Age Ain’t Nothin’ But a Number

george-strait1While Taylor Swift mania continues to grow, there’s another impressive accomplishment being achieved by two veterans of country music on the opposite end of the age spectrum.

Contrary to what is commonly believed, there has always been a ceiling on how old you could be and still get country airplay. This year, both George Strait and Reba McEntire have been working steadily to shatter that ceiling.

Take a look at the age of country legends when they earned their most recent top ten solo hit:

  1. Eddy Arnold, 62
  2. Kenny Rogers, 61*
  3. Conway Twitty, 58
  4. George Strait, 57
  5. George Jones, 57**
  6. Marty Robbins, 57
  7. Willie Nelson, 56**
  8. Ray Price, 56
  9. Reba McEntire, 54
  10. Waylon Jennings, 53
  11. Merle Haggard, 52
  12. Alan Jackson, 50
  13. Charley Pride, 50
  14. Johnny Cash, 49
  15. Ernest Tubb, 49
  16. Ronnie Milsap, 48
  17. Loretta Lynn, 47
  18. Webb Pierce, 46
  19. Garth Brooks, 45
  20. Dolly Parton, 43**
  21. Hank Williams Jr., 41
  22. Tammy Wynette, 40

* Kenny Rogers was the lead singer for his final top ten hit “Buy Me a Rose”, with harmony vocalists Billy Dean and Alison Krauss credited on the single

** George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton returned to the top ten in later years through duets with younger artists

It’s also worth noting that Alan Jackson, at 50, isn’t too far away from passing several legends on the list.

So George Strait remains in heavy rotation at the age of 57, outpacing all but three stars in country music history. Among the ladies, McEntire is a full seven years older than her nearest competitor Loretta Lynn was when she enjoyed her last top ten hit.



  1. Between the two of them, I think they have over 100 top 10 singles! They just keep going and going and still sound great! I can’t wait to see them in concert next year!!

  2. I really enjoyed Ronnie Milsap’s 2006 cd “My Life” which was released after he turned 61. Although not a big commercial success (per Wikipedia, the only single to chart was “Local Girls” which made it to #54 on the country charts), the album doesn’t have a weak song. It’s a fun cd, more on the uptempo and optimistic side.

    For those new to Ronnie’s music, I would recommend a 2 disc cd, the Essential Ronnie Milsap, on RCA Nashville. It has 40 songs from 1973 to 1989 including such great hits as “Smoky Mountain Rain”, “Pure Love”, “It Was Almost Like a Song”, “There’s No Gettin’ Over Me”, “I’d Be a Legend in My Time”, “Any Day Now”, “Stranger in My House”, “What a Difference You’ve Made in My Life”, “Lost in the Fifties Tonight”, “Nobody Likes Sad Songs”, “Inside”, “Happy, Happy Birthday Baby”, “He’s Got You” and many more. The liner notes hit all the highlights of his career.

  3. Ive been listening to country music since 1991 or 1992 and have heard a lot of George Strait, Reba and Alan Jackson. I like their music, but as a long time listener I wouldn’t mind if they were pushed aside in favor of something new. The new stuff might not even be better, but at least it would be different. Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith, too – I once enjoyed their music but I’ve been hearing it for 15 years. I wouldn’t mind if they got put out to pasture, either.

  4. Chessnutt, if you like their music, that’s a pretty sad conclusion to come to. It’s one thing if you didn’t like them, but it’s another that you want them to be “put out to pasture” due to their ages. If it’s good music, it’s good music and age should not be a factor.

  5. When you compare George’s accomplishments to other in the category like Kenny, Taylor and Brad, he has nothing to stand against when you look at the accomplishments of the other nominees.

    The fact that he is still successful after so many years has nothing to do with how little he has accomplished over a year.

  6. Leeann – maybe I worded my idea badly. I guess what I’m saying is this: Yes, I do like Strait’s music. But I’ve been hearing it for 18 years or so. There’s a part of me that wants something new.

    I don’t want those artists “put out to pasture” because of their ages, I want them “put out to pasture” because I’ve grown overly familiar with their music.

    Maybe this helps: I like the TV show “The Simpsons.” Its funny. But I’ve seen it so many times that I’d like the station to replace “Simpsons” reruns in the evening with something else.

    My issue is not age; If George Strait recorded his first hit single today, I’d say “Great!” Its familiarity and a tinge of boredom.

    I don’t know if that expresses my point a bit better.

  7. George has sold just as well as Kenny, Brad, and Keith this year, and as noted up thread, sold out a stadium, which isn’t exactly a common feat for a country artist. Your claim that George hasn’t performed in the same league as the other nominees is just plain wrong.

  8. This is what I wrote in response to K on the CMA thread, but I’ll write it here too, as it applies to K’s comment here as well:

    I don’t count Swift or Underwood, as they are anomalies in this era. As far as Urban and Paisley are concerned, Strait’s album is competitively selling with both of their releases this year. Furthermore, Strait still fills arenas and can have whoever he wants on tour with him, not to mention his several top 5 singles in the past year. I’m sounding like a broken record, but I feel like I’m responding to a broken record.

  9. When you compare George’s accomplishments to other in the category like Kenny, Taylor and Brad, he has nothing to stand against when you look at the accomplishments of the other nominees.

    Huh?? He’s still a huge concert draw, his album has gone gold and he’s still a staple at country radio. In what way do his accomplishments over the past year not compare to the others?

  10. I’m happy to see Reba and George still doing well. It’s cool (yes, I said “cool”) that after all this time, they still sell records and tickets as much as their younger competitors.

    I really do wish Dolly Parton was getting the radio backing that Strait and McEntire are.

  11. Reba may have been charting singles for 35 years but I would still rather listen to her than well over half the people who get played on country radio now days. I hope she keeps charting into her 60’s. Taylor and Carrie have nothing on Reba and in 5 to 10 years will be like hundreds of women before reba, fighting to get a top 40 hit! I can’t wait for that day either!

  12. It’s amazing how radio has dumped most of the females before they even turn 50. I hadn’t realized that Tammy Wynette was only 40 the last time she hit the Top 10 and Dolly was only 43. Reba is the only woman to ever have a Top 10 past the age of 50. I can sort of understand why this happens in the video age — I don’t agree with it, but I can understand it. But it’s really baffling that women over the age of 40 were considered too old to be heard on the radio in the pre-music video era.

  13. Kevin am I misreading this post, or should K.T. Oslin be included in this list? She was 48 when she had her last top 10 hit “Come Next Monday” in 1990, which was also a #1

  14. I agree 100% with Carson – I read somewhere where 98% of the world loves Dolly Parton – the other 2% are radio programmers.

    Reba does have a knack for picking catchy, radio-friendly songs, but Dolly can also crank out a song that would fit on today’s radio playlists.

    Youtube Dolly’s “Honky Tonk Songs” video for proof that radio wants nothing to do with the woman. Then listen to “Better Get to Livin'” and you’ll come to the same conclusion. Radio is missing a big boat by not playing Dolly.

    Also interesting to note that so many of the younger artists list Dolly as their idol…Kelly, Carrie, Jessica, etc, but it’s no thanks to radio…Lord knows they didn’t become familliar with her on the radio

  15. George seems to get airplay no matter what he puts out. It’s just a given, and has been for some time. Reba had a dry spell, and I sometimes think that was a backlash over her inroads into different entertainment areas. As if Broadway & TV was “gettin’ above your raisin”. I think Dolly may have suffered from this. Reba has busted her butt to get back on the radio and be relevant again, in Country Music. It’s paid off. If I can get a ticket, I’ll be flying to a nearby city to see the King & Queen in concert. What a treat!

  16. Im still holding out to see if Trisha Yearwood could pull off one more top 10 single, but if her labels keep picking the types off recent albums, I will just call “I Would’ve Loved You Anyway” her last. Some great songs have been overlooked on her albums that i feel would have stood a decent shot at radio.

  17. Paisley’s sluggish sales are interesting. I’ve been wondering how much of it may have to do with some of his casual fanbase not liking the sentiment of “Welcome to the Future” for (silly) political reasons.

  18. I dunno. There was a big drop-off with 5th Gear from Time Well Wasted, too. Part of it is the marketplace – even Carrie’s new album opened with about 200k less than her previous – and it’s been a while since he’s released a real ‘career record’, even if radio airplay has been steady.

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