Southern Gospel music is one of the earliest forms of contemporary music in America. It has a rich history deeply rooted in the very fabric of the South and used as a venue to praise or thank God. Many artists spanning decades of American music history have covered southern gospel music in some way shape or form whether it be its style, its lyrics, or remakes of some of the most popular songs. Its influence is widespread and today is one of the largest music genres in our culture.
Southern Gospel music is a spinoff of original Gospel music that is a combination of Christian lyrics and forms of American music such as jazz and bluegrass. It originated in the 18th and 19th centuries by slaves that composed and sang these songs amongst themselves as a form of code to communicate with one another. Once the revivalist churches got a hold of it, it began to spread throughout the south from traveling preachers and groups of men singing groups. Then in 1910 in began to take a new form called Southern Gospel. It was primarily in all white Southern churches sung by all male trios in quartets.
In the 1920's southern gospel really began to take off. At this time, there were many of the all male quartets traveling with the Southern preachers at tent revivals and church meetings. It was sort of like today's modern concert tour without all the luxuries. They gave people all over the South a chance to hear Southern Gospel music for the first time. Instruments were then introduced in the 1920's and 1930's with the inclusion of pianos and banjos that gave it an entire new flair. In the late 1930's and into 1940's southern radio stations began recording Gospel artists and then in the 1950's they began producing and distributing records. This had a major influence on young Southern artists such as Elvis Pressley, Johnny Cash and the Blackwood Brothers just to name a few. Little did we know at that time it would create such a seismic shift in American music history.
It's progression through the 1950's and into the 1960's was monumental as southern country and rock 'n roll artists began to infuse their version of Southern Gospel music in to their own style. This had a tremendous impact on how the music genre would take shape over the next 50 years and become what it is today.
Today it is a diverse genre of American music. The 70's 80's and 90's all produced many artists in many different music genres that all became Southern Gospel artists from the Oak Ridge boys to rock 'n roll bands such as striper they all used the origins of Southern Gospel music as their modern-day platform to create their own sound and make their mark. It is an ever-changing and significant piece of American music history that evolves with each passing decade and new generation of artists. There are too be many great years to come as we see it make another shift with the next generation of artists.