Country music is a staple of American culture, drawing talent from all over the country, especially the south and southwest. While states like Tennessee and Texas have produced a glut of talented country singers, others have also produced many talented artists, and South Carolina is no exception.
The list includes artists throughout the genre’s history, from staples of contemporary country music and historic talents to one-hit wonders and famous pop stars.
Read on to learn more about 7 of the greatest and most famous country singers from South Carolina, the Palmetto State.
1. Darius Rucker
The most famous country from South Carolina is, without a doubt, Darius Rucker, the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist of Hootie and the Blowfish.
Rucker was born in Charleston, South Carolina, and was raised by a single mother alongside five siblings. While his upbringing was sometimes tumultuous, Rucker has fond memories of his childhood.
Later, while attending the University of South Carolina in Columbia, Rucker met Mark Bryan, who discovered him singing in the shower. From these soapy beginnings, however, Rucker and Bryan would achieve enormous fame: the duo recruited USC students Soni Sonefeld and Dean Felber and formed the now-immortal group Hootie and the Blowfish.
While Rucker has enjoyed tremendous success with Hootie and the Blowfish, he has also fostered a very lucrative solo career. His album Learn to Live gained him a CMA Best New Artist award, becoming the first Black American to win it.
2. Aaron Tippin
Another South Carolinian country music icon is Aaron Tippin, best known as an icon of the 1990s traditionalist revival in the country music industry.
Although he was born in Pensacola, Florida, Tippin was raised in Travelers Rest, South Carolina, an outer town in the Greenville metropolitan area.
Unlike other famous country musicians, Tippin achieved fame later in life. Initially, he spent his time in several odd jobs, from piloting to plumbing. In his late 20s, his career in country music began when he became a staff writer with Acuff-Rose, a music publishing company in Nashville.
Tippin was discovered in 1990 and netted a recording contract. This blossomed into success in 1991, when—after a connection with the legendary Bob Hope—his song “You’ve Got to Stand Up for Something” achieved meteoric success amidst the onset of the First Gulf War.
Since then, Tippin has continued to release successful working-class anthems, including “That’s as Close as I’ll Get to Loving You” and “Kiss This.”
3. Josh Turner
Transitioning firmly into Generation X, we can find the next South Carolina country musician on our list, Josh Turner.
Turner hails from Hannah, South Carolina, a small community in the northeast of the state. During his time in Hannah, Turner became versed in gospel music, which would influence his professional career.
After studying at the local Francis Marion University, Turner debuted in the Grand Ole Opry with the smash hit “Long Black Train.” Later, he expanded his success with “Your Man,” “Would You Go with Me,” and “Why Don’t We Just Dance.”
Turner’s success culminated in 2007 when he was nominated for two Grammys and four Country Music Association awards.
Additionally, our third singer stands out on this list as an influential gospel singer and has found success with songs like “Me and God” and the album I Serve a Savior.
4. Lee Brice
Coming in at number four on our list is Lee Brice. Born in Sumter, South Carolina, in the heart of the Midlands region, country music was in Brice’s family from the beginning—his brother was a contestant on CMT’s Can You Duet, and Brice himself won several youth competitions with his singing and songwriting prowess.
After an undergraduate career at South Carolina’s Clemson University, Brice became a professional songwriter, achieving quick success by co-writing Garth Brook’s chart-topping single “More Than a Memory.”
From there, Brice began a solo career of his own, releasing five studio albums and smash hits like “Love Like Crazy” and “I Drive Your Truck.” With five CMA nominations and one win under his belt, it’s clear that Brice will continue to blaze a bold path for South Carolina country music.
5. Bill Anderson
Also known as Whispering Bill for his soft vocal style, Bill Anderson is a legend in the annals of mid-twentieth-century country music.
His childhood was split between South Carolina and another powerhouse country music state: while he was born in Columbia, South Carolina, he spent much of his upbringing in Decatur, Georgia.
Anderson began his country music career as a songwriter, penning hits like “City Lights,” but he soon moved on to a successful career as a performer with hits like “Still,” “Love is a Sometimes Thing,” and “World of Make Believe.”
In the many decades of his career, Anderson has accrued acclaim for his versatility and raw talent. If induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone’s “100 Greatest Country Musicians” is any indication, this fame is more than earned.
6. Shawnee Smith
Our penultimate singer, Shawnee Smith, has a far less conventional journey to country music stardom than the other entries on this list. She first began as an actress, which only recently led her to country music.
While she was born in Orangeburg, South Carolina, Smith’s family relocated to Van Nuys, California, when she was an infant. In high school, Smith took up a career in acting, first appearing in 1982’s Annie.
After two decades of bit parts in horror and science fiction films, Smith broke into the mainstream by co-starring in the sitcom Becker. Subsequently, her stardom ballooned with her appearances in the first six Saw films.
Amidst her success as a Hollywood scream queen, however, Smith found the time to start a country music group: she was one half of Smith & Pyle, a duo featuring Smith and comedy actress Missi Pyle.
Although Smith & Pyle only released two studio albums before disbanding, Smith has nonetheless made her mark as one of the most colorful South Carolinian country musicians.
7. Linda Martell
The final artist on our list is South Carolinian country music legend Linda Martell.
Born in Leesville, South Carolina, to a sharecropper family, Martell was raised in a rich musical environment, not just honing her talents in gospel music, but also becoming a devotee of the legendary Hank Williams.
After a middling career in an R&B trio, Martell was discovered singing country music on an air force base and was quickly signed by record producer Shelby Singleton.
Although she released just one studio album, she also recorded smash hits like “Color Him Father,” “Before the Next Teardrop Falls,” and “Bad Case of the Blues.”
In the early 1970s, Martell became the first black woman to play at the Grand Ole Opry, immortalizing herself as a pioneer in the genre.
Summing Up Our List of Famous South Carolinian Country Singers
Although South Carolina isn’t as fertile ground for country musicians as its neighbors Tennessee, Georgia, or North Caroline, the state has no shortage of talented and trailblazing musicians.
This list, however, is far from complete. Did we miss one of your favorite South Carolinian country singers? Let us know so we can add them!