With the capital 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 Tennessee. After all, the state has a rich heritage and deep love of country music.
Each of these famous country singers from Tennessee has put a unique stamp on the musical genre. One listen to these country music stars from Tennessee, 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 hits such as “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.
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.
Acuff 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 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 hits such as “She’s Got It All,” “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” and “You Had Me from Hello.”
“The Good Stuff” was honored as Single of the Year by the Academy of Country Music in 2003.
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,” that became a hit.
West traded innocent gingham dresses for sultry sequinned 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.
She was elected posthumously to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2018.
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.
His chart-topping hits include “Older Women” and “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation.”
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, McDowell unveiled the painting “The Magic Moment,” depicting Elvis getting his first guitar in 2018, shown in the pilot of “Ronnie McDowell Paints America.”
8. Rodney Atkins
Another country icon born in Knoxville, Tennessee, is Rodney Atkins, famous for his number one 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. His more recent work includes the song “Thank God for You.”
9. Roseanne Cash
The eldest daughter of country star Johnny Cash and his first wife, Roseanne 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.
Cash 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.
“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
Hailing from Kingston Springs, Tennessee, Craig Morgan served in the U.S. Army and worked as an emergency medical technician and in construction before achieving fame with tracks like the number-one 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 Tennessee, 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.