Cowboys, good ol’ boys, and country gentlemen created powerful personas along with memorable country songs. Some of the country songs written and recorded by these stars are popular country standards today.
Love, family, love of country, good times, and sadness—they’re all experiences we share. Those thoughts, and more, are woven into the lyrics and performances by the country kings we have listed here. So sit back and take a ride back in time to enjoy the best of country music by 11 of the most famous male country singers of the ’80s. Let’s get started.
Related: Check out our list of the top male country singers here.
1. Lee Greenwood
First on our list is Lee Greenwood. He was discovered by country star Mel Tillis’s bandleader and bassist in the late 1970s in Las Vegas, where he worked in casinos as a blackjack dealer by day and a singer by night.
In the ’80s, Greenwood had a string of chart-topping hits, including “I Don’t Mind the Thorns (When You’re the Rose),” “Somebody’s Gonna Love You,” and “Dixie Roads.”
However, though not a #1 hit, Greenwood is probably most well-known for his patriotic hit song “God Bless the USA,” which was released in 1984. To this day, it is a popular song played every Fourth of July.
2. Kenny Rogers
By the time 1980s rolled in, Kenny Rogers was already a household name. He had started his career back in the ’50s. At first he performed in a couple of groups, but his rise to fame began when he started his solo career.
Rogers gained more popularity in the decade thanks to duets such as “Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” with Kim Carnes, “We’ve Got Tonight” with Sheena Easton, and “Islands in the Stream” with Dolly Parton.
He also released several albums during this time, with almost all of them reaching #1 in the US Country charts and certified Platinum, like Gideon, Share Your Love, and Eyes that See in the Dark.
3. George Strait
Known for his signature white cowboy hat, King of Country George Strait hit the country charts in 1981 with “Unwound,” but he didn’t stop there.
In the ’80s alone, Strait released 10 studio album, all but two charted in the US Country charts, but each one was certified Platinum. His single releases were also numerous, and again, nearly all were #1 hits, like “You Look So Good in Love,” “The Chair,” “Ocean Front Property,” and “All My Exes Live in Texas.”
By 1989, Strait was named Country Music Association Entertainer of the Year.
He kept creating hit songs in the decades that followed, eventually breaking Conway Twitty’s record of forty #1 hit singles in 2009.
4. Ronnie Milsap
Almost blind from birth, Ronnie Milsap had a passion for music at an early age. Starting as a session musician and playing with an R&B band, the pianist and singer first became a successful solo act in the 1970s.
By the 1980s, Milsap was hitting adult contemporary and country music charts with hits such as “Smoky Mountain Rain,” “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World,” “Any Day Now,” “She Keeps the Home Fires Burning,” and “(There’s) No Getting Over Me.” The latter landed Milsap a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
In 1985, “Lost in the Fifties Tonight” was named Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music.”
5. Randy Travis
Country music singer, guitarist, and actor Randy Travis was discovered by Elizabeth “Lib” Hatcher when he and his brother won a singing contest in the club she owned.
He gained fame in the 1980s with hit songs “Forever and Ever, Amen,” “On The Other Hand,” “Diggin’ Up Bones,” and “Honky Tonk Moon,” to name a few. In 1988, “Old 8×10” won Travis his second Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance. Travis then moved to a bluesy sound when he recorded “It’s Just a Matter of Time.”
From then on, he continued performing until he suffered a stroke in 2013. By this time, Travis had received 7 Grammys and sold more than 25 million records.
6. Dwight Yoakam
A cowboy hat and tight jeans gave this honky-tonk man his iconic look. Dwight Yoakam first gained fame for what he called “hillbilly music” in the mid-1980s.
At a time when country music began to stray from its roots, Yoakam’s music had a more traditional country sound at the time, making him stand out.
In 1987, Yoakam won a Grammy for Best Country Song for “Guitars, Cadillacs.” The album of the same name won Album of the Year honors from the Academy of Country Music in 1986.
Aside from singing, Yoakam also acts. He has appeared in movies and TV shows.
7. Travis Tritt
Our next singer started writing songs while in high school and never stopped. By the late 1980s, Travis Tritt was under contract with Warner Bros.
Signed to record six singles, he was told he couldn’t record a full-length album unless one of them became a hit. That hit came when he recorded “Country Club” in 1988. That song spent 26 weeks on the charts, peaking at #9.
In the decades that followed, Tritt would win 2 Grammys for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals and 4 awards from the Country Music Association.
8. Vince Gill
First gaining fame as a member of the country-rock band Pure Prairie League in 1979, Vince Gill went on to be a solo country artist, garnering Best New Country Vocalist honors from the Academy of Country Music in 1984.
Gill’s 1984 solo album, Turn Me Loose, included hit songs “Oh Carolina,” “Victim of Life’s Circumstances,” and the title track. His 1989 studio album, When I Call Your Name, peaked at #2 in the US Country charts.
Gill continued recording into the 1990s and beyond, earning a whopping 22 Grammys, and he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
9. Garth Brooks
Country megastar Garth Brooks grew up enjoying rock music, and he gave many of his country songs a rock-and-roll edge. He maybe remembered more for his international hits of the 1990s, but this Oklahoman first charted in 1989 with the #1 hit love song “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”
Another song from his self-titled first album, “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old),” reached #8 on the country charts.
Brooks, like many of the country stars of the 1980s and 1990s, gave his music a pop sound that made many of his hits popular with people who weren’t country fans.
10. John Anderson
The release of John Anderson’s fourth album, Wild & Blue, in 1982 gave him country music stardom. It contained the song “Swingin,’” which landed our singer the New Horizon Award from the Country Music Association.
The song, about sitting with a girl named Charlotte Johnson on her front porch swing, also won Single of the Year honors.
Following his number-one hits in the mid-1980s, Anderson continued recording during the decade, but his albums didn’t reach the same level of success as Wild & Blue until the release of Seminole Wind in 1990.
11. T. G. Sheppard
Born William Browder, our final country singer had become an executive at RCA Records but used the name T. G. Sheppard to record for Melodyland Records so that he wouldn’t jeopardize his day job. Melodyland was a short-lived country label owned by Motown Records.
A country star in the late 1970s, Sheppard had a string of number-one hit songs in the 1980s. These are “Do You Wanna Go to Heaven,” “I Feel Like Loving You Again,” “I Loved ’Em Every One,” “Party Time,” “Only One You,” “Finally,” “War is Hell (on the Home Front, Too),” and “Faking Love.”
Over his career, Sheppard took several hiatus. His latest release was Midnight in Memphis, in 2019.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous 1980s Male Country Singers
The 1980s were a time of patriotism, fun, family, and love, and the songs performed and sometimes written by the decade’s top male performers were the soundtrack of those times.
The decade saw country music stretch its boundaries, and as a result, these country stars also had adult contemporary hits. This made the 1980s some of the most pivotal years in country music, influencing the following decades and the country music we hear today.