Country music has been an important part of the Texan lifestyle since the 19th century and the rise of cowboy culture. As such, it should come as no surprise that Texas has produced many of the greats in the country music scene, too many to fit everyone’s favorites on a single list.
So whether you’re a longtime fan of country music or looking for good artists to start with, read on as we take a look at some of the most famous country singers from Texas.
Related: Check out our post of more great country singers here.
1. George Strait
George Strait came into the world in Poteet and grew up the son of a math teacher. He learned to love British invasion music in the 1960s before discovering country music during a short career in the army.
In 1981, he scored his first country hit, “Unwound,” which rose to number six on the Billboard country charts.
He had signed a one-song deal with MCA Records, so without the success of that song, we may not have heard anything else from Strait, who would go on to be one of the quintessential country artists of all time.
Thousands of subsequent country singers have mimicked his simple look of jeans, a shirt, and a hat. He retired from touring in 2018.
Related: The most famous male country singers of all time.
2. Willie Nelson
Next, we go to Hill County to a small city called Abbott, which gave us one of the 20th century’s greatest songwriters, Willie Nelson.
But before Nelson became the superstar he is today, he was a successful songwriter and musician. He penned several classic country songs for others, including Patsy Cline’s signature hit, “Crazy.”
Over his long career, he’s released nearly 80 studio albums and collaborated with many musicians. He played with The Highwaymen alongside Johnny Cash, Kris Kristopherson, and Waylon Jennings.
Nelson has been an activist on many causes and famously had a run-in with the Internal Revenue Service in the 1990s. He still records and performs regularly.
3. Waylon Jennings
In Littlefield, Waylon Jennings was playing guitar by 12. He did a great deal for outlaw country, popularizing and defining it for his entire career. That career began with the help of another famous Texas musician, Buddy Holly, who produced Jennings’ first single in 1958.
The plane that crashed and killed Holly, Richie Valens, and J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson had originally had Jennings as a passenger, but he gave up his seat to Richardson at the last minute.
By 1965, he’d struck up a lifelong friendship with Johnny Cash and scored his first country hit single, though the Nashville recording industry rubbed him wrong, so he returned to Texas to write and record the way he wanted to. It served him well, as he had a long and storied career.
Related: You might also like our list of the best Texas songs here.
4. George Jones
Born to a poor family in Saratoga, George Jones was one of eight children. The family enjoyed singing and making music together, though they suffered the wrath of their father’s alcoholic rages.
Once the family recognized his musical ability, they sent him to perform on the streets to help make ends meet.
By the end of the 1950s, Jones had strung together four consecutive hit singles. His smooth baritone voice paired well with others, so Jones had several duet hits, one of which was with Tammy Wynette, whom he later married.
Her producer Billy Sherrill helped polish Jones’ sound, and he became one of the biggest country singers of all time.
He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.
5. Don Williams
Even though Don Williams was hugely famous for the song “Tulsa Time,” he was born in Floydada. He started his music career with a folk-pop outfit called the Pozo-Seco Singers, but that fizzled by 1969.
His first solo album debuted in 1972 and spawned three charting singles. Williams went on to have at least one every single year from 1974 to 1991— an impressive feat The Beatles couldn’t match. He totaled 17 number one hits in his career.
He racked up several Academy of Country Music Awards in the 70s and 80s but never took home a Grammy.
6. Larry Gatlin
Alongside brothers, Rudy and Steve, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers made 33 charting records in the 1970s and 80s. Paired with Gatlin’s formidable songwriting skills, their vocal blend propelled the act to great heights.
After being born in Seminole, Gatlin grew up, played football at the University of Houston (he caught a touchdown pass in a game in which the Cougars scored 100 points), and eventually auditioned for a landed a spot with the gospel singing outfit The Imperials.
Dottie West noticed him and recorded a couple of his songs, as did Elvis Presley.
Soon, Gatlin became a country artist in his own right. He performed the lead role in “The Will Rogers Follies” for many years.
7. Gene Autry
Orvon Grover “Gene” Autry, The Singing Cowboy, came into the world near Tioga. He began recording just as the Great Depression hit the United States, but he played covers of Jimmie Rodgers songs and other tunes in the same vein.
Once he broke from that formula with 1931’s “That Silver-Haired Daddy of Mine,” Autry’s star began rising.
He headed for California and was soon a movie star, though he almost always played himself, Gene Autry, a gentle, good-natured cowboy who sings well.
He moved into radio with a CBS radio series, and by 1960, he became part of major league baseball when he bought the Los Angeles Angels.
8. Tanya Tucker
Tanya Tucker hails from Seminole. By the time she was 13 years old, she already had a hit with “Delta Dawn.”
A little more than 20 years later, she had 50 hit singles to her name and stood as one of the few female stars of Outlaw country music.
She (and her horse) had a bit part in the Robert Redford vehicle “Jeremiah Johnson” before singing at a fair in Arizona, catching the ear of Mel Tillis before her demo made its way to Nashville ears.
“Delta Dawn” followed soon after, and she had a string of hits through the end of the 1970s.
After a dry spell with few hits and little radio play, Tucker made something of a comeback. She holds two Grammy awards and has released more than 20 full-length albums.
9. Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers was born in Houston, and he dabbled in many styles before settling into country music. His first few bands played rockabilly, folk, and even a bit of psychedelia with his group The First Edition.
By 1974, he had chosen to leave the group and its moderate success and become a solo country artist. His first few albums spawned hits like “Love Lifted Me,” “Lucille,” and “The Gambler.”
Duets such as “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton brought him huge crossover success, which he followed with a stint as a restaurateur Kenny Rogers Roasters. Rogers joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2013.
10. Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert was born in Longview, the daughter of private detectives who were also musicians. She was drawn to country music as a tween and began writing songs by 17.
Lambert appeared, in 2003, on the USA Network’s competition show “Nashville Star.”
She didn’t win, but her third-place finish led to a record deal and many hits. She continued her solo work even as she joined fellow songwriters Angaleena Pressley and Ashley Monroe to form Pistol Annies, which has had its own successes.
Romantically linked to a couple of country stars, Lambert now lives with her husband, who was a New York City cop, and her three Grammy awards.
11. LeAnn Rimes
Though she was born in Mississippi, Margaret LeAnn Rimes Cibrian moved to Texas with her family at age six. Within three years, she was a veteran performer.
Her talent and experience led to recording “Blue,” her first hit. It made her the youngest person to win a Grammy at the time.
Her output has slowed over the years, but she has appeared in films and written children’s books, both of which she undertook after critics panned her 2002 album “Twisted Angel,” all before her 21st birthday.
12. Lyle Lovett
Hailing from Klein, Lyle Lovett studied journalism at Texas A&M University, which may account for how many of his songs tell stories.
By the mid-1980s, he was gaining recognition as a singer and a songwriter, releasing a self-titled debut album in 1986 to critical and commercial acclaim.
His music isn’t exactly country, but kind of country-adjacent, incorporating folk, rock, jazz, and even gospel elements.
He appeared in a couple of Robert Altman films, and even non-country-music fans learned who he was when he briefly married Julia Roberts.
An avid horseman, Lovett was inducted into the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2012.
13. Lee Ann Womack
Jacksonville native Lee Ann Womack worked as a professional songwriter in the early 1990s before recording her own country albums starting in 1997. She scored a huge crossover hit in 2000 with the treacly ballad “I Hope You Dance.”
Her parents were educators, and her father worked part-time at a radio station, so her exposure to music came early. She studied music at South Plains Junior College and Belmont College in Nashville, though she left just a few credits shy to marry her first husband.
After that ended, Womack focused on songwriting and built an impressive career with country music organizations showering her with awards.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Texan Country Singers
These were some of the most notable ladies and men in country music that have made the genre so popular worldwide.
As the love for country music gets passed from generation to generation, we are bound to enjoy heartfelt voices for years to come.