According to music historians “At a time when hillbilly music was emerging and consisted of old time music with a fiddler or guitar player, and singers who all sounded alike, Rodgers brought a distinctive, colorful personality and a rousing vocal style. He turned the public’s attention away from rustic fiddles to popularize the free swinging, born to lose blues tradition of cheatin’ hearts, faded love, whiskey rivers, and stoic endurance.” He is honored as the first inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame as the man who started it all.
He learned blues from black musicians while working on the railroad starting at age 14. You can hear that here. It’s country but it’s also blues. He was the first inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and an early inductee of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Because rockabilly might not have happened he he hadn’t come first.