|Cultural origins||Late 1970s United Kingdom and early 1980s Los Angeles|
|Typical instruments||Vocals, electric guitar, bass, drums|
|Derivative forms||Alternative country|
|Psychobilly - Gothabilly - Southern metal|
|Punk rock subgenres, timeline of punk rock, timeline of alternative rock, psychobilly, swamp rock, garage rock, post-punk, punk blues|
Cowpunk (or country punk) is a subgenre of punk rock that began in the UK and California in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It combines punk rock or new wave with country music, folk music, and blues in sound, subject matter, attitude, and style. Many of the musicians in this scene have now become associated with alternative country or roots rock.
A 1984 New York Times article on the emerging aesthetic acknowledged cowpunk as one of several catch-all terms critics were using to categorize the country-influenced music of otherwise unrelated punk and New Wave bands. The article briefly summarized the music's history, at least in the U.S., saying that in the early 1980s, several punk and New Wave bands had begun collecting classic country records, and soon thereafter began performing high-tempo cover versions of their favorite songs, and that new bands had also formed around the idea. By 1984, there were dozens of bands in both the U.S. and England "personalizing country music and making it palatable for the MTV Generation." Examples included two UK groups—the country-tinged pop band Boothill Foot Tappers and the tongue-in-cheek New Wave outfit Yip Yip Coyote—and several U.S. bands: X, The Blasters, Meat Puppets, Rubber Rodeo (which ironically "juxtaposed countrypolitan elements and more conventional rock postures" in homage to "a pop-culture west rather than a geographic or historic one"), Rank and File (playing "an updated version of 1960s country-rock"), Jason and the Scorchers (with "authentically deep country roots"), and Violent Femmes (at that time incorporating "mountain banjo, wheezing saxophones, scraping fiddle, twanging jew's harp, and ragged vocal choruses").
Bands associated with the 1980s "Cowpunk" ethos
- The Beat Farmers (1980s San Diego rock band)
- Nine Pound Hammer (1980s Kentucky rock band)
- The Blasters (1980s Los Angeles rockabilly, led by Phil Alvin)
- Blood on the Saddle (1980s Los Angeles band)
- Colorfinger (1980s Los Angeles band)
- The Earps (Phoenix and Los Angeles)
- Goober and the Peas (1990-1995 Detroit, Michigan)
- Green On Red (1980s Tucson and Los Angeles, with roots in the "Paisley Underground")
- The Gun Club (1980s Los Angeles punk blues)
- The Cramps (1980s Ohio and Los Angeles punk blues, psychobilly, gothabilly)
- The Knitters (1980s Los Angeles folk-rock, made up of the members of X and The Blasters)
- Lone Justice (1980s Anaheim and Los Angeles country rock band, led by Maria McKee)
- The Long Ryders (1980s Los Angeles, with roots in "Paisley Underground")
- Los Lobos (1980s East L.A. Tex-Mex/Chicano rock)
- Glen Meadmore (1980s Los Angeles)
- Mojo Nixon and Skid Roper (1980s San Diego psychobilly cowpunk)
- Rank and File (1980s San Francisco/Los Angeles new wave)
- The Rave-Ups (1980s Los Angeles)
- Social Distortion (1980s Orange County)
- Blood Oaks (1990s Atlanta)
- Tex and the Horseheads (1980s Los Angeles)
- Wall of Voodoo (1980s new wave with influences from country & spaghetti western soundtracks)
- X (1980s Los Angeles punk, with country and rockabilly influences)
- Jason & the Scorchers (Nashville, TN cowpunk band 1981- present)
- Palmer, Robert (June 10, 1984). "Young Bands Make Country Music for the MTV Generation". New York Times. p. H23.
- Gerald Haslam, Workin' Man Blues: Country Music in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999) covers all of the major movements in California Country music from the Hollywood Cowboys to Country Rock. He also includes a chapter on the 1980s and the "Los Angeles renaissance" of country-styled "roots", rockabilly and cowpunk music and interviews members of The Blasters, Los Lobos, X/The Knitters, Lone Justice, Dwight Yoakam, Rosie Flores, Rank and File and The Beat Farmers. Kurt Wolff in The Rough Guide to Country Music (London: Rough Guides, 2000) also highlights chapters covering major California contributions to Country Music: Hollywood Cowboys, The Bakersfield Sound and Country Rock as well as California's contribution to Western Swing. Under chapters dealing with Dwight Yoakam and Alternative Country, Wolf mentions the influence of Los Angeles and its 1980s "roots" music scene.
- Ganahl, Jane (November 10, 1999). "Mike Ness' cowpunk sound". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved December 18, 2012.
- Taylor, Steve (2006). A to X of Alternative Music. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 276. ISBN 0-8264-8217-1.
- Einarson, John. Desperados: The Roots of Country Rock. New York: Cooper Square Press, 2001
- Haslam, Gerald W. Workin' Man Blues: Country Music in California. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999
- Wolff, Kurt. The Rough Guide to Country Music. London: Rough Guides, 2000.
- Hinton, Brian. "South By South West: A Road Map To Alternative Country" Sanctuary 2003