Liverpool and Country Music: A Rich Heritage

David Bedford, author of ‘The Country of Liverpool’, breaks down how the city became to be known as ‘Nashville of the North’ in the mid-20th century.

Nashville of England

Liverpool Goes Country
Liverpool Goes Country

There was a frontier town in the West, affected by the American Civil War. There were cowboys in saloons singing songs of the lives of those men on the railroads and the prairies. It saw Buffalo Bill, Sioux Indians and Annie Oakley; Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers and Trigger, and was at the heart of country music. This was Nashville: not in Tennessee, but the Nashville of England; the Nashville of the North: Liverpool.

The Beatles and Merseybeat

Everybody knows that The Beatles came from Liverpool and that there was a beat music scene known as “Merseybeat”. But very few people outside of Liverpool know about the country music scene, which was the biggest in Europe. Why in Liverpool? How does it relate to The Beatles and the Mersey music scene?

The Quarrymen
The Quarrymen in their country and western outfits

Skiffle and its Country Roots

The roots of the beat music scene of the 1960s began with Lonnie Donegan’s “Rock Island Line”, which was issued in 1956, beginning the skiffle craze. However, examining the skiffle music scene shows that he roots of skiffle were in country; the roots of John Lennon’s Quarrymen were in country and western, which was reflected in the songs of The Beatles.

Many will be familiar with the famed Lonnie Donegan show at the world-famous Cavern Club. In attendance that night, along with hundreds of other music-mad teenagers, were a young John Lennon and Paul McCartney, whose paths had yet to cross. The Donegan show made a huge impression on the budding musical minds of Liverpool, inspiring a generation of kids to pick up a guitar for the first time.

Liverpool groups were playing a mixture of country, rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm and blues, rockabilly and whatever else it discovered. Groups had to decide which route to take.

Liverpool therefore came to be known as the “Nashville of The North”. This will be explored in the upcoming documentary ‘The Country of Liverpool’. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on production.

David Bedford

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