100 Greatest Women, #98: Gretchen Wilson


Gretchen Wilson

2008 Ranking: #85  (-13)


Gretchen Wilson’s meteoric rise to fame in the mid-2000s occurred when women had all but vanished from country radio.  But as soon as Wilson’s debut single was given a few spins, the phones lit up. “Redneck Woman” took off like a rocket, soaring to #1 in only a few weeks. Specific enough to become an anthem for the rural southern women it describes, but universal enough to have appeal to all listeners who color outside the lines, the song was so popular that Wilson’s debut album stunned observers by selling more than 200,000 copies in its first week.

Wilson became a media star right off of the bat, and her success raised the profile of John Rich, the former member of Lonestar who was launching his own act, duo Big & Rich. Wilson quickly scaled the charts with three more hits from the project: “Here For the Party”, which reinforced her wild child image; “When I Think About Cheatin'”, a classic country ballad that elicited praise from Loretta Lynn; and “Homewrecker”, which channeled Lynn herself. By the fall of 2005, Wilson had won a Grammy, two CMA awards, and two ACM awards.

Needless to say, expectations were high for her sophomore project All Jacked Up, and initially, those expectations were met. The album sold quickly out of the gate, but the strong support she had seen from radio began to quickly fade. The title track stopped at #8, and was criticized for taking the “Redneck Woman” image into parody territory, finding Wilson losing her front tooth in a bar fight and crashing her car while driving drunk. The second single, “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today,” became her first to miss the top ten, peaking at #22. Two more Wilson singles, including a duet with Merle Haggard, peaked in the twenties.

Wilson took her time preparing her third album, One of the Boys, and although it sold well enough to top the Country Albums chart and reach the top five of the overall album chart, radio was even less kind, as three singles missed the top thirty completely. The 2007 album faded from the charts after just 24 weeks, selling a little more than 200,000 copies during its entire chart run, roughly equal to what her first two albums had sold in just their opening weeks.

One of the Boys ended up being Wilson’s last album for Sony, as she launched her own label – Redneck Records – in 2009.  Her first project for her new venture, I Got Your Country Right Here, produced her final top twenty hit at country radio.  “Work Hard, Play Harder” reached #18, her highest peak since “All Jacked Up” four years earlier.

Subsequent releases haven’t gotten any radio play, but Wilson has continued to release new music on her label.  In 2013 alone, she released three albums: a new studio set (Right on Time), a covers project (Under the Covers), and a holiday album (Christmas in My Heart.) She also released a live album (Still Here for the Party) and a collection of re-recorded hits (Snapshot.) In 2017, she released her most recent studio album, Ready to Get Rowdy, which coincided with a return to touring.

Essential Singles

  • “Redneck Woman,” 2004
  • “When I Think About Cheatin’,” 2004
  • “Homewrecker'” 2005
  • “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today,” 2005
  • “Work Hard, Play Harder,” 2009

Essential Albums

  • Here For the Party (2004)
  • All Jacked Up (2005)
  • One of the Boys (2007)
  • I Got Your Country Right Here (2009)

Industry Awards

  • Academy of Country Music Awards
    • Top Female Vocalist, 2005
    • Top New Artist, 2005
  • Country Music Association Awards
    • Horizon Award, 2004
    • Female Vocalist, 2005
  • Grammy Awards
    • Best Female Country Vocal Performance
      • “Redneck Woman”, 2005

Next: #97. The Forester Sisters

Previous: #99. Ashley Monroe



  1. I’m a little surprised she didn’t fall off the list, given how the last decade has pretty much confirmed her status as a one-hit wonder. But that one hit was probably one of the most influential country singles of this century, for better and for worse, IMO. It was a great song on its own merits that celebrated rural and women’s solidarity and pride in one’s chosen lifestyle, whatever that might be. But it also probably helped spawn the “countier than thou” plague of the late-2000s (that still lives on, to some degree). As for Wilson herself, I think she was a genuine talent who pigeonholed herself, though I have not heard much of her recent work.

  2. P.S. Also worth mentioning how “Redneck Woman” even became a bit of a crossover hit. Back when they still played music videos on TV, it was always a bit surreal seeing Gretchen Wilson in between Usher and Green Day on VH1!

  3. Ah Gretchen Wilson.

    I always loved “Redneck Women” and “When I Think About Cheating”, but besides those 2 songs, I never cared for her music. “Here For The Party” was dull, “California Girls” was annoying and “All Jacked Up” was a train wreck.

    Gretchen Wilson seemed to be the female artist to bridge the gap between the Faith, Martina, Shania, Reba, popularity and the Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert and Taylor Swift era. Faith Hill wasn’t releasing that much music from what I recall, Reba was doing Tv and Martina McBride had rather sporadic success on the charts same with Sara Evans.

    Once Carrie Underwood came into the scene in late 2005, add in Taylor Swift in 2006, and Miranda Lambert in 2006. Then you have Martina McBride, Reba, Sara Evans, all kind of making comebacks in 2006 and 2007 altogether to varying degrees of success. Sugarland was starting to get big as well. It doesn’t shock me that Gretchen Wilson faded into the background and fell off the radar, especially since for me it seemed like she was trying to make “Redneck Woman” again and again during that time, so her career took a turn for the worst in terms of success.

    Gretchen Wilson was very flash in the pan, but with how big her debut single was it doesn’t shock me she’s on the list. Also her kind of bridging the gap helps as well.

  4. All man, Gretchen Wilson is tough one for me. I remember being all high on Gretchen when she drop her amazing debut album, Here For The Party and I was thinking she could be a superstar. As time went on, Gretchen couldn’t match Redneck Woman or Here For The Party. With all that being said, I still love Redneck Woman to this today. I always get hype every time I hear it.

  5. I liked Red Neck Woman when it came out. However, according to my i-tunes library, i haven’t played it since 4/30/10.

  6. This is just my opinion, but I think Gretchen’s association with Big & Rich and their “Muzik Mafia”, as much as her seeming inability to come up with anything either equaling or surpassing “Redneck Woman”, really hurt both her standing on this survey, and her career in general. And I think one could make the case that the Muzik Mefia movement was a prototype for the much-despised Bro Country movement.

    If, as she felt she had done on another song of hers “Rebel Child”, she had channeled Linda Ronstadt and/or Emmylou Harris, in all likelihood Gretchen might very well have continued with a successful and respectable career. But as it is, I fear that she is a footnote now.

  7. I think that country radio’s steadfast refusal to support female artists for the last fifteen years is what hurt her more than anything else.

    It’s not like the single that broke her hot streak was of poor quality. “I Don’t Feel Like Loving You Today” was arguably her strongest release up until that point, and it still missed the top twenty. Radio simply slammed the door on her, and an album later, her record label did the same thing.

    Time and place matter. Trisha Yearwood is rightfully lauded for her stellar body of work, but would “Wrong Side of Memphis” and “Walkaway Joe” been embraced by the lady who broke out with “She’s in Love With the Boy” ten years earlier, or ten years later? I have my doubts.

    And while I will never complain about women who followed in the footsteps of Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt, that is not the only worthy lineage for women to follow. Gretchen Wilson wasn’t cut from that mold. She was transparent about her influences being Hank Jr., Tanya Tucker, and Charlie Daniels right on her first record. She’s stuck to her guns on that in her subsequent work, and rightfully so. That’s who she is as an artist.

  8. I agree wholeheartedly with Kevin.

    Underrated and glad that she has stuck to her guns.

    “Not bad for a bartender”.

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