From its beginnings in the early 1920s, commercial country music-as performed on stage, on records, radio, and in movies-became an increasingly pervasive and lively part of American life, yet some forty years passed before it was given serious attention by writers, historians, scholars, and students of national culture. The first publication founded for promoting the systematic research and recognition of country music was the John Edwards Memorial Foundation (JEMF) Quarterly at the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1965. Over time, the JEMF Quarterly brought to light the lives and careers of dozens of pioneer musicians, including Alfred G. Karnes, the Carter Family, Riley Puckett, and Buell Kazee, along with details of early commercial radio operations, the sources of many traditional songs, and the reproduction of historical documents. In addition, the early work of many contributors who later became known as major scholars in the field-Archie Green, Charles Wolfe, Norm Cohen, Simon J. Bonner, and Loyal Jones among others-appeared on the pages of the JEMF Quarterly during its 19 years in publication. Exploring Roots Music reprints twenty-seven representative articles published in the JEMF Quarterly over the years, until it ceased publication in 1985. It also includes many illustrations and an introduction that seeks to place the journal in historical perspective and illuminate its central importance to the study of American culture.
Nolan Porterfield has written widely about American music and culture. He has won the Center for American History's Historical Achievement Award (1997) and has been nominated for a Grammy award for Best Album Notes (1987). He is the author of five books including his most recent, Last Cavalier - a biography of pioneer folksong collector John Lomax.