100 Greatest Men: Introduction

Three years ago, Country Universe counted down the 100 Greatest Women.  Ever since that list, we’ve been asked the question, “What about the men?”

Finally, we have an answer.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll count down the 100 Greatest Men of country music.  The story of country music has been one primarily realized by its male artists. Since the first hillbilly tracks were put down on 78 records nearly ninety years ago, it has been the men who have dominated the genre, and have been most closely identified with it.

So the story of these men will tell the story of country music, as it traveled out of rural America and into the cities and suburbs.  Through major armed conflicts, economic booms and busts, and the increasing interconnectivity of American life.  There will also be a lot of bad perms and polyester suits. The seventies were a lot prettier on record than they were in the flesh.

With the female list, fans of every major artist could expect for that woman to appear somewhere along the line.  Given the expansive history and sheer quantity of significant male country artists, that isn’t going to happen here.  Selling platinum, topping the charts, and winning industry awards isn’t enough to get you on this list, and there will be more unfamiliar names at far higher rankings, even to those who know their country music well.

In compiling the list, several criteria were considered, including: artistic achievement, longevity, commercial success, influence, and lasting impact.  Generally speaking, the men who are toward the top of the list meet more of the individual criteria than the men toward the bottom, who may be notable for only one  or two of these things.

All of the men on the list are recording artists, but some of them have had more impact on the genre as songwriters. So get ready to delve into country music history, and as always, share your thoughts and disagreements in the comments.

Next Entry: #100. Eck Robertson

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


  1. I’ve really been looking forward to this feature. I’m eager to learn more about country music history with each new post.

    I had not yet begun reading the country blogs when the 100 Greatest Women list first appeared, but I’ve enjoyed looking back at it. It was, to say the least, very impressive.

  2. This will indeed be a challenge as some of the very biggest selling male artists were not tremendously important to the development of the genre and their fans will be upset when you leave them out. For instance, I put together my own top 50 list a few years back and Kenny Rogers was not on it, nor was Ronnie Milsap. Had I extended my list to 100 places I’m not sure either would have been on it either.

    I’m looking forward to seeing where names such as Pop Stoneman, “Uncle Jimmy” Thompson, Vernon Dalhart, and Bradley Kincaid show up on your list. Also whether or not you will be including producers and A&R men on your list

  3. I, too, look forward to the gradual Gypsy Rose Lee routine as we get to where we all want to go — the underlying ‘Where’s my guy?’ is compeling.

    But the project is already suspect for leaving out Collin Raye’s brilliant, lovable work for Fruit of the Loom. Tell it all, bro.

  4. “With the female list, fans of every major artist could expect for that woman to appear somewhere along the line.”

    Oh yeah? Where was Patti Page, Anita Carter, Susan Raye, Rosalie Allen, Texas Ruby, Jenny Lou Carson, Liz Anderson, Jody Miller, Wilma Burgess, Sue Thompson, Maxine & Bonnie Brown, Cristy Lane, Shelly West, Dorothy Shay, Molly Bee, Judy Lynn, Marie Osmond, Nanci Griffith, to name just a few.

  5. Where’s the top 30 “greatest men” at? Why did they not include the top 30? This list is incomplete and are missing their top 30.

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