19 Of The Best Country Songs Of The 1960s

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

The 1960s delivered some of the most memorable country songs of all time. In fact, many of the songs featured in CMT’s 100 Greatest Country Songs list come from this memorable decade.

Country music of this era favored tight harmonies, either from duet artists like Loretta Lynn or groups like the Statler Brothers. Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, and Dolly Parton are just some of the stars that made it big during this time.

And if you’re interested in creating a playlist of this genre, we’ve come up with 19 of the best country songs of the 1960s. Let’s get started!

1. “Ring Of Fire” By Johnny Cash

It’s pretty fair to say that there is no bigger country star than the Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. His bad-boy reputation earned him many fans, but it was his songs that they really loved. Probably his most popular was his 1963 hit “Ring of Fire.”

The song, however, wasn’t actually written by Johnny, but in fact, by his later-to-be wife, June Carter Cash, whom he married in 1968. It opens with its memorable trumpet hook before Cash’s growling vocals come in.

While the song may sound a bit dark—a burning ring of fire doesn’t sound too inviting—the lyrics are actually talking about falling in love, and the singer likens the feeling to a burning flame, fiery and wild.

Next: Read our top list of country songs here.

2. “Stand By Your Man” By Tammy Wynette

Next up, we have this heartfelt 1968 song that brought international crossover success to country singer Tammy Wynette. It topped the US Country and Pop charts for three weeks while also reaching #1 in the Netherlands and the UK.

“Stand by Your Man” features Wynette’s quavering vocals imploring women to stay faithful to their husbands. The memorable chorus shows off her signature voice, making it a song saved for posterity by the Library of Congress of the United States.

The song earned Wynette the 1970 Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and is considered the top Country Music Song of all time by Country Music Television.

3. “Crazy” By Patsy Cline

One of the most iconic voices in country music is undoubtedly Patsy Cline. The 1961 song “Crazy” opens with a rhythm that sounds closer to a doo-wop than country music. However, Cline’s vocals bring a haunting twang to the heartbreaking lyrics.

Plenty of lore surrounds this tune, including the fact that Cline nailed the vocals on the first take. This song, like others on this list, was written by country legend Willie Nelson.

Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” ranks as a country music standard and is included for posterity in the Library of Congress. Countless movies and television shows used this song as their official theme, including the singer’s biopic Sweet Dreams.

4. “Hello Walls” By Faron Young

Hillbilly heartthrob and Country Music Hall of Famer Faron Young achieved his only top 40 hit with “Hello Walls.” This famous ballad was also the first to introduce the world to Willie Nelson’s songwriting talent.

Featured in this honky-tonk ballad are male backup singers and a simple two-step rhythm as the narrator describes a melancholy conversation a lonely, heartbroken man has with his empty room.

A variety of artists covered “Hello Walls” after Young released his single in 1961, like Willie Nelson, Bing Crosby, Ricky Nelson, and David Kersh.

5. “King Of The Road” By Roger Miller

“King of the Road,” a carefree-sounding song, describes a simple life. Some of the words seem to refer to the life of a drifter, and the phrase “king of the road” is a cynical title the song’s subject gives to himself as he rides the rails.

Roger Miller released “King of the Road” in 1965, and aside from topping the US charts, it became an international sensation. It reached the top 10 in the United Kingdom, Norway, Ireland, Canada, the Netherlands, and France.

The song has been covered and created into various versions through the years. Rock band R.E.M. covered it in a drunken version, while Billy Howard created a comedic style in his “King of the Cops.”

6. “Flowers On The Wall” By The Statler Brothers

Country music vocal group the Statler Brothers are best known for their tight four-part harmony. This arrangement generates songs similar to a barbershop quartet mixed with country music. The group also worked as backup singers for 1960s country legend Johnny Cash.

“Flowers on the Wall” ranks as the Statler Brothers’ most enduring hit. The lyrics describe a desolate, drunk man who sees no future after his love leaves him. Though he says he’s doing fine, he just sits there “countin’ flowers on the wall.”

Artists as diverse as Nancy Sinatra and the Muppets have covered this song. “Flowers on the Wall” is also referenced in the writing of Kurt Vonnegut and on the soundtrack for the film Pulp Fiction.

7. “Galveston” By Glen Campbell

Also known for classic hits like “Rhinestone Cowboy,” Glen Campbell crooned this classic song in 1968. Often considered a Vietnam War protest song, “Galveston” rose to #1 on the country charts. This song is considered the eighth greatest song in country music, according to Country Music Television.

The song’s wistful lyrics describe a soldier remembering the land and people he loves in his hometown during wartime. He wishes he were in Galveston than where he is now. The simple sentiment earned the song many admirers, including jazz great Dizzy Gillespie and Hawaiian music legend Don Ho.

8. “Harper Valley P.T.A.” By Jeannie C. Riley

Like Johnny Cash’s memorable hit “A Boy Named Sue,” one-hit-wonder Jeannie C. Riley caused a stir with her upbeat storytelling song. “Harper Valley P.T.A.” became an international sensation for the singer as her debut single.

Riley topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Country charts with this song, being the first woman ever to do so. The song also won Riley a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

The lyrics of “Harper Valley P.T.A” play out like a soap opera. When one single mother is called out for “wearing [her] dresses way too high” and other scandalous behavior for 1968, the mother exposes the rest of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of her small town in revenge.

9. “Mama Tried” By Merle Haggard

Country singer-songwriter Merle Haggard made history with this memorable mid-tempo song. “Mama Tried” describes a man living his life in jail and reflecting on life lessons taught and learned, sometimes the hard way. 

The chorus of “Mama Tried” is gloriously sing-along-able.  Once you learn it, you can’t help but shout along to the relatable lyrics.

This 1968 song became one of the most famous of Haggard’s legendary career. “Mama Tried” won the 1999 Grammy Hall of Fame Award and is considered one of the “Top 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”

Two weeks before Haggard’s 2016 death, the song was forever commemorated with preservation in the National Recording Registry for historical, cultural, or artistic significance.

10. “The Last Thing On My Mind” By Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton

Country singers Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton represented a powerful country duo throughout the 1960s until Parton went on to develop a blockbuster career as a solo artist.

This 1964 track showcases Wagoner’s grounding baritone voice paired with Parton’s unmistakable fluttering soprano voice. The duo sings about a misunderstanding in a relationship as it falls apart and then realizes too late that they “could’ve loved you better.”

“The Last Thing on My Mind” served as the debut single for Wagoner and Parton. It was initially recorded by Tom Paxton, but the duet by the country legends brought the song to fame.

11. “Touch Me” By Willie Nelson

Indeed, country singer-songwriter Willie Nelson churned out several memorable songs even back in the 1960s. Now a household name with signature long hair and an affinity for controlled substances, Nelson released “Touch Me” in 1962. (Be sure to look up his album cover to see how much he has changed.)

While his wavering vibrato is more pronounced in later years, there is no mistaking Nelson’s recognizable voice on this track. This slow ballad describes a heartbroken man whom people seem to have forgotten. He reminisces all the good he’s had as he wallows in sadness.

12. “Folsom Prison Blues” By Johnny Cash

One of the most famous public spectacles from country music bad boy Johnny Cash is certainly his 1968 live performances at Folsom Prison in California. As soon as he finishes the first line, you can hear the crowd erupt at Cash’s violent and fearless lyrics.

“Folsom Prison Blues” represented a shift in Cash’s career, as he identified more closely as the Man in Black. As a struggling addict and fading star, Cash sang this song to a crowd he felt was more authentic and performed truthful lyrics.

The 1968 version ranked #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and landed the singer a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance. “Folsom Prison Blues” was also used as the intro song for the 2021 action film The Suicide Squad.

13. “She Thinks I Still Care” By George Jones

Like many of the songs of this era, George Jones captures the easy two-step rhythm and familiar sound of 1960s country music. “She Thinks I Still Care” is quite short, like many of the singles on this list, lasting less than three minutes.

“She Thinks I Still Care” maintained its influence on country music, with successful covers performed by several notable artists. James Taylor, Elvis Presley, and Merle Haggard have all sung this ode to moving on from a past relationship.

The lyrics sing about the narrator’s past love, thinking he still cares for her just because he asked about her or because he’s “not the happy guy [he] used to be.” He says it’s a foolish notion, but deep down, he really does still care.

14. “Next In Line” By Conway Twitty

The title of this Conway Twitty song, “Next in Line,” refers to an unrequited love. The narrator wishes desperately to be “next in line” for this woman who is unappreciated by her current partner.

The song spent one week at #1 but 13 weeks within the top 40 country charts in 1968. It was recorded for Twitty’s album of the same name.

Twitty hit his stride in the 1970s, eventually collecting 55 number-one hits. He wrote 11 of those number ones. This record stood for 20 years and earned him the nickname of the High Priest of Country Music.

15. “There Goes My Everything” By Jack Greene

This slow, two-step honky-tonk song from Jack Greene trades on the classic themes of country music. A mournful tune and tearful lyrics combine for this country-western classic.

The song lyrics are quite simple and short, but it says a lot. It describes a broken heart after an everlasting goodbye, and the narrator laments, “There goes my everything.”

This song took home some of the biggest awards of the first-ever Country Music Awards presentation in 1966, including Single of the Year, Album of the Year, Male Vocalist of the Year, and Song of the Year. It was also covered by Elvis Presley and Englebert Humperdink.

16. “Please Help Me, I’m Falling” By Hank Locklin

The timeless tenor of Hank Locklin almost pleads as he sings this memorable and cheesy love song from the 1960s. While the title of this song, “Please Help Me, I’m Falling,” may sound like a bad pickup line now, the sentiment became Locklin’s most famous country song.

Many fans fell for this love song that expresses falling in love with another person while still with someone whose love has grown cold. The song reached the top 10 country charts in the United States, United Kingdom, and Norway.

Several music icons went on to cover this song across several different genres. Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Tammy Wynette sang a version of this song in 1993, while Gladys Knight included a cover on her 2001 soul album.

17. “Fist City” By Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn’s signature singing voice has colored country music for six decades with classic hits like “Fist City.” This song presents a sassy, up-tempo country song with a 1968 girl-power attitude.

In it, Lynn challenges other women to seduce her man, promising they will end up in “fist city” if they do. The song was actually in response to a personal experience she had. In a fit of jealousy, she just wanted to warn the woman flirting with her man what would happen if she caught her.

“Fist City” landed #1 on both US and Canadian country charts after its release, and artists like Eilen Jewell and rock duo Best Coast covered it years after.

18. “Still” By Bill Anderson

The soft singing voice of Bill Anderson delivers a classic 1963 country ballad with this slow, twangy single. This simple tune of “Still” describes the loneliness of a man after his girl has left him. He still hopes that she still loves him and will come back someday.

“Still” is more of a spoken song, a hallmark of country music of this time period. Bill Anderson received the nickname Whispering Bill for his trademark, soft-spoken singing style.

The song topped the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The same year the song came out, it was also covered by other artists like Al Martino, Bing Crosby, and Karl Denver.

19. “Devil Woman” By Marty Robbins

Lastly, “Devil Woman” is a country song that features island beats, as appropriate for a bonfire as a luau. In this mid-tempo, bouncy ballad, Marty Robbins laments a devil woman who is luring him away from his true love.

Robbins collected many honors and awards throughout his career, including “Devil Woman,” hitting #1 on Billboard’s country charts for eight weeks, and it also crossed over to the pop chart at #16.

The catchy tune of the song had a number of notable music artists covering it, including Trini Lopez and Grady Martin. It has also been translated to Spanish and Croatian, among other languages.

Summing Up Our List Of 1960s Country Songs

As you can see, there are a number of amazing songs that came out during the 1960s. Some, like “Stand by Your Man” and “There Goes My Everything,” have even withstood the test of time and continue to be streamed and played over the radio to this day.

We have enjoyed creating this list for you and hope that you have enjoyed it as well and maybe added a couple to your daily playlist.

However, this is far from complete. If we have missed a song that should be on here, let us know, and we’ll add it for you!

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.