Since I have playlists for Country Mambo and Country Tango, I added a playlist for Country Rhumba. I have thirty or so entries on each of these playlists. I have additional Latin country crossover material on my Latin Country and Island Country playlists. I also added a Country Samba & Bossa Nova list (see later in this article).
Hank Snow figures prominently with the country/Latin dance hybrid trends in the 1950s. Hank Snow released “Rhumba Boogie” on January 1951 and had a number one country hit with it. Spade Cooley and others covered it. “I Love Lucy” also debuted in 1951, and one might recall Ricky (Desi Arnaz) singing that Cuban Pete was the king of the rumba beat. In 1953, Hank Snow had a number three country hit with “Spanish Fireball,” which mentions rhumba in one line. In 1967, Hank Snow released an album named “Spanish Fireball,” which also included songs like “Cuban Rhumba.” Jim Reeves had his first number one with “Mexican Joe” in 1953, and it mentions the rhumba, too. Hank Snow quickly recorded a follow up called “When Mexican Joe Met Jole Blon,” written by Sheb Wooley. You might remember him for “Flying Purple People Eater.”
So, we’ve established that “country rhumba” was a big enough deal in the early fifties that Hank Snow and Jim Reeves had number one hits with it, yet you’ll probably get blank stares if you mention “country rhumba” to anyone. My Country Rhumba playlist includes Flatt and Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Johnny Horton, The Browns, Chet Atkins, and Elvis Presley. I also included Roy Clark’s version of “Malagueña,” because even though one might argue the classification, it’s too good not to include somewhere.
Pee Wee King released “Tennessee Tango” in 1951, and several other country tango songs were released over the next couple or three years. Hank Snow and Chet Atkins released “Blue Tango” in 1964, so that’s well after the main wave. See my Country Tango playlist.
1954-1955 was the hot spot for country mambo. Hank Snow, Sheb Wooley, June Carter, Grandpa Jones and Minnie Pearl, Bob Wills, and Homer and Jethro are among the names you’ll find on my Country Mambo playlist. As a fun fact, Perez Prado’s “Patricia” was a number one pop and R&B hit, but it also crossed over to number 18 on the country chart.
I don’t have a separate playlist for Country Conga, but I’ll mention Hank Snow yet again for his 1955 cover of “Caribbean,” a song that mentions the conga line.
I do have a new playlist for Country Samba (including Bossa Nova). In 1951, Bob Williams released “Hillbilly Samba,” but I couldn’t find it on YouTube. Samba great Carmen Miranda did a comedic western-themed number in 1950 called “Yipsee-I-O.” Chet Atkins covered “One Note Samba” in 1964. Willie Nelson shows up on my Country Samba list, too. In 1963, CMHOF member Harold Bradley released a whole album of bossa nova versions of country songs.
Bossa Nova is a samba derivative. I found an interesting Country Bossa Nova playlist that features some major American country hits influenced by bossa nova. There’s very little overlap with my own list, so it’s yet another collection of songs to check out.