) that the Grand Old Opry finally began to allow electric guitars on its show.

Guitars completely shaped the sounds of country, especially the steel guitar. Its sounds are twangy and those sounds are what attract listeners to country. The steel guitar was the first guitar to ever be amplified. Jimmie Rodgers was one of the first country artists to have a guitar named after him. In the early 1920’s he was inspiring other musicians to buy and learn the guitar. Other guitarists like Gene Autry, Chet Akins and Les Paul have left their mark on the country industry by sharing their talents with the world. They have each inspired some of the greatest guitarists in country music today. Their legacies will continue to inspire up and coming artists and guitarists for generations.

Today country music is growing fans at an unbelievable rate. I believe that is because of the musical talents of some of the best guitarists today. In the last few years, more and more rock artists are crossing over to country music because they are finding country to be more their style. And some of them have doubled their success in country and crossed over fans of other genres at the same time. Country is no longer getting the low class, bad rap that it used to get from other genres. That is because several country music artists are now using their guitars to completely outsell (in record sales and on the charts) some of the most popular rock, rap and pop artists. America is addicted to the sounds of the guitar, realized or not. And no other genre showcases the sounds of the guitar, quiet like country music.

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