The Influence, Icons and Legends of Southern Music

Did you know the South played a central and defining role in American musical history? Southern Music has inspired songwriters and styles and is known as the birthplace of many of America's most excellent musicians of all time. Southern-derived Music such as ragtime, jazz, blues, country, gospel, rhythm and blues, Cajun, zydeco, Bluegrass, and rock-n-roll are all vibrant styles that have become favorites of people around the world.

Southern Music Influences

What we know about the influence of Music in the American South can be broken into three essential genres: Bluegrass, Jazz, and Country music.
Bluegrass arrived in America with English and Irish settlers crossing the Atlantic, becoming a staple of the Appalachian area. Jazz is rooted in African American culture brought to America through the slave trade. Country music is an overarching genre that merges several subgenres that eventually found its base in Nashville, Tennesse.

Southern Music Legends

Bill Monroe

Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass, was an American singer, songwriter, and mandolinist and is considered the figure that created the Bluegrass genre, stemming from the name of his band, the Blue Grass Boys. Born in rural Kentucky, Bill influenced early country music, rock-in-roll, and the hard-driving, high-lonesome Bluegrass.
Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys lasted 58 years, and more than 150 musicians passed through the band. For many, Bill Monroe is arguably the most broadly influential figure in American popular Music, influencing country music, folk musical revivals, and early rockers such as Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, and Buddy Holly.
In 1939, on the strength of his adaption of Jimmie Rodgers' "Mule Skinner Blues," he was inducted to the Grand Ole Opry on WSM as a life member. He composed over 200 songs over his career, became part of the Country Music Hall of Fame, won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

John Dee Holeman

For most of his life, John Dee Holeman worked in construction while playing Music as a side job. The great University of North Carolina folklorist Glenn Hinson was the first to bring his Music to the broader public's attention in the late 1970s. Holeman often played his guitar at private functions like pick-picking and parties while keeping to his day job.
John Dee Holeman is considered the epitome of what it means to be a Piedmont bluesman. Piedmont blues (East Coast or Southern Blues) is a guitar style characterized by fingerpicking with regular, alternating thumb bass string rhythmic patterns.
John played in the tradition of pioneers like Blind Boy Fuller, though his style was much broader as he encompassed electric, acoustic, and finger plucking. John began his touring playing at the National Folk Festival and Wolf Trap in Virginia and Carnegie Hall in New York City. During his career, he went to more than 40 countries as part of a wide-ranging musical revue staged by the government's now-nonoperational United States Information Agency.
John won several awards, including a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award.
Southern Music's roots have created many more legends, such as Dolly Parton, Pasty Cline, Ray Charles, Charley Pride, Hank William, Conway Twitty, Wilson Picket, and many more. Today, Southern Music reflects life in the South, past and present, inspiring and capturing the new and old generations' hearts.