Country music has a diverse and storied history, skillfully woven together with a tapestry of specific places that shaped the soul of the genre.
From the historic RCA Studio B in Nashville to the Carter Family Fold in Virginia, here’s a list of the 10 places that shaped country music into what it is today.
18th-century immigrants passing through the Appalachian Mountains brought the musical traditions of their home countries to America, including Irish fiddle tunes, English songs, and African-American blues. Appalachian music was first recorded in the 1920s, and became the foundation for old-time country music. The music of the Appalachians eventually became the cornerstone for country music.
Armadillo World Headquarters
The Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas, was a music hall and entertainment venue that was open from 1970-1980. Housed in an abandoned National Guard armory, the music venue drew in country artists from around the nation and was a popular meeting place for hippies, cowboys and businessmen who enjoyed stopping by to grab a beer and listen to live music. When Willie Nelson moved from Nashville to Austin in the 70s, he played frequently at the venue. Those performances helped plant the seeds of the Texas country music scene and the establishment of Austin as the popular music town it is today. The success of the Armadillo World Headquarters led to the creation of another historical venue and television show, Austin City Limits.
The Bluebird Cafe first opened its doors in 1982. Less than 35 years later, the music venue has become one of the most highly regarded live music destinations in Nashville. Performers range from established icons to up-and-coming singers. The Bluebird is known for its small, intimate feel: the venue seats only 90 people, and there are often long lines of people waiting outside in hopes of seeing a show.
Carter Family Fold
The Carter Family Fold is a historic music performance venue located near Hiltons, Virginia. Named after the Carter family, who were some of the earliest recording artists in country music, the venue presents weekly concerts that honor old-time country, folk and bluegrass music. In an attempt to honor country music’s earliest roots, the venue does not allow electric instruments.
Grand Ole Opry
The Grand Ole Opry started out as a weekly radio broadcast in 1925. Today, the Grand Ole Opry is a live entertainment venue with what has been called “country’s most famous stage.” The Opry showcases country music legends and up-and-coming singer-songwriters alike. As one of the biggest tourist attractions in Nashville, TN, the Grand Ole Opry continues to be the go-to place for individuals who want to honor the history of country music.
Widely considered to be the heart and soul of Nashville’s music scene, Music Row is an area southwest of Downtown Nashville that houses hundreds of country music, gospel music, and Christian music studios and businesses. The area is home to historical sites such as RCA Studio B as well as new studios and music businesses. Music fans will enjoy walking down the scenic stretch and admiring the two-story houses and quaint studios that comprise the region.
Quonset Hut Studio
Quonset Hut Studio was the very first major recording studio located on the strip that would later become known as Music Row in Nashville, TN. Producer Owen Bradley and his brother Harold purchased a house and converted it into a film and recording studio. The recording studio became an overnight hit, and Bradley eventually produced albums for country greats like Patsy Cline and Brenda Lee.
RCA Studio B
RCA Studio B is brimming with historical significance. Built by Dan Maddox in 1957, RCA Studio B became known as one of the most influential hubs of the “Nashville Sound” in the 1960s. Background strings and vocals characterized the Nashville Sound style, and it helped breathe new life into the country music genre and establish Nashville as an international recording hub. Famous performers including Elvis Presley, Wille Nelson, and Dolly Parton recorded music in the studio.
Built in 1892, the modern-day Ryman Auditorium was originally created as the Union Gospel Tabernacle. The red brick building was used for Grand Ole Opry broadcasts from 1943-1974, when the Opry built a larger venue just outside of Nashville. Today, the Ryman Auditorium hosts a slew of established and emerging country stars alike. Concertgoers can sit in a pew in the balcony or on the main floor and enjoy the show.
Sun Studio is a historic recording venue in Memphis, TN. Opened by early rock pioneer Sam Phillips in 1950, the studio eventually became the birthplace of rock’n’roll. The studio also recorded music from the top blues, R&B, and country artists of the day. Legends like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley and Charlie Rich recorded music inside the red brick studio.