100 Greatest Men: #99. Rascal Flatts

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

In the modern era of country music, you have to move a lot of units to be considered a legitimate superstar.  The first act to do so on a regular basis was Alabama, who had eight consecutive multi-platinum albums in a row in the first half of the eighties.

Since then, there have been a multitude of country artists who’ve accomplished the same feat, but despite the fact that it was a band that broke down the barrier, only one male band since Alabama has achieved similar success: Rascal Flatts.

Family connections helped this power trio get their start.  Lead singer Gary LeVox and his cousin, Jay DeMarcus, each had a desire to be country musicians, but it was DeMarcus who went to Nashville first.  After a stint in Christian band East Meets West, DeMarcus convinced LeVox to join him in Nashville.

DeMarcus joined Chely Wright’s band, which is where he met the final trio member, JoeDon Rooney.  By that time, DeMarcus and LeVox were doing regular gigs at Printer’s Alley in downtown Nashville. One night, their guitarist didn’t show, so DeMarcus invited Rooney to perform with them.   They were an instant hit, and when they couldn’t come up with a band name, an audience member suggested Rascal Flatts.

The band signed with Lyric Street in late 1999.  The fledgling label had launched with projects by Lari White and SHeDaisy, but soon Rascal Flatts would become their flagship act.  Success was immediate, with radio embracing all four singles from their self-titled debut album.  A Nashville disc jockey was responsible for the release of “I’m Movin’ On” as the fourth single, giving it heavy play as a n album cut.  It became their first huge hit, winning Song of the Year honors at the ACM Awards and powering their debut set to double-platinum status.

Over the next few years, they became a core act at country radio, scoring eleven #1 hits and selling nearly twenty million albums.  Signature records released during this time include “Bless the Broken Road” and “What Hurts the Most.”  Interestingly, both of those songs had been recorded by other artists, but adding their distinctive sound and trademark harmonies made these songs huge hits on both the country and pop charts.

As their career peaked in the mid-2000s, they were regularly nominated for Entertainer of the Year, while sweeping the CMA and ACM Vocal Group category for several years on end.  They also became a powerful force on the road, ranking among the top-grossing acts of all genres.

Like many of their contemporaries, the pace of their record sales began to slow down, but even today, they remain a strong presence at both radio and retail. After switching from Lyric Street to Big Machine, the band received plaudits for their newest music, with critics noting a return to the more country arrangements of their earlier work and a move away from the arena pop sound that had become more prevalent.

Essential Singles:

  • I’m Movin’ On, 2001
  • Bless the Broken Road, 2004
  • Fast Cars and Freedom, 2005
  • Life is a Highway, 2006
  • What Hurts the Most, 2006
  • My Wish, 2006

Essential Albums:

  • Feels Like Today, 2004
  • Greatest Hits Volume 1, 2008

Next: #98. Lee Greenwood

Previous: #100. Eck Robertson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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20 Comments

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20 Responses to 100 Greatest Men: #99. Rascal Flatts

  1. Not Surprised to see them so low, okay, maybe a little…. But after reading your paragraph on how you ranked these men, I am confident that this was a pretty accurate placing for them.

    As for your essential singles, I’d swap out “Life Is A Highway” for something off their Melt album (“These Days”).

    Though, if one wanted to look at their career through singles, their Greatest Hits compilation is a good place to start.

    Looking forward to #98.

  2. I’d have to agree with the placing as well. Most of their singles between “What Hurts the Most” and “Why Wait” weren’t all that great, but the Flatts have had some great moments, even if they’ve at times been the act that all the critics love to hate.

  3. Whoever airbrushed that photo of Gary LeVox deserves a MacArthur fellowship. Wow.

  4. I agree with pretty much everything here, except the inclusion of “Life is a Highway” as an essential. It’s one of my favorite songs that Chris LeDoux ever recorded and this one is horrible by comparison. I would put their debut single, “Prayin’ For Daylight”, on the essential list instead.

  5. KNo Gravatar

    I wasn’t expecting to see Rascal Flatts here. Good pick though.

    As for essential singles, I’d swap “Highway” for “These Days” or “Mayberry.”

    It’s a shame that so many of their great songs weren’t released; they definatly deserve more credit than they receive.

    As for essential albums, I’d pick “Me And My Gang” or “Melt.” I thought FLT was largely overrated.

    Johnathan,

    Seriously, dude? Show a little respect. This list is about accomplishments, not looks.

  6. Paul DennisNo Gravatar

    Not sure this act belongs in the top 100 as I think twenty years from now no one will remember much of this stuff. At the very least they belong behind Eck Robertson (lol)

  7. Stephen H.No Gravatar

    Add me to the camp of switching “Highway” out, though either for “Skin (Sarabeth)” or “While You Loved Me”. Overall, as much as I can’t always tolerate much of their music, it’s hard to argue with their popularity and (some of) their output.

  8. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    They’re one of the top 20 selling acts of all-time, so that’s why they eked out a space on the list. I think their commercial success will be their only legacy. I don’t anticipate them being influential or remaining popular with the next generation. If they do, they’ll go up the list the next time we do it.

  9. ScottNo Gravatar

    Where is “My Wish” on the essential singles?

  10. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar

    I’ve added it, by popular demand! I’m leaving in “Life is a Highway”, though. Selling platinum and making it into the top twenty on unsolicited airplay on country radio is a big deal.

  11. KatieRNo Gravatar

    If this list was based off commercial popularity I would have expected Rascal Flatts to be higher on the list. I’m not a huge fan, but even so I’m surprised they’re this low. I would have expected them to make it somewhere in the 70s (although I could be forgetting a # of artists I would rank higher than them as well). I would also add “Sarabeth” to their essentials. That song made me cry everytime it was on the radio, and I truly think it was the first one of their’s that I liked.

    (Although I still hold a grudge against LeVox for making comments about Natalie Maines weight, when she wasn’t even overweight at the time; take a good look in the mirror Gary before making anymore stupid remarks). Sorry, I know, long ago anger I should give up, but when I saw them on “Ruby” supporting her, I just thought “hypocrite!” and it brought it all back.

  12. Hard TimesNo Gravatar

    In a Herculean effort to remain as positive as possible about Rascal Flatts, let me congratulate them on making the list and add that my ability to enjoy the next 98 has greatly increased.

  13. Stephen H.No Gravatar

    Ugh, y’all had to remind me about “My Wish” … what an utterly mediocre song.

  14. KNo Gravatar

    “(Although I still hold a grudge against LeVox for making comments about Natalie Maines weight, when she wasn’t even overweight at the time; take a good look in the mirror Gary before making anymore stupid remarks). Sorry, I know, long ago anger I should give up, but when I saw them on “Ruby” supporting her, I just thought “hypocrite!” and it brought it all back.”

    Keep in mind that Natalie isn’t so slim (or attractive) these days, either. Gary NEVER made any commnents regarding Natalie’s weight, either. Get your facts straight before you judge someone.

    It always amazes me how many people bring up weight/looks when it comes to Rascal Flatts. I understand a lot of people think their music isn’t great, but I will never understand why they’re criticized for something they’ve never even discussed or brought up at anytinme during their career.

  15. KatieRNo Gravatar

    ^I do have my facts straight. At one of their concerts he did in fact refer to her as “the fat one”. That was in 2006 and she was thin. You can go back and look at the pictures of the time, I doubt she weighed more than 125 lbs. And I saw them in in concert in June, Natalie is still thin.

    Gary’s comment bothered me in a “women get criticized for gaining even 1 lb while men can be as tubby as they want and never get criticized” kind of way. It’s characterizations like his that are the reason why young girls in our country think they have to be 100lbs or they’re “fat” and so they develop eating disorders. I knew too many girls in high school who ended up having to be sent to rehab for this, so it hits home for me.

    Alright, and with that I will stop commenting on this topic, since it’s OT from the article.

    As far as their music goes I do think they’re talented and I like a number of their songs as far as radio material goes. But so far I’ve never had a burning desire to go out and buy their records either.

  16. KNo Gravatar

    Katie,

    Your argument is fair enough, I suppose. I do think it probably wasn’t meant to be taken seriously though. I’ve seen these guys in concert, and making jokes/skits is part of what they do to entertain the crowd. They probably did it for a cheap laugh, not to slight Natalie.

    Natalie (and the Chicks) are all tough ladies who’ve been through a lot; I’m sure much worse has been said. I agree women in the industry have more pressure on them to look the part, but making a little innocent joke isn’t likely to do much harm.
    Think about how Natalie talked about Toby Keith, or the completely disrespectful way they slammed country fans and the country audience? It’s not regarding the same issue, but the way Natalie has been disrespectful towards so many people and fellow artists isn’t anywhere near as innocent as Gary’s comment.

    Everyone wants to say women have a more difficult issue with image? In certain ways, yes. But how about the males? There are plenty of male entertainers that are regularly made fun of in the public eye, without consequences. Being a longtime Flatts fan, I’ve seen some of the nastiest, most hateful comments regarding this topic.

    It’s not right to make fun of anybody, period. I believe gender has little to do with that, and I’m a female. Just my opinion though.

  17. BuddynoelNo Gravatar

    I used to run sound for a midwest conert arena and I can tell you that this group attracted more good-looking middle aged women than Springsteen, Aerosmith or certainly any country act. Only Kenny Chesney may have more pull with the hot-lookin tight blue jeans female crowd. If, by classifying them as “greatest men,” you mean guys that can turn on women, they deserve to move up. Even the security guards got laid.

  18. TomNo Gravatar

    …the first time in my life i heard rascal flatts was, when i watched them singing “i’m moving on” at the cma-awards some ten years ago or so. i thought they had been the highlight of that show and the future would look bright for them. well, they have become a big act since then, but i still only bought their first album and still think: that’ll do nicely.

  19. David75No Gravatar

    Since then, there have been a multitude of country artists who

  20. PatrickNo Gravatar

    This band has been very successful. I’m a bit suprised to see them ranked as they are, but thn again, I’ve never been really too into their music