100 Greatest Men: #78. Brad Paisley

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

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.

Over the next eight years, Paisley performed in West Virginia, opening up for major country acts when they visited the area.  After completing a two year stint at Belmont University in Nashville, he was immediately signed to a publishing deal with EMI.   After penning hits for David Kersh and David Ball, he signed with Arista Records.

His debut album, Who Needs Pictures, featured two top #1 hits.  The first one, “He Didn’t Have to Be”, began a string of award show nominations that continues through this day.   As the 2000s progressed, he reaped awards for his collaborations with Alison Krauss, Keith Urban, Dolly Parton, Little Jimmy Dickens, and George Jones.

Paisley was the first male artist since Earl Thomas Conley to score ten consecutive #1 hits on the Billboard charts.  His innovative videos incorporated appearances from Hollywood television stars, often satirizing their own public images to humorous effect.  At the peak of his popularity, Paisley showcased his Grammy-winning instrumental skills. With Play, he became the first mainstream country artist since Steve Wariner to release a largely instrumental album.

Now a touring powerhouse, Paisley collected his first Entertainer trophy from the CMA in 2010, joining shelves full of awards for Male Vocalist, Single, Album, Music Video, and Musical Event from all three major industry organizations.  Most recently, he has scored #1 hits collaborating with Alabama and then Carrie Underwood. The latter collaboration, “Remind Me”, became his fourth platinum-selling digital single, following “Whiskey Lullaby”, “She’s Everything”,  and “Then.”

Essential Singles:

  • He Didn’t Have to Be, 1999
  • I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song), 2002
  • Whiskey Lullaby (with Alison Krauss), 2004
  • When I Get Where I’m Going (with Dolly Parton), 2005
  • Letter to Me, 2007
  • Waitin’ On a Woman, 2008

Essential Albums:

  • Mud On the Tires, 2003
  • Time Well Wasted, 2005
  • 5th Gear, 2007
  • American Saturday Night, 2009

Next: ?

Previous: #79. Hank Locklin

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


  1. If Brad hadn’t reduced himself to recording some of the cliched material he’s released recently, there’s no doubt he would be higher on this list. It’s telling that the most recent Essential Single is from 2008. I was a die-hard Paisley fan from the very first single, but I really can’t muster much enthusiasm for him anymore.

  2. Good article. I would probably rate BP higher but I guess it’s best to wait to see the whole list.

    Of the essential singles you mention, I like “Waitin’ On a Woman” best. Others I would add include “We Danced”, “Celebrity”, “Online” and “Welcome to the Future”.

    Favorite BP albums: “Time Well Wasted” and “American Saturday Night”. His new album does nothing for me.

  3. Nice sampling of some of Paisley’s better singles over the years, though I never really cared for “The Fishin’ Song” myself (The barroom singalong chorus kills it for me). I’m with Michael on “Welcome to the Future.” :)

  4. It’s crazy how much my excitement for him as an artist has faded over the past two years. I wish he’d shake things up again.

  5. I think Paisley is going to be an underrated artist, looking back. Partly his own fault, due to dumb, gimmicky singles.

    He’s still putting out great album cuts, though – off of his last two CDs, “I Do Now”, “Oh Yeah, You’re Gone” are classics (IMO), and songs like “Everybody’s Here” and “A Man Don’t Have To Die” are also great listens. Plus, he’s just had a lot of great songs in general over the years; his version of “Harlan…”, “I Wish You’d Stay”, “Wrapped Around”, etc. may not be essentials, but have a timeless quality to them.

    I’ve also come to appreciate his voice more over the years – he has an almost overly conversational tone, but he’s got a few more Chestnut-esque subtleties in his phrasing than I used to notice.

    Lastly, he puts on a terrific live show. I’m not sure if there’s a songwriter-singer-guitarist combo alive that stacks up favorably to him right now.

  6. I’ve never been a Brad Paisley fan, but he has had some brilliant singles over the years (“When I Get Where I’m Going,” “Whiskey Lullaby,” “Letter To Me”). Even some of Brad can tackle humorous subjects brilliantly well, or they can fall incredibly flat. There seems to be no middle ground with Brad; his material is either excellent or atrocious. I wish he would go back to being a great singles artist, because otherwise there isn’t much appeal there, for me anyway.

    So he’s a great guitar player, a decent (and at times awful) singer with no range or interesting tones to his voice, and now he’s got awful songs to boot. It’s a shame because I think I’d actually like Brad’s music if his strengths hadn’t become weaknesses, and his weaknesses hadn’t become even more annoying, dry and boring. Because of this Brad has moved from a promising, at times great artist, to someone who’s wasted all potential that was once there.

  7. Ahhhh. My favourite artist. I would have liked it if he was higher up in this chart, but I can understand his newest album dampening his critical popularity, even though I liked it. Personally, I would add “Wrapped Around”, “Alcohol”, “Online”, “Welcome to the Future” and “American Saturday Night” to his essential singles, but I digress, I’m terribly biased. I look forward to the rest of this list :)

  8. It is often difficult to assess the importance of an artist in mid-stream. This is a good guess although I suspect that in retrospect it will be seen as much too low

  9. I wonder when Paisley’s career starts to wind down if he’ll pull the Mark Chesnutt/Trisha Yearwood/Patty Loveless thing and release music that isn’t just cut for the mainstream audiences.

  10. Quote by Paul W. Dennis

    It is often difficult to assess the importance of an artist in mid-stream. This is a good guess although I suspect that in retrospect it will be seen as much too low

    Perhaps in ten years or so. But there are seventy-seven ahead of Mr. Paisley; and I can think of at least ten or twelve that would easily vie for that #1 slot.

  11. I’ve been a huge fan of his ever since his first album. Even the title cut is non-stereotypical but very firmly “country.” On that subject, I love that Brad does not produce “country vs. city” songs that many current artists are basing their entire (radio) careers on. Nor is he aiming to be a crossover artist. He’s diehard country but he’s one of a kind. There’s still a whole lot of authentic original art coming from him.

    I agree with those who added “Oh Yeah, You’re Gone”, “Everybody’s Here” and “American Saturday Night” to the list of essential Brad songs (not necessarily singles). Obviously I’m in his camp big time. I do understand that the gimmick songs are becoming too frequent, but that is a small (imo) complaint given the sort of cliche’d country vs. city shlock others are getting rich and famous with. For me, I’ll take smart, inclusive, positive Brad over any and all of those guys (it’s almost entirely a male thing, that redneck hangup currently poisoning country radio). IMO athere’s still no one challenging his talent on the air today.

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