13 Of The Most Famous Country Singers Of The ’50s

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

The 1950s were a great decade for music. Music lovers often associate it with the rise of rock and roll and the birth of so many iconic artists. When it comes to the country genre, the decade was particularly successful too.

The country artists of the 1950s brought exciting elements to the genre. Some of these musicians are still among the most popular country artists in the 2020s.

Read on as we take a look at the lives and careers of 13 of the most famous country singers of the ’50s.

Related: Read our list of top country artists here.

1. Johnny Cash

First on our list is Johnny Cash. The legacy of this singer-songwriter is impenetrable. Even decades after his death, he still has the respect of millions of music fans around the world.

Cash rose to fame in the middle of the 1950s despite the hardships he faced while growing up during the Great Depression.

In 1956, he recorded one of his most influential hits, “I Walk the Line.” The song skyrocketed to the top of the country charts. Since then, literally hundreds of artists in every genre have since covered the epic proclamation of love.

He also released “There You Go,” “Ballad of a Teenage Queen,” and “Guess Things Happen That Way,” all of which were #1 hits in the US country charts in the ’50s.

Music fans everywhere will never forget Johnny Cash’s impact on the country genre and the industry altogether.

Related: See this post for more country singers with deep voices.

2. Patsy Cline

A list of the most famous country singers of the 1950s would be remiss not to include Patsy Cline. She influenced the future of country music. On top of this, she was one of the first country artists to cross over into pop.

By age twenty, she had her sights set on a music career. She had already established herself as a spunky and respectable performer, so she turned quite a few heads on her climb to fame. One of Cline’s top-charting songs from the 1950s is “Walkin’ After Midnight.”

The fruits of her labor are well-preserved. Her influence is evident in today’s music, and she holds a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame.

3. Hank Williams 

Although he passed away in 1953, Hank Williams‘s work that he released in the 1950s cemented his status as a country music icon. In fact, the highest peak of his career was from 1950 to 1951.

He had a strew of #1 hits in the 1950s with “Why Don’t You Love Me” and “Moanin’ the Blues.” “Hey, Good Lookin’” is another tune that the public instantly loved, and “Cold, Cold Heart” is a fan favorite too.

However, some of his biggest hits were released after his death. “Your Cheatin’ Heart,” released in 1953, is a popular song that resonates with heartbroken people everywhere.

In 1987, he was posthumously awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and later in 2010, he received a Pulitzer Prize for his contribution to country music.

Related: See our list of other Alabama country singers here.

4. Marty Robbins

Country Music Hall of Famer Marty Robbins released some of his best music in the 1950s. The artist showed his versatility through his music career and acting career. When it came to country music, he brought his unique flair.

1957 was one of his peak years when he released “A White Sport Coat (And a Pink Carnation),” “The Story of My Life,” and “The Hanging Tree.”

In 1959, he released a #1 hit, “El Paso,” which gained Robbin a Grammy Award. The song is a tribute to the city that shares its name. The tune features a Spanish guitar, giving it a distinctive edge that has made the single one of the artist’s most iconic works.

Related: Read more about famous male country artists here.

5. Johnny Horton

Our next singer, Johnny Horton, has his mother to thank for teaching him how to make music. In the 1950s, he was able to turn his love for music into a flourishing career.

When Horton passed away in 1960, his career had just begun to take off. He covered the songs “When It’s Springtime in Alaska” and “The Battle of New Orleans.” He chose these tunes because they focused on story-telling. Sure enough, fans loved them, and he soon reached the top of the charts.

Unfortunately, the world never got to see how the rest of his career would have played out. On November 5, 1960, Horton and his friends were in car accident. His friends survived, but sadly, Horton didn’t. Still, his music’s impact on the industry shows just how talented he was.

6. Ray Price

Well-known for using the 4/4 beat instead of 2/4 in country music—also called the Ray Price beat—Ray Price joined the Country Music Hall of Fame in the mid-1990s, but his music career was soaring in the 1950s.

A native Texan, Price has Hank Williams to thank for kickstarting his music career in 1951. The musicians wrote “Weary Blues (From Waiting)” together.

In 1956, once his career was afloat, the artist released the hit song “Crazy Arms.” This record is his most well-known tune to date.

Price passed away in 2012, yet his work in the ’50s lives on in the hearts of country fans.

7. Don Gibson

One of the most famous songwriters in country music history is Don Gibson. The artist was nothing if not prolific. In his active years as a singer, he recorded 513 songs.

Three of Gibson’s most iconic works are “Sweet Dreams,” “Oh Lonesome Me,” and “I Can’t Stop Loving You.” These songs all came out from 1955 to 1957, and they remain some of the most respected works to ever grace the country genre.

Even after Gibson retired as a singer, he continued to write music. The musician lived to see the turn of the century, passing away in 2003.

8. Tennessee Ernie Ford

Not many artists can say that they have not one but three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Tennessee Ernie Ford can. Ford has starred in radio, records, and television—and with good reason.

In the 1950s, he sang his version of the classic country song “Sixteen Tons.” To this day, the masses favor his rendition. He has won Grammy awards for his own songs, had several Platinum albums, and even has a spot in the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

The artist has multitudes to his work, but his career reached a peak with his 1950s country music.

9. Patti Page

Oklahoma native Clara Ann Fowler, better known as Patti Page, is famous for her contributions to country music in the 1950s. She even earned the nickname the Singing Rage.

In 1950, she recorded her hit song “Tennessee Waltz.” Tennessee residents might recognize this tune as, in the 1960s, the song was still so popular that the Tennessee government made Page’s tune the official state song.

Page has her name on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and the Country Music Walk of Fame in Nashville, allowing her legacy to live well past the 1950s.

Related: Check out our post on famous female singers of the 1950s.

10. Kitty Wells

For all the records she released in the 1950s, Kitty Wells made it into the Country Music Hall of Fame. A born and bred country girl, one of her most notable works is “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.”

A few of Wells’s other tunes from the ’50s include “One by One,” “Making Believe,” and “Amigo’s Guitar.” Her work was known for being very emotional.

The heartfelt sentiment in Wells’s songs have stood the test of time, as her work remains highly revered today.

11. George Jones

Next up, we have George Jones, who was born in East Texas, the perfect landscape for his country music career to get its start. He first charted with his single “Why, Baby, Why” in 1955.

This song was not the only hit that 1955 saw from George Jones. His song “White Lightning” is one of the best country songs from that year. The tune is about moonshine, a drink that country folks, in particular, are all too familiar with.

After winning a few Grammy awards throughout his career, George Jones earned his spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992.

12. Hank Snow

Penultimate on our list, we have Hank Snow, who is a Canadian country singer that thrived during the 1950s. He got his start in the year at the start of the decade with his hit single “I’m Moving On.”

Snow did not have the easiest upbringing. He was on the receiving end of multiple abuse from his stepfather. He turned to music to escape from the real world. Eventually, music became the center of his world—he helped spread Canadian country and folk music across the globe.

The musician passed away in 1999, but his spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame ensures that future generations will never forget his music.

13. Bill Monroe

American country singer Bill Monroe is known as the Father of Bluegrass, with bluegrass being a derivative of country music. This is a big title to live up to, and Monroe does so wonderfully.

“Roane County Prison,” “I’ll Meet You in the Morning,” and “A Beautiful Life” are a few of Monroe’s biggest hits in the 1950s. The artist is not just known for singing, though. He is well-regarded for playing the mandolin in addition to his vocals.

As a Country Music Hall of Famer, his music made strides in the industry. These strides were especially prominent in the ’50s when more bluegrass groups began to emerge with Monroe’s influence.

Summing Up Our List Of 1950s Country Singers

The 1950s yielded massive inspiration in the country genre. Artists like Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline reached the peak of their stardom, and country music was all the better for it.

The most famous country songs to come out of the decade are still around today. The aftermath of the 1950s country scene includes an assortment of notorious tunes and influences for country artists all over the world.

However, this list is only just the tip of some of the amazing vocalists working in this decade. Who do you think we missed off? Let us know and we’ll add them in!

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.