Download PDF by Larry Starr, Christopher Waterman: American Popular Music (2008)

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Many farmers and working-class people who could not afford to buy new phonograph records were able to purchase a radio on a monthly installment plan and thereby gain access to a wide range of programming. Most hillbilly musicians of the 1920s and 1930s did not start out as full-time professional musicians. The country music historian Bill C. Malone has noted that the majority worked as textile mill workers, coal miners, farmers, railroad men, cowboys, carpenters, wagoners, painters, common laborers, barbers, and even an occasional lawyer, doctor, or preacher.

The exrailroad brakeman from Meridian, Mississippi, celebrated the allure of the open road and chronicled the lives of men who forsook the benefits of a settled existence: ramblers, hobos, gamblers, convicts, cowboys, railway men, and feckless lovers. His influence can be seen in the public images of Hank Williams, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and almost every contemporary male country music star. Both race and hillbilly music represent a process of hybridization between southern folk music and Tin Pan Alley pop.

His wife, Sara (1899-1979), sang most of the lead vocal parts and played autoharp or guitar. Sister-in-law Maybelle (1909-78) sang harmony, played steel guitar and autoharp, and developed an influential guitar style, which involved playing the melody on the bass strings while brushing the upper strings on the off-beats for rhythm. ” The Carters’ image, borne out in radio appearances and interviews, was one of quiet conservatism; their stage shows were simple and straightforward, and they generally avoided the vaudeville circuit and promotional tours.

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