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.
- 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
- Feels Like Today, 2004
- Greatest Hits Volume 1, 2008
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