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Country Music History Terms


Now often used to denigrate any opportunistic outsider seeking power or success, the term "carpetbagger" dates back to the Civil War. During the Reconstruction era, resentful Southerners complained of Northerners coming to the South (toting travel carpetbags) for political or financial advantage and propping up the Reconstruction governments.

A & R

Artist and repertory men (and they usually were men) often played multiple roles for the early record companies, serving as a combination of talent scout, recording engineer, and producer. The most famous of the early A & R men to work with country musicians was Ralph Peer of Okeh and Victor Records.


MoR stands for "middle of the road" and is a tag applied to the some of the more formulaic and overproduced music that came out of the Nashville establishment. MoR began basically as a bid for a larger audience, a sanding down of country's rougher edges to appeal to as many people as possible. The rise of outlaw and alternative country can be seen, in part, as a reaction to the MoR phenomenon.

Field Recording

Now most often associated with researchers and ethnographers, field recording played a huge part in the commercialization of country music and the preservation of traditional music. As the recording technologies pioneered in the late-1800s became more portable, record industry representatives could actually venture out of the urban recording centers to capture the performances of rural musicians.

"Race" Record

In the early days of commercial recording, music made by and for African-Americans, who market that whites had consistently underappreciated, was termed "race," and it was through these recordings that America became exposed to (and influenced by) the rich styles of African-American popular music.

Honky Tonk

Honky tonk is a term of unclear origin that came to describe the working-class, juke joint bars and dance halls of small towns in the South—most notably in Texas. The name also stuck (often as "honky-tonk") to the style of music that grew out of those clubs, exemplified the in lean guitar leads and bouncy rhythms of Hank Williams's standards.


Rural, agricultural.

Characteristic of a society based on agriculture and farming.


The rockabilly style, made famous by Elvis and the stable of artists recording with Sam Phillips at Sun records in the mid-1950s, was a crossover smash that mixed elements of country and rock and roll (the music of whites and blacks) into a rollicking new kind of pop music.

R & B

Rhythm and blues (R & B) is something of a catchall term that replaced the unsavory and dated designation of "race" music and came into use in the 1940s to denote the urban music of African-Americans. The term has since been refined to indicate a more specific style.

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