Country singers in the ’70s contributed significantly to the evolution and popularization of today’s country music. Some singers achieved great success in pop country and traditional country.
Others pioneered outlaw country, a new subgenre that fused older subgenres like honky-tonk and Western with contemporary subgenres like rock and blues.
And in this post, we’re going to take a look at the lives and career highlights of 13 of the greatest and most famous country singers of the ’70s. Let’s get started.
1. Waylon Jennings
First, we have Waylon Jennings, one of the greatest country singers of the decade. He was born in Littlefield, Texas, and started playing the guitar at eight before performing in a band at twelve.
Jennings’s career as a country singer started in the 1950s and ’60s. But in the ’70s, together with Willie Nelson and Hank Williams Jr., Jennings started the Outlaw Country Movement as an attempt to break away from the more traditional Nashville Sound.
In 1972, he released the album Ladies Love Outlaws, which marked his transition to outlaw country. Some of his albums and hits followed, including his #1 singles “This Time” and “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way.”
His album Wanted! The Outlaws was the first country music album to be awarded Platinum certification by the RIAA. Throughout his music career, Jennings sold over 40 million records.
2. Willie Nelson
Next, we have Willie Nelson, another one of the top country singers of the ’70s. Along with Jennings, he was one of the Outlaw Country Movement pioneers who reaped great success in the subgenre.
Born and raised by his grandparents in Abbott, Texas, he began playing guitar at six, wrote his first song, and joined a local band before age ten.
After high school, Nelson joined the Air Force but left due to back problems. He concentrated on music in the 1950s and ’60s. In 1973, he released his first successful outlaw country album, Shotgun Willie. Phases and Stages followed in 1974, with a hit single, “Bloody Mary Morning.”
Other successful albums includes Red Headed Stranger (1975), Wanted! The Outlaws (1976), and Stardust (1978).
His hits during the late ’70s includes “Good Hearted Woman” and “If You’ve Got Money, I’ve Got The Time.” Throughout his career, Nelson has sold over 40 million albums in the US alone and continues to perform in the 2020s.
3. Dolly Parton
Next up is Dolly Parton, who needs no introduction, but she released dozens of albums in the ’70s and had a lot of success.
Born and raised in a low-income family in Pittman Center, Tennessee, she started performing in church at six and played homemade guitar at seven. After graduating in 1964, Parton partnered with Peter Wagoner and released several duets in the ’60s and ’70s.
In 1971, she released “Coat Of Many Colors,” her signature song. Others came after, including “Burning The Midnight Oil,” “My Tennessee Mountain Home,” and one of her most famous hits, “Jolene,” in 1973.
Throughout her career, she has been prolific in both writing and performing. Her album sales show this, having sold over 100 million records globally.
4. Loretta Lynn
Another one of the best country singers of the ’70s is Loretta Lynn. She released many Gold albums and won many awards.
Lynn was born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky, to a coal mining and subsistence farming family. Her music career started after her marriage to Oliver Vanetta “Doolittle” Lynn, who bought her a harmony guitar and encouraged her to play.
She released several hits in the ’60s that focused on women’s issues, but her success in the ’70s is attributed to numerous hits like “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Rated “X,” and “Love Is The Foundation.”
She also partnered with Conway Twitty and released several hits, including “After The Fire Is Gone,” and over her career, she has sold over 45 million albums globally.
5. Conway Twitty
Fifth on the list is Conway Twitty, who was an American singer who started as a pop, rock & roll, and R&B singer. He was born in Friars Point, Coahoma County, in Western Mississippi, but his family later moved to Helena, Arkansas, where he started his first singing group.
Twitty began his career in country music in 1965, but it wasn’t until 1970 that he released his biggest hit, “Hello Darlin’.” He later released several hit duets with Lynn, including “After The Fire Is Gone.”
His 1973 hit song “You’ve Never Been This Far Before” became #1 in the country for a few weeks, and over his career, he went on to sell over 50 million records.
6. Glen Campbell
Born in Billstown near Delight in Arkansas, Glen Campbell was a popular country singer in the ’60s and ’70s, thanks to his multiple hit songs.
His father bought him a guitar at four, and he started practicing. He played music and sang as a youth in the church choir and fairs.
Campbell released several hits in the mid-70s, including “Rhinestone Cowboy,” “Sunflower,” “Southern Nights,” and “Country Boy (You Got Your Feet in L.A.).”
Over his career, he sold over 50 million records worldwide, won several awards as a musician, and hosted a popular TV show called Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour.
7. Dottie West
Born in Nashville, Tennessee, and raised by her mother, Dottie West was one of the most influential and groundbreaking country singers of the ’70s.
West sang and played guitar in her high-school band before launching her career in country music in the late ’60s. She released several solos and teamed with other singers to release some of her best albums.
In 1973, West produced one of her greatest hits, “Country Sunshine,” as an advert for Coca-Cola. In the late ’70s, she partnered with Kenny Rogers and hit duets such as “Every Time Two Fools Collide” (1977) and “All I Ever Needed Is You” (1979).
8. Kenny Rogers
Eighth on the list is Kenny Rogers, who was a singer who succeeded in multiple genres such as pop, rock, jazz, folk, and country. He sold over 100 million records globally, becoming one of the best-selling singers of all time.
He was born in Houston, Texas, and started his career in the ’50s as a rock and roll musician. Rogers partnered with singers such as Dolly Parton, Sheena Easton, and Dottie West, releasing successful duets.
He released several albums in the ’70s that featured several hits. Roger’s major hit “Lucille” (1977) and album The Gambler, with an international hit “Coward of the County,” topped the Billboard chart and sold millions of copies.
9. Charley Pride
Next up, we have the popular country singer Charley Pride, who was also a professional baseball player. He was born in Sledge, Mississippi, and began as a baseball player in the ’50s and played throughout the early ’60s.
Pride released his signature tune “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’” in 1971, which became his greatest hit. Other songs that did well in the decade includes “Mississippi Cotton Picking Delta Town” and “When I Stop Leaving (I’ll Be Gone).”
Pride sold over 70 million records globally, including singles, albums, and compilations.
10. Tammy Wynette
One of the best-selling female singers of the ’60s and ’70s was Tammy Wynette. She was born in Itawamba, Mississippi, and was influenced by her father to pursue a career as a musician and sang at gospel functions and on a radio show in upper elementary school.
Wynette’s career breakthrough as a country singer was in the late ’60s and first half of the ’70s. She released several singles, including “Run Woman Run” (1970), “He Loves Me All The Way” (1970), and “Kids Say The Darndest Things” (1973).
She partnered with George Jones and released several other hit singles. Her song “Til I Can Make It On My Own” and “You And Me” (1976) topped the Billboard chart. Throughout her career, she sold over 30 million records.
11. Charlie Rich
Born to a cotton farming family in Colt, Arkansas, country singer Charlie Rich was another successful country artist in the ’70s.
His parents played music and sang in church, influencing Rich to start a career in music. Rich joined the US Air Force in 1953 but left to concentrate on being a musician.
His career peak in the ’70s was attributed to his first top country album Behind Closed Doors (1973) and a follow-up single “The Most Beautiful Girl” (1974).
He released other hits, including “Rollin’ With The Flow” (1977) and a duet “On My Knees” with Janie Fricke.
12. Merle Haggard
Our penultimate singer Merle Haggard was born and raised in Oildale, California, and started playing guitar at age twelve.
As a youth, he was incarcerated several times due to petty theft. But he turned his life around in the ’60s and launched a successful career in country music.
He released several hits in the ’60s, some of which were his greatest successes in the decade. In 1973, Haggard released “If We Make It Through December,” which was considered a recession anthem.
He partnered with the band the Strangers and released songs like “Grandma Harp” and “The Roots Of My Raising” and went on to sell over 6.4 million albums worldwide.
13. Lynn Anderson
And finally, Lynn Anderson was a renowned country music singer whose career peak started in the late ’60s. She was born in North Dakota, but the family relocated to Sacramento, California, where she spent her childhood.
Anderson’s parents were aspiring songwriters who greatly influenced her to pursue a lifework in music. She performed at a young age and started a successful career in 1966.
Anderson released several hits in the late ’60s before her breakthrough in the ’70s. She released Rose Garden in 1970, the best album on the Billboard country chart.
Other hits such as “How Can I Unlove You” and “You’re My Man” followed in 1971. Anderson sold over 1.7 million albums worldwide.
Summing Up Our List Of Great Country Singers In The ’70s
There you have it, our list of some of the famous country singers in the 1970s. We hope you enjoyed reading it.
While it’s not conclusive, you can listen to songs by each artist above and enjoy the inspiration and nostalgia.
But there are many more that we haven’t included. Who do you think we missed off? Let us know, and we’ll add them in!