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Best artists in country

  • Best artists in country
    1/ Sterling Munksgard // Shutterstock

    Best artists in country

    Where do the best country music artists get their start? Many began singing or learning how to play an instrument as children. Others segued into country from different passions and ended up singing country tunes for the rest of their lives.

    Here, Stacker takes a look at the top 50 country artists using calculations based on weekly performance figures from Hot Country Songs and Top Country Albums. Many artists who appear on the list were inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A number of them even had multiple #1 hits in a row.

    Read on to learn which singer’s band died in a plane crash, who used to be a semi-pro baseball player, and what stars earned their claim to fame from reality TV shows.

    ALSO: The richest country music stars

  • #50. Blake Shelton
    2/ EJ Hersom // Wikimedia Commons

    #50. Blake Shelton

    This artist has been a judge on the musical reality competition “The Voice” ever since it began. Shelton came onto the country music scene in 2001 with his song “Austin,” and he went on to become a seven-time Grammy nominee.

     

  • #49. Luke Bryan
    3/ Batt2fd // Wikimedia Commons

    #49. Luke Bryan

    Bryan, born in Leesburg, Georgia, started playing guitar at 14 and became popular with early singles like “All My Friends Say” and “Someone Else Calling You Baby." His album “Kill the Lights” earned him six #1 singles on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.

     

  • #48. Jason Aldean
    4/ Emorton25 // Wikimedia Commons

    #48. Jason Aldean

    Aldean started singing when he was 14, then broke out with a self-titled album in 2005. He earned his first Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year award in 2016.

     

  • #47. Marty Robbins
    5/ NBC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    #47. Marty Robbins

    Marty Robbins was a popular country music performer between the 1950s through 1980s. He died in 1982. He had 94 songs on Billboard’s country singles charts in his career. The song "Singing the Blues” held the #1 spot for 13 weeks in 1956.

     

  • #46. Vince Gill
    6/ rulenumberone2 // Flickr

    #46. Vince Gill

    In the early ‘80s, Gill's first solo album, “Turn Me Loose,” earned him the Academy of Country Music's Top New Male Vocalist award. His tune “When I Call Your Name” also earned him a Grammy Award for best country song. Over the course of his career, he’s won more than a dozen Grammys.

     

  • #45. The Judds
    7/ Jonathan Steffen // U.S. Air Force

    #45. The Judds

    Known as one of country music’s most successful duos, this mother-daughter team had 14 #1 singles between 1984 and 1989. The Judds sold over 20 million albums and won five Grammys.

     

  • #44. Shania Twain
    8/ AFP Contributor // Getty Images

    #44. Shania Twain

    Twain’s nickname is “The Queen of Country Pop.” Twain’s second album (“The Woman In Me”) broke world records with sales figures when it came out in 1995. She’s gone on to win five Grammys.

     

  • #43. Brad Paisley
    9/ minds-eye // Wikimedia Commons

    #43. Brad Paisley

    With more than 11 million albums and three Grammys, Paisley has had his fair share of recognition. Last year, Paisley released his 11th studio album. It was his ninth studio album to debut at the top of Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart.

     

  • #42. Anne Murray
    10/ Misterpither // Wikimedia Commons

    #42. Anne Murray

    Murray began singing as far back as when she was 7 years old. She’s in her 70s now, with 50 million albums under her belt. She’s won four Grammys and led the way for Canadian divas, being from Nova Scotia.

     

  • #41. Tanya Tucker
    11/ Nicholas Hunt // Getty Images

    #41. Tanya Tucker

    The song “Delta Dawn” was Tucker’s first top 10 hit when she was a teenager. She went on to become a Grammy Award-nominated singer and create her own record label, where she released the album “Delta.”

     

  • #40. Eddie Rabbitt
    12/ Eddie Rabbitt's daughter, Demelza Rabbitt—Terry Wyatt // Getty Images

    #40. Eddie Rabbitt

    In 1977, the Academy of Country Music Awards named Rabbitt a top new male vocalist. In 1998, he died of lung cancer, not because he was a smoker, but because he had spent most of his singing days performing in smokey clubs. The singer, songwriter, and guitarist was just shy of 57.

     

  • #39. Clint Black
    13/ Matthew Smith // U.S. Air Force

    #39. Clint Black

    Clint Black, who has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, has been recognized by People magazine as one of the “50 Most Beautiful People in the World.” Two of his country singles, "A Better Man" and "Killin' Time," were the #1 and #2 country singles the year they came out.



     

  • #38. Carrie Underwood
    14/ Anthony Quintano // Wikimedia Commons

    #38. Carrie Underwood

    Underwood was the winner of the 2005 season of “American Idol,” which catapulted her to fame. She was the youngest person to be inducted into the Grand Ole Opry at only 26, and she has won plenty of Grammy Awards. She made headlines recently when she suffered a fall and needed around 40 stitches on her face.

     

  • #37. Taylor Swift
    15/ Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer // Flickr

    #37. Taylor Swift

    When she was only 20, Swift became the youngest artist in history to win the Grammy for album of the year. Her other awards include Billboard's woman of the year and entertainer of the year from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music. Her album "1989" won Grammys for album of the year and best pop vocal album in 2014.

     

  • #36. Keith Urban
    16/ Craig ONeal // Wikimedia Commons

    #36. Keith Urban

    In 2001, Urban, who can play seven instruments, had his first #1 hit on Billboard magazine's country singles and tracks chart with "But for the Grace of God.” Urban was raised in Australia and is married to Nicole Kidman. He’s also been a judge on “American Idol” and has won many Grammy Awards.

     

  • #35. The Statler Brothers
    17/ Jimmy Fortune, of The Statler Brothers—Jason Davis // Getty Images

    #35. The Statler Brothers

    The Statler Brothers were originally a church trio, but later became a quartet. The four men were childhood friends from Salem, Virginia, and were part of Johnny Cash’s road and television shows. They won three Grammy Awards and also earned recognition from the Country Music Association.

     

  • #34. Elvis Presley
    18/ Library of Congress // Wikimedia Commons

    #34. Elvis Presley

    Elvis Presley, born in Mississippi, is one of the most successful musicians of all time, having sold more than 600 million singles and albums. He fused different styles and genres of music, and is the only performer to have been inducted into three different halls of fame.

     

  • #33. Jim Reeves
    19/ Keystone // Getty Images

    #33. Jim Reeves

    Jim Reeves’ hit “Four Walls”  launched his career, while his later hits like “Blue Boy” and “Billy Bayou” made him a star. Reeves died when he was killed in a plane crash in 1964.



     

  • #32. Crystal Gayle
    20/ Rick Diamond // Getty Images

    #32. Crystal Gayle

    Known for her popular song “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Gayle won the top female vocalist from the Country Music Association in 1977 and 1978. She is related to country music singers Patsy Lynn and Peggy Lynn, and she is also the younger sister of Loretta Lynn.

     

  • #31. Eddy Arnold
    21/ NBC Television // Wikimedia Commons

    #31. Eddy Arnold

    Arnold had a number of hit songs in the 1940s through the 1960s, including “That’s How Much I Love You” and “I’ll Hold You in My Heart.” In 1966, Arnold was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was 46 at the time and the youngest inductee ever to receive the honor.

  • #30. The Oak Ridge Boys
    22/ Branson Missouri // Flickr

    #30. The Oak Ridge Boys

    The Oak Ridge Boys have won Grammy, CMA, and ACM awards in the 50 years they’ve been singing together. Some of their hits include “Elvira” and “Thank God For Kids.” The group has had more than a dozen national #1 singles.

     

  • #29. Sonny James
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    #29. Sonny James

    For nearly two decades, Sonny James spent more time in the #1 chart position than any other artist in country music. For 57 weeks, he clung to the top spot. James is also the first country artist to incorporate the R&B style into country music.

     

  • #28. Rascal Flatts
    24/ Bob James // Wikimedia Commons

    #28. Rascal Flatts

    This country music band has had plenty of #1 hits and sold more than 23 million records. Their latest album, “Back To Us,” is the follow-up to “Rewind,” which featured hits such as “Rewind” and “I Like the Sound of That.”

     

  • #27. Ray Price
    25/ WSM Radio // Wikimedia Commons

    #27. Ray Price

    Born in Texas, Price studied to be a veterinarian before making a career switch to music. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. His song, "Crazy Arms" stayed #1 for 20 weeks in 1956.

     

  • #26. Don Williams
    26/ DJParker39 // Wikimedia Commons

    #26. Don Williams

    Nicknamed “The Gentle Giant,” Williams served in the Army for two years before becoming a musician. He had a number of singles on the Billboard country singles chart, including "The Shelter of Your Eyes."

     

  • #25. Tammy Wynette
    27/ Hubert Long (manager) / Epic Records // Wikimedia Commons

    #25. Tammy Wynette

    This Grammy winner is well known for her hit "Stand By Your Man." She stepped into the public eye when she appeared on "The Porter Wagoner Show" and later signed with Epic Records. In 1998, she was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

     

  • #24. Randy Travis
    28/ Astrid Stawiarz // Getty Images

    #24. Randy Travis

    A native of North Carolina, Travis was discovered when he was only 18. His album “Storms of Life” rose to the top of the charts, and he sold millions of copies of other albums, picking up a Grammy along the way.

     

  • #23. Glen Campbell
    29/ Kathy Hutchins // Shutterstock

    #23. Glen Campbell

    Campbell, the son of a sharecropper, sold around 45 million records during the course of his career and, in 2005, was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He died in 2017 from Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 81.

     

     

  • #22. Brooks & Dunn
    30/ Gage Skidmore // Wikimedia Commons

    #22. Brooks & Dunn

    Named for Leon Eric (“Kix”) Brooks and Ronnie Gene Dunn, this group’s first album was “Brand New Man,” but the album “Hard Workin’ Man” launched them; it debuted at #3 on the Billboard country album chart.

     

  • #21. Toby Keith
    31/ U.S. Army // Wikimedia Commons

    #21. Toby Keith

    An Oklahoma native, Keith was inspired by the musicians who in his grandmother's supper club. His self-titled debut album went platinum in 1993. Keith has collaborated with popular artists such as Willie Nelson and even tried his hand at acting in 2008.

     

  • #20. Ronnie Milsap
    32/ MCA Records // Wikimedia Commons

    #20. Ronnie Milsap

    Milsap is a winner of six Grammys, eight Country Music Association awards and four more Academy of Country Music trophies. He had 40 #1 country hits, and eight of his albums went gold.

     

  • #19. Kenny Chesney
    33/ Christopher Polk // Getty Images

    #19. Kenny Chesney

    Chesney was born in Tennessee. He went gold with “Me and You” in 1996 and double platinum with “Everywhere We Go” three years later. In 2008, he was nominated for seven CMA Awards.

     

  • #18. Dolly Parton
    34/ Kristopher Harris // Flickr

    #18. Dolly Parton

    One of Parton’s many nicknames is “The Queen of Nashville.” Her movie debut was the comedy “9 to 5,” for which she picked up an Oscar nomination and a handful of Grammy Awards. Her iconic hit song, "I Will Always Love You," which became the theme song for the movie “The Bodyguard,” was awarded the top spot on CMT’s 100 Greatest Love Songs of Country Music.

     

  • #17. Loretta Lynn
    35/ Hulton Archive // Getty Images

    #17. Loretta Lynn

    Lynn is the mother of actresses Patsy Lynn and Peggy Lynn. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and was the first woman to be awarded the Country Music Association's Entertainer of the Year.

     

  • #16. George Jones
    36/ BstarXO // Wikimedia Commons

    #16. George Jones

    George Jones’ father, a truck driver, bought him his first guitar when he was 9, and he learned to play from a teacher he met in Sunday school. “Why Baby Why” was the first hit for Jones, who started singing at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. Throughout his career, he earned many awards, such as Grammys, but he suffered from severe alcoholism.

     

  • #15. Kenny Rogers
    37/ Eva Rinaldi // Wikimedia Commons

    #15. Kenny Rogers

    Known for his trademark beard, Rogers’ start came when he recorded "That Crazy Feeling" for a small Houston label; he was only 19. He sang often with Dolly Parton, and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

     

  • #14. Johnny Cash
    38/ Joel Baldwin/Look Magazine/LOC // Wikimedia Commons

    #14. Johnny Cash

    Johnny Cash, the subject of the movie “Walk the Line,” is one of the best-selling artists of all time. He began writing music at age 12, and one of his most beloved albums is “Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison.” Cash received awards from the CMA, but struggled with substance abuse problems throughout his career.

     

  • #13. Hank Williams Jr.
    39/ Adambroachphoto // Wikimedia Commons

    #13. Hank Williams Jr.

    At only 11 years old, Williams sang at the Grand Ole Opry. His first album, a tribute to his father, “Hank Williams Jr. Sings the Songs of Hank Williams,” came out three years later in 1964.

     

  • #12. Buck Owens
    40/ Public Domain // Wikicommons

    #12. Buck Owens

    Born as Alvis Edgar Owens Jr., Buck Owens was incredibly popular on the country charts in the mid-1960s. “Act Naturally” and “My Heart Skips a Beat” were just a couple of his well-known hits. He played shows at Carnegie Hall and the Fillmore in San Francisco and also earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

     

  • #11. Waylon Jennings
    41/ RCA Records // Wikimedia Commons

    #11. Waylon Jennings

    Jennings learned to play guitar as a child. In 1959, he was supposed to get on a private plane, but gave up his spot to J.P. Richardson who was feeling unwell. Those on board that plane, including Richardson, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens, were killed in a crash shortly after takeoff. Jennings won his first Grammy Award in 1969 for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for "MacArthur Park.”

     

  • #10. Tim McGraw
    42/ Nick Ontiveros // U.S. Air Force

    #10. Tim McGraw

    Married to fellow country music star Faith Hill, McGraw’s hits have historically topped the charts. He picked up a number of Grammys as well as awards from the Academy of Country Music and the Country Music Association.

     

  • #9. Alan Jackson
    43/ Benjamin Stratton // U.S. Air Force

    #9. Alan Jackson

    Jackson grew up in rural Georgia singing gospel music. He won a CMA award for entertainer of the year three separate times. And in 2017, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

     

  • #8. Garth Brooks
    44/ fatherspoon // Flickr

    #8. Garth Brooks

    Brooks had 18 #1 hits on Billboard magazine's Hot Country Singles chart. His biggest hits include "The Dance" and "Friends in Low Places." In 1991, his album "Ropin' the Wind" landed in the top spot on the Billboard pop chart; it was the first country album ever to do so.

     

  • #7. Reba McEntire
    45/ gerrybuckel // Flickr

    #7. Reba McEntire

    McEntire began singing in childhood, and in her adult career, she earned seven gold and five platinum albums, as well as two Grammys. In 1991, eight members of McEntire’s band were killed in a plane crash. Fortunately, she was not on the plane.

     

  • #6. Charley Pride
    46/ U.S. DOD // Wikimedia Commons

    #6. Charley Pride

    Pride began his career in baseball before he segued into country music. Between 1967 and 1987, he recorded 52 top 10 country hits. He’s also a Grammy winner, and throughout his career has sold tens of millions of records.

     

  • #5. Conway Twitty
    47/ MCA Records // Wikimedia Commons

    #5. Conway Twitty

    Twitty, who was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame by the end of his career, recorded 55 #1 singles and sold more than 50 million records. Born in Mississippi, Twitty had a popular string of hits that were duets with Loretta Lynn, including “After the Fire is Gone” and “Lead Me On.”

     

  • #4. Alabama
    48/ Saginaw-hitchhiker // Wikimedia Commons

    #4. Alabama

    This band, named to the Country Music Hall of Fame, recorded 21 straight #1 singles and sold an impressive 73 million albums. The band has also been inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

     

  • #3. Willie Nelson
    49/ Bob Jagendorf // Wikimedia Commons

    #3. Willie Nelson

    Born in Texas in 1933, Willie Nelson still continues to perform today, and many artists cover his hits. Nelson started writing his own songs shortly after getting his first guitar at the age of 6. In 1975, his album “Red-Headed Stranger” hit #1 on the country charts and was so well received that it crossed over into the top 40 on the pop charts.

     

  • #2. Merle Haggard
    50/ Nehrams2020 // Wikimedia Commons

    #2. Merle Haggard

    Haggard had around 40 #1 hits during the course of his long career. Although he served time in prison, he won plenty of music awards for both singing and songwriting. In 1994, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and died in 2016 in California.

     

  • #1. George Strait
    51/ Bede735c // Wikimedia Commons

    #1. George Strait

    At the age of 29, Straight entered the country music scene in 1981, releasing “Unwound” as his first single in 1981. Today, he holds the record for most #1 singles. In 2006, Strait was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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