Love it or hate it, country music has always been a big genre in the United States. And even people don’t like country music have at least a few songs that they enjoy. And some of those singers have become massive celebrities. They’re incredibly glamorous and attractive, or at least they were when they first hit the music scene. Let’s look at some of those stars and see the difference between how they looked back then and how they look now.
Wynonna Judd’s country beginning was when she sung with her mother, Naomi, as far back as the 1980s. Their first album had 14 singles at number one on the chart. After their group disbanded, Wynonna still managed to stay popular and had a successful solo career. She’s still releasing new music, even if she’s slowed down, releasing an album at least as recently as 2016.
Brad Paisley turned the country world upside down with his album Who Needs Pictures. He’s released ten since 1999, and each of those albums has gotten at least a gold certification. He was inducted as a member of the Grand Old Opry in only two years, an honor that takes most country stars a lifetime to achieve. Several of his songs have even been used in big name films, such as Pixar’s Cars. Of course, he’s still making more music.
Luke Bryan has an immaculate voice and a real knack for songwriting. It just seems as though his fashion sense isn’t up to par with his musical senses. Bryan actually got his start writing music for more famous artists before getting his start, himself. He later went on to become a guest judge on The Voice and performing the national anthem at the Super Bowl in 2017.
Jake Owen landed a big record with RCA Nashville in 2006. That year his album, Starting with Me, was released. Although, it took him another five years after that to land a number one hit on the country charts. It was called “Barefoot Blue Jean Night”. He’s been producing more albums still, but it seemed as though he’s slowed down at work due to his divorce.
Darius Rucker was originally the frontman for Hootie & the Blowfish, but he started a successful solo career not long after. They formed the band in the 80s, but disbanded after 22 years in 2008. Rucker became the first black artist to reach the number one spot on the Hot Country Songs chart since 1983.
Lorrie Morgan’s first big performance was when she was only 13 years old, singing at the Grand Old Opry. Her first number one hit was “Five Minutes”, released in 1990 and her second record, Something in Red, became certified platinum a year later. Morgan’s suffered from personal strife over the years, even filing for bankruptcy in 2008. Fortunately, she’s staged a combat, releasing a new album in 2016 called Letting Go… Slowly.
Josh Turner’s faith has had a big impact on his music, saying he doesn’t need to sing gospel to be a Christian singer. His first album, Long Black Train, was released after making his deal with MCA Nashville in 2003. His second album, Your Man, got him two number one hits though, “Would You GO With Me” and the title song of the album. He’s still making music, releasing another album in 2017 titled Deep South.
Vince Gill’s career started all the way back in the 70s when he was the lead singer of Pure Prairie League, a country rock fusion group. But in 1983 he struck out on his own. He’s since released more than 20 albums, reaching over 26 million volumes sold. He’s earned 18 Country Music Awards and 21 Grammys. He actually broke the record for the highest number of Grammys earned by a male country artist.
Eric Church first came onto the scene when he got a deal with Capital Nashville in 2005. He put out five albums since his debut in 2006. He’s always wearing sunglasses onstage because he wants to keep the harsh, theatrical lighting from drying out his contacts. He still goes on tours, with one of his most recent being called Holdin’ My Own.
Miranda Lambert was chosen from the many potential country stars in the 2003 season of Nashville Star. She was 19 at the time and placed third in the competition, but she’s since become an incredibly talented musician. At one point she was married to Blake Shelton, but their relationship ended in divorce. She was then able to translate that heartbreak into career success and music.
Speaking of Blake Shelton, he’s been up to quite a lot himself. Other than his divorce from Lambert, he’s currently married to Gwen Stefani. His first album that brought him to stardom was released in 2001. He’s also been acting as a judge on The Voice since it started in 2011.
Billy Ray Cyrus
Some people only know Bill Ray Cyrus as a one-hit-wonder, only familiar with his song “Achy Breaky Heart”. Others may just know him as Miley Cyrus’ father. But for people more involved the country scene they know that he’s also a talented musician and well-regarded country star. While still performing music, Billy Ray’s also been doing more acting, having been seen at the 2017 VMAs with his signature mullet.
Hank Williams Jr.
Hank Williams Jr.’s father was also a pretty big country music star. Not content with living in his shadow, Williams decided to strike out on his own. His career was almost derailed in 1975 due to a mountain climbing accident. He fortunately recovered and became a big country star as his music climbed the charts in the 1980s. Even after 40 years, he’s still releasing new music, releasing the album It’s About Time in 2016.
A Missouri native, Sara Evans made her big splash in Nashville in 1991. She signed with RCA Nashville initially, but didn’t stay long and ended up with Sony Music Nashville. But in 2016 she left them for Concord Music Group. In the same year, she also performed a duet with Todd Chrisley when she made an appearance on Chrisley Knows Best. With her husband, Jay Barker, she took some time from the country music scene in order to focus on her family.
Gary Allan entered the country music scene when he signed with Decca Records in 1996. His album, Use Heart for Sale, was certified gold. The single “Her Man” specifically helped turn Allan into a star practically overnight. He’s released eight more albums with 26 singles that made the Billboard charts. Four of them were even number one. His latest album was simply titled Ruthless, releasing in 2021.
Kacey Musgraves is another star that appeared on Nashville Star. Although, she had already released three albums by the time she had appeared on the show. She came in seventh place during the show’s fifth season, but it took a few more years for her to sign with her label, Mercury Nashville Records. Musgraves doesn’t shy away from more controversial topics in her music either, unlike most conservative country stars.
Taylor Swift’s gone full pop star in the last decade or so, but let’s not forget her start in country music. She amassed a massive teen fanbase with songs relating to teenage love and heartbreak. Her overall image has gone through some changes as her career evolves, but everyone remembers when she was America’s darling.
Tim McGraw has 14 record, nine headlining tours, and a number of acting roles as well. Some of those roles have him acting alongside Sandra Bullock, such as in the films The Blind Side and Friday Night Lights. However, he’s just one half a country power couple with Faith Hill. In 2017, McGraw signed on with a new label, Arista Nashville.
Shania Twain’s Canadian, but that doesn’t stop her from being a country music star. She’s sold over 85 million records and is considered the best-selling female country artist in history. Her second album, The Woman in Me, which came out in 1995, catapulted her to stardom. And, of course, she’s still releasing new music. Such as her album Triumphant, which dropped in 2021.
Tanya Tucker got her start pretty young too, another one at age 13. Her single, “Delta Dawn”, was released in 1972 and reached number six on the country charts. Tucker’s managed to keep her fans engaged in her music for over 40 years, while also bringing in new ones. She’s still touring nowadays and released her first new single in 2021 since 2009. 2009 was the year that Glen Campbell died.
Kelly Clarkson was the first ever winner of American Idol. Ever since then, she’s been a household name in the US. She was only 20 and was able to take over the pop and country charts, breaking records with the amount of number one hits she’s had. She’s experimented with a couple different genres, but Clarkson’s primary genre will always be country.
Kenny Rogers has been a country music star for over 60 years. It’s no surprise that he’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He’s also still performing and touring. He’s one of the top selling artists in country music history, having sold over 100 million albums. Rogers considered retiring in 2015, but just didn’t want to put down the mic.
Carrie Underwood was another winner of American Idol, having won the fourth season. She was just a small town girl from Oklahoma, but has since become a country superstar. She’s won seven Grammys, 17 Billboard Music Awards, and 11 American Music Awards. She seems to be the “reigning queen” of country.
George Strait is considered the “King of Country”, having had more number on hits than any other artist in any musical genre, with over 60 to date and has 28 albums in his discography. He’s been performing and making music for over 30 years. In 2012 he was able to welcome his grandchild to the world, who was named after him.
Gretchen Wilson’s first single, “Redneck Woman”, on her first album, Here for the Party, won her a Grammy Award. If it wasn’t obvious enough, that song also hit number one on the charts. She just kept coming with the hits too, with her second album becoming the highest debuting single ever by a female country singer. Its hard to maintain that level of incredible success, let alone start with it, but Wilson seems to manage.
Dolly Parton’s remained relevant in the country music scene for over 50 years. She had a humble beginning on a tobacco farm, but has since become a megastar. Her debut album was titled Hello, I’m Dolly and released in 1965. But not only is she a talented singer, but also an actress, appearing on film, television, and even Broadway. Not to mention, she’s a humanitarian, making her own charitable foundations and helping to staff the telethon in 2016 to raise money for the Great Smokey Mountain wildfires relief.