The Unforgettable Superstars of Country Music: Then and Now


Country music has given us some of the music world’s most loved and talented singers and songwriters. We’re celebrating the stars of country music, discovering where some of the icons of yesteryear find themselves today.

Emmylou Harris Then

Emmylou actually dropped out of college, heading straight for New York to pursue her big dreams on the stage. She waited tables while performing folk songs in Greenwich Village coffeehouses during the 1960s folk music boom. By the 70s Harris was busy collaborating and performing with like-minded folk, rock, country and blues musicians.

Emmylou Harris Now

Harris has enjoyed a colorful musical career. She has collaborated with other country artists like Dolly Parton, Bob Dylan, John Denver, Ryan Adams and Patty Griffin. Over the span of decades, she has been awarded 14 Grammy Awards and been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. She is definitely one of the greats.

Hank Williams Jr.

Hank Williams Jr. is the son of the country music star of the same name. The singer began his career in his youth, following his father’s footsteps and mimicking his easy country style. His early years in the industry were seemingly spent searching for his own distinct musical identity. In 1975, the star would have a near-fatal experience when he fell from a peak while mountain climbing. He spent two years in recovery, learning how to sing and talk again. His injuries also left his face scarred, the singer grew a beard to hide the scars and took to wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses.

Hank Williams Jr.

After his accident, Williams decidedly developed his own sound that garnered him popularity in his own right. The musical establishment soon accepted his new style and he became a well-revered country music star, standing tall far from his father’s shadow. Williams continues to tour, perform and make music.

Faith Hill Then

Hill’s exceptional musical talents were apparent from an early age. She publicly performed for the first time at just 7 years old. After years of working odd jobs, one of which was at a local McDonalds, and performing at her local church, Hill finally garnered the attention of record producers. She released her first album in 1993. The 90s were a slow but steady success for the star with the release of a string of No 1 hit singles.

Faith Hill Now

In 1996, the beautiful artist toured with country star Tim McGraw. Their chemistry was instantaneous and the pair was married later that year. Hill has become one half country music’s ultimate power couples. In the early 2000s she developed a more pop-orientated sound that appealed to the masses. In 2009, Billboard named her as the No. 1 Adult Contemporary artist of the 2000 decade and also as the 39th best artist.

Rascal Flatts Then

The Rascal Flatts, made up of Gary Levox as the lead vocalist, his cousin Jay DeMarcus on bass guitar and Joe Don Rooney who plays the banjo and guitar. The band formed in Columbus, Ohio in 1999. During the first 10 years of their career, they released seven albums while with Disney Music Group’s Lyric Street Record label. At that time, they achieved 14 No.1’s on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and/or Country Airplay.

Rascal Flatts Now

In 2005, theRascal Flatts had a successful run on five consecutive weeks at No.1 with their single, Bless The Broken Road, which was a cover of a Marcus Hummon song. In October 2008, the band released a compilation album which featured all of their hits from the beginning. Up to date, the band have continued to release successful singles and albums, with their latest installment, Back To Life, released in September, 2018.

Shania Twain Then

Shania Twain was first known as Eilleen Regina Edwards. Born in Ontario, Canada she signed with Mercury Nashville Records in the early 90s. Despite her first studio album being only moderately well-received, her second and third albums were unrivaled international successes. Her third album became the best-selling studio album of all-time by a female act in any genre, selling nearly 40 million copies worldwide.

Shania Twain Now

The Canadian beauty has received five Grammy Awards, 27 BMI Songwriter Awards and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Twain is well recognized as one of the most beautiful famous women in the world, who continues to age with undeniable grace. She has most recently announced plans to tour in late 2018.

Kenny Chesney Then

Singer, songwriter and record producer, Kenny Chesney has recorded an amazing 20 albums since his music career started in 1993. He has sold 30 million albums worldwide and 14 of his albums are certified Gold by the Recording Industry Association of America. He joined Capricorn Records and his debut album was In My Wildest Dreams in 1994.

Kenny Chesney Now

40 of his singles have taken a top place on the Billboard Hot Country Songs list, with 29 of them being at No.1. Chesney has received several Entertainer Of The Year awards. In his 2016 album, he featured a song with singer P!NK called Setting The World On Fire and more recently, in July 2018 he released his Songs For The Saints album.

Tim McGraw Then

Born in 1967, Samuel Timothy McGraw had his breakthrough into the country music scene in 1994 with his album Not A Moment Too Soon. In 1997, 1998 and 2004, his singles were so successful that they were known as the top country songs of each year. His career went from strength to strength and in 2000 he released a greatest hits album which sold almost 6 million copies.

Tim McGraw Now

McGraw has scooped in total, 3 Grammy Awards, 14 Academy of Country Music awards, 11 Country Music Association, 10 American Music Awards, and three People’s Choice Awards. Towards the end of 2017 and into 2018, Tim McGraw toured with Faith Hill on their Soul2Soul World Tour and it has become one of the highest-grossing tours in country music.

Keith Urban Then

The New Zealand singer and songwriter released his first album as part of a band in 1991 and had some chart hits in Australia. Following that, knowing his career would have a better chance in America, he moved there. He began his solo career in 1999 and his debut album was certified platinum by the RIAA and then won the Top New Male Vocalist Award at the Academy of Country Music in 2001.

Keith Urban Now

In 2016, he was selected to perform at the CMA Awards 50th anniversary. In late 2017, Urban released a song called Female, that he said was “an empowerment anthem partially inspired by the Harvey Weinstein scandal.” In summer 2018 he released his Graffiti U album and began a new world tour.

Dixie Chicks Then

Back in 1989, the Dixie Chicks were originally a 4-member band and they mainly performed country and bluegrass music. It was then when they became a 3 and the lead singer was switched, that they reached commercial success in early 1998. The band is made up of sisters Martie Erwin Maguire, Emily Robison and lead singer Natalie Maines.

Dixie Chicks Now

The Dixie Chicks have managed to win 13 Grammy Awards, with 5 of them being in 2007 – one of their most successful years. In December 2015, the women became the top selling all-female band and the biggest selling country group, with 30.5 million albums sold (with 27.5 million of those being sold in America).

Brad Paisley Then

Who Needs Pictures was Brad Paisley’s first album which he released in 1999. With the Arista Nashville label, he has released 10 studio albums as well as a Christmas compilation. After the release of his album, it was seven months until he achieved his first No.1 with He Didn’t Have To Be. His 2005 album, Time Well Wasted featured country icon Dolly Parton.

Brad Paisley Now

Paisley has landed 32 top singles with 19 of them reaching number 1 on the Billboard Country Airplay an in 2009 he set a record for the most consecutive singles on the chart. In 2016 he released Without A Fight with pop singer Demi Lovato however the single didn’t do to well. In April 2017, he released a new album called Love and War.

Brooks & Dunn Then

The duo is made up of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn, who both share the responsibilities in the band. Brooks & Dunn both sing and write songs and they were founded in 1990. Since they were signed by Arista Nashville, they have recorded 5 compilation and 11 studio albums.

Brooks & Dunn Now

Brooks & Dunn’s singles have received a lot of support with out of 50, 19 of them reached the top 10 and 20 scooped the number 1 spot. It was in 2009, after a successful country music stretch that the duo announced they would be splitting up, but would do one last tour, The Last Rodeo, before they did. Later on, they re-group and performed a series of concerts.

Alan Jackson Then

Alan Jackson rose to fame through releasing traditional honky tonk and mainstream country music, with many of his songs being favorites in country music bars. His success has seen him sell over 80 million records.

Alan Jackson Now

In the 2000s he released a song called Murder on Music Row which was written about how country music was becoming more like pop music. By the time 2010 came along, Alan Jackson had released his 16th studio album called Freight Train. In October 2017 he released The Older I get with his album coming out later in 2018.

Gretchen Wilson Then

Back in 2004, Gretchen Wilson debuted her single in March 2004 with Redneck women. Her career flew and it wasn’t long before the single won a Grammy Award. Firmly on the country music map, she then released her Here For The Party album. A year later she released the album, All Jacked Up which then became the highest-debuting single.

Gretchen Wilson Now

Gretchen Wilson was the first female in 2 years to have a number 1. After a few of her singles flopped between 2008 and 2009, she left Sony Music Nashville and launched her own record label. In 2013 she released the Right On Time album as well as a Christmas album in October of the same year.

Leann Rimes Then

Leann Rimes has had an amazing career that has expanded from country music star to now being an actress and author. She became a star as just 13 years old when she released a new version of Blue by Bill Mack, it was here that she became the youngest country music star since the 70’s.

Leann Rimes Now

In 1996, her single Blue, made it to No.1 and reached multi-platinum success. Rimes’ music is country pop and she has had 40 singles enter the charts since 1996. In 2000 she made her film debut in Coyote Ugly as well as singing the film theme tune. She has written 4 books and her song How Do I Live is one of the most famous song of the 90’s.

Willie Nelson Then

Born during the Great Depression, young Willie Nelson penned his first song at just 7 years old and joined his first music group at 10. His early years in the industry included stints as a radio disc jockey, a band bassist and a prominent songwriter. He released his first album in 1962.

Willie Nelson Now

Nelson has since become the grandfather of country music. He has also acted in 30 films and co-authored numerous books. He is an avid activist for the legalization of marijuana and raising awareness around environmental issues. In 1990, Willie’s assets were seized by the IRS who claimed that the singer owed them $32 million. The icon released an album entitled ‘The IRS Tapes: Who Will Buy My Memories?’ The album’s profits cleared his debts. Now 84, the singer, actor and songwriter continues to tour around the world.

Carrie Underwood Then

In 2005, the young, talented Carrie Underwood won the fourth season of American Idol. Her subsequent debut album became the best-selling solo female debut album in country music history. The starry-eyed little girl from Oklahoma had fast become one of the genre’s most celebrated new faces.

Carrie Underwood Now

Underwood has been hailed as the female vocalist of her generation by Rolling Stone Magazine. She most recently made a triumphant return to the stage, performing at 2018’s Academy of Country Music Awards. The star had a fall last November which left her in need of 40 facial stitches. She has made a spectacular recovery, returning with the release of her new album ‘Cry Pretty.’

Blake Shelton Then

Blake Shelton’s 2001 debut single spent five weeks on top of the country music charts. Shelton came from humble beginnings. His second and third albums went gold and platinum respectively. Born in Oklahoma, he left his hometown at the age of 17 to pursue his dreams of fame, later signing with a record label in the country music hub of Nashville.

Blake Shelton Now

The eight-time Grammy Award nominee is most recently known for being on the judging panel of the singing competition The Voice. The panel was where he would meet his current love interest, singer Gwen Stefani. After a four-year-long highly publicized marriage and divorce from country star Miranda Lambert, Stefani and Shelton would announce their relationship in 2015.

Crystal Gayle Then

With her long brunette locks, piercing blue eyes and impressive vocal range, Gayle was a much-loved country darling of the 70s and 80s. She had twenty No 1 country songs during the time period. she made history when she became the first female artist in country music history to reach platinum sales, with her 1977 album We Must Believe in Magic. It seems musical talent runs in the family, she is the younger sister of the country singer-songwriter, Loretta Lynn.

Crystal Gayle Now

Gayle’s career seemed to stall in the 90s. She released two albums which failed to make it on to the charts. She experimented in the genre of Gospel and released a children’s album in 2000. Despite her questionable recent endeavors, she remains one of the most celebrated female country music stars of all time. In 2016, almost 50 years after her musical debut, Gayle was asked to become a member of the Grand Ole Opry by Carrie Underwood.

Kris Kristofferson Then

After graduating college, young Kristofferson fulfilled his military duty, acting as Captain stationed in West Germany in the early 60s. To his family’s disapproval, in 1965 he left the military to pursue a songwriting career. He moved to Nashville and met June Carter, who he asked to hand over his tape to none other than Mr Johnny Cash. It was the beginnings of something special, the pair would collaborate for years to come and later make up part of the outlaw country music group The Highwaymen, along with Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings.

Kris Kristofferson Now

Kristofferson became a key creative force in the outlaw country music scene. With his rugged good looks and easy charisma, the musician also made a successful transition into film, notably starring in A Star is Born for which he won a Best Actor Golden Globe Award. Kristofferson has had his fair share of romances, he has fathered eight children from three different marriages. The artist still tours but has sadly contracted Lyme Disease which has prompted ongoing medical complications.

Loretta Lynn Then

Kentucky-born Loretta Webb was one of eight children fathered by a salt of the earth coal miner. At 15 she wed Oliver Lynn, who would encourage her to cultivate her musical talents. In the 50s she performed at local clubs with the insistent encouragement of her husband. She signed her first contract in 1960, by the late 60s she had released 16 No 1 hit singles.

Loretta Lynn Now

Lynn became an unconventional and outspoken musical force to reckoned with. She unapologetically tackled socio-political issues of the time. She sang about then-taboo topics like birth control, sexism, the Vietnam War and the reality of blue-collar women’s issues. Her 1976 autobiography, Coal Miner’s Daughter was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film of the same title. She has been consistently honored by the musical community. In 2013, she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama.

Garth Brooks Then

Oklahoma-born Troyal Garth Brooks had an early and deep-rooted love for rock and country music. In 1989, Brooks released his eponymous first album which would be the start of his immensely successful professional music career. His unique sound was heavily influenced by the iconic rock sounds of the 1970s. His music struck a chord with the American public who loved the nostalgic yet edgy nature of music as well as his theatrical onstage performances.

Garth Brooks Now

Brooks has surpassed Elvis Presley in becoming the best-selling solo albums artist in the United States with 148 million domestic units sold. He is second only to The Beatles in total albums sold worldwide. The country music supernova continues to contribute to his legendary legacy.

Billy Ray Cyrus/post_page_title]

William Ray Cyrus’s musical journey was not without its hardships. Born in Kentucky, the young musician headed to Los Angeles in the late 80s in pursuit of musical fame. At his lowest point, he lived in his car while trying to sign a record deal. In 1990, luck would strike; the young hopeful signed a record deal and released his debut album in 1992. The album included Cyrus’s most iconic track: Achy Breaky Heart. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums, Billboard 200, Canadian Country Albums chart, and a host of other foreign music charts.

[post_page_title]Billy Ray Cyrus Now

In the early 2000s Cyrus experimented with Christian music, releasing two albums in the genre in 2003. Cyrus has also appeared in television and film. He made an appearance in 2007s Dancing With the Stars reality TV show which prompted a resurgence in the star’s popularity. His last album was released in 2017. He is the father of the internationally renowned pop star, the talented Miley Cyrus.

Barabara Mandrell Then

Barbara Ann Mandrell was born on Christmas Day into a country music-loving all-American family. As a young girl, along with her sisters Ellen and Thelma, Barbara learned to play the banjo, steel guitar, saxophone and accordion. At the age of 13, she toured with Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and George Jones. In 1969, she signed a recording contract and launched her career. The young star thrived in the 70s and early 80s, producing popular, soulful country tracks that cemented her name in musical history.

Barbara Mandrell Now

Mandrell’s seemingly unstoppable career was abruptly halted when she was in a car accident n 1984. The singer sustained multiple injuries and a severe concussion that left her with memory and speech difficulties. After a year of rehabilitation, she returned to recording and performance but the trauma of the crash remained with her. She retired from the industry in 1997 to be with her family. She was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009 and is a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

Reba McEntire Then

The fiery red-headed singer signed her first recording contract in Nashville in 1975 at the tender age of 20. She released her first album two years later. The 70s, 80s and 90s were a very successful time for the singer. Tragedy struck the young star when a plane holding eight members of her band crashed mid-flight. There were no survivors. The singer dedicated her subsequent album ‘For my broken Heart’ to the deceased band members. The release peaked at number 1 on the Billboard Top Country Album chart.

Reba McEntire Now

Reba’s nickname is  ‘The Queen of Country.’ She has released 29 studio albums, an impressive 40 number one singles and 16 number one albums. From 2001 to 2007 she starred in an eponymous sitcom about her domestic life. ‘Reba’ garnered her a Best Actress Golden Globe. She most recently had the honor of hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards in April 2018. It is safe to say, she has had a stellar career so far.

Dolly Parton Then

The young Dolly Parton began her career in 1967 with the release of her first album entitled ‘Hello, I’m Dolly.’ The rising blonde star impressed audiences with her enjoyable vocal talents, petite physique and southern sense of humor. She was definitely a breath of fresh air to arrive in the music industry.

Dolly Parton Now

Dolly is now one of the most beloved female faces of country music. She has written over 3000 songs and dominated the charts with hits like ‘9 to 5’ and ‘Jolene.’ She also transitioned into acting with brilliant roles in movies such as ‘Steel Magnolias’ and ‘Straight Talk.’ Parton has received 47 Grammy nominations and remains a stellar musical influence in the genre. She is also God mother to Miley Cyrus.