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
The list continues with big hits from Clay Walker, Neal McCoy, and Mary Chapin Carpenter, along with should’ve been hits from Carlene Carter and Merle Haggard. #30 “Daddy Never was the Cadillac Kind” Confederate Railroad Written by Dave Gibson and Bernie Nelson KJC #10 | JK #22 | SG #39 Confederate Railroad made it big by balancing party anthems with thoughtful songs about growing up in the south. This was their best “growing up” song, a thoughtful tribute from a son to his late father. As tends to happen, the lessons taught to us in our youth aren’t fully appreciated or understood until it’s too late to truly say “thank you.” – Kevin John Coyne
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List The Poet of the Common Man. Merle Haggard emerged from the Bakersfield music scene in the mid-sixties, and over the course of time, became the greatest man in the history of country music. Born during the height of the Great Depression, the son of a honky tonk fiddler and a church-going mother, Haggard’s life was a hard one from early on. When he lost his father at age nine, he rebelled to the point that much of his youth was spent in juvenile detention centers. His only positive outlet was country music, and he listened to and studied obsessively the work of his heroes Bob Willis, Hank Williams, and Lefty Frizzell, all of whom would shape his singing and his songwriting.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List Quite possibly country music’s most distinctive vocalist, George Jones wrapped his distinguished vocals around great songs for more than five decades. Jones was born and raised in Texas, and his earliest musical tastes were shaped by the gospel he heard at church, and by the Carter Family songs he heard on the radio. After his dad bought him a guitar, he would play on the streets of Beaumont for tips. He was singing on the radio by his late teens, and after a brief stint in the military, he returned to Texas, where he was discovered by a local record producer named Pappy Daily.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List He started out as an unconventional songwriter trying to be a conventional artist. But when Willie Nelson let his hair down, he became a country legend for the ages. Nelson was raised by his grandparents in Texas, who encouraged him to play the guitar and to write songs. When his sister Bonnie married fiddle player Buddy Fletcher, Nelson joined his band as the frontman, staying with him until he graduated high school and did a brief stint in the Air Force.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List For many Americans, he was the guitar-slinging comedian that co-hosted Hee Haw. But before he signed up for that popular show, he had already amassed a body of work that defined the sound of California country. Owens was born in Texas and raised in Arizona, where he picked up the guitar from an early age. He played gigs in Phoenix and other Arizona cities until his late teens, when he relocated to the city that would be synonymous with his sound and style: Bakersfield, California.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List Lefty Frizzell just may be the most influential vocalist in country music history. His signature honky-tonk style has been the foundational template for several generations of traditional country vocalists, smoothing out the twangy edges just enough to please the ears of mainstream audiences without compromising its hillbilly roots. Frizzell was born in Texas, but moved to Arkansas at a young age. He earned the nickname Lefty in a schoolyard fight at the age of fourteen, and it followed him from that point on. Though he was singing on the radio in his teens and performing locally, run-ins with the law sidelined his music career in the mid-forties.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List Few styles of country music have been more hugely influential than Western Swing. As the embodiment of that style, Bob Wills became one of the most influential country artists in history. Born and raised in Texas, Wills was a virtuoso fiddle, guitar, and mandolin player by his teens. Like many early country stars, he first made a name for himself playing dance halls across Texas. More so than most country legends, Wills put a huge emphasis on having an excellent backing band. His first group of players, the Wills Fiddle Band, became popular in the Fort Worth area, eventually earning their own radio show. In honor of their sponsors, they renamed themselves the Light Crust Doughboys.
100 Greatest Men: The Complete List One of the few traditionalists who was able to successfully transition into the smoother Nashville Sound style, Ray Price was a defining artist in two completely different eras of country music history. A small town Texas native, Price moved to Dallas as a child and learned how to play the guitar. After a stint in the Marines, Price returned to Texas and became popular on local radio as the Cherokee Cowboy. By the early fifties, he was ready to pursue a major label deal in Nashville, landing with Columbia and scoring his first hit in 1952 with “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.”
Eight years ago, we posted our second edition of Hall Worthy, a list of significant country music figures who we felt were most deserving of being in the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Since then, a lot has changed. First and foremost, more than half of the list is now in the Hall of Fame (or, at least, headed there later this year.) An additional entry, Wanda Jackson, is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
A bigger change came in 2009, when new categories were introduced to ensure that two artist inductees would be represented from different eras: The Modern Era (20-44 years of national prominence), and the Veterans Era (45+ years of national prominence.) There are also three more categories that rotate, meaning one from each category gets in every third year: Non-Performer, Songwriter, and Recording and/or Touring Musician.
Finally, since that list was published, our readership has grown tremendously and is incredibly well-versed on country music, past and present. So in this new and now annual edition of Hall Worthy, we are going to run down the list of the most successful artists that are eligible but have yet to make it into the Hall of Fame, in the order of “Hall Worthiness.”
The Modern Era:
Scoring his first hit in 1990 with “Here in the Real World”, Alan Jackson is the most successful country artist that isn’t currently in the Hall of Fame. His storied career has included 25 #1 hits and 49 visits to the top ten. He’s won a slew of awards over the years, including many for his songwriting. He is the most traditionalist of all of the nineties superstars, but has managed to stay relevant regardless of how pop the genre went over the past quarter century, selling more than forty million albums in the U.S. alone. He should be the next inductee for the Modern Era.