35 Important Moments in Country-Rock History
Rock ‘n’ roll often tries to hide its country roots, but when it embraces them, it’s been responsible for some of the genre’s most enduring moments. We’ve created a gallery of 35 of the greatest moments in country-rock.
You’ll see how rockabilly began at Sun Records in Memphis by mixing rhythm & blues and country. Once that sound became a national sensation, many singers raised on country, like the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly, followed suit. Even though the British Invasion bands were more interested in the blues, the Beatles still often incorporated country styles into their early songs. Later, the Rolling Stones made some of their greatest records after Keith Richards got a crash course in country from the Byrds’ Gram Parsons.
But it was in America where country-rock flourished, even if many of its greatest practitioners weren’t from the South. The path was led by Bob Dylan when he recorded Blonde on Blonde in the home of country music, Nashville, and scores of aspiring musicians took note. Most of them were based in California. In the Bay Area, bands like Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Doobie Brothers borrowed the small-town stories and shuffling rhythms; in Los Angeles, members of the scene that sprung up in Laurel Canyon created a laid-back sound with introspective lyrics and pitch-perfect harmonies. While this was taking place out West, in the South, musicians created a sub-genre all to themselves that reflected all the music of the region — country, rock, blues and jazz.
Country-rock was one of the most dominant sounds of the ‘70s, and many country artists wound up crossing over into the mainstream, but that influence faded in the ‘80s. Still, it was re-branded in the middle of the decade as “heartland rock,” which added a little bit more musical muscle to the types of songs that country has always excelled at: honest portrayals of people going through hard times.
Even though country-rock never regained the commercial momentum it had in the ’70s, it never never went away. Instead, it went underground, where it mixed with punk and became something entirely different.
In some cases, the entries represent an entire career, and in others it’s a moment where an artist incorporated country into their music. Click above to check out 35 Important Moments in Country-Rock History.