Country music isn’t just for those living in the south. Numerous people all over the world enjoy this genre of music. Today, there are many country music artists touring and recording but there are a few old ones that stand out as the country music leaders. Here are the top five artists to top charts, have a huge influence on audiences, and leave legacies.
One of the most well known names in country music is Johnny Cash. Born in 1932, his parents named him J.R. Cash. It wasn’t until he enlisted in the United States Air Force that he began to use the name John R. Cash. When he signed on with Sun Records, he began to use the stage name Johnny Cash. The first recordings he made were in 1955 with the songs “Cry! Cry! Cry!” and “Hey, Porter”.
His greatest hits remain “I Walk the Line”, “Folsom Prison Blues”, and “Ring of Fire”. He also sang with the group Highwaymen with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson. Cash had a big alcohol and drug problem, which eventually led to his divorce with his first wife, Vivian Liberto. Two years after the divorce, Cash married his longtime friend, June Carter. He continued singing and touring from 1955 to his death in 2003.
George Jones remains an old country star with more than 150 music hits during his lifetime. Born in 1931, he was raised in Texas with his five sisters and one brother. Jones’ father was often physically abusive and would sometimes threaten his son to sing or face a beating. This spurred Jones into becoming a singer at a very young age. He left his home at 16 and went to work at a radio station.
In 1954, his first record “No Money in This Deal” was released. His first number one on the charts was “White Lightnin'” and in 1962, “She Thinks I Still Care” became one of his top hits of all time. Jones was married four times, the most famous marriage to Tammy Wynette, but the first three ended in divorce due to his constant touring and alcohol problems. Jones died on April 26, 2013 and is buried in Woodlawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Nashville.
Hank Williams was born in Alabama in 1923. He was the third child of Elonzo Williams and Jessie Skipper but their second child died shortly after birth. Williams was about 14 when he first performed in front of a crowd at a talent show. He won first prize for his original song and from there he went on to perform on radio shows, earning $15 a week.
Williams formed a band in the late 1930s called the Drifting Cowboys but when World War II began in 1941, many of his band mates were drafted. In 1946, Williams was signed to Sterling Records and launched a successful music career. His top hits were “Cold, Cold Heart”, “Dear John”, and “My Son Calls Another Man Daddy”. Williams died at the young age of 29 while on his way to one of his shows in Ohio.
Dolly Parton is hailed as one of the most successful country women singers of all time. Born in 1946, she began her music career when she was just a teenager in the 1950s. She had a record deal at 13 and the day after she graduated from high school, she moved to Nashville.
She’s composed more than 2,800 songs and has had several songs including “I Will Always Love You”, “Jolene”, and “Coat of Many Colors” topped the Billboard charts. She’s also starred in well-known movies such as Steel Magnolias and 9 to 5. Parton’s been married one time, to Carl Dean and in 2011; they celebrated their 45th anniversary.
One of the most influential old country stars is Merle Haggard. Born in 1937, Haggard lost his father at an early age and was in and out of juvenile detention centers for most of his younger years. He was also sent to jail for trying to rob a roadhouse and when he attempted escape, he was sent to prison. It was in prison where he decided to turn his life around and start a music career.
He began singing with the prison country band and when he was released, he sought a record deal with Tally Records. He’s had more than 30 number one hits and continues to record and tour.
While this isn’t a complete list of legendary country stars, the artists listed have had major impacts on the world of country music. Johnny Cash and Hank Williams both have been credited for popularizing this genre. Several of the artists mentioned have many tributes dedicated to them throughout the years. A few of the artists have been given a star on the Walk of Fame or have been inducted into the Hall of Fame.
BY HARSHVARDHAN SINGH.