This week in 1792, Kentucky became the fifteenth state to join the union. It’s also the state that two Country Universe writers – Jonathan Keefe and myself – call home. Kentucky is well known as the home of bluegrass music, but our state’s rich musical heritage spans multiple genres. A wide variety of music legends hail from the bluegrass state, while its unique natural beauty and varied culture has served as inspiration for many a songwriter. Jonathan and I have put our heads together for a Country Universe Top Five that covers two topics in one. I’ve chosen my top five favorite artists from Kentucky, while he has chosen his top five favorite songs about Kentucky. Since there are plenty of eligible inclusions for both topics, this leaves plenty of room for reader discussion, so be sure to share your own choices in the comments. Ben’s Top Five Artists from Kentucky: 1. Read More
Once again, technical difficulties derailed yesterday’s Daily Top Five. So we’re doubling down today. Ever notice how the Vocal Event categories at country award shows honor harmony vocals as much as they do real, full-fledged duets? The spiritual godfather of all of this is “You and I”, the not quite duet by Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle, “You and I.” But the modern trend goes back to the award-sweeping “It’s Your Love”, the not quite duet by Tim McGraw and Faith Hill. So for today’s Daily Double Top Fives, we’re asking you to make the distinction that the award shows don’t. What are your favorite five duets, which feature two artists actually trading off lines, and what are your favorite five “all-star” harmony vocals? Here are mine: Top Five Duets Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, “The Last Thing on My Mind” Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty, “After the Fire is Read More
Today is International Women’s Day. Historically speaking, country music has never enjoyed a reputation for being socially progressive. For the general public, the definitive statement the genre made was “Stand By Your Man.” That Tammy Wynette classic is often cited as country music’s counterpoint to the women’s liberation movement, although Wynette wrote the thing in fifteen minutes without any agenda in mind. She just needed a song to sing. I generally consider the classic country era to have ended with the seventies, preceding the Urban Cowboy and New Traditionalist movements. What follows are some of the best deliberate statements made by country artists during those years in support for women’s rights. Some were big hits. Some were not. But they were all ahead of their time and are still interesting to listen to today.
As 2014 comes to a close, the Country Universe staff has been collectively impressed by the number of quality albums that were released this year. How many of those albums, however, will we still be listening to in twenty years? We have that benefit of hindsight for the year 1994, and we’ve compiled our twenty favorite studio sets from that year. At their time of release, some of our favorites were comeback albums from veteran artists, some were from current artists reaching new artistic and commercial peaks, and some were debut sets from artists that went on to become mainstays on country radio or in the Americana music scene that was just coming together twenty years ago. What they all have in common is that each and every one of them still sounds great today, and they collectively show the wide breadth that the country music landscape was transforming into Read More
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List He started out as a pop teen idol, but Conway Twitty’s powerful vocals and smart taste in material made him one of country music’s longest reigning superstars. Twitty was born in Mississippi and raised in Arkansas, a background that exposed him to gospel and blues music, as well as country music. By age ten, he was playing in his own country band, but his attention was set on being a professional baseball player. Unfortunately, as soon as he was offered a contract by the Philadelphia Phillies, he was drafted into the army.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List One of the earliest members of both the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, Ernest Tubb’s legacy stretches back to the 1940’s, when he became one of country music’s earliest national stars. Hailing from Texas, Tubb was the son of a sharecropper who passed the time listening to Jimmie Rodgers records, which inspired him to take up singing and yodeling. By age nineteen, he was singing on the radio in San Antonio, while digging ditches for the federal government to pay the bills. He wrote Rodgers’s widow, hoping for an autograph, and it started a friendship that motivated her to help Tubb land a recording contract.
Since its inception, the top honor an artist could be given at the Country Music Association awards is this one: Entertainer of the Year. Originally a revolving door of winners, the winner in early years was often not even nominated the following year. In 1981, Barbara Mandrell became the first artist to win the award twice. Alabama succeeded her with a three year run from 1982-1984. Fourteen years later, Garth Brooks became the first artist two win four times, a feat later matched by Kenny Chesney in 2008.
Here’s a look back at the award from the very beginning, along with some facts and feats about the category and its nominees.
- Bill Anderson
- Eddy Arnold
- Merle Haggard
- Sonny James
- Buck Owens
One year after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Eddy Arnold was named the very first Entertainer of the Year at the inaugural CMA awards in 1967. Don’t assume it was a sympathy vote. Arnold had three #1 hits in the twelve months leading up to the ceremony, as he was in the middle of his impressive mid-sixties comeback, a period best defined by the 1965 classic, “Make the World Go Away.” He remains the only member of the Hall of Fame to win this award after being inducted.
Alabama & Friends
To recognize the impact that Alabama has had on modern country music, you could consider their millions of albums sold, their hundreds of awards, their many #1 songs or their induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. You could also look at how the boys from Fort Payne, Ala. have the distinction of bringing something entirely new into country music.