Visit Oklahoma and you’re likely to hear country music playing in restaurants, bars, and concert venues. You don’t have to be an Okie from Muskogee to know that country music is woven into the culture of the Sooner State.
Read on to learn more about 10 of the greatest and most famous country singers from Oklahoma and how they trailblazed their way to stardom in the music industry.
1. Garth Brooks
This famous son of Oklahoma is one of country music’s biggest stars. Garth Brooks was born in Tulsa and grew up in Yukon, Oklahoma.
Brooks learned to play guitar and banjo as a child. During his college years at Oklahoma State University, he worked at night as a club bouncer and formed a band.
Discovered while playing bars in Oklahoma, Brooks saw success with his eponymous first album, including two singles that were #1 on the country charts.
His second album, No Fences, cemented his stellar status with hits such as “The Thunder Rolls,” “Unanswered Prayers,” and his signature song, “Friends in Low Places.”
2. Reba McEntire
One of country music’s queens, Reba McEntire, was born in McAlester, Oklahoma. While growing up on a ranch in Chockie, Oklahoma, McEntire earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education but heard the call of country music stardom.
Discovered not long after singing the National Anthem in the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, McEntire had modest but growing success.
Her ninth studio album was a breakthrough, leading to international stardom with the hit single “Whoever’s in New England.”
More musical success as well as acting in films, television, and on Broadway followed. McEntire’s accolades include three Grammys, a Kennedy Center Honor, and an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
3. Toby Keith
Country music chart-topper Toby Keith was born in Clinton, Oklahoma. Keith grew up in Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Moore, Oklahoma, a suburb of Oklahoma City.
First working in the oil industry, Keith and his friends formed a country music band as a side gig. By 1990, Keith had been performing on the streets of Nashville and circulated demo tapes hoping to be discovered.
That hard work paid off, as Keith’s debut single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” went to #1. The top of the charts is where Keith has returned 19 more times since then, and he’s still recording to date.
4. Carrie Underwood
Country music star Carrie Underwood was born in Muscogee and grew up on her parents’ farm in Checotah, Oklahoma.
Underwood first found music when she sang at church, but fame found her after she performed as an American Idol contestant. She went on to win the show in 2005. Underwood was named Oklahoman of the Year by Oklahoma Today the same year.
She hit the charts with “Inside Your Heaven” and followed with “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” both of which hit #1.
She has won eight Grammys, 12 Billboard Music Awards, 16 Academy of Country Music Awards, 17 American Music Awards, 9 Country Music Association Awards, 5 CMT Artist of the Year Awards, and 23 CMT Music Awards. Quite an accolade!
5. Vince Gill
Country crooner Vince Gill hails from Norman, Oklahoma, and has hit the top of the country charts more than 40 times.
First tasting fame as a member of the country-rock band Pure Prairie League, Gill then became a member of Rodney Crowell’s band and got signed as a solo artist for RCA, but he saw only modest success.
After Gill left RCA for MCA Records, he began to see fame. His 1989 single “When I Call Your Name” sold more than a million copies. Among his other hits are “I Still Believe in You” and “The Key.”
Since then, he’s won 22 Grammy Awards and sold more than 26 million albums, putting him among country music royalty.
6. Blake Shelton
Born in Ada and reared in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, Blake Shelton is a country music star who’s become a familiar face on television hosting The Voice on NBC.
Shelton’s breakthrough single “Austin” achieved Platinum status, and he’s been setting record sales records since.
He, along with George Strait and fellow Oklahoman Vince Gill, holds the record for most Country Music Association Male Vocalist of the Year wins, with five each. He has also received 10 Country Music Association, 6 Academy of Country Music Awards, 10 CMT Awards, and a CMT Artist of the Year Award.
In 2017, Shelton was the first country music singer to be named People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive.
7. Mel McDaniel
Next up, we have a native of Checotah, Oklahoma, country music singer-songwriter Mel McDaniel.
McDaniel’s interest in music was piqued after seeing Elvis perform on television. He learned to play the trumpet in the fourth grade but quickly found the guitar more to his liking. Playing in bands during high school led to him touring in Tulsa as well as in Anchorage, Alaska.
His country music career skyrocketed with the release of “Louisiana Saturday Night” in 1981. From then, he continued to created upbeat country hits, including “Big Ole Brew,” “Stand Up,” and “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On.”
McDaniel sadly passed away in March of 2011; he was 68.
8. Hoyt Axton
Country singer Hoyt Axton was born in Duncan and grew up in Comanche, Oklahoma. He served in the navy before finding his calling in music, after which he started hitting the country music charts with songs such as “Boney Fingers,” “When the Morning Comes,” and “Della and the Dealer.”
The late Axton also made numerous television appearances, with cameos on shows such as Bonanza, WKRP in Cincinnati, and Diff’rent Strokes.
Many of the songs Axton wrote were made famous by others. Three Dog Night had hits with “Joy to the World” and “Never Been to Spain,” and the likes of Joan Baez, Glen Campbell, John Denver, Waylon Jennings, and Anne Murray have covered his songs.
9. Joe Diffie
This “Pickup Man” singer hails from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Being born into a family of musicians, it certainly is no wonder Joe Diffie became passionate in music as well.
The song “Home,” from his debut album, topped US country charts, and he went on to record certified Platinum albums, including Honky Tonk Attitude, released in 1993, and 1994’s Third Rock from the Sun.
With a sound described as neotraditional country, Diffie recorded seven studio albums, a Christmas album, and a Greatest Hits album with Epic, his longest-lasting recording relationship.
Sadly, Diffie passed away in 2020 of complications due to COVID-19.
10. John Fullbright
Okemah native John Fullbright gained fame as a member of the Turnpike Troubadours, among the country music bands with Oklahoma roots.
In 2014, Fullbright’s album From the Ground Up was nominated for a Grammy for Best Americana Album, and his performances have been featured on National Public Radio.
The same year, Fullbright won the Rising Star Award from the Oklahoma Country Music Hall of Fame.
Fullbright hails from the same town as folk singing great Woody Guthrie, and he’s performed multiple times at Okemah’s Woody Guthrie Festival.
Summing Up Our List Of The Greatest Country Singers From Oklahoma
Oklahoma’s country music roots run deep. Known for its ranches and farms, the Sooner State is one that values the love of family and country. These values are echoed in the music written and sung by the country music stars who hail from there.
Listen to the songs performed by country music greats we’ve listed above, and for sure you’ll become a fan, if not one already.
Have we left off one of your favorite Oklahoman country music artists? Let us know so we can add them!