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by Linda Ryan

May 24, 2011

Cheat Sheet: The Nashville Sound

by Linda Ryan  |  May 24, 2011

When rockabilly stole away much of country music's younger audience in the mid-1950s, Nashville producers aimed for a more adult market. Producers Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley took their cues from the pop music world, cutting out the sharp edges of fiddle and banjo, and adding smoother, lusher tones with string sections and background choruses. This became known as the Nashville sound, which dominated country from the '50s through the '70s.

By the early '60s, the pop influence in country music was so pronounced it had its own nickname: countrypolitan. Marketed directly to a mainstream audience, the style made stars out of such country legends as Glen Campbell, Lynn Anderson and Charley Pride, and it peaked with the work of producer Billy Sherrill, who created an even fuller, lusher, over-the-top pop sound well suited to Tammy Wynette, honky-tonker Johnny Paycheck and even Mr. Country Music himself, George Jones.

There was a backlash, of course: as the likes of Eddy Arnold, Jim Reeves and Charlie Rich took over the pop charts, a country-centric counterculture arose in Bakersfield, Calif., led by such outlaws as Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. But there's no denying that the Nashville sound a product of some of country music's most beloved legends. Below are key albums from some of the key players in the Nashville sound.

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