Black musicians have always been a part of country music's evolution.
In Billboard’s new 2020 Country Power Players issue, Black musicians and executives in Nashville open up about their experiences with systemic racism — and the changes they’d like to see to level the playing field for all artists. Black musicians, of course, have always played a crucial role in the genre’s evolution, influencing many of its brightest stars — and not always getting the proper credit. Here are just seven of the pioneers who pushed the genre forward.
1886 - 1931
Though much about Shultz’s life and career is unknown -- his performances were never recorded -- the fiddler and guitarist’s distinct finger-picking style influenced a wide array of artists, including bluegrass legend Bill Monroe and Merle Travis, whose own “Travis picking” method would inspire countless more musicians.