With the heart of country music in the Tennessee capital of Nashville (popularly known as Music City), it makes sense that some of country music’s biggest stars would hail from the Volunteer State. After all, the state has a rich heritage and deep love of country music.
Here, we’ve listed 10 of greatest and most famous country singers from Tennessee. Each of these artists has put a unique stamp on the musical genre. One listen to these country music stars, and you’ll better appreciate the state’s musical heritage. Let’s take a look.
1. Dolly Parton
One of country music’s queens is Dolly Parton, who was born in a one-room cabin on the Little Pigeon River near Pittman Center, Tennessee.
A singer-songwriter, actress, businesswoman, and philanthropist, Parton is known for the hits “Jolene,” “Coat of Many Colors,” “Here You Come Again,” and “9 to 5,” the theme of her first foray into film.
Parton, who penned the international hit song “I Will Always Love You,” is a skilled businesswoman, opening Dollywood and Splash Country theme parks.
Her net worth was $500 million in 2017, and she is known for using some of that to support charities, public health, and children’s literacy. In fact, her Dollywood Foundation has distributed more than 150 million books since being set up in 1988.
Related: Read our greatest country singers of all time post here.
2. Kitty Wells
Born Ellen Muriel Deason in Nashville, Tennessee, Kitty Wells grew up around music since her father and uncle were musicians, and her mother was a gospel singer. She and her sisters performed as the Deason Sisters on radio programs in the 1930s.
Wells started touring with her husband, Johnnie Wright, who was half of the duo Johnnie & Jack.
Even though some promoters in the early 1950s didn’t think women could be successful country singers, Wells refused to listen to their skepticism and recorded the chart-topping “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky-Tonk Angels.”
A string of hits followed, earning her the Queen of Country Music title.
3. Chet Atkins
Hailing from Luttrell, Tennessee, Chet Atkins was obsessed with music at an early age and is widely known as the Country Gentleman.
Growing up to be known as Mr. Guitar because of his musical skills, Atkins launched his career in the 1940s.
Atkins received 14 Grammy Awards and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and is in the Country Music Hall of Fame. His hit country songs include “I Know That You Know,” “Country Gentleman,” “Country Style,” and “Show Me the Way to Go Home.”
By the end of his life, he was critically acclaimed and hailed by Rolling Stone as the 21st greatest guitarist of all time.
4. Roy Acuff
Known as the King of Country Music, Roy Acuff was born in Maynardville, Tennessee, in 1903. He grew up around music, as his father was a violinist and Baptist preacher, and his mother was an accomplished pianist.
After leaving the Knoxville Smokies minor league baseball team because of sunstroke during training camp, Acuff focused on music. Success followed with hits such as “Great Speckled Bird,” “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” and “Wabash Cannonball.”
Acuff was a member of the Grand Ole Opry and was presented a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1986.
5. Kenny Chesney
Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, and raised in Luttrell, Kenny Chesney has garnered 12 Country Music Association Awards, including four Entertainer of the Year honors.
Discovered after recording his own demo album, Chesney created the hits “She’s Got It All,” “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” and “You Had Me from Hello,” to name a few.
His 2002 hit “The Good Stuff” was honored as Single of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 2003 and was Billboard‘s country song of the year.
Chesney’s annual income was estimated to be $42 million by Forbes magazine, ranking him among country music’s wealthiest performers.
6. Dottie West
Born in the Tennessee community of Frog Pond near Nashville, Dottie West became famous after recording a song for the Coca-Cola Co., “Country Sunshine,” which became a hit.
West traded innocent gingham dresses for sultry sequined evening gowns and began singing duets such as “Help Me Make It Through the Night” with Kris Kristofferson and “Every Time Two Fools Collide” with Kenny Rogers.
In 1995, four years after her death, CBS broadcast the TV movie Big Dreams and Broken Hearts: The Dottie West Story with help from her daughter, Shellie West. In 2018, she was elected posthumously to the Country Music Hall of Fame.
7. Ronnie McDowell
Hailing from Portland, Tennessee, Ronnie McDowell is best known for his 1977 hit “The King Is Gone,” recorded after the death of the king of rock and roll, Elvis Presley.
A huge fan of Presley, McDowell recorded songs for the TV series Elvis and the made-for-TV movies Elvis and the Beauty Queen and Elvis and Me.
A visual artist as well, McDowell unveiled the painting “The Magic Moment,” depicting Elvis getting his first guitar in 2018, shown in the pilot of his Painting America.
Other chart-topping hits of McDowell’s are “Older Women” and “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation.”
8. Rodney Atkins
Another country icon born in Knoxville, Tennessee, is Rodney Atkins. He started songwriting while he was still in university, and during the mid-nineties, he moved to Nashville to pursue a career in music.
His first hit album was in 2006, If You’re Going Through Hell, which contained four #1 hits: “If You’re Going Through Hell (Before the Devil Even Knows),” “Cleaning This Gun (Come on in, Boy),” and “Watching You.”
In 2013, Atkins married singer Rose Falcon, and the two recorded the album Rod + Rose. The Atkinses are the parents of two sons, born in 2017 and 2019.
9. Rosanne Cash
The eldest daughter of country legend Johnny Cash and his first wife, Rosanne Cash is a country singer-songwriter who touches on other genres ranging from folk music to rock.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, when her famous father was recording for Sun Records, Cash grew up in Los Angeles.
She hit fame under her own name in 1981 with the Gold album Seven-Year Ache and the hit single of the same name. The album King’s Record Shop struck gold for Cash in 1987 as well.
“The Way We Make a Broken Heart,” “If You Change Your Mind,” and “Never Be You” are among the hits that followed.
10. Craig Morgan
Our last singer, Craig Morgan, hailed from Kingston Springs, Tennessee. He served in the US Army and worked as an emergency medical technician and in construction before achieving fame with tracks like the #1 single “That’s What I Love About Sunday,” from the album My Kind of Livin’.
In 2019, Morgan wrote and recorded “The Father, My Son, and the Holy Ghost” about the tragic death of his 19-year-old son, Jerry.
Morgan supports American troops with concerts and USO shows and has raised funds for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.
Summing Up Our List Of Country Artists From Tennessee
Tennessee has a rich musical heritage, with country, blues, and rock and roll all having deep roots in the state. Country music has plenty of stars in its firmament from this state, from the genre’s early pioneers to icons from the 1970s, 1980s, and in 2000 and beyond.
Not only is it the heartbeat of country, but Tennessee is also the birthplace of many singers you likely know and love.
Give these country music stars a listen, and you’ll appreciate the musical contributions of Tennesseans even more.