Author: Isabel Blanco
The story of Country Music
Earl Johnson, a barn, a dance. That brings us back to 1919. And even further back. The Hillbilly culture and music. It was their culture and music born in Appalachian that gave us the music as we know it today. A Folk music that is extremely popular in the US and the world. And to picture all that it is time to write that story as it should be.
In the North East of the US into Canada are the Appalachian Mountains. In this area mostly Protestant immigrants from Ulster, Ireland, settled in the 18th century. People who knew the raugh life, hunger and even war decided once again to move further away from Scotland, Ireland, their home country into the new promised land. To find a better future, a better life for themselves bringing along there openminded culture. They moved into the mountain areas in the US, founded communities and lived there side by side with the Indians. Real frontier settlers who lived in parts where life was not that easy. Sharing medical knowledge, herbs, food with the natives. They seemed to be, in my opinion, one of the few who had no problem at all with the natives. Living there under hars cirscumstances away from civilizations they relied upon themselves. Bringing with them Celtic influenzes and “witch-craft” medicine.
I found some amazing stories via Printerest while looking for pictures. Yes they where poor, mostly not well educated like the rest of the country but the Hillbillies had something else which is rare. They had tight communities, a granny as a doctor, old celtic roots for music, and big sense of surviving. Like they dit not need anything more then the mountains, family, friends to survive. Like back home in the UK, ENgland they had no money for a doctor. They learned over the centuries how to us nature and herbs to find cures for illnesses. It was very common that many communities had a family with women who had the knowledge to help out. The granny would train the daughter and granddaughter to become the “medicine woman”. If it weren’t for Henry the VIII that knowledge would have vanished due to the withtrials from the Catholic Church. Not that it was prohibited but I believe that England had more potention for a “witch” then the rest of Europe. Thankfully the grannies mergen their knowledge with the natives. Instead of fighting them they lived alongside with them. Learned from eachother, shared with eachother. That made them to me very social frontier people. But many thought of them as poor and unaducated. One other interesting story to tell is the fued between the Hatfield and McCoy family which started in the civil war in 1863 and ended in 1891 in the Tig Fork and the Big Sandy River in the Kentucky, Virginia area. It started when the families split up in the civil war. Most fought for the Confedrancy but 1 McCoy who joined the Union. He got killed for doing so after being home on sick leave. A fued was born in all its cruelty. When after the murder the son of Hatfield fell in love with a McCoy it dit not get easier. A child was born out of wedlock, a shame in both families and a girl had to flee the territotry. Enough fuel for many songs you think but I found only 2. The impact however was huge, many where killed or injured in this long lasting fued that ended after The Supreme Court decided that the law was obided to all, including the Hatfields and McCoys. They had to stand trial and face jail. Seems hard to understand but back then the sherif was either opposing the Hatfields or the McCoys. A bit lawlessnes back in the days. Today it is big business for tourism in the area.
It does display that the people who lived away from civilization had their own ways. So as it was and is in the music they make, sing and play. But without the Hillbilly, mountain people I dare to say we could not enjoy the country music as it is today. What had evolved from dances in a barn like we know from western movies, series and Pa’s fiddle from the “Little House on the Prairie” becames well known throughout the country and later in the world. It started with the first recordings in 1927 in the Bristol recording session with the Carter Family and Jimmie Rodgers.
What had started around 300 years ago, Europeans and Africans coming to the US with their own music and instruments gives us today Country Music. But how that happened can be read in part 3.