Country music (or country and Western) is a blend of popular musical forms originally found in the Southern United States and the Appalachian Mountains. It has roots in traditional folk music, Celtic music, gospel music and old-time music and evolved rapidly in the 1920s.
Country music has produced two of the top selling solo artists of all time. Elvis Presley, who was known early on as “the Hillbilly Cat” and was a regular on the radio program Louisiana Hayride, went on to become a defining figure in the emergence of rock and roll. Contemporary musician Garth Brooks, with 128 million albums sold, is the top-domestic-selling solo U.S. artist in U.S. history.
While album sales of most musical genres have declined since about 2000, country music experienced one of its best years in 2006, when, during the first six months, U.S. sales of country albums increased by 17.7 percent to 36 million. Moreover, country music listening nationwide has remained steady for almost a decade, reaching 77.3 million adults every week, according to the radio-ratings agency Arbitron, Inc.
The term country music gained popularity in the 1940s when the earlier term hillbilly music came to be seen as denigrating. Country music was widely embraced in the 1970s, while country and Western has declined in use since that time, except in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it is still commonly used. However, in the Southwestern United States a different mix of ethnic groups created the music that became the Western music of the term country and Western. The term country music is used today to describe many styles and subgenres.