The History of Black Country/Western Singers

A Brief History of Black Americans in Country Music

Did you know that the black voice twang of country music existed in the early 1900s. Yes, black country singers played "Honky-Tonk" music. Please... Read on, for the interesting history and facts, that the everyday person is unaware of in the country music foundation.

  • Fact #1- I bet the first thought that came to mind was the well-known country star "Charlie Pride", was that close?
  • Fact #2- Have you ever heard of "Rufe "Tee-Tot" Payne"? I didn't think so...He was a regular around the Greenville,Alabama area and performed as a street musician in the 1920s. In the 1930s he was the mentor to "King Hiram Williams", that's right! The person we would know as "Hank Williams". Believe it or not he was taught to play country music by a black man somewhat unknown to the public. Anyone, out there that has more info on Tee-Tot, I would love to hear it.
  • Fact #3- DeFord Bailey was a contemporary of Rufe "Tee-Tot" Payne. In actuality, he is probably and should be the first noted black country music star because he joined the cast of the "Grand Ole Opry" at the age of 26. He had made a number of appearances as other acts on the radio show, and toured cities all across the south and the midwest within several years after the opry scene. He was suddenly let go! This was the statement made by DeFord Bailey in a interview in 1993, “They'd seen the day was coming when they'd have to pay me right and they used the excuse about me playing the same old tunes.” The interview was held by the University of Tennessee Press.
  • Fact #4- "Blind Lemon Jefferson", whom was a blind musician had over 400 country hits. The fact is many of the early white country stars got their style and songs from such black artists.
  • Fact #5- "J.J. Jones" he performed in the 1970s side bands which backed George Jones, Mel Tillis, and other country stars in the country music business. He once cut an album but it was never released and devotes all his time nowadays backing other black talent.
  • Fact #6- "Ray Charles" actually sang country in his early years of music and he loved it till the day he died. He said he liked it because every song told a story.
  • Fact #7- "Kurt Cobain" and "Johnny Cash" admired an black artist known as "Leadbelly".
  • Fact #8- A huge country music singer sensation in Europe and Germany is a black country singer known as "K.C. Williams".
  • Fact #9- Has anyone heard of "Cleve Francis", he was a doctor who took a shot at being a black country singer in the 1990s. Unfortunately, the radio industry didn't give him much success.
  • Fact #10- This is just a compiled list of other influences that may be unknown or some you may recognize; Carl Ray, Stoney Edwards,Tayo Reed, Cowboy Troy, Big Al Downing, O.B. McClinton, Author Pamela Foster, Frankie Staton, Vicki Vann, Rhonda Towns, Ebony Hillbillies, Buddy and Tina Wright band , Miko Marks, and of course newcomer, "Darius Rucker". Almost done; I have just a few more interesting facts to take with you.
  • "Shanai Twain" is one of the only bands with a black drummer.
  • "Aaron Neville" is considered country to some people and he did a video remake of George Jones "The Grand Tour". Coffey Anderson was a black contestant on Nashville Star show.
  • "Charley Prides" brother Steven Pride is actually a country singer too! Have you ever heard him play? Please, let me know....
  • "Elvis" talent came from where? Your right, the black community around Tupelo, Mississppi.
  • Last Fact- The banjo was an African instrument brought over by the slaves. It was modified and has been the mainstream music instrument for what genre? You guessed it! Bluegrass and Country music.

Right now, I have reason to believe that the business men of music row are starting to open their minds and may have hands itching. When, I lived in Nashville for about 10 years, I noticed things and one was how I wanted to tap this industry. I had a very close black friend that left everything behind in his hometown in Texas. Looking back, I wished I could have promoted him and helped change the market. Face it! We live in a country that runs after the almighty dollar. If I was to set aside all other views or could help set aside other views in Nashville, I would be a rich man. Note: Right now, Nashville is changing Trini Triggs has a self-titled album that was released in 1998 by MCG/Curb Records which had 3 singles on Billboard and a 4th single by Asylum -Curb Records in 2004. Carl Ray has songs available on and Rissi Palmer has a hit song that peaked #54 on Billboard Hot Country Songs and her label is 1720 Entertainment / Universal Music Group. Rissi can be seen on CMT video "Country Girl".

Also, the picture I used above is an inspiring country music artist. His name is " AKON " and he is now a R+B star. He supposedly recorded an album under an alias name. He is a big country fan and desires to be the best known black country singer artist of all time. We will have to wait it out and see how it goes...The picture was from Live Earth New York concert at Giants Stadium.

Hope this was interesting......

My 1st very own Quote: "When people are confronted with real facts, it transforms our opinions and opens our beliefs that were once marketed and manufactured by un-relative brainwashing!" by Michael Gladden

Michael Gladden


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Comments 43 comments

Ralph Deeds profile image

Ralph Deeds 7 years ago

I was aware of Charlie Pride but not all the others. I'd thought of black artists as primarily blues, jazz, rock, pop and gospel. Interesting. Learn something new every day. I used to listen to black music in a pool hall after class in high school--"Blues and Jive 'til Half Past Five" was the name of the program as I recall. I don't remember hearing any country music.

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Mr. Deeds, thank you for the comment & I noticed you have a bunch of great looking articles I cant wait to read...I never heard of "Blues and Jive 'til Half Past Five". Must have been cool!

carolina muscle profile image

carolina muscle 7 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

Blind Lemon was such a legend!!!!

michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 7 years ago from Michigan

I learn something new everyday. I'm not a big country fan, so I don't follow it very closely. Thanks for sharing.

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Carolina Muscle, so, is there anymore info or anything else you can share about Blind Lemon? I would like to hear more about him and other peoples opinions.

Michiganman567, I am interested in what type of music you listen to and since your not a big country fan, what are the first country artists that pops in your mind? I want to analyze your take on country if you don't mind? Thank you both for reading the hub and for your comments. I can't wait to hear back from the two of you....

michiganman567 profile image

michiganman567 7 years ago from Michigan

I listen to rock music. The first country music artists that pop into my mind are kenny rogers, willie nelson, garth brooks, alabama, the judds, oakridge boys, randy travis, tanya tucker, dolly parton. Mostly the ones from the 80's and 90's. My mom was a big country music fan.

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Awesome! Your mom had great taste! You may secretly be a country music fan hiding in the closet, especially, since you were giving samples of some of the legends. Just kidding! Country music isn't for everyone but it can relate to everyone. Well, here is something interesting for you. Rock music was created by the black race which is relative to the hub listed above, because they also created country music. I would say your a pretty cool dude, since rock is your style of music. You can go to and take the music quiz. I actually like all kinds of music. I grew up on Motown and oldie goldie music and old time country music. That's what my dad listened to & then I got into everyting else when I got older. I think the music we are first embedded with sticks with us though... It seems people move away from certain music they had to listen to growing up or they embrace it. Still, today, I enjoy Sam Cooke to Alan Jackson to the Rolling Stones. It just depends on my mood. Thanks for the response Michiganman567!

habee profile image

habee 7 years ago from Georgia

I thought Charlie Pride was the first, too! Great hub!

wannabwestern profile image

wannabwestern 7 years ago from The Land of Tractors

This was an interesting hub and not too surprising since so much of our music can be credited to the spirituals of the south. Interesting reading! But something I never thought about before.

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thanks habee & wannabwestern for your comments. It's amazing how media & everything else keeps the truth & facts from our images in our mind.....

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cocksuxmyman23 7 years ago folks sing jazz and blues...great, I might add............wake up people..........

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

To the comment above...You have 0 hubs & 0 followers...It probably should stay that way! You have no integerity or respect for writers or even yourself with a name such as "cocksuxmyman23" Real trashy........

GeneralHowitzer profile image

GeneralHowitzer 7 years ago from Land of Salt, Philippines

Great Hub eh... Goodluck!

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Hi Michael, have you heard the good news? Your hub is nominated..yes, it is a Hubnugget Wannabe! :) Congratulations.

I am not very familiar with history of singers and so this one was enlightening. Thanks for sharing.

To vote, straight this way please:

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thnak you GeneralHowitzer....

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thank you so much Ripplemaker! I thought this would be a very interesting hub to share with everyone! It is an honor just to be nominated & I appreciate the kind comments...

ripplemaker profile image

ripplemaker 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

Yes definitely interesting and an eye opener, that's for sure! :)

prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 7 years ago from malang-indonesia

I like music very much. And I liked reading this hub. It give me information about "western singer". Good work my friend!

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thank you presetio30 for leaving feedback! I will continue to post other hubs about similar topics.....

Money Glitch profile image

Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

Interesting hub, I'm only familiar with a few country western singers; thanks for sharing your insight. Congrats, on your Hubnugget Wannabe nomination, and good luck to ya!

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thank you Money Glitch for the nice comment & congrats. I hope I can produce more hubs like this one.

obsexed profile image

obsexed 7 years ago from Sensual, USA

Thanks for the interesting history!

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thanks obsexed!

rocknrodeogirl profile image

rocknrodeogirl 7 years ago from The Columbia Gorge

You caught me, my first thought was Charlie Pride, even though I knew that there was a big influence of black "honky tonk" singers! Thanks for the interesting history of Black Country Singers. =)

Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 7 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thanks for the feedback rocknrodeogirl!

Contagious! profile image

Contagious! 6 years ago

Wow, very cool! I'm so glad I found this--great information! Another reminder, to me, that music may be the saving grace of this planet... when everyone speaks the same language--and truth and love is what comes out!

So cool that European and African music combined too, so we have blues, rock and jazz. Just goes to show what we can do when we appreciate and learn from each others cultures! I think we musicians just may have the responsibility to bring this old world together. ;) :)) (in a big party, on the Bayou!)

Seriously, I look forward to hearing more from you.

Thank you for this Hub :)


Michael Shane profile image

Michael Shane 6 years ago from Gadsden, Alabama Author

Thanks contagious for stopping by & sharing....

Jerry 6 years ago

Great list of facts. I'm a hispanic american guitar player and I'm studying blues and funk. I think the importance of African american influence has been overlooked and underplayed in the annals of modern music history. All we see nowadays is the "finished product" of punk, blues-rock, and countless of alternative bands without realizing that there influences are African American.

The bass player Flea from the Red hot chili pepper cites one of his greatest influences as Bootsy Collins.

John Lennon cites Little Richard and Bo diddley.

Dan Auerbach from the Black keys cites Junior kimsborough.

Jack White son House and Eric clapton Robert johnson.

On behalf of all the non-black American musicians who have been influenced by African American musical roots (Which is pretty much everyone) Thanks! Give credit where credit is due. And word of advice for any serious musicians who want to get better, study your idols influences if you want to play like them and then mix in your own style. It's what its all about.

Duane D. Brodnick 5 years ago

Dear Mr. Shane, Thank you very much for your article. It was quite interesting. I have more artists to look up and find sites where I can download their much. I've always been a Charlie Pride fan, and recently added Darius Rucker. I've been waiting for Trini Triggs to come out with an album. Now I know where I might be able to find it. As with Cleve Francis. I can't wait to find out what I can about the other artists you named. Again, thanks!

Geoff Jones 5 years ago

I have been a Country Music fan for too many years to remember, you cannot remember every Black Artist, you forgot L.M.Stone who is a great artist, but your article was well written and I for sure enjoyed reading it.

KF Raizor profile image

KF Raizor 5 years ago

Sadly, one of the most groundbreaking blacks in country music has been overlooked by the masses and didn't get a mention in this hub. That man is Dr. Henry Glover.

Henry Glover was the first black executive at a white-owned business (King Records). He also wrote one of the greatest songs in country music history -- "Blues, Stay Away From Me" -- with three southern whites (Alton & Rabon Delmore and Wayne Raney). Many country acts worked with Glover at King Records in the 1940s and 50s, long before the stain of segregation was removed from American life.

PS -- Mr. Pride's name is spelled "Charley," not "Charlie."

Good hub, thanks!

Joe Arnold 5 years ago

I notice that Mike Johnson, Country Music's No.1 Black Yodeler, isn't in your list. He's been performing since the mid-1960s and recorded in Nashville from 1981 to 1989. He was inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame in 2002. He's written over 150 yodeling songs, 114 of them are in the Library of Congress Recorded Sound Reference Center music collection, and in December 2011 they acquired 16 videos of some of his performances for their Motion Picture & Television Division.

Skook 4 years ago

Michael, I have stared a new web page, the Ranch Horse Journal, it is concerned with all things connected with ranching, including Country and Western Music. We stress the idea of freedom and independence. Please contact us about presenting your views on Black influences on Country and Western Music. Our website is up and we will be operational soon.

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catjazz 4 years ago

I very much like this article however, the tone of it, in my opinion although I could be completely wrong, comes across confrontational and as has been stated country music encompasses several influences Irish and Scottish as well as African American. Racism is a huge factor in not only country music but music in general. I have stopped being angry over racism I refuse to allow a group of people to define me in anyway anymore.

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DonDavidJr 4 years ago

I watched Willie Jones perform on X Factor, a young very talented black singer doing a country song. I showed it to a guy that I play with and he stated this was the first balck singer doing country. I knew he was wrong and here is the info. I am a classic rock & roller but my devotion to music has no bounderies. Uncle Duck

Billrrrr profile image

Billrrrr 4 years ago from Cape Cod

Some of us at Boston's Grahm Jr. College will tell you that we learned more about music and broadcasting from our black custodian than we ever did from the profs. The school's only a memory now, but there are still Grahm grads in all walks of show biz; but our most famous alumnus remains, the late Andy Kaufman. He was featured on the tv series Taxi, and was without equal as a performance artist,

discjockey 4 years ago

I have the recordinng of D. Ford Bailey playing The Fox Chase on his Harmonica!

Denniswi 3 years ago

As you requested Steven pride... Good stuff.

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carollia 3 years ago

I have to admit that I got surprised when I saw Darius Rucker performing at Jimmy Kimmel' show; I didn't know there were black country singers, I didn't even think about that fact until I saw him. He was good!

shellbone 3 years ago

Glad to know more about the history of AA in the country and western music we know so little most of us only know or only want to know about r&b.

Brotherl98928 2 years ago

Tim McGraw should be banned from CMA or any award show. He hit a woman! Our athlete --American athletes-- are publicly held to standards --so should he. Hitting a woman is hitting a woman. With all his experience, he knows to have guards in place for stuff like grabbing. Look at all the public displays of affections in the past from Faith Hill towards Tim. Did he slap her? No. He stuck it in her. We like our athletes too. or do we give these athletes a cowboy hat and guitar and say it is okay to hit women.

Vista15 profile image

Vista15 10 months ago from Columbus, OH

You sure didn't say much about Charley Pride. He was the biggest, you know.

Joe Arnold 4 months ago

Why do you insist on ignoring Mike Johnson, Country Music's No.1 Black Yodeler? On 29 August 2016 he received the National Traditional Country Music Association 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award at the 41st Annual Old Time Country Music Festival in LeMars, Iowa.

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