The Guinness Book of World Records is still reviewing Lexie Alford’s documents to make it official, but she stands to be the youngest person to have visited every single country.
The record is currently held by 24-year-old Taylor Demonbreun, who is three years older than Alford. Once they verify that she’s been in 196 countries as she claims, though, there will be a new world record.
According to Alford, she was able to accomplish this feat because of “a few simple life lessons” she learned along the way.”
These are to “never take no for an answer have the courage to pursue what you’re most passionate about, and problem-solve like its nobody’s business because where there’s a will, there’s a way. There were so many obstacles to overcome while traveling to every country and I learned the most from the true moments of struggle.”
Although she has had her share of hardships, these principles helped her overcome the worst in any given place. She has had visa issues, money problems, sickness, and exhaustion. Yet through it all, she kept her spirits and motivation high.
“When it came to visas or impossible itineraries or people simply telling me that I wasn’t able to do something, never giving up and not taking no for an answer got me through so many tough situations,” she said.
Alford was doubtlessly aided by the fact that her mother owns a travel agency and had already visited 70 countries by the age of 18. She had to work for the option of traveling so much, though.
“I started working multiple jobs and saving everything I’ve earned since I was 12 years old,” she said. “I’ve worked in everything from commercial painting to freelance photography and blogging to managing at my mom’s travel agency. I’m fortunate to be able to structure my work schedule in a way that accommodates my travels because my bosses are flexible and I also work for myself.”
Get ready to head down to Nashville and go back in time to see how your favorite country stars looked when they started, and how much they’ve changed since then (hint: it’s more than you think!).
Lorrie Morgan lived the dream of millions when she first performed at the Grand Ole Opry when she was only 13 years old. Her first number one hit, “Five Minutes”, was released in 1990, but it was her second record, “Something in Red” which she put out a year later that was certified platinum. Morgan has suffered some personal difficulties over the years, which culminated when she filed for bankruptcy in 2008. Luckily, Morgan managed to stage a comeback and released an album in 2016 called Letting Go…Slowly.
Vince Gill’s career may have started in the 70s when he was the lead singer of Pure Prairie League, a country rock fusion, but he broke off on his own by 1983 and hasn’t looked back. Gill has released over 20 albums, with sales reaching over 26 million volumes sold. He’s earned his 18 Country Music Awards. Gill’s accolades don’t just stop there; he’s also won a record 21 Grammy awards, breaking the record for the number of Grammys earned by any other male country artist.
Hank Williams Jr.
Country music runs in Hank Williams Jr.’s blood. Not one to settle with being overshadowed by his famous father, Hank Williams, Jr.’s career was almost entirely derailed in 1975 when he suffered a serious mountain climbing accident. Luckily, for his career, Williams Jr. recovered, and he became a veritable country star in his own right as his music climbed the charts in the 1980s. He’s still releasing music more than 40 years after his debut, having released his most recent album, It’s About Time, in 2016.
Blake Shelton’s personal life may be what’s been making the headlines lately, following his split from Miranda Lambert and subsequent engagement to the blonde bombshell, Gwen Stefani. But before he was the focus of celebrity gossip, he was just a young country boy trying to make it in the big time when he released his first album in 2001. Even more recently, he’s been a judge on the hit show, The Voice, since the show began its run in 2011.
Wynonna Judd got her start singing with her mother Naomi when they started a country music duo in the first half of the 1980s. Their first album had 14 singles chart at number one, ensuring the ladies a lasting legacy in country music history. Though the group disbanded only a decade later, Judd managed to parlay their popularity into a successful solo career. In 2013, she appeared on Dancing With the Stars though she was one of the first couples eliminated, and she released a new album in 2016.
Keith Urban may look like your all American country boy, but he’s really rocking some Kiwi roots. Following his relocation from New Zealand to America, he hit the big time on the country circuit. More recently, he appeared as a judge on the hit reality shows, The Voice and Amerian Idol. His most recent tour, Rhythm and Roots began in 2016, which was timed in order to accompany the release of his latest single, the heartbreaking ballad “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”
Brad Paisley’s 1999 album, Who Needs Pictures, turned the country world upside down. Since his debut, he has released 10 albums, each achieving a certification of at least gold, if not higher. It only took him two years to be inducted as a member of the Grand Ole Opry, an honor that takes many stars a lifetime to achieve. Paisley was the muse behind several songs in the Pixar film, Cars, and he shows no sign of slowing down, as his latest album, Love and War, was released in April.
Like many other artists on our list, Luke Bryan is another whose musicianship is far better than his fashion sense. He has the voice of an angel plus an unparalleled knack for songwriting, so it’s no wonder that he got his start writing music for more famous artists before getting signed himself. Since then he’s sold more than 7 million albums internationally. In 2017, Bryan was chosen to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl in Houston, Texas and is a guest judge on The Voice.
Jake Owen, whose given name was actually Joshua Ryan, managed to land a record deal with RCA Nashville in 2006. His first album, Starting with Me, was released later that year, but it took him another five years to land a number one hit on the country charts. The song? Barefoot Blue Jean Night. He may still be putting out new albums, including 2016’s American Love, which he also produced, but it’s his recent divorce that’s been keeping him in headlines.
While he started as the frontman of Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker has managed to become a successful solo act in his own right. He first met his fellow bandmates in the 80s when the four of them attended University of South Carolina. Rucker ditched the band in 2008, after 22 years together, but it was worth it when Rucker became the first black artist to reach the number one on the Hot Country Songs chart since 1983. Rucker recently played the County to Country festival in Europe.
Hailing from Clinton, Oklahoma, Toby Keith made his country debut in 1993, with the single “Should’ve Been A Cowboy,” which managed to make it to the number one slot on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Keith wasn’t content to just be a musician, so he opened up Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill in Oklahoma City. The bar was a success and has since expanded, as have Keith’s business dealings. By 2017, he’d become one of the wealthiest American celebrities, earning the title “Country Music’s $500 million man”.
Josh Turner hasn’t shied away from sharing the influence that his faith has had on his music, saying that he doesn’t need to sing gospel to be a Christian singer. Turner’s first album, Long Black Train was released following his deal with MCA Nashville Records in 2003. It was his second album though, that scored him two number one hits, “Would You Go With Me” and the title track of the album, “Your Man.” His most recent album was released in March 2017 and called Deep South.
Eric Church burst onto the scene in 2005 when he scored a deal with Capitol Nashville. He’s managed to put out five albums since his debut album, Sinners Like Me, which came out in 2006. For the curious, there’s a good reason why Eric Church is always wearing sunglasses onstage–it’s to prevent his contacts from drying out under the glare of the harsh theatrical lighting. This year, you can catch Church singing all over the country as he begins his latest tour, titled Holdin’ My Own.
Miranda Lambert is another country star plucked from the ranks of other young hopefuls in the 2003 season of Nashville Star. Though she was only 19 when she placed third in the competition, the Texas native has grown into a talented and accomplished musician. Among her other country music accomplishments was marrying a fellow artist, Blake Shelton, though the relationship was not long-lived. She managed to translate her heartbreak into career success, appearing in Europe for the first time ever in 2016.
Sara Evans may be a Missouri native, but when she arrived in Nashville in 1991, she fit right in, landing a record deal with RCA Nashville. She didn’t stay with the label for long, having eventually signed with Sony Music Nashville, before leaving them in August 2016 for Concord Music Group. In the interim, Evans took some time away from music to focus on raising her family with husband, Jay Barker. In 2016, she also made an appearance on Chrisley Knows Best, where she performed a duet with Todd Chrisley.
Rarely seen without his signature cowboy hat, Trace Adkins has always managed to make it look chic. Adkins began his career in 1995 when he signed with Capitol Records Nashville and subsequently released his debut album, Dreaming Out Loud. Adkins has continued to release albums since his start 22 years ago, with over 10 studio albums now under his belt. In addition to music, Adkins also wrote an autobiography, A Personal Stand: Observations and Opinions from a Free-Thinking Roughneck in 2007. 2017 saw the release of his latest album, Something’s Going On.
Billy Ray Cirus
Often considered a one-hit wonder to those not in the know, Billy Ray Cyrus has been churning out albums since his early success in the 90s, when “Achy Breaky Heart” shot to the top of the charts. But Cyrus wasn’t content to just stick to music and has appeared in numerous television shows, particularly as Hannah Montana’s father, which starred his more famous daughter, Miley in the title role. Billy Ray is still acting and was recently seen at the 2017 VMAs with his signature mullet.
Gary Allan burst onto the country music scene after he signed with Decca Records in 1996. His album, Used Heart for Sale, went certified gold with the single “Her Man” turning Allen into a bonafide star overnight. Allen has released eight more albums with 26 singles that made the Billboard charts, including four number one singles, including “Man to Man.” His last album was released in 2013, with a new one scheduled to come out this year, though the title is as yet unknown.
Rascall Flatts may have gotten their start as a country trio in Columbus, Ohio in the late 90s, but boy have they grown up since! The trio is comprised of Gary LeVox and his second cousin, Jay DeMarcus, as well as their friend Joe Don Rooney. Their 2000 demo got the band signed, and since then, they’ve taken over the country charts. Most recently, they’ve been touring the country following the release of the popular single, “I Like the Sound of That.”
Kacey Lee Musgraves is another artist who appeared on Nashville Star, though by that time she had already released three albums of her own. She came in seventh place in the show’s fifth season but took several more years to actually sign with her label, Mercury Nashville Records. Musgraves music is notable in the genre because she doesn’t shy away from controversial topics like most conservative country stars do. On Christmas Eve 2016, Musgraves got engaged to Rustin Kelly.
Kris Kristofferson was a major country star in the 1970s, when he was not only a star of his own but was such a prolific songwriter than he won almost all the 1972 songwriter Grammys on his own. Kristofferson often shares stories from his time cavorting with other country legends like Johnny Cash. Though Kristofferson has planned another tour, it’s been somewhat derailed by his battle with Lyme disease, which at 80 years old was first thought to have been the early stages of Alzheimer’s.
Jason Aldean started his music career by performing in nightclubs around Atlanta, which eventually helped him land a record deal at Broken Bow Records. Though his relationship with Broken Bow didn’t last, it was all for the best as he blossomed under his deal with Capitol Records. His most famous hits include “My Kinda Party,” “Night Train,” and “Burning It Down.” Aldean embarked on the Six String Circus national tour in 2016 and was finally awarded Entertainer of the Year at the 2016 Academy of Country Music Awards.
Alan Jackson has a real rags to riches story, as he started off working in the mailroom of The Nashville Network. It was his wife, Denise Jackson, who managed to get him connected to country music executives. Jackson signed with Arista Nashville in 1989 and has been a prolific recording artist ever since. With over 16 albums released and 80 million records sold, Jackson is a true pillar of country music. In 2017, it was announced that Jackson would be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Dierks Bentley was signed to Capital Nashville in 2003, with whom he subsequently released his debut album. Both his first and second albums went on to be certified platinum. Though Bentley’s look has often changed over the years, he’s still been a consistent hit maker, with over 15 of his singles making the number one slot on the Hot County Songs and Country Airplay charts. Bentley strayed from genre just a little bit with his 2010 bluegrass album, though his 2016 album, Black, was pure country.
One-half of a country power couple, Tim McGraw has had an enviable country career. With 14 records, nine headlining tours and a number of acting roles to boot, his secret to success may just be his wife, Faith Hill. In addition to McGraw’s success on the country music stage, he’s also acted alongside Sandra Bullock in both The Blind Side and Friday Night Lights. In 2017, McGraw signed on with a new label, Arista Nashville, a branch of Sony Music Nashville.
Tanya Tucker is another country star who got her start when she was just a tween, making her debut when she was about 13 years old. Her 1972 single, “Delta Dawn,” hit number six on the country charts, ensuring that Tucker’s career would continue. Unlike most child stars, whose fan bases change as they age, Tucker has managed to keep her fans engaged with her music for over 40 years. Tucker is still touring today and released her first single since 2009 following the death of Glen Campbell in August.
Randy Travis’s voice has held the country world in thrall since he started producing records in the 1980s. He’s had 16 singles make it to the top slot on the Billboard Hot Country songs, which is just the cherry on top of his six Grammys, and his six Country Music Awards. Unfortunately for both Travis and his fans, the baritone crooner suffered a stroke in 2013, but with a team of expert therapists, Travis was able to perform “Amazing Grace” for his Country Music Hall of Fame induction in 2016.
Kelly Clarkson was the first ever winner of American Idol, and America has loved her ever since. At only 20 years old, the country belter took over both pop and country charts and has been a record selling artist with over 100 number one hits on the Billboard charts. Though Clarkson has experimented with a variety of musical genres, including pop and rock, her roots are still country. She is expected to release her latest album, Meaning of Life, this October.
Kenny Roger’s has been a country music star for over 60 years now, and the Country Music Hall of Famer is still touring and performing. Another of the top selling artists in history, with over 100 million albums sold, Rogers considered retiring in 2015, but he just couldn’t escape the draw of performance. Like his fellow country legend, Wille Nelson, Rogers has blown through his fair share of marriages, five in total, and has had children with most of his wives.
Carrie Underwood may have been a small town girl from Oklahoma when she won the fourth season of American Idol, but now she’s a veritable country superstar. She’s sold over 65 million records and has won numerous awards, which include 7 Grammys, 17 Billboard Music Awards, and 11 American Music Awards. Indeed, Carrie seems to be the “reigning queen” of country.
Clint Black’s first album, Killin Time was released in 1989, and became an instant hit, with five singles making the number one slot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Black wasn’t content to remain a one trick pony and moved into acting with a starring role in the 1998 film, Still Holding On: The Legend of Cadillac Jack. In the early 2000s, Black to a break from performing in order to focus on his family, but he returned in 2013, and released his most recent album in 2015.
Trisha Yearwood’s country career took off in the early 1990s, as she made a name for herself with her female-centric songs. Married to another country great, Garth Brooks, Yearwood has been something of a jack of all trades, even if she’s best known for her music. With titles that include author, singer, actress, and even chef, Trisha has been hosting an Emmy award-winning cooking show on Food Network, Trisha’s Southern Kitchen, since 2012. In 2016, she participated in the live TV musical, The Passion.
Alison Krauss has distinguished herself from many of her peers as one of the few whose niche is more bluegrass than country. Her first record was released when she was only 14 years old, proving her abilities as a virtuoso in the genre. Krauss’s talent has earned her 27 Grammys, on top of a number of other awards in country music. Her hits have been featured in the films O’ Brother Where Art Thou and Cold Mountain. She released her latest album, titled Windy City, in February of 2017.
Patty Loveless’s self-titled first album was released in the 1980s, and her popularity has held strong since then. Her professional heyday came a decade later, as she managed to release single after single that made it onto the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Loveless has semi-retired from performing, only making sporadic appearances these days at the Grand Ole Opry and on a country music cruise, preferring to focus her energy on being with her husband and children.
Texas native, George Strait seems to have hardly aged over the 30 years since he began his career in country music. A cowboy at heart, Strait is considered the “King of Country” as he’s had more number one hits on various charts, over 60 to date, than any other artist in any musical genre. With over 28 albums in his discography, Strait has clearly earned his title. Strait’s first grandchild was born in 2012 and was named after his famous grandpa. His most recent album, Cold Beer Conversations was released in 2015.
Rhett Akins first made waves in Nashville with the release of the single “That Ain’t My Truck” in 1995, which made it to the number three spot on the Billboard Country Charts. His first album, A Thousand Memories, contained a number of other hits, solidifying Akins as a country star. Akins is still going, and has been successfully penning songs for other country stars of late, including co-writing credits on “I Can Take It From There” which was recorded by Chris Young, and Blake Shelton’s “Boys ‘Round Here”.
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Ty Herndon’s first single “What Mattered Most” put him on the map after its release in 1995, where it became a number one song on the Billboard charts. Herndon has continued churning out a number of other hits in the intervening years. After his 2013 album, Lies I Told Myself, Herndon came out as gay while he made the rounds on his press tour, sharing that his two ex-wives knew about his preferences. His last album, House on Fire, was released in 2016.
Ricky Van Shelton
Ricky Van Shelton may have retired, but only after a notable career on the stage. Since 1986 started, he has released over twenty singles that made it onto the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, including 10 songs that made it to number one. His top hits include, “Somebody Lied”, “Life Turned Her That Way”, and “Don’t We All Have The Right.” 20 years after his debut, Shelton announced his retirement in May 2006. Since then, he has been focusing on his family.
Bryan White made his way from the plains of Oklahoma in order to embark on a career in country music in Nashville. Signed at the age of 20 by Asylum Records, he released a self-titled first album later that year, which eventually went platinum. His early stardom caused White to go through a rough period in the mid 2000s, which required him to take some time off from music to heal, but in 2012, he was back at it, with a Kickstarter campaign to fund a new album.
Deana Carter has music in her genes, as her father, Fred Carter Jr., was a talented guitarist. Her first album, which was released in 1996, titled Did I Shave My Legs For This?, became certified 5x multi-platinum it was so popular. Despite her famous father, she struggled to find a foothold in the music world, and only managed to score a deal after catching the attention of Willie Nelson. In 2013, she started her own label, under which she released her most recent album.
John Michael Montgomery
John Michael Montgomery was discovered in the early 90s by Atlantic Records, who recorded and released his first album, Life’s a Dance. Montgomery’s love of music was inspired by his musician father to begin learning guitar when he was only five years old. Though his last album came out over nine years ago in 2008, Montgomery isn’t ready to leave the country world behind, as he’s been spending his time touring the country this past year, and isn’t planning on quitting just yet.
When Dwight Yoakam first began performing, Nashville was caught up in a pop-country phase, but Yoakam was undeterred and eventually helped to usher in the neo-traditional country renaissance. Though he dabbled in different styles during his early years, he’s always been most popular as a country musician, with over 30 singles charting on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. He also holds the title as the musician to appear most often on The Tonight Show. In 2016, he released a bluegrass album titled, Swimmin’ Pools, Movie Stars…
Though he received a dire diagnosis of progressive multiple sclerosis early on in his career, Clay Walker didn’t let that stop him from living out his dreams. He signed his first record deal with Giant Records in 1992 and released his first single. “What’s It To You” in 1993 which topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. His latest release came in 2014, which was his very first compilation album titled, Best of…. Before that, he released an album called She Won’t Be Lonely Long in 2010.
Gretchen Wilson did the impossible when the first single on her debut album, Here for the Party, hit number one and earned her a Grammy Award to boot. Wilson followed up the success of “Redneck Woman” with a single from her second album was the highest debuting single ever by a female country vocalist. It’s hard to maintain that kind of continuous success, but Wilson is turning out the tracks. Her latest album, Ready to Get Rowdy came out this year.
Neal McCoy’s debut may have earned him a place on the Billboard Hot Country Songs by 1988, but he didn’t manage to land a single in the Top 40 until 1992 when he released “Where Forever Begins.” His dreams came true the next year when two singles in a row finally hit number one, both of which came from No Doubt About It which went on to be platinum certified. McCoy has released more than 10 albums total, the last of which was a compilation album released this year.
Pam Tillis is another who comes from a musical family, as her father is the famed country star, Mel Tillis. Having a famous parent did help Pam get an early start, embarking on her performance career when she was only eight. However, she didn’t release her first single, “Every Home Should Have One” until she was 24. Her musical heyday came in the 80s and 90s, though she wasn’t inducted into the Grand Ole Opry until 2000. Recently, she’s made several appearances on the show Nashville playing herself.
When Collin Raye first broke into showbiz, he did so under the pseudonym, Bubba Wray, recording as Bubba with his band, The Wrays, between 1983 and 1987. He changed his stage name when he broke away from the band to pursue a solo career in 1991. It was a smart choice for Raye, for finally achieved a number one hit with the single “Love Me”, from his record, All I Can Be. His last album, Everlasting as well as an autobiography called, A Voice Undefeated were both released in 2014.
Donna Fargo was a big name in country music in the 1970s, creating a number of award-winning hits that appealed to both fans of country and fans of pop music. In the late 1970s, Fargo was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which took a toll on her health, and caused her to have to step back a bit from her music. Though she released an album in 2008, she’s been focusing on other business ventures in the last few years, including a line of greeting cards and several books.
Before there was Shania, another Canadian country singer blazed a trail to the top of the U.S. country charts, becoming the first Canadian female soloist to ever reach the number one spot on an American music chart. Murray continued to make history when she won Album of the Year in 1984 as both the first woman and first Canadian to achieve the honor. The last album Murray has released was a Christmas album called Icon:Christmas, which came out in 2014.
Faith Hill has been a staple of country music since she made her debut in 1993 with the album, Take Me As I Am, which sold over 3 million copies. Hill is another artist who has interests beyond music, as she came out with a fragrance line beginning in October 2009. The line includes her first scent, Faith Hill Parfums and True. Hill is currently traveling with her husband Tim McGraw in a joint tour titled, Soul2Soul The World Tour, which they kicked off in April in New Orleans.
Kenny Chesney may have been around since the early 1990s, but his popularity has only grown exponentially since his debut. With a prolific output, he’s released over 20 albums, the majority of which were at least certified gold, if not higher. With nearly 30 number one singles on the country charts, he’s also had much success with his songs crossing over into the pop charts. The last album he released, Cosmic Hallelujah came out in 2016 and featured a duet with the pop singer P!NK.
Chris Young made his way to stardom from among the ranks of Nashvillle Star, which he auditioned for in Houston, Texas, despite hailing from Tennessee. He managed to win top prize on the show which landed him a deal with RCA Records Nashville. His first single, “Drinkin’ Me Lonely” was released following his win in 2006 and made it to number 42 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Though he’s only been in the business for about a decade, Young was just inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.
Crystal Gayle decided to follow her sister, Loretta Lynn’s example and became a country star as well. She’s another who managed to carve a niche for herself as a crossover pop-country artist in the 1970s and 80s, when she managed to release no less than 20 number one hits. While her sister may be slightly more famous, it was Gayle who managed to be the first female vocalist to earn platinum sales for a record. Gayle was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2016.
Willie Nelson has been in the music business longer than most and has the discography to prove it. Though he struggled to find a foothold in the industry early on, the love of music instilled in him by his family pulled him through, even has he bounced from career to career before hitting it big. Since then he’s put out over 68 albums, has starred in several films, and embarked on a number of business ventures, including his biodiesel fuel company. He released God’s Problem Child in 2017.
The fiery country star, crowned by her famous amber locks, has been around for quite some time. After achieving fame as a country singer, she managed to land a self-titled sitcom in the early 2000s, which ran for seven seasons before being canceled in 2007. These days, you can find McEntire guest judging contestants on America’s Got Talent, though she’s returning to scripted television with a starring role as Ruby Adair in a new ABC show, Bluegrass Blood Red.
Dolly Parton has managed to remain relevant in the country music scene for over 50 years. From her humble roots on a tobacco farm, she’s been country music’s sweetheart since the release of her first album, Hello, I’m Dolly in 1965. Parton is a multitalented artist, who has lent her abilities to not only music, but also film, television, and even Broadway. She’s more than just an artist though. In 2016, she helped staff a telethon in order to raise money for the Great Smokey Mountain wildfires relief.
Shania Twain may be Canadian, but that hasn’t stopped her from being the darling of country pop. With over 85 million records sold, she’s the best-selling, female, country artist in history, and one of the all-time top-selling artists. It was her second album, The Woman in Me, which was released in 1995 that really shot her to stardom. Her latest achievements include releasing a new album, Triumphant this past May, as well as performing at the Stagecoach Festival in April.
The Dixie Chicks
Even if we’d rather forget the Dixie Chicks fashion choices from their early days of fame, their talent as musicians was enough to carry them through. The all-female country trio still includes founding sisters, Emily Erwin Robison and Martie Erwin Maguire, joined by Natalie Maines on lead vocals. Though they started as a Dallas bluegrass group, their popularity has grown so much that they often sell out stadium shows and still tour internationally. In 2015, they became the highest selling all-female band in the US.
Called the “Celine Dion of country music” for the sheer breadth of her vocal range, Martina McBride hit the country scene in 1991 when she was signed by RCA Records. Her first single, The Time Has Come was released the next year, and McBride has never looked back. With 14 Grammys under her belt, it’s surprising that the country star has also managed to devote significant amounts of time to working with the National Network to End Domestic Violence and the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
Emmylou Harris first burst onto the scene in the 1960s as a folk singer in Greenwich village, before transforming herself into a county star. In the course of her career, she’s garnered 13 Grammy Awards, as well as a number of other awards for her country hits. Both a singer-songwriter in her own right, and a master collaborator, she’s partnered with a bunch of top country artists, including Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton. In 2016, a several of Harris’s friends put together a tribute concert for her.
Chris Stapleton is a Kentucky native who moved to Nashville as an adult in order to make his musical dreams a reality. At the beginning of his career, Stapleton was working behind the scenes, providing songwriting work for other artists. But by 2007, he was ready to move into the spotlight. Most of his career was spent fronting bands, from the bluegrass-inspired The Steeldrivers, to his Southern rock group, The Jompson Brothers. Since 2015, Stapleton has been working solo, though he did collaborate on Justin Timberlake’s newest album.
Extremely talented from an early age, Maren began her professional music career in 2005 when she was only 15 years old. Despite her promise, her music stayed under the radar for the better part of the next decade, even though she released two more albums during that time. By 2015, Morris’s self-released EP began gaining traction on Spotify, which earned her a deal with Columbia Nashville. Morris took home her first four Grammys in 2017, which she followed up with her HERO tour.
Connie Smith’s incredible voice has become a legend of its own since her career began in the 1960s. Though she has less crossover appeal than many of her peers in country music, her success in the genre can rival the best of them. She’s had over 20 singles in the top ten of the Billboard country charts, plus 11 nominations for Grammys. 31 of her albums have charted, and three even made it to number one. Connie’s last album was released in 2011.
Loretta Lynn has been around the country music world long enough to be somewhat of a living legend in the genre. She holds the record for having the most awards as a female country artist and was the only woman to be awarded the Academy of Country Music Artist of the Decade for the 70s. In 2013, President Obama awarded Lynn the Presidential Medal of Honor. Her latest album was released in March 2016 and features other greats like Willie Nelson and Elvis Costello.
Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann Womack may be best known for her single, “I Hope You Dance,” but that does mean the blue-eyed beauty is a one-hit wonder. Though she explored the pop side of music for a few years, in 2005, she returned to her country roots with the release of There’s More Where That Came From. Lee Ann has sold over 6 million albums internationally, and she still going, with the imminent release of her latest album The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone.
Willie Nelson may be the most prolific artist on our list, but Garth Brooks seems to be the richest. His net worth is said to be somewhere around $70 million, and in terms of number of records sold, he trails only Elvis Presley, at least as per the Recording Industry Association of America, with nearly 134 million albums sold internationally. Married to singer Trisha Yearwood during his eight year music hiatus, Brooks made a comeback by touring with her in 2014. Last year, he released his latest album, Gunslinger.
Barbara Mandrell & The Mandrell Sisters
Barbara Mandrell is known as the”Sweetheart of Steel” for good reason. She’s a master at the pedal steel guitar, which earned her accolades as young as 11. Learning from their parents, Barbara and her sisters went on to form a family band with their parents, and they toured the United States for a while as the Mandrell Family Band. Though her career was almost derailed by a serious car crash in 1984, Mandrell was able to recover, but still decided to retire from music in 1997.
Kelsea Ballerini may be a relative newcomer in the arena of country music, but even so, she shouldn’t be underestimated. Ballerini was signed to her first record deal when she was 19, not long after she left her university in order to pursue music full time. Her debut single became a number one hit on the charts, which made her the first to achieve the honor since Carrie Underwood in 2006. Kelsea’s second album, Unapologetically, was released in early November 2017.
LeAnn Rimes was only 14 when she was awarded her first two Grammys in 1997, making her the youngest country star since Tanya Tucker in the 1970s. Her first album, Blue, had been released only the year before, but that didn’t stop it from hitting the number one spot on the Top Country Albums chart and becoming certified multi-platinum. Though LeAnn Rimes is still a successful musician, she’s also been writing books recently, releasing two novels and two children’s books.
Taylor Swift may have gone full pop star the past few years, but she wouldn’t have gotten off the ground if it weren’t for her early country hits. When “Teardrops on My Guitar” was released in 2007, Taylor became America’s darling, and amassed a large teen fanbase, as they found her songs of teenage love and heartbreak relatable. Taylor’s image has gone through a number of transformations since. Her latest revamp came in conjunction with the release of her latest single, “Look What You Made Me Do.”