Archive for the ‘100 Greatest Men’ Category

100 Greatest Men: #57. Kenny Chesney

Friday, April 6th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

After many years as a mid-level country artist, Kenny Chesney fused arena-size country with Caribbean rhythms to become one of the genre’s biggest stars of the 21st century.

Born and raised in East Tennessee, Chesney didn’t seriously start pursuing music until he was in college, despite being an enthusiast his entire life.   While continuing his studies, Chesney played in a bluegrass band and for tips at a Mexican restaurant.  He managed to finance a demo album and moved to Nashville in 1991.   He played at a local honky-tonk called the Turf, and eventually landed a publishing deal in 1992 that led to a record deal with Capricorn in 1993.

His debut for the label, In My Wildest Dreams, found little success, but it laid the groundwork for a new deal with BNA Records.  His second set, All I Need to Know, put him on the map.  Throughout the nineties, he slowly built a career at radio and retail, as his songs inched higher on the charts and he moved from gold, to platinum, and then to multi-platinum sales by the end of the nineties.

Still, there was little to indicate that he was about to explode into superstardom.  But as his live shows gained greater attention, Chesney began to incorporate Caribbean sounds into his music, styling himself as an island singer in the same vein as Jimmy Buffett.  Through stronger song choices that helped repair the novelty act image that had been created with hits like “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy”, Chesney began to earn critical acclaim for his work.

By the mid-2000′s, Chesney was the biggest act in country music, selling millions of copies of his albums and more concert tickets than even the biggest pop and rock acts of the day.  He dominated the awards circuit, and even managed to sell big numbers of indulgent side projects like Be Who You Are and Lucky Old Sun.

Today, Chesney remains a top concert draw and a core radio act. He is currently prepping another studio album and a co-headlining tour with Tim McGraw.

Essential Singles:

  • That’s Why I’m Here, 1998
  • The Good Stuff, 2002
  • Anything But Mine, 2005
  • Who You’d Be Today, 2005
  • Beer in Mexico, 2007
  • You and Tequila (with Grace Potter), 2011

Essential Albums:

  • I Will Stand, 1997
  • No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems, 2002
  • When the Sun Goes Down, 2004
  • Be as You Are: Songs From an Old Blue Chair, 2005
  • The Road and the Radio, 2006

Next: #56. Bobby Bare

Previous: #58. Carl Smith

100 Greatest Men: #58. Carl Smith

Friday, April 6th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

One of the most successful country stars of the 1950′s, Carl Smith is as well known today for his famous relatives as for his legendary music.

Born and raised in the same Tennessee town as his childhood idol Roy Acuff, Smith taught himself guitar as a teenager.  He performed on local shows and in local bands as a teen, including the Cas Walker radio show that would later showcase a young Dolly Parton.  After a stint in the army, he did some backing musicianship until landing his own contract with Columbia Records in the late forties.

Thus began a remarkable string of commercial success.  Smith was one of the most dominant artists of the fifties, scoring a stunning 31 top ten hits during that decade.  His smooth vocal style made for a powerful contrast to the honky-tonk and rockabilly sounds of his records.   He scored signature hits with “Loose Talk” and “Are You Teasing Me”, among many others.   He became a television personality as well, often guest hosting the ABC hit, Jubilee USA.

He was also widely known for being one-half of a country superstar marriage with June Carter.  Though their marriage didn’t last too long, it did produce another future country star in daughter Carlene Carter.   After their divorce, Smith married another country star, Goldie Hill.  By the late fifties, he was also appearing in Western films.

As dominant sounds of the genre changed, Smith’s chart success dwindled a bit,  but he remained a presence on the country hit parade throughout the sixties and seventies.  He continued to both sing and act on a variety of network television shows, and wise investments allowed him to retire from the music business, though he still made some independent recordings that emphasized Western swing.

He spent the remainder of his life showing horses with Hill, until illness claimed her life in 2005.   Smith passed away five years later, leaving behind a remarkable legacy of classic country music.

Essential Singles:

  • Let’s Live a Little, 1951
  • Let Old Mother Nature Have Her Way, 1951
  • Are You Teasing Me, 1952
  • Hey Joe, 1953
  • Loose Talk, 1954
  • You are the One, 1956

Essential Albums:

  • Carl Smith, 1956
  • Softly and Tenderly, 1956
  • Smith’s the Name, 1957
  • The Country Gentleman Sings His Favorites, 1967
  • Carl Smith Sings a Tribute to Roy Acuff, 1969

Next: #57. Kenny Chesney

Previous: #59. John Anderson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #59. John Anderson

Sunday, March 18th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

As one of the finest new traditionalists of the eighties and nineties, John Anderson pushed the boundaries of country music without sacrificing its distinctive heritage.

Like many of his contemporaries, Anderson grew up on both country and rock and roll.  He was a teenager when Merle Haggard led him to the genre, and what he heard was enough to motivate him to move to Nashville.  He did construction work around town, including putting the roof on the new Grand Ole Opry in the early seventies.  Over the next few years, he made a name on the club scene, which soon earned him a recording contract with Warner Brothers.

The label patiently worked him as a singles act, and as he gained traction at radio, they released his self-titled debut in 1980.  Its honky-tonk, traditional sound stood in stark contrast to the pop-flavored country that dominated the day.  With his second album, John Anderson 2, he solidified himself as a leader of the nascent new traditionalist movement, covering Lefty Frizzell and Billy Joe Shaver alongside original songs.

Still, it was the pop-flavored “Swingin’” which earned Anderson his greatest notoriety in the eighties.  The million-selling single earned Anderson the CMA award for Single of the Year, and was the peak of his years with Warner Brothers.  By the time he left the label in the late eighties, he’d scored twelve top ten hits.  But despite the fact that the sound he’d brought back to the forefront was all over country radio, he struggled for airplay and the critical acclaim of his early years faded away.

Then, a stunning second act.  Anderson signed with BNA Records in 1991, and staged a major comeback with the #1 hit, “Straight Tequila Night.”  It served as the anchor to the 1992 album Seminole Wind, which earned rave reviews and double-platinum sales.   Anderson was nominated for every major industry award, with the most attention going to the title track,  a poignant environmental plea for the protection of the Florida Everglades.

Anderson maintained momentum with the follow-up album, Solid Ground, which sold gold and included three big hits.  For the rest of the nineties, his success at radio was less consistent, and he scored his last significant chart action with “Somebody Slap Me”, a top thirty hit that was his first release for Mercury Records.

The new millenium brought a well-received collaboration with John Rich, with the resulting album, Easy Money, earning Anderson’s strongest reviews since Seminole Wind.   More recently, Anderson co-wrote Rich’s single, “Shuttin’ Detroit Down.”  In addition to maintaining a hectic touring schedule, Anderson is currently preparing a new studio album, slated to include guest appearances by Haggard and Willie Nelson.

Essential Singles:

  • I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday), 1981
  • Wild and Blue, 1982
  • Swingin’, 1983
  • Straight Tequila Night, 1991
  • Seminole Wind, 1992
  • I Wish I Could Have Been There, 1994

Essential Albums:

  • John Anderson 2, 1981
  • Wild & Blue, 1982
  • All the People are Talkin’, 1983
  • Seminole Wind, 1992
  • Solid Ground, 1993
  • Easy Money, 2007

Next: #58. Carl Smith

Previous: #60. Don Gibson

100 Greatest Men: #60. Don Gibson

Monday, March 12th, 2012

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The writer of several timeless country standards, Don Gibson put down his pen often enough to maintain a remarkable, decades-long career as a singer and performer.

His childhood was fraught with adversity.  His railroad worker father died when he was just two years old, and his mother remarried a sharecropper.  Gibson loathed the farm life, but also school, which he dropped out of after the second grade.   Paralyzed with shyness and hindered by a speech impediment, his escapism was the music he heard on the radio.

As a teen, he learned guitar and modeled himself after other performers, paying the bills by hustling pool.   His growing instrumental talent blossomed into a band.  Formed in 1948, Sons of the Soil garnered enough attention to earn a spot on a popular radio show.  It was there that Gibson’s individual talent shone through.

A Mercury Records producer heard them and issued four sides for them, but the band split up in 1949.  After another stint in a band called the King Cotton Kinfolks,  Gibson pursued a solo career.   A deal with Columbia resulted in promising records, but no commercial success.  Gibson focused on his songwriting, and honing his craft earned him a publishing deal with Acuff-Rose.   He insisted in an accompanying recording contract, which he received from MGM Records.

After a long wait, the hits came fast.  Over the course of the next few years, he wrote and recorded songs that are now synonymous with country music.  “Sweet Dreams” was his first top ten hit, and later was immortalized by Patsy Cline.  “Oh Lonesome Me” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You” were a powerful two-sided hit on both the country and pop charts.  While the former became Gibson’s signature song, the latter is now considered a Ray Charles classic.  Meanwhile, “Just One Time” was a #2 hit two times.  Gibson took it near the top in 1960, and Connie Smith revived it in 1971.

The hits slowed in the sixties and seventies, but still remained constant.   He had a series of successful duets with Dottie West, most notably the #2 hit “Ring of Gold.” In 1972, he returned to #1 for the first time in fourteen years with “Woman (Sensuous Woman),” later covered by Mark Chesnutt.  He spent much of the seventies collaborating with Sue Thompson, charting eleven songs together from 1971 to 1976.

From the eighties up until his death in 2003, Gibson remained an Opry performer and elder statesman of the genre.  He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003, a nice bookend to his Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction back in 1971.

Essential Singles:

  • Sweet Dreams, 1956
  • Oh Lonesome Me, 1958
  • I Can’t Stop Loving You, 1958
  • Sea of Heartbreak, 1961
  • Rings of Gold (with Dottie West), 1969
  • Woman (Sensuous Woman), 1972

Essential Albums:

  • Oh Lonesome Me, 1958
  • That Gibson Boy, 1959
  • I Wrote a Song…, 1963
  • Great Country Songs, 1966
  • Country Green, 1971

Next: #59. John Anderson

Previous: #61. Charlie Daniels

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #61. Charlie Daniels

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

A cornerstone of country, southern rock, and gospel music, Charlie Daniels and his fiddle have made an indelible impact on the fabric of American music.

Born and raised in North Carolina, Daniels first achieved notoriety through his astonishing fiddling talent.  Since he was also efficient with a guitar, he started off by assembling the instrumental band the Jaguars.  They played throughout the late fifties and early sixties, and were signed to Epic Records for a period of time.   While the band was slowly fizzling out, Daniels got his first taste of real success as a songwriter and a backing musician.  Elvis Presley recorded his composition, “It Hurts Me”, in 1963. By the end of the sixties, Daniels had played on the seminal Bob Dylan album Nashville Skyline, and toured with Leonard Cohen.

His recording career entered full stride in the seventies. After a self-titled solo album in 1970, Daniels expanded his act into the Charlie Daniels Band.  In this incarnation, Daniels would enjoy his greatest notoriety as a singer, songwriter, and performer.   By deftly tackling societal issues from a fiercely Southern perspective, Daniels added powerful and remarkably effective social commentary to his songs, surrounding his worldview with scorching fiddle.

A series of classic singles like “Uneasy Rider”, “The South’s Gonna Do It”, and “Long Haired Country Boy” firmly established Charlie Daniels and his band as a force to be reckoned with.  After a series of critically acclaimed albums that sold well, the band reached its peak of mainstream success in 1979, with “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”  It became Daniels’ biggest hit on both the country and the pop charts, and powered Million Mile Reflections to sales of over three million in the United States alone.

Daniels and his band coasted on their success throughout the eighties, touring extensively and continuing to score country hits, along with the occasional pop crossover.  Some of his most high-profile hits remained political in nature, most notably “Still in Saigon”, his remarkable attempt to shed light on the Vietnam War veterans struggling with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.   In 1989, he had his last major commercial success with the band’s album, Simple Man.  Though the title track just missed the country top ten, the vigilante hit received wide media exposure, and pushed sales of the album to platinum status.

For the past two decades, Daniels has remained a widely popular draw on the road, and a widely respected media star, appearing regularly on political talk shows to share his views on issues of the day.  Always a fan of gospel music, he’s released several spiritual sets in recent years.  Songs from the Longleaf Pines, a bluegrass gospel collection from 2005, was released to overwhelming praise.   In 2007, he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry.   Always a patriot, his latest release is 2010′s Land That I Love, which features a handful of new songs alongside his many America-themed songs from the past.

Essential Singles:

  • Uneasy Rider, 1973
  • The South’s Gonna Do It, 1975
  • Long Haired Country Boy, 1975
  • The Devil Went Down to Georgia, 1979
  • In America, 1981
  • Simple Man, 1989

Essential Albums:

  • Charlie Daniels, 1970
  • Fire on the Mountain, 1975
  • Nightrider, 1975
  • Million Mile Reflections, 1979
  • Simple Man, 1989
  • Songs From the Longleaf Pines, 2005

Next: #60. Don Gibson

Previous: #62. Red Foley

100 Greatest Men: #62. Red Foley

Saturday, March 10th, 2012

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One of the great crooners of the post-war era, Red Foley helped build a crucial bridge between the country music of the mountains and the Nashville Sound of the sixties.

Born Clyde Foley in 1910, his hair color earned him the nickname Red.  His professional career was launched by a talent show win at age 17.  As a freshman in college, he was discovered by a talent scout and invited to join the house band of the National Barn Dance. He released his first recordings in the mid-thirties, and by the end of that decade, he was the first country artist to host a nationally broadcast radio show, which he co-hosted with Red Skelton. During this period, Foley wrote “Ol’ Shep”, which would be recorded by many major artists, including Elvis Presley and Hank Snow.

Following World War II, he entered a period of stunning success in many media formats, earning himself the title Mr. Country Music.  Throughout the forties and fifties, his recording career was incredibly successful, highlighted by collaborations with his band, the Cumberland Valley Boys, and fellow artists like Lawrence Welk, Ernest Tubb, and Kitty Wells.  Several of his songs are now country classics, most notably “Smoke on the Water,” “Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy,” and “(There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me).”

Beginning in 1946, he emceed the Prince Albert Show, which broadcast a portion of the Grand Ole Opry’s show every week.  His profile was raised even more significantly by the Ozark Jubilee, the fifties network television show that Foley hosted for many years.   His television fame helped bring his smooth style of country music to a very broad audience, though Foley never actively pursued the pop music scene.

Indeed, his country records decreased in popularity as the Nashville Sound took root, though his gospel recordings remained quite popular.  The sixties found him guesting on sitcoms and talk shows, while he continued to tour the world as part of the Grand Ole Opry cast.   In 1967, Foley was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, an achievement that was sadly overshadowed one year later by his untimely death at age 58.

Today, Foley’s name is not as recognizable as many of his contemporaries, but it takes only one listen to his signature songs to immediately grasp the impact he had on the development of contemporary country music.

Essential Singles:

  • Smoke on the Water, 1944
  • Shame on You (with Lawrence Welk), 1945
  • Tennessee Saturday Night, 1948
  • Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy, 1950
  • (There’ll Be) Peace in the Valley (For Me), 1951
  • One by One (with Kitty Wells), 1954

Essential Albums:

  • Red and Ernie (with Ernest Tubb), 1954
  • Beyond the Sunset, 1958
  • Songs of Devotion, 1961
  • Together Again (with Kitty Wells), 1967

Next: #61. Charlie Daniels

Previous: #63. Clint Black

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #63. Clint Black

Monday, March 5th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

The Class of 1989 permanently changed the face of country music.  Clint Black was its valedictorian.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Texas, Black’s vocal talent was evident at an early age.  He played in a band with his older brothers, and taking a gamble, he dropped out of high school and pursued a solo career.

The new traditionalist movement of the early eighties inspired him to commit himself to the country music genre.   As he honed his craft throughout the eighties, he met songwriter and guitarist Hayden Nicholas, who would become an instrumental component of Black’s success.

Signing with RCA, he recorded his debut album with his road band.  Black wrote or co-wrote every track on Killin’ Time, and the 1989 release had a seismic impact on country music.  Black became the first country artist in history to have his first four singles reach #1, and the album quickly reached multi-platinum status.  Beyond its sales and radio impact, Killin’ Time was widely hailed by critics and genre enthusiasts as a masterpiece.

The impact of Black opened the doors for fellow artists like Garth Brooks, Travis Tritt, and Alan Jackson to find similar massive success with their debut albums.  Together, they rejuvenated the country music market, putting it on the even playing field with pop, rock, and R&B that it still enjoys today.  Black won several major industry awards, and then had another multi-platinum album with his sophomore set, Put Yourself in My Shoes.

Throughout the nineties, Black continued to write and record radio hits.  Even as his album sales cooled to platinum and then gold, he still maintained a streak of top ten hits.  It wasn’t until his 29th solo single, “Loosen Up My Strings” in 1998, that he missed the top ten.   To a certain extent, Black’s profile was reduced because of the very door that he opened.  The flood of talent that followed in his wake included major talents who soon overshadowed him.

The tail end of his run with RCA found him recording with wife Lisa Hartman Black, and they enjoyed a big hit with their duet, “When I Said I Do.”  Collaborations with Wynonna, Steve Wariner, Roy Rogers and Martina McBride also gained positive attention.   In the new century, Black took the bold step of launching his own label, Equity Records, resulting in two studio albums that achieved moderate success.  One of them, 2004′s Drinkin’ Songs and Other Logic, was his most critically acclaimed set in years.

His most recent release is 2007′s Love Songs, which featured re-recordings of some of his hit ballads from the nineties.  He’s kept his profile alive with various film and television appearances, and he does some light touring, preferring at this stage to spend as much time as possible with his family.

Essential Singles:

  • A Better Man, 1989
  • Killin’ Time, 1989
  • Nobody’s Home, 1990
  • State of Mind, 1993
  • Something That We Do, 1997

Essential Albums:

  • Killin’ Time, 1989
  • Put Yourself in My Shoes, 1990
  • The Hard Way, 1992
  • Nothin’ but the Taillights, 1997
  • Drinkin’ Songs and Other Logic, 2005

Next: #62. Red Foley

Previous: #64. Jerry Reed

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #64. Jerry Reed

Sunday, March 4th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

A first class singer, songwriter, and musician, Jerry Reed’s talents ran far deeper than his tongue-in-cheek persona might have indicated.

Born and raised in Georgia, Reed played guitar from an early age. Music brought him comfort and structure during a childhood of instability. By the time he was out of high school, he was already signed to Capitol Records.   Though he released several singles over the next few years, it was his songwriting and guitar playing that first earned him notice.

Throughout the late fifties and the sixties, his songs were recorded by Elvis Presley, Gene Vincent, Johnny Cash, Brenda Lee, and others.  He also became an in-demand session guitarist, with a career highlight being the sessions he played with Presley, who feel in love with Reed when he heard his 1967 single, “Guitar Man.”

A strong working relationship with Chet Atkins led to a contract with RCA and further raised Reed’s profile.  By the late sixties, Reed was getting critical notice for his own records.   He had his big breakthrough in 1970, when “Amos Moses” became a gold-selling pop and country hit.   In 1971, ‘When You’re Hot, You’re Hot” became his first #1 country single and another big pop hit.

Throughout the seventies, Reed matched popular singles and albums with high profile media exposure.  He was a regular on Glen Campbell’s television show, and he appeared in several films.   His greatest notoriety came as Cledus Snow in the wildly popular Smokey and the Bandit film series.   “East Bound and Down” was recorded for the soundtrack of the first film, and became one of his biggest hits.

Reed’s recording career had a second wind when he released the 1982 album The Man with the Golden Thumb.   Often rated as his strongest studio album, it featured the classic hit “She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft).”  Reed quickly followed with the hit album, The Bird.  The title track had him mimicking both George Jones and Willie Nelson, and the album also featured a hit cover of the Creedence Clearwater Revival song, “Down on the Corner.”

The nineties brought a fun collaboration with Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, and Waylon Jennings, a live album dubbed Old Dogs.   Reed also starred as the coach in the box office smash, The Waterboy.    Illness sidelined him as he aged, and he passed away in 2008 due to complications caused by emphyzema.

Essential Singles:

  • Guitar Man, 1967
  • Amos Moses, 1970
  • When You’re Hot, You’re Hot, 1971
  • Lord, Mr. Ford, 1973
  • East Bound and Down, 1977
  • She Got the Goldmine (I Got the Shaft), 1982

Essential Albums:

  • The Unbelievable Guitar and Voice of Jerry Reed, 1967
  • Nashville Underground, 1968
  • Me & Chet (with Chet Atkins), 1972
  • Lord Mr. Ford, 1973
  • The Man with the Golden Thumb, 1982

Next: #63. Clint Black

Previous: #65. Asleep at the Wheel

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #65. Asleep at the Wheel

Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

It’s an old saying that Ray Benson most certainly would agree with: “It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.”

Asleep at the Wheel has undergone many lineup changes since it was formed in 1970 by Benson, Lucky Oceans, and Leroy Preston.  They were joined shortly thereafter by Chris O’Connell, a female singer.  They started out as a country band, but their sound was forever changed by Merle Haggard’s tribute album to Bob Wills.  Since hearing that seminal album, they’ve been devoted to both the preservation and development of Western Swing.

Their debut album was released in 1973 by United Artists, but the band laid down roots in 1974 when they moved to Austin, Texas.  They recorded for a variety of major labels in the seventies and eighties, and had significant commercial success with four albums for Capitol.  The band became widely known for their outstanding live performances, and scored a few hits at country radio, too.

Early on in the band’s run, the lineup began to change, which has become a trademark of the band that has aided its incredible longevity.  The one constant has always been frontman Ray Benson, who has kept the band relevant through bringing in new talent regularly and through creative collaborations with other artists.  They’ve won a remarkable eight Grammy awards, including six for Best Country Instrumental Performance.

Their commitment to preserving the legacy of Bob Wills resulted in two widely hailed and warmly embraced tribute albums: 1993′s A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and 1999′s Ride with Bob.  The former earned a CMA nomination for Album of the Year, and the latter brought the band back to the country singles chart, thanks to unsolicited airplay for “Roly Poly”, a duet with the Dixie Chicks.

To celebrate Wills’ centennial, Benson starred in a touring musical called A Ride with Bob, where he played himself touring the life of Wills as his band plays along. The show received rave reviews, and one show was even attended by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush.

In 2009, almost three decades after the band first formed, they had the highest-charting album of their career with Willie and the Wheel, a collaboration with fellow Austin icon Willie Nelson.

Essential Singles:

  • Choo Choo Ch’Boogie, 1973
  • The Letter that Johnny Walker Read, 1975
  • Route 66, 1976
  • House of Blue Lights, 1987
  • Red Wing, 1993

Essential Albums:

  • Comin’ Right at Ya, 1973
  • Texas Gold, 1975
  • Asleep at the Wheel, 1985
  • Ten, 1987
  • A Tribute to the Music of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, 1993
  • Willie and the Wheel (with Willie Nelson), 2009

Next: #64. Jerry Reed

Previous: #66. David Houston

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

100 Greatest Men: #66. David Houston

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

Not many teenage stars get a second shot at stardom, but David Houston was a remarkable exception.

Born and raised in Louisiana, his high tenor voice put him on the map in the fifties, when he was just a teenager.  He appeared regularly on Louisiana Hayride, but as he grew older, he had trouble finding opportunities in the music industry.

Houston left the business for a time, but was coaxed back into it by producer Billy Sherrill, who signed him to Epic Records in 1963.  He helped put the upstart label on the map with his debut hit, “Mountain of Love”, which reached #2 in 1963.

A few more hits followed, leading up to Houston’s major breakthrough: “Almost Persuaded.”  The classic almost cheated anthem spent nine weeks at #1, and pushed Houston to the front of the pack, earning him two Grammys in 1967.

Over the next few years, Houston dominated radio, scoring twenty-four top ten hits through 1974.  He recorded a few duet albums with Barbara Mandrell, and his chart-topping “My Elusive Dreams”  paired him with a young Tammy Wynette.

In 1972, he joined the Grand Ole Opry, and he continued to record for Epic until 1977.   Stints with Gusto and Elektra records followed, the latter label association ending when new label president Jimmy Bowen purged the roster.

Houston played the Opry and toured while recording for independent labels in the eighties.  Weeks shy of his 58th birthday, Houston suffered a brain aneurysm, and he passed away in 1993.

Essential Singles:

  • Mountain of Love, 1963
  • Almost Persuaded, 1966
  • My Elusive Dreams (with Tammy Wynette), 1967
  • You Mean the World to Me, 1967
  • Baby, Baby (I Know You’re a Lady), 1969

Essential Albums:

  • Almost Persuaded, 1966
  • A Loser’s Cathedral, 1967
  • You Mean the World to Me, 1967
  • Already It’s Heaven, 1968
  • Baby, Baby, 1970

Next: #65. Asleep at the Wheel

Previous: #67. Steve Wariner

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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