Do you remember the first country album you ever bought? Maybe it was on a vinyl record. Maybe it was on a CD. Maybe for some of you younguns it was a digital download. Maybe it was one that you loved at the time, but eventually outgrew – or maybe it’s one that you still listen to and love today. Either way, our first country album purchases became part of the soundtrack of each of our lives, not to mention part of our journey of discovery into the genre that we love.
Today we at Country Universe are sharing the first country albums that we remember buying along with our thoughts on those albums today, plus a few of our personal memories that we associate with them. If you’re in the mood for a musical walk down memory lane, please feel free to tell us about your own first country album purchases in the comments below.
Put Yourself In My Place
Something In Red
I’d been aware of country music from an early age. Two of my favorite artists when I was in elementary school – Olivia Newton-John and the Everly Brothers – had been successful in the genre. My parents were both huge fans of current and older country music. Car rides featured a mix of Reba McEntire, George Strait, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash, Johnny Horton, and Conway Twitty. My father’s appreciation for John Conlee transferred over to me. My mother’s for Lee Greenwood did not.
But I was completely immersed in pop music in the early nineties, and it took CMT to change that. We had a vacation house in the Pocono mountains, and the house there had cable, which had yet to arrive in our New York home. During MTV and VH1 commercial breaks, I found myself checking out CMT. One of the first videos to stick in my mind was “Put Yourself in My Place.” I had no idea that Pam Tillis was country music royalty. I just thought the video was a bit odd and it stuck in my memory.
Then in the winter of 1991, a show called Hot Country Nights debuted. My parents had it on because my dad loved Clint Black and my mom loved K.T. Oslin. Pam Tillis was at the bottom of the roster, and I remember making a comment about the music video when her name was announced in the opening credits. I expected a colorful performance of “Put Yourself in My Place” that was like the video.
Then she came out and sang “Maybe it Was Memphis,” and my musical world was turned upside down. I had never heard something so passionate, so powerful, and so emotional. It gave me chills. I’d been obsessed with music since I was very little, but I had no idea music could be like this.
Shortly afterward, we visited a mall in Pennsylvania and I had some Christmas money to spend. For the first time, I intentionally sought out the country section, picking up Pam’s Put Yourself in My Place on cassette. I bought Lorrie Morgan’s Something in Red at the same time. My memory is foggier on that one because I don’t remember how I first heard “Except For Monday.” It didn’t have a video, so it must’ve been on the radio, or maybe another episode of Hot Country Nights. But I know it was for “Monday,” because discovering the title track was the highlight of hearing the whole cassette for the first time.
As for Pam, the experience of hearing “Memphis” repeated itself with “Melancholy Child,” her autobiographical song with a Celtic sound. I felt a connection to her music that was deeper than anything I’d experienced before.
Lorrie Morgan being a second generation country star was also lost on me at the time, but it’s funny looking back how closely I associated the two of them in my early years as a country fan. Their album cycles were closely linked, and I remember buying Watch Me around the same time as Homeward Looking Angel and War Paint around the same time as Sweetheart’s Dance. Even as nineties country became what I listened to the most, it was always a special event for me to get new albums from them.
Soon, my nineties collection was being augmented by the artists who influenced my current favorites, getting box sets for Christmas every year: Dolly Parton, then Emmylou Harris, then Linda Ronstadt. I became as big a Johnny Cash fan as my dad when he released American Recordings, and while dad and I didn’t always overlap in tastes – we rarely did, actually – we could always agree on Dwight Yoakam and Alan Jackson.
But it was always Pam’s albums that I treasured the most, listening to them on repeat and providing the foundation for my ever-growing love for country music. Put Yourself in My Place isn’t my favorite album of hers. It probably ranks fifth or sixth, maybe even seventh. But that’s a reflection of how she kept getting better, not on the quality of the album itself. I’ll forever be thankful that our television was tuned to Hot Country Nights that winter evening.
The Way Back Home
I grew up in a very large family where money was not in high supply. I got into country music when I was 12 years old. I was obsessed with listening to the radio and I badly wanted to own music by my favorite artists, but I rarely had money for such a thing. I would even set my alarm for 2:00 in the morning on Sundays, because there was a country music station that would play an artist’s entire album each week. So, I would wake up to record whatever album they decided to play early each Sunday morning. It’s amazing that my alarm never woke anyone else up!
I specifically remember a moment when I was a teen that my dad had a stack of probably no more than 20 CDs in the living room cabinet and thinking, “When I’m adult, I hope I can collect this many albums someday!”
One year when I was 14 or 15, my grandfather gave us $20 each to spend on Christmas gifts for other people in our family. Well, I somehow justified buying a little gift for myself out of that money too. The first album that I bought was from the bargain bin and it was Vince Gill’s “The Way Back Home” album on cassette, which was one of his RCA
albums. I didn’t know any of the songs on the album, because it was before his hitmaking CMA albums, but I was able to afford an album from my favorite artist, which was extremely exciting to me. Even though it’s certainly not his best album, I still love that album for what it was, which is a representation of the first album I ever bought and, what’s more, the first Vince Gill album I owned.
All of these years later, I’ve surpassed my childhood goal of owning 20 albums and I have hundreds of albums, though they’re mostly digital now.
Come On Over
It was not a new release – Come On Over had been out for some eight years when I bought it. I had first been introduced to the music of Shania Twain when my family was visiting my aunt. My aunt owned Twain’s Up! album (a fairly recent release at the time) and played it during the visit. My sister and I both took an instant liking. I remember her singing along nonstop to “I’m Gonna Getcha Good!” while I was quickly hooked by the title track with its infectious beat and incessant optimism.
My sister soon acquired a copy of Up!, followed by Twain’s Greatest Hits, both of which received much play in our home. Though I hadn’t previously known who Twain was, I recognized “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!” and “You’re Still the One” from radio. I quickly grew to love Twain’s catchy pop melodies laced with country twang, so much so that when I came across her Come On Over CD at a retail store, it became the official beginning of my country music collection.
Today? I still listen to it. I still love it. I still have the same physical disc that I purchased as a young teen, and it still periodically gets popped into my car’s CD player. While I would later fall in love with traditional country music as well, I never lost my love of a great pop-country hook. In that area, I remain of the opinion that Twain set a bar which very few have reached.
The first compact disc I ever owned was Dwight Yoakam’s Buenas Noches from the Lonely Room. It was a birthday present from my mom, who fully supported my love of traditional country music. If I wanted something from Rodney Crowell or Michael Martin Murphy, it would show up for a birthday or a holiday or a good report card or “just because.” Part of that reason was because I’d play it in the house, and so Mom would get to hear it all too. I’d get physical custody of the CD, but Mom still got the music.
But our musical tastes didn’t line up all the time. So if I wanted to buy an album that was a little outside of her musical tastes, then I was on my own. So the first album I ever spent my own money on was, I believe, County Line by Southern Pacific. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, it was a country-rock band that had members of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Doobie Brothers – the version on this album was Kurt Howell on keyboards and vocals, Keith Knudsen on drums, Stu Cook on bass and John McFee on everything else and vocals.
The first time I ever heard “Any Way the Wind Blows” played on the radio (This being a time when interesting music was frequently played on country radio!), I fell in love with it. This album also had “Time’s Up,” a fiery duet with Carlene Carter, “Memphis Queen,” a cool song about a cursed riverboat, and “I Fall to Pieces,” an a capella version of a Del Shannon hit. Some of the songs were minor hits, and others less so, and the band broke up a year later. But when I was just starting to develop a left-of-center musical identity, this was the band I needed to hear.
Up on the Ridge
To be completely honest, I don’t remember exactly the first country music album I bought with my own money. I do, however, remember that 2010 was a pivotal year that pushed my growing fascination with country music into a borderline obsession, and I credit Dierks Bentley’s Up on the Ridge album for that.
While the late 2000s and especially early 2010s aren’t remembered that fondly in country music history – especially compared to the ‘90s – I still remember, as a kid, hearing songs on the radio that meant something or were, at the very least, interesting. Strangely enough, even then I strengthened my knowledge of the genre through country radio. I remember connecting to the pain expressed through songs like Sunny Sweeney’s “From a Table Away” and Brett Eldredge’s “Raymond,” among others. By no means a perfect time period, mind you, especially in hindsight and especially when I know there was enough bad to go around as well. But compared to today – where I struggle to connect with more than maybe five charting songs this year, at best – I find myself, at age 24, feeling old-fashioned in trying to capture what I feel is missing from the mainstream today.
Granted, not everything had to be a tearjerker to connect with me, and that’s why I gravitated toward the lead single and title track to Bentley’s Up on the Ridge project. I loved its moody unease captured through its tense atmosphere, and though it is, on paper, little more than a basic hookup track, there’s a sense of adventure and allure to it – and maybe even a sense of danger to it – that prompted me to buy the album the day it came out. While Bentley’s foray into bluegrass has always been described by purists as merely bluegrass-inspired, I still remember loving how different it sounded from not only the majority of mainstream country music, but Bentley’s own discography in general.
More importantly, I think it’s why I learned to love the album concept in general, and appreciate how artists could make statements, profound or otherwise – and often in less than 40 or so minutes, at that. There are other factors that contributed to my deeper love of the genre and especially to why I write about it today, but as for why I take the time to appreciate what I hear, I credit Up on the Ridge.
Country music was integral to my childhood as a working-poor Kentucky kid in the 1980s. Some of my earliest memories of music are the sounds of Dwight Yoakam, The Judds, Dolly Parton, and Randy Travis– and Alabama and The Forrester Sisters, because I knew early on what I didn’t like, too– pouring out of the cassette deck on my grandparents’ rusty white Buick. But when I had finally saved up enough money from the tooth fairy and birthdays to buy my own music, my first purchases weren’t country. The first music I ever bought of my own accord was a 45 rpm single of Cyndi Lauper’s “Change of Heart,” and the first album I ever bought was The Bangles’ Different Light. Even in grade school, I was a Poptimist long before that was even a thing.
But as I leaned into the fact that I was destined to be deeply uncool, I cared less and less about the music that my peers were listening to. I still liked a lot of pop and rock music of the late 80s and early 90s, but it was the music of those lo-Fi cassettes in that old Buick that really spoke to me. When I finally got a CD player for Christmas, several years after they’d been on the market and long after most of my friends had one, I was eager to start building out my own music collection in that format. The first country album I bought, having already recorded its hit singles off the radio and onto mixtapes many times over, was the self-titled debut album from an artist whose voice I’d loved for pretty well my entire life to that point: Wynonna.
That’s a purchase I still feel pretty smug about, nearly three decades on. I knew from my subscriptions to Billboard and Rolling Stone that the album was both a commercial and critical success at the time, and it’s an album whose stature has taken root over the years. While I’ve revisited it often– and those hit singles still sound as fresh today as they did in 1992– it’s been especially poignant to listen to the album again in recent weeks, as I’ve been focused on how great an artist Wynonna truly is in the aftermath of her mother’s suicide. Both Wynonna and Wynonna are truly great, and I’ll say I picked a great first album when creating my library of country music.
My first 2 CDs I bought with my own money were from the BmG music club back in 1997. I purchased Pam Tillis’ Greatest Hits and Lila McCann’s Lila album. I was in 8zth grade at this time and had always loved Pam’s music I picked up on her from my aunt. It seemed like in 97 you were either team Leann or team Lila as an adolescent. I was team lila all the way. I think if radio had given her BBR singles a chance she’d have been a big star. The singles they pushed were great.
In 1997 for me it was Team LeAnn or Team Trisha lol
I think the first album I bought with my own money was “Everyone Aboard” by Doc Walker at a used store. Although I liked a few songs on it, it definitely wasn’t a pivotal album for me.
But although I was already starting to enjoy some country music due to my Dad and sister bringing it into the house, receiving Josh Gracin’s self-titled album for Christmas, I think in 2004, was really the first album that I truly connected with and fully enjoyed, soon followed by Jason Aldean’s self-titled album, and “Long Trip Alone” by Dierks Bentley.
Kent I went through a major Dierks Bently phase around 2011 and man “Long Trip Alone” was my favorite record by him. He had some really cool songs on that album and I listened to it a few months ago and the nostalgia wave came over me. It’s either “Up On The Ridge” or “Long Trip Alone” as my favorite dierks album
Ah, yes! BMG was the source of much of my CD collection!
I still really love Lila McCann today, especially her debut album! “Down Came A Blackbird” was so cool sounding when it first came out, and it always takes me back to the Summer of 1997 when my parents and I went to Maine. I also adore “I Wanna Fall In Love” which brings back great memories of the Fall of ’97 and 6th grade. :)
As for Trisha vs. LeAnn, while I hate that they were both pitted against each other, I honestly do prefer Trisha’s version of “How Do I Live.”
Btw, I’m really looking forward to us getting to 1997 on the 90’s Number Ones feature. :)
My brother had Lila McCann’s debut album and I remember it being quite good – I also really liked “I Wanna Fall in Love.”
I remember listening to Lorrie Morgan, K.T. Oslin, and the Judds records quite a bit as a kid, but I believe my parents purchased them. I would argue though that the amount I listened to the Judds “Love Can Build a Bridge” it should be labeled as mine! The first album I had purchased as a kid was Trisha Yearwood’s “Thinkin’ About You” in 1995. “XXX’s and OOO’s (An American Girl) was incredibly catchy to me as a 8 year old!
Mine was Shania’s Don’t Be Stupid single
My first country album was Hal Ketchum’s “Past the Point of Rescue” after seeing him on Austin City Limits. It’s still one of my favorites.
Like Ben, my first country CD purchase was technically Shania Twain’s Come On Over. But being as I was living in the UK and it was the international edition, which was climbing up the charts at the time, I kinda feel it doesn’t really count. I didn’t really see it as being a country album – it was just what was the best of pop at that time. I didn’t buy another country album for seven years.
Flash forward to 2005 and season 4 of American Idol. Carrie Underwood is dominating, and I am obsessed by her, especially her performances of country songs including Independence Day and When God Fearin’ Women Get the Blues. I’d also been struck earlier in the competition by another competitor’s performance of a song called A Broken Wing. I realised quite quickly that these songs were all by the same artist.
A few weeks later I found myself, as so often, in the basement floor of the huge HMV record store on London’s Oxford Street. This was the ‘speciality’ music section where they stocked a lot of the international and world music I was into at the time and was also, I discovered, the home of their country music section, almost certainly the largest country music section in the country. And they have Martina McBride’s Greatest Hits, and so I took the plunge and bought it.
And loved it. I must have played that CD over and over and over that week, listening to those songs I’d heard on Idol and discovering new favourites like Wild Angels, My Baby Loves Me, Safe in the Arms of Love and Where Would You Be.
It was the springboard to me learning more and more about country music, including discovering sites like this one, the9513 and engine145.com – and it was those sites, including the reviewers here, who guided me, and it was the basement floor of HMV Oxford Street that fed my obsession. I pretty much lived in there until it sadly closed.
I think my first country cassette was “Some Gave All” when I was like 7 (facepalm), and I think my first CD was “All I Want”.
There are some really good deep cuts on Some Gave All – much better than Achy Breaky Heart and I say this as someone who doesn’t mind ABH as an occasional listen – usually when listening to other full albums that have it. I don’t know if it was ever a single but my favourite is Never Thought I’d Fall In Love With You.
I don’t believe “Never Thought I’d Fall In Love With You” was a single, but that’s one of my favorite cuts from Some Gave All, as well!
The first two I remember buying was Ashton Shepherd “Sounds So Good” and Josh Turners “Everything Is Fine”at wal-Mart. II was a sophomore in high school and on my parents tv that had music channels that played specific genres (classic county, 90’s country, modern country etc). I remember I was just listening and when Ashton’s “Takin off this pain” came on being blown away by her voice and Josh Turner’s “Firecracker” was amazing. Still love both albums in fact I have so many fond memories attached to those albums that when I listen to them from time to time I can’t help but listen to the whole album and smile. I love this feature
My first 2 albums (because I bought them at the same time) were Toby Keith’s Greatest Hits 2 and Shania Twain’s Up.
Mine was Roseanne Cash, “Seven Year Ache.” It was one of my first vinyl LPs, too, acquired in January 2016. Alas, I still haven’t listened to it to this day, and could never find the kick I needed to start digging into Cash’s works either.
You should absolutely check out Rosanne Cash’s work. She’s a great songwriter. Is she the most country sounding artist honestly no but neither was her dad and I go back to the Seven Year Ache album all the time with how cool it sounds even today. “Rainin”, “Seven Year Ache”, Hometown Blues”, “Only Human” “My Baby Thinks He’s a Train”. Lol Idk why but i taken back first listen to “What Kinda Girl” because it used the word slut and I never heard anything like that on a country record.
I definitely remember. Growing up my parents listened to country (Johnny Cash, Statler Bros among others) but as I reached my teen years I wanted rock so I wasn’t interested in country at all.
In my early 20’s (maybe 1979) I bought a vinyl version of Waylon Jennings’ Greatest Hits. This was the brown cover with 9 songs. I’m not even sure now why I bought it but I loved it. Played it a lot and started expanding my country listening from there. I’ve always leaned toward that rougher outlaw country sound since then.
I still have the album too.
I cannot remember with certainty which of these two “country” albums from the 1970s came first for me, but it was either 1.) John Denver’s Greatest Hits, or 2.) Olivia Newton-John’s If You Love Me Let Me Know.
At the time of their purchase, I had no idea that these albums might have been considered as “country” (or any knowledge of the brewing controversy in country music circles as to JD’s and ONJ’s place in the genre), as my exposure to these artists came through pop radio and television.
Though I did not start listening to country music on my own until the later half of the 1970s, my earliest recollections of country music are from an earlier time as a kid in the 1960s/early 1970s, where my parents would play tapes of their favorite country music artists during our family road trips. (Does anyone here remember 8-track tapes?) Most prominent in my memories from that time are the songs of Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Tammy Wynette, and Lynn Andersen.
The first country album I remember buying for myself was Olivia Newton-Johns Greatest Hits Volume 2 – I definitely include Olivia as a country artist at least in her early stages. That led to her entire collection eventually and I’ve got them all on CD now. The two songs that most impacted me were Sam and Please Mr Please, I love them both still. The first country CD I bought was Trisha Yearwood’s Hearts In Armour – I already owned two of her others on cassette. I just love the entire album.
For the first album I ever got with my own money, I’d have to go all the way up to around 2003/2004ish. That’s when I started getting used cd’s and discovered the thrill of getting the music I always wanted for a much more affordable price and going to the music stores eagerly anticipating what older (meaning 80’s and 90’s) country albums I might find used. That’s pretty much what I spent most of my money on during those times, lol. I’m guessing it would have to be either a used copy of Joe Diffie’s A Thousand Winding Roads or Tracy Lawrence’s Alibis. I honestly can’t really remember which one came first, but both were very exciting finds for me, since I was longing for that early 90’s neo-traditional sound of my early childhood, and I wanted to own as much music from that era I could find. I found Joe Diffie’s debut album at my local mall one day after school, and I remember being so thrilled seeing it there because I’d been on the hunt for it since 2001, but it was long out of print. “Home” and “If You Want Me To” were songs I wanted to have so much, especially. I found Tracy Lawrence’s Alibis at Park City Mall in Lancaster, PA at around that same time, and I remember excitedly meeting my step dad to show it to him. He even took a peek at the little booklet inside, and we were both looking at the liner notes, lyrics and the pictures of Tracy. I remember telling him how I missed the mullets a lot of male country artists had in the early 90’s, and he said he was still not used to seeing long hair on male country singers (except Willie of course), and the country “look” he was used to was short haired guys like George Strait, lol. Anyway, both albums are still two of my all time favorites today, and I’m still very thankful I was at the right places at the right times to find them.
For the very first album I ever owned, it was a cassette copy of Garth’s No Fences that my step dad got me when I was five. He got it for me because I loved “Friends In Low Places,” which I guess is a bit ironic considering that I’m more of a ballad/sad song person, overall, and I’m not as big on sing along party songs. Though “Friends..” did get heavily overplayed and I got burned out on it for a while, I do still like the song, and I still consider No Fences to be one of my all time favorite Garth albums. My favorite singles from it now are “Unanswered Prayers,” “Two Of A Kind…,” and “Wild Horses.” Favorite album cuts are “Wolves,” “Same Old Story,” “Mr. Blue,” and “A New Way To Fly.” That album still takes me back to my early childhood every time, as well. :)
Tracy Lawrence’s Sticks and Stones is another one of the earliest albums I ever owned on cassette at age six in early 1992. I still vividly remember my step dad getting it for me at the Montgomery Ward’s at Spottsylvania Mall in Fredericksburg, VA because I absolutely loved the title song back when it came out. :) That’s still one of my favorite debut records of all time. I remember revisiting that tape in 2001 and being blown away by each song and just being amazed by how great the album sounded front to back with the fiddle and steel front and center and Tracy’s unique baritone blending perfectly with Liana Manis’ harmony vocals. I wanted a CD copy of Sticks And Stones so bad, but whenever I could actually find one in a music store, it was still around 18 bucks. Needless to say, this was still before these stores started selling used copies, lol.
Other albums my parents got when I was a little kid in the early 90’s that I still enjoy today:
– Alan Jackson – Here In The Real World (Cassette)
– Waylon Jennings – The Eagle (CD)
– Shenandoah – Shenandoah (Cassette)
– Garth Brooks – Ropin’ The Wind (CD)
– Ricky Van Shelton – III (CD)
– George Strait – Chill Of An Early Fall (CD)
– Mary Chapin Carpenter – Shooting Straight In The Dark (CD)
– Brooks & Dunn – Brand New Man (CD)
– Sawyer Brown – The Dirt Road (CD)
– Billy Ray Cyrus – Some Gave All (CD)
– Reba McEntire – For My Broken Heart (CD)
– John Michael Montgomery – Life’s A Dance (CD)
– Billy Dean – Billy Dean (CD)
– Clinton Gregory – Freeborn Man (CD)
– Clint Black – The Hard Way (CD)
Of course, my step dad also tried to expose me to some of the older country music that he always enjoyed, as well. For example, the very first CD he ever brought home when I was five in 1990 was a Jim Reeves hits collection. Other hits collections from classic country artists he brought home when I was little were: Marty Robbins’ Lifetime of Song, Ray Stevens’ Greatest Hits, Johnny Horton’s The Singing American, Merle Haggard’s Country Pride, Ronnie Milsap’s Greatest Hits, and Conway Twitty’s Greatest Hits Volume III. Some I really liked right off the bat (Horton, Robbins, Stevens, Twitty) while others took a little longer for me to really appreciate.
I wouldn’t own any more country albums until the Christmas of 1997 when my dad surprised me with the Greatest Hits Collections from Alan Jackson and Brooks & Dunn. That’s when I rediscovered the joy of owning my own music (besides tapes I recorded from the radio, of course), and this time I also had a portable cd player by then. :) On my birthday the following year, he got me Vince Gill’s Souvenirs, George Strait’s Greatest Hits Volume Two, Lorrie Morgan’s Greatest Hits, and Suzy Bogguss’ Greatest Hits. What’s pretty neat is these are all artists I still really love today. I especially got to be bigger fans of both Lorrie and Suzy after getting their albums.
I finally caught the music collecting bug in 2000 when my dad and I went to Best Buy for me to pick a few cd’s for my birthday. I ended up selecting Brad Paisley’s Who Needs Pictures, Tim McGraw’s A Place In The Sun, and Clay Walker’s self-titled 1993 debut.
– McGraw’s album was my least favorite at the time, because it was a bit more pop/contemporary sounding than I was expecting. However, I now consider A Place In The Sun to be one of my favorite albums of his. I now appreciate the kind of contemporary country that Tim did in the late 90’s and early 00’s and consider that to be some of his best work, overall.
– I loved Walker’s album right from the start, and not only did it make me interested in collecting more of Clay’s albums, it’s also part of what got me interested in collecting debut albums from other 90’s country artists.
– Paisley’s Who Needs Pictures was my favorite one of them all. However, he is probably the artist here that I have changed my opinion on the most out of the three. I absolutely loved his early music, and I especially remember wanting this album for both “Who Needs Pictures” and “He Didn’t Have To Be,” which are still two of his very best songs, imo. The entire album had the right balance of everything. It had sad songs, funny songs, romantic songs, and I love how almost every style of traditional country was represented on the album (shuffles, western swing, tearjerking ballads, etc.) Not to mention, he had a laid back delivery I enjoyed which reminded me of both Paul Overstreet and Alan Jackson. I continued to enjoy Brad during this second album era, Part II (which I also got), but somewhere during the Mud On The Tires era, he began to slowly lose me. With each new album after that, many of his singles started either making me cringe or just bore me to tears, and he became a hit or miss type of artist for me. I still love his first two records today, but I only truly enjoy a few of his singles here and there after that (especially “When I Get Where I’m Going”).
Needless to say, my cd collection has grown quite a bit ever since, though I have actually slowed down on buying albums in more recent years, as I haven’t been able to get to the used music/books stores as much as I’d like.
New Riders of the Purple Sage
Up until I was 13 I basically just listened to whatever my parents had on or in their collections. My dad was heavy on classic rock and my mom had whatever was popular (Celine, Madonna, Shania). I also got a lot of country from my grandparents. Alan Jackson, Patsy Cline, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Tammy Wynette and Keith Whitley being those that still stand out in my memories the most.
In late 2002 we got CMT and GAC for the first time along with internet. I started watching it everyday falling in love with new artists and discovering new songs by the ones I already knew.
Christmas 2003 I finally asked for a list of albums. My parents got me one only Brad Paisley’s ‘Mud On The Tires’. I was so excited and getting to hear album tracks that I was unfamiliar with really made me want more from all the artists.
So I went in January to Zellers (rip)and bought two more myself. Sara Evans’ ‘Restless’ and Terri Clark’s ‘Pain To Kill’.
Terri is by far now my favourite artists that album made me fall completely in love with her, Sara is not far behind and Brad may not be my favourite male artist anymore but he’s still among the top.
All 3 albums have stood the test of time with me, and I now own over 1000 albums as I continue to love to seek out hidden gems.
Living in Burlington, Ontario, Canada as a kid, country was not much of a thing among my friends. However, (I know this is stupid), as a fan of ALABAMA Crimson Tide, I bought a cassette of Alabama’s Greatest Hits in 1986. I turned to LOVE this music! First studio album was Always And Forever..bought all Randy Travis after that..Killing Time solidified my LOVE of country music up until about 2007 when “bro” took over.
Yard Sailing with my grandma, bought Garth Brooks – Double Live for the soul purpose of it having him Smashing a guitar into another guitar, had no idea who he was, but the image looked cool.
First cd I bought after knowing who the artist was was Travis Tritt – Greatest Hits from the Beginning
Garth’s No Fences on cassette. First CD was a Beach Boys hits collection with the first country CD being George Strait’s Ten Strait Hits.
The first album I bought for myself was Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Come On, Come On. This would have been in January 1993, and all my first purchases were cassettes. I didn’t start a CD collection until a couple years later.
I remember it being 1993 because Christmas 1992 was the year all I asked for was music. Country music. I can’t remember everything I got that year but I know they included several Reba albums: It’s Your Call, For My Broken Heart, Rumor Has It, and her first Christmas release. Randy Travis had a double greatest hits release at the time. I got those too, along with Clint Black’s The Hard Way, Wynonna’s solo debut, and Ricky Lynn Gregg (anyone else remember him?), and I thought I had the greatest music collection ever amassed.
Looking back, I can see how much my parents supported my love of music – even if neither shared it – in getting me these albums, along with subscriptions to New Country, Country Weekly, and even Billboard for a couple years. I remember my dad balking at Billboard’s high subscription cost, so that one only lasted 2 years I believe. These were great resources, in the days before rural homes had internet, for finding new music and learning what was critically as well as commercially succeeding. The internet and especially sites like this have made it so much easier for music geeks these days. Kudos.
In January of 1982, my parents gifted me two albums on vinyl for my eighth birthday. The first was “Fancy Free” by the Oak Ridge Boys and the second was “Greatest Hits Volume IV” by Marty Robbins. I remember how grown up I felt being allowed to play those records on my mom’s wooden console Magnavox stereo in the living room. The stereo ran on tubes and I still remember the smell of my favourite music as the the stereo would warm up and play. The record player also had a feature where you could stack albums and they would drop one after the other, so there was also a distinctive sound of that process while listening to multiple albums. Listening to music felt like sacred ritual, it was an event.
Pre-internet, I was dependent upon catalogues and magazines to do my music browsing when I wasn’t actually under the roof of a brick-and-mortar store like Musicland or Title Wave at a mall in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. My mom kept a pile of catalogues stacked on a shelf in the kitchen and I would pour over them. My first purchase came from one of those catalogues. I bought a a greatest hits compilation from Charley Pride titled “20 of the Best Charley Pride” and a Conway Twitty collection put out on Warwick records titled “It’s Only Make Believe: 20 Great Songs.”
I am still a loyal, obsessed fan of The Oak Ridge Boys, Marty Robbins, Charley Pride, and Conway Twitty. My country music collection would grow to include 8-tracks, cassettes, and CDs of many other artists. Magazines like “Country Music,” “New Country,” “No Depression,” “Country Weekly, ” The Journal of of Country Music” and ” The Journal of The American Academy for the Preservation of Old-Time Country Music” informed all my purchasing and listening choices. Music clubs like BMG and Columbia House played a huge roll in purchasing that music. I also joined the Time Life Music “Country Music Hall of Fame” series and thrilled at receiving a cassette in the mail whenever one was issued.
Now that I think about it, there was also a monthly newspaper I read put out by KEEY K-102 titled “Tune-Up” that was available at gas stations in the Twin Cities!
I share all that because reading about music was almost as big a part of my experience of country music as actually listening to it!
I love this topic and it’s been great reading through all the comments.
@Kevin – I didn’t realize how connected Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan were (other than having famous country musician fathers and coming to prominence in the same era) until I saw they were touring together in 2017 and coming to Calgary, so I jumped at the opportunity to go. They played at a casino, so it wasn’t a large venue, but it was sold out and it was the perfect size for the show they put on. Other than the lead guitar player, it was an all-female band and it was such a great show (including twin fiddles on some of the songs). They had great stories to share, played a lot of their hits, some new songs and they each featured one of their fathers’ hits.
Like some others have mentioned, I was first exposed to country music through my parents. They both listened to a variety of music, but the country music they listened to stood out for me. I got early exposure to Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Emmylou Harris and Dolly Parton from my dad. My mom’s tastes tended a bit more contemporary at the time (late 80s/early 90s) and I still fondly remember and listen to certain albums from that time that she enjoyed (Sawyer Brown’s “The Boys are Back,” The Judds’ “Heartland,” The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s “Partners, Brothers and Friends” and Dan Seals’ “Won’t Be Blue Anymore” to name a few).
The first album I purchased with my own money was a Billy Idol cassette with 4 or 5 songs on Side A and an interview on Side B, probably in the late 80s. I didn’t really get into country music on my own until the early 90s when my cousins and I discovered CMT (Canada).
The first country album I purchased with my own money was Clay Walker’s self-titled debut album. I just really enjoyed his blend of traditional and contemporary sounds and it was fun to follow an artist from the beginning. He was my favourite artist for a number of years and his early albums still hold up quite well.