Country & Folk

The roots of American Country and Folk music can be traced back to the songs that British, Irish, and Scottish settlers brought to the new world.   They brought with them the basic instrumentation of both folk and country: acoustic guitars, accordions, fiddles, violins, harps and harmonicas.

The genre of country music emerged during the 1920's in Tennessee and Atlanta.  Fiddlist A.C. (Eck) Robertson made the first country music recording with the song "Sallie Gooden" in 1922 on Victor Records.   In 1923 fiddler John Carson performed on Atlanta's WSB Radio and recorded "Little Old Log Cabin in The Lane".  The first nationwide country hit was in May of 1924 with "Wreck of the Old '97” by Vernon Dalhart.   The Skillet Lickers formed in Atlanta in 1925 and scored a hit with "The Dying Cowboy".  Jimmy Rodger recorded for Victor Records in Bristol in 1927. Rogders’ recordings of "The Soldier's Sweetheart," and the lullaby, "Sleep, Baby, Sleep," (Listen Here) found instant acclaim.  With records sales over a million Rodgers became premiere singer of early country music. 

Around 1928 The Skillet Lickers fiddler, Clayton McMichen, formed a band with guitarist Slim Bryant called the Wildcats.  They performed on radio throughout the southeast and midwest.  In 1932 Rodgers hired McMichen and Slim Byrant to record with him.  Bryant played guitar on those sessions and contributed his original song "Mother, Queen of Heart" and he and McMichen's arrangement of "In the Pines". Those were the last recording sessions Rodgers made before he died in 1933.  Slim Bryant, who was part of the birth of country music, settled in Pittsburgh performing on KDKA Radio and TV for two decades. 

As Nashville came to be the center of country music Pittsburghers Bob Corbin, David Hanner, and Dusty Drake found success there writing and recording.

Folk music became popular in the early 20th century with the struggle for unionization and workers rights.  Joe Hill and other early folk singers wrote songs that were sung by union halls and strikes.  A center of union organizing efforts and constant strikes, Pittsburghers rallied to those early union songs.  In the 1930's Woody Guthrie wrote songs about the hard times of the Depression.  Folk music gained large popularity in the 1960's  with the protest against the Vietnam War and the fight for civil rights.  Pete Seger, Peter Paul and Mary, and Bob Dylan found success in the Era. Pittsburgher's Eric Anderson and Anne Feeney joined the movement and started their long careers.

Pittsburgh Folk and Country Tunes
The Skillet Lickers

Slim Bryant & Merle