So did country music originate from the Scottish and Scotch Irish?
You betya it did.
Despite the many critics of country
music and a perception at a time that it was "too hillbilly"
from humble roots it has exploded in popularity. Between 1990 and
1997, country music grew from $700 million a year to $1.8
billion a year. CD sales have quadrupled. Two of
the five best-selling albums of 1998 were by country artists (Garth
Brooks and Shania Twain), as were three of the ten highest-grossing
concert tours (Brooks, Twain, and George Strait). Brooks's new album,
Double Live, set a record by selling more than a million copies
the first week after its release in 1998. One of the hottest acts
to pick up Grammies was the Dixie Chicks, a young trio of scantily
dressed country musicians with a timeless and classic Scotch
Irish story telling style.
and folk music owes a great deal to the Scotch Irish pioneers, some
of the most popular country songs in history such as "Sallie
Gooden," to mention just one came from the Scotch-Irish
immigrants, of course there is also one of the worlds most recorded
songs Danny Boy written by Presbyterian Billy McCurry in Limavady,
Ulster and transported to America by Jane Ross. I
will also add here that songs like "The Great Speckled Bird"
can be traced back to English colonists of the American Revolution
and "Frankie and Johnny" has more than a hundred variants,
all deriving from a Scottish ballad. I only mention the latter two
as its wouldn't be factual or fair to claim that the Scotch Irish
were responsible alone for country music as we know and have known
it, but it is very fair to say they have been by far the biggest
influence. Having said that according to some Irish musicians apparently
we lack genes required to compose memorable ballads such as Danny
has always been the cornerstone of country music through the ages,
it's a rich tradition particularly when it comes to the age-old
tradition of telling stories through song. Not only can the origins
of country music be traced to the story's, Hymns and ballads of
the Scotch Irish, but the connections between the two are not nearly
as remote as many used to think.
a quarter of a million people emigrated from Ulster
to America, many of them to the Appalachians -- upwards of fifty
percent of all settlers of the Appalachians were of Scotch-Irish
descent, by far the largest ethnic group in the region. Along with
their instruments, these first settlers also brought the stories,
ballads and tunes that helped to define and differentiate their
culture from the rest of the Old World. They have a great oral tradition,
and are renowned as the best story tellers in the world.
of their songs and ballads dealt with William,
Prince of Orange,
who defeated the Catholic King James II of the Stuart family at
the Battle of the Boyne, Ireland in 1690. These Scotch Irish were
known as “Orangemen”
and "Billy Boys" and and out of this was born the
term "hillbillies". It is interesting to note that a traditional
song of the Glasgow Rangers football club today begins with the
line, "Hurrah! Hurrah! We are the Billy
shares its tune with the famous American Civil War song, "Marching
term "Red neck,"
this refers to supporters of the National Covenant, Lowland Presbyterians,
whom would flee Scotland for Northern Ireland during persecutions
by the British Crown. Many Covenanters signed in their own blood
and wore red pieces of cloth around their necks as distinctive insignia;
hence the term "Red neck",
which became a slang name. The term was applied to the Scotch Irish
in the USA, and then, later, their Southern US descendants. One
of the earliest examples of its use comes from 1830, when an author
noted that "red-neck" was a "name bestowed upon the
Presbyterians." Again I say most Scotch Irish in Ulster and
the USA are not aware of their history and WHAT THEY DO KNOW THEY
DO NOT UNDERSTAND.
A few years
ago, some American folk musicians were playing at a Protestant social
club in Belfast. The crowd was very polite, but largely concentrated
on chatting and drinking, until the flautist played an old Appalachian
tune which got a response which astonished him. When he reached
the chorus, the crowd in an joyful uproar bellowed: "Hello!
Hello! We are the Billy Boys/ Up to our necks in Fenian blood, surrender
or you'll die/ For we are the Billy Billy Boys!" That
example of the Ulster Presbyterian Diaspora meeting its roots is
very rare and I would say very sad, its a history and a culture
We have been informed that the "Billy Boys" song, mentioned
above is in fact a song glorifying a notorious Glasgow criminal
gand which was also vociferously anti-catholic and responsible for
brutal crimes against catholics. We intend to research this more,
however the tune can be heard throughout Scotland, ulster and American
with various different lyrics. However we have uncovered the following
with regards the Irish Fenian Movement. "Our duty is to deAnglicanise
Ireland, Gaelicise Ireland and Catholicise Ireland" J. O'Mahony Fenian Movement
has been written about the so called inferiority complex of the
hillbilly southerners. Many country entertainers, such as Dolly
Parton, Waylon Jennings, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette
to name but a few, still privately describe themselves as hillbillies,
but respond bitterly if someone else calls them that."
One of the reasons its being lost is that unlike the Irish Catholics,
the assimilation of the Scots-Irish emigrants from Ulster's shores
into American has been total, they became full blooded Americans.
There is a simple reason for this: the 250,000
Ulster Presbyterians who started leaving in large
numbers from 1717 played a vital part in the American Revolution,
helping to shape what it meant to be American. The Irish Catholic
Diaspora, on the other hand, started to arrive in large numbers
well over a century later. By then, the rules had been written.
For all our great history its sad that even we ourselves have forgotten.
How many Scotch Irish Ulstermen or Americans know that the Great
Seal of the United States was designed in 1782 by
Charles Thomson, an orphan emigrant from Upperlands,
County Londonderry. His flying eagle, with the motto
Epluribus unum - (Out of many, one)
- is the Presidential badge of office to this day and is on every
25 cent coin and dollar bill in American purses and pockets.
you travel in Ulster to day you can still hear live and for free,
in town centers and street corners that age old and unmistakable Scotch
Irish style. Take The Cox Family
Performing"I am weary, let me live" on the Soundtrack of
the Hollywood Movie "O Brother where art thou" which stars
George Clooney. Now I challenge anyone to stop and listen to Presbyterians
preaching and singing Hymns in Ulster today whilst giving out tracks,
tell me it not same music. And it doesn't stop at that, listen to
Allison Krauss performing Bluegrass
tune "Ill fly away", Allison with the Cox family performing
"Id rather have Jesus", Bill
Monroe performing "Soldiers Joy", Lee
Ann Womack performing "Lord I hope this day is
good" orLyle Lovett
& Allison Krauss performing "Bury me beneath the weeping
willow tree" the harmonies and the very structure is exactly
the same as you will hear Worshippers perform on Ulster's street corners
today. Just as these unique harmonies, melody's and story telling
ways survived in the Appalachian
so to have they survived in the tight nit Presbyterian communities
of Ulster with their acoustic guitars, accordion's and tambourine's.
move on, once America's massive push westward took hold in the early
1800s, the Scotch Irish and what had now become Appalachian
culture was left virtually untouched,due in no small part to the region's
mountainous, inhospitable terrain.
the streets of Ulster
fact, the isolated Scotch Irish were playing the same fiddle tunes
and singing the same ballads his or her great-great grandparents
had played and sang back in Ulster. It was only after the railroads
and coal mining came to the Southern highlands thatAppalachians
would expose there hidden musical treasure.
the Scotch Irish vocal style, haunting melodies and storytelling
tradition is nothing if not country, it took the introduction of
the guitar to the Appalachians to create the final bridge between
the old and the new. Far superior for singing accompaniment than
the high-pitched, often abrasive fiddle, the guitar brought with
it the possibility of rhythm, a possibility which would move the
music closer to the sound and feel that characterizes what we today
know to be country music.
about the wonderful Movie Songcatcher.
A story about the origins of country music. The film is set in the
last century and revolves around a young orphan mountain girl, and
the discovery of her music. The music of the Scotch Irish. When a college musicologist in the early 1900s is denied a promotion, she retreats to her sister's remote home in the Appalachians to get away from it all. There she discovers a rich musical culture evolved from Scotch-Irish folk songs that she sets out to collect and preserve, while at the same time falling for a disapproving mountain man
Scotch Irish Presbyterians were sonorous defenders of religion,
custom and pride. This influence has carried on and Country music
today similarly exalts religion without
embarrassment. Among performers, only blacks acknowledge
their Maker with the same regularity and reverence. One of the first
hit records of country music was the gospel song "Peace in
the Valley," written by the accomplished songwriter Thomas
Virtually all of the most famous country performers either were
children of preachers or had learned to sing in church. Even some
of the worst hillbillies, drunks, profligates, and ex-cons piously
sing gospel songs on their albums. Merle
Haggard's best work is his gospel album, "The
Land of Many Churches," partly recorded in the garden chapel
at San Quentin prison, where Haggard once served time.
music as sung by country stars like Alison
Krauss, Faith Hill,
the Dixie Chicks is just
like music brought to Appalachia by the Scotch Irish, it still remains
personal; stories of love, longing, hardships, protests, religious
beliefs; life set out in lyrics, with or without music.
Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Tex Ritter, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson and many other musical legends followed in the footsteps of the early country pioneers. Hank Williams (senior) and Patsy Cline were possibly the most famous of all. Hank's rendition of "Your Cheatin Heart" and Patsy's recording of "Crazy" are probably the two best-known country music hits of all time.
Country western music is more popular than ever Modern performers like Ricky Scaggs, Garth Brooks, The Judds, Tanya Tucker and Reba McEntire have raised country music to the top of worldwide popularity charts. That original old hillbilly music of the past has given birth to many new and different styles. Pop country, new country, country rock, rockabilly, blue grass, western swing, honky tonk, Nashville sound, outlaw country, urban cowboy and traditional country all share the title of "country western music".
the Music of today's popular artists to the lined-out hymnody of
the Presbyterians or Regular Baptists; this music remains a vital
part of everyday lives and American and Scotch Irish heritage.
Its one of a
very few hand-me-downs left by the Scotch Irish settlers but is
one which we should all be extremely proud of.
Hurrah! We are the Billy Boys!"
Dolly proud of her Ulster Scots heritage. 24/11/2002
Dolly Parton the Queen of Country spoke of her pride at being Scotch Irish just before a sellout gig in Belfast. In an interview with Northern Ireland newspaper the Belfast Telegraph she said, " there is no reason why I haven't played Belfast in the past. But with my Scotch Irish ancestry its ridiculous that I haven't been here before. Obviously my roots have been a massive influence on my music" Dolly then said that she would love to return to Northern Ireland being very proud of her heritage she would love to find out more. The Ulster Scots Agency who presented Dolly with a Ulster Scots translated version of her hit "Jolene" said she would be very welcome, " Dolly is just one of 22 Million Scotch-Irish in America who are enthusiastically following up their Ulster Scots roots. I am delighted she is in town and hope she finds out more about her roots. I am sure she will find us very welcoming and will come back again to visit where her forefather's came from"