Since at least the 1960s, scholars have viewed hillbilly music as essentially a commercialized form of the traditional rural white folk music of the American South. In reconsidering what has come to be known as the "southern thesis," this article chronicles the significant but often overlooked contributions made by professional New York City studio singers and musicians to the nascent hillbilly recording industry between 1924 and 1932, particularly the principal role they played in the creation of what I call the "New York Sound." These urban artists' participation in this segment of the recording industry suggests that hillbilly music can best be understood not as an organic folk music of the American South, but rather as a carefully constructed commercial genre that was part of the broader expansion of a nationwide industry of mass-mediated music in the 1920s.


History and Political Science

Keywords and Phrases

AFS Ethnographic Thesaurus: Musicology; Commercial artists; Country and western music; Mass media; Music genres; Old time music

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

0021-8715; 1535-1882

Document Type

Article - Journal

Document Version

Final Version

File Type





© 2014 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, All rights reserved.

Publication Date

01 Apr 2014

Included in

History Commons