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Oldies Music Glossary: "Country Boogie"


A typical

A typical "country boogie" compilation

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Definition: "Country boogie," formerly known as "hillbilly boogie" ("hillbilly" being the unfortunate term for country music well into the Fifties) developed in the mid-40s as an outgrowth of Western Swing. Like that genre, which molded country instrumentation and melodies to popular black rhythms, country boogie was a largely instrumental, guitar-based reaction to the development of black "boogie-woogie" styles. The country version, naturally, tended to speed up the tempo and focus on wild soloing, although vocal country boogie was also in vogue; usually the walking rhythm of the piano was transposed to a standup bass.

Johnny Barfield's 1938 "Boogie Woogie" is thought to have kicked off the craze, though it didn't really take hold until the post-war years; through the late forties, it became a genre that would exert a profound influence on music, as thousands of country musicians began taking up what was called "bop" and helping, in the process, to form rock and roll. Indeed, Arthur Smith's "Guitar Boogie" (1945) is often considered one of the first rock and roll records, but its major impact was to broaden and solidify the appeal of the still-new electric guitar, soon to become a crucial element in rock.

The most direct influence country boogie had, however, was in specifically helping to create rockabilly, that twangy cousin of rock that relied on heavy guitars and heavy beats. Unlike honky tonk, which wasn't as bluesy or fluid, or Western Swing, which was mired in rural "cowboy" traditions, country boogie represented wild hot-dogging for white teens who loved black rhythm. Moon Mullican, pianist extraordinaire who worked in the CB style, was perhaps the biggest influence on a young Jerry Lee Lewis, while country boogie avatar Chet Atkins would go on to produce and play guitar on Elvis Presley sessions upon his move to RCA.

Also Known As: Hillbilly Boogie, Okie Boogie
  1. "Guitar Boogie," Arthur Smith
  2. "Boogie Woogie," Johnny Barfield
  3. "Freight Train Boogie," Delmore Brothers
  4. "Honky Tonk Man," Johnny Horton
  5. "49 Women," Pee Wee King
  6. "Shotgun Boogie," Tennessee Ernie Ford
  7. "Galloping On The Guitar," Chet Atkins
  8. "Crazy Boogie," Merle Travis
  9. "Moon's Tune," Moon Mullican
  10. "Let 'Er Roll," Sid King
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