Whatever you may be when you tune in on your radio, you will be greeted from one end of the dial to the other with country music. As a musical form, it has been with us from its beginning as folklore music, through the years of Wheeling shows, to everywhere there is a stage or broadcast today.
A few collectors of country music delve into its history and origins. The vast majority just admire and enjoy its style and the entertainers it created.
The collectible field of country music is very diversified and plentiful almost everywhere.
Coast to coast entertainers of renown and groups of local reputation performing this music every day. From Boston to San Francisco, my family and I have seen single performers and groups on stage rendering the same style and the same songs.
Collectible items are seemingly unlimited, including, to name a few, advertisements in magazines and on posters, radio recordings, sheet music, autographs, post cards, T-shirts, and an almost endless diversity of novelties.
Records and, more recently, videos, are a major item for any country music collector. The old RPM 78 and 45 records are of interest to collectors, but the music lover prefers cassettes and CDs. While LPs are still around in large numbers, the 78s and 45s are often scarce.Age is often not the determining factor of value.
Country music records were first released in the 1920s. Fiddlers Eck Robertson and Henry Gilliland cut one of the first country music records in 1922, and a year later Henry Whitter recorded a famous old rendition of “The Wreck on the Southern Old 97.” This was the first vocal country record.
Early 78s bear the logos of Victor (legendary Victor Talking Machine Co.), Brunswick, and Columbia, plus a few other lesser known companies.
Jimmie Rodgers – known as the “father of country music,” made his first recording with Victor in 1927 – “Sleep, Baby, Sleep” with “Soldier’s Sweetheart” on the flip side.
These older records, however, are now mainly of interest to the record historians, and have a somewhat limited market.
Records from the era from 1946 through 1956 – the so called “golden years,” – are the ones that most collectors are looking for.
Hank Williams is probably the most recognized artist of that period. The most difficult to find are the Sterling labeled records Williams recorded – “Calling You,” “Honky Tonkin,” “I Don’t Care if Tomorrow Never Comes.” In mint condition, these records are possibly valued about $70 each.
Sheet music has always been of interest to the music buff, especially the songs of Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and other famous country vocalists. These are priced at $10 and up, providing the sheet is in mint condition.
Early releases of records and sheet music were usually produced in lesser numbers than later publications.
The 1943 sheet of “Pistol Packing Mama” sold over 200,000 copies in a short time. This sheet is still easier to locate, and demands a much lower price than some of the earlier releases of less than a 1000 copies.
There are still some of us left who recognize popular names of past vocalists – the already mentioned Hank Williams and Jimmie Rodgers, and also later ones such as Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Roy Drusky, plus dozens of others.
These artists stir up memories of WWVA, the Wheeling radio station, and of weekend excursions to the “Grand Old Opry”.
They were often featured in the monthly periodicals, and these publications also go along with record collecting.
Publications I personally remember are Country Song Roundup, Country and Western Jamboree, Country Music People, and Hillbilly and Cowboy Hit Parade. There were others, any and all are worth collecting.
The Country Song Roundup is undoubtedly the most sought after magazine of that era. It had its publishing debut in July/August 1949, with Eddie Arnold featured on the cover. The issue had articles on Arnold, Tex Williams, Roy Acuff, Smokey Rogers, and other renowned vocalists, plus it profiled songs of the time. An issue in mint condition will demand a price of at least $35 from an avid, serious collector.
Similar to the music, many diverse go-along materials were produced in various quantities, and the current demand also varies widely.