For casual fans of country music, Johnny Paycheck was a one-hit wonder who spent a good chunk of his life in jail. For those who know better, he was the greatest of the Outlaw singers and the definitive honky-tonk voice of his time.
Country artists are known for their longevity, but the Sons of the Pioneers make the rest look like flash-in-the-pan newbies.
First formed in 1933, Sons of the Pioneers are the longest-running active vocal group in country music today. The lineup, of course, has changed over the years, but the original group weren’t just sons of the pioneers. They were the pioneers of Western music, that post-ampersand genre that was once an essential half of mainstream country music.
It seems only appropriate that a man whose career was launched by a three act song would himself enjoy a career with three spectacular acts.
Jim Ed Brown, born in 1934, was raised in Arkansas. Like many aspiring country artists of his day, he first sang professionally with his family. Alongside sisters Maxine and Bonnie, they began performing in the early fifties in various combinations.
Australia’s had its own country music scene for generations. With Keith Urban, they scored their biggest export to date.
Urban began singing and playing guitar from an early age. Though born in New Zealand, he moved to Australia as a small child. By age eight, he’d already won talent contests. As he got older, his exposure throughout the country increased. He appeared on various television programs and soon landed a recording contract.
One of the greatest vocalists of his generation, John Conlee powered to stardom on the strength of a self-written hit that would provide both his musical and fashion signature for the rest of his career.
He’d been singing and playing guitar since early childhood, but his first career was as a mortician, followed by a stint as a radio deejay. He moved to Nashville in 1971, and five years later, he earned his first recording contract with ABC Records.
A musician since receiving his first guitar at age eight, Brad Paisley emerged in the late nineties and became the most consistently successful radio artist in the decade that followed.
Paisley’s career began in earnest when he penned his first song at age twelve, “Born On Christmas Day.” His junior high principal invited him to perform at a local function. He was spotted by a representative of Jamboree USA, and after one performance, he was invited to join the cast.
He’s best known for his handful of big hits for RCA in the late fifties and early sixties, but Hank Locklin’s career stretched more than a decade in both directions.
A leg injury at the age of eight was the first significant event in his musical career, as he picked up the guitar during his recovery and its lingering effects later exempted him from service in World War II. While he didn’t finish high school, he did win a talent contest at the age of eighteen, which led to a spot on local radio stations in panhandle Florida and the surrounding states.