Country music has evolved since its inception in the 1920s. We know it for its ballads that celebrate American life and stories of hardship and loss. Its harmonies are created by instruments such as banjos, fiddles, and guitars.
Did you know that in the US in 2009, this genre was the most listened-to during the evening commute? And it was the second most popular in the morning commute. That’s proof of the popularity of country music.
And country music will not be what it is today without the artists, musicians, and singers. Let’s take a look at the lives and careers of 31 of the greatest and most famous male country singers of all time. Enjoy reading!
Related: The most well-known country singers of all time.
1. Garth Brooks
The reigning and leading male country music artist today is Garth Brooks. With over 170 million albums sold, he is one of the world’s best-selling artists. He became popular for integrating elements of pop and rock into the country genre.
Brooks signed with Capitol Records in 1988 and had his first #1 hit in 1989 with “If Tomorrow Never Comes.” This was only the beginning of a three-decade career that produced over 20 #1 singles.
Some of his popular songs include “The Dance,” “That Summer,” and “Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old).”
One of Brooks’ distinctions is being the only music artist to release nine albums that were all Diamond-certified by the RIAA. He is also the recipient of various accolades such as two Grammy Awards and 17 American Music Awards. In 2011, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and into the Country Music Hall of Fame the following year.
2. George Strait
Being called the “King of Country Music” by music critics attests to the influence George Strait has on the country genre. At the height of his career, he was considered the pioneer of the neotraditional country style. He was also known for his cowboy image.
Strait has had 33 platinum or multi-platinum records, more than any other country artist, and third overall behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley. He is the only artist to have a Top 10 hit every year for three decades.
Some of his most successful songs are “Fool Hearted Memory,” “Amarillo by Morning,” and “Ace in the Hole.”
Strait has the most #1 albums and singles, and even gold, platinum, and multiplatinum albums in the history of country music. He has sold over 120 million records worldwide.
3. Kenny Rogers
Another very successful male country music artist is the late singer-songwriter, Kenny Rogers. He is one of the best-selling artists of all time selling more than 120 million records worldwide.
Though he was very popular as a country artist, his career spanned other genres such as jazz, pop, rock, and folk. More than 120 of his singles across genres charted and topped the country and pop album charts.
He was particularly known for the singles “Lucille,” “Coward of the County,” and “Lady,” all of which topped the charts. He also worked with some successful artists including Dottie West, Km Carnes, and Sheena Easton. In 2003, he received a lifetime achievement award for a career that spanned six decades.
4. Tim McGraw
One of the all-time greats, Tim McGraw, has been consistently releasing top hits for the past three decades and counting. Throughout his career, he sold more than 90 million records worldwide.
McGraw started playing guitar in college, and in 1989 he moved to Nashville. He played in a bar until he was discovered and signed by Curb Records in 1990.
McGraw’s self-titled debut album was released in 1993, but it was not as successful as he had hoped it would be. However, his second album, Not a Moment Too Soon, went triple platinum and propelled him to country stardom.
McGraw has been wildly successful since, churning out 17 albums and 65 singles, 25 of which topped the Hot Country Songs or Country Airplay charts. Some of these successful singles include “It’s Your Love,” “Just to See You Smile,” and “Live Like You Were Dying.” These were the top country songs of 1997, 1998, and 2004, respectively.
5. Johnny Cash
Reigning during the mid-1950s is singer-songwriter Johnny Cash. Selling more than 90 million records worldwide, he is indisputably one of the most influential country musicians of all time.
As a boy growing up in Arkansas, Cash knew he wanted to be a musician. He joined the Air Force and later become an appliance salesman before recording his first single in 1955.
When “Cry Cry Cry” became a #14 hit, Cash left his sales job and recorded “Folsom Prison Blues” and “I Walk the Line,” quickly propelling him to fame.
In 1969, Cash became the best-selling recording artist and produced music until he died in 2003. He was inducted into the Country Music, Rock and Roll, and Gospel Music Halls of Fame.
6. Luke Bryan
With 75 million records sold worldwide, it’s easy to see why Luke Bryan is one of the world’s best-selling music artists. In 15 years, he has released seven studio albums, seven compilation albums, and eight extended plays. His albums produced 30 #1 hits.
Bryan began his career as a songwriter. After writing and co-writing many successful songs, including Billy Currington’s “Good Directions,” Bryan began his singing career. His first single, “All My Friends Say,” made it to #5 on the Billboard charts.
Bryan continues to write and record hit after hit, including “Do I,” “I Don’t Want This Night to End”, and “Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye.”
The Academy of Country Music Awards and the Country Music Association awarded him “Entertainer of the Year” five times.
7. Alan Jackson
Born in Newnan, Georgia, Alan Jackson worked odd jobs such as a forklift driver and shoe salesman before he ever considered a career in music.
In 1985, Jackson, who played with a local band, moved to Nashville to pursue a country music career. By 1990, he had signed with Arista Records and released his first album, Here in the Real World, which contained three #1 hits.
With his good looks and his throwback musical style, Jackson quickly grew to fame as the newest heartthrob of country music. He released popular songs such as “She’s Got the Rhythm (And I Got the Blues)” and “Chattahoochee.”
Throughout his career, he released 21 albums, selling more than 75 million records worldwide. He won two Grammy Awards, 17 ACM Awards, and 16 CMA Awards, among others. He was an inductee of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
8. Hank Williams, Jr.
Music ran in the Williams household. Hank Williams, Jr. is the son of country music star Hank Williams and the father of musicians Holly Williams and Hank Williams III, and the grandfather of country music singer Coleman Williams.
His father died of a drug and alcohol overdose when he was only three years old. At only eight years old, Williams began his musical career, primarily singing his father’s songs. Trying to break out of his father’s shadow, he became well-known for his “outlaw” style of country music.
Williams became a success in his own right and received various accolades and distinctions. He gained prominence throughout the 1980s, releasing 56 studio albums and 25 compilation albums. Out of 109 singles, eleven topped the charts in the US or Canada.
Throughout his career, Williams sold more than 70 million records worldwide. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2020.
9. Glenn Campbell
The 1960s and the 1970s witnessed the rise to fame of country singer Glen Campbell. Following his stint with the group The Wrecking Crew, Campbell went on a solo career that spanned five decades.
In those years, he released 12 gold albums, four platinum albums, and a double-platinum album, selling over 45 million records. Some of his hit singles are “Universal Soldier,” “Gentle on My Mind,” “Wichita Lineman,” and “Southern Nights.”
Eighty of Campbell’s songs made it into either the Billboard Country Chart, Billboard Hot100, or Adult Contemporary Chart. Twenty-nine of these were in the Top 10, of which nine were on the top of at least one of those charts.
10. Conway Twitty
Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, Conway Twitty is one of the most successful country music artists. He had his career beginnings in rockabilly before transitioning to country music, eventually selling more than 50 million records.
Such was his popularity that the comedian Jerry Clower dubbed him “The High Priest of Country Music.” He released songs that became hits such as “Hello Darlin’,” “Linda on My Mind,” and “Lead Me On.”
Throughout his career, Twitty dominated the Hot Country Songs chart 40 times. He held this record for 20 years until George Strait displaced him. Twitty also penned 11 of his Hot Country songs chart-topping hits.
11. Willie Nelson
One of the most influential figures of the progressive and outlaw country subgenres during the late 1960s is Willie Nelson. Active since the 1950s, he had sold over 40 million records worldwide.
Nelson had a long career, but it was slow to start. Nevertheless, in 1973, he joined Atlantic Records playing outlaw country, and became the label’s first country artist.
After switching to Columbia Records, he released the popular album Red Headed Stranger. One of its singles was Nelson’s cover of “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” which would be his first #1 hit as a singer.
Nelson continued to release hit singles, including “Always On My Mind” and “On the Road Again,” both of which became classics.
Nelson was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993. Throughout his career, he won 15 Grammy Awards, eight American Music Awards, and 10 CMA Awards.
12. Toby Keith
The country singer-songwriter Toby Keith is up on our list. With a successful career starting in the early 1990s, he has become a legendary country music artist.
Keith’s music career officially began with the release of his debut single, “Should’ve Been a Cowboy.” It topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs and became the most-played country song of the 1990s after more than three million spins on radio.
Keith’s first four albums each gained Gold certification or higher, and his success only grew. His next three albums, Pull My Chain, Unleashed, and Shock’n Y’all all went four times Platinum.
Keith has released 21 studio albums to date, selling over 40 million records worldwide. He had 20 #1 hits and an additional 21 top-ten hits.
13. Waylon Jennings
One of the pioneers of the outlaw movement in country music is Waylon Jennings. Hailing from Texas, he became an influential figure in the country music scene.
Under the label, RCA Victor, Jennings released critically acclaimed albums. These include Lonesome, On’ry and Mean and Honky Tonk Heroes. More successful albums followed such as Dreaming My Dreams and Are You Ready for the Country. He released the popular songs “Luckenback, Texas” and “Good Ol’ Boys.”
For his contributions to country music, Jennings received various accolades. Many consider him one of the innovators of the subgenre progressive country. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001.
14. John Denver
Known for the classic “Take Me Home, Country Roads” is the American singer-songwriter John Denver. Born Henry John Deutschendorf Jr., Denver left a lasting impact from his almost three decades in the music industry.
Denver’s contribution to music cannot be emphasized enough. Throughout his career, he sold more than 33 million records and released about 300 songs. Two hundred of these were his own compositions. Many of his albums and singles were certified Gold and Platinum by the RIAA.
Some of his most successful songs include “Annie’s Song,” “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy.” All of these were #1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition, his albums Back Home Again, Windsong, and John Denver’s Greatest Hits were best sellers.
15. Kenny Chesney
Tennessee-born Kenny Chesney has had a wildly successful career beginning in 1992. With over two decades in the industry, he has already released more than 20 albums and more than 40 Top 10 singles. Of these, 32 are chart-toppers.
Chesney is known for his beach-inspired sound and is one of the prominent figures in the country genre. Some of his hits that performed well in the charts are “The Good Stuff,” “Don’t Blink,” and “She’s Got It All.”
Chesney earned the ACM’s Entertainer of the Year award for four consecutive years from 2005 through 2008. He also garnered six Grammy Award nominations. With more than 30 million records sold worldwide, he is one of the most famous artists in country music.
16. Vince Gill
American country singer Vince Gill flourished as a member of the country rock band Pure Prairie League. However, he also found success as a solo artist starting in 1983.
Gill is such a talented singer and musician that he is a sought-after duet partner and vocalist. He worked with the likes of Bonnie Tyler, Kelly Clarkson, and the Eagles, among others.
What made Gill successful is the combination of his electric and acoustic guitar playing, a soulful tenor voice, and his excellent songwriting. By 2018, he has already won 22 Grammy Awards and 14 CMA Awards.
He was also inducted into four Halls of Fame: the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
17. Dwight Yoakam
Another influential singer in the history of country music is the Kentucky-born Dwight Yoakam. His music draws inspiration from neotraditional country, honky-tonk, bluegrass music, country rock, and rockabilly.
Throughout his career, he has released 13 studio albums, with worldwide sales of over 25 million. His first three albums all topped the Billboard Top Country Albums. His most commercially successful album was This Time (1993), which RIAA certified triple-platinum.
Some of his most successful singles are “Streets of Bakersfield” and “I Sang Dixie,” both of which were chart-toppers. In his career, he won two Grammy Awards and an Academy of Country Music award.
Yoakam has not released an album since 2016. However, he continued touring with the likes of Lucinda Williams and Steve Earle.
18. Randy Travis
Music can do miracles. Not only did it save Randy Travis from a life of trouble. It also set him on a path that would see him become a country music star and an influential figure in country music.
Following the release of his debut album, Storms of Life, which sold over four million copies, he became a frontrunner for the resurgence of “pure” traditional country.
Between 1978 and 2020, Travis released 23 albums, selling over 25 million copies. Fifty of his singles appeared on the Billboard Hot Country Song, of which 16 dominated the #1 position. One of his most successful albums is Always and Forever, which remained #1 on the country charts for a record 43 weeks.
Throughout his career, Travis won seven Grammy Awards, 11 ACM Awards, and six CMA Awards, among others. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2016.
19. Keith Urban
Born in New Zealand, Keith Lionel Urbahn, known professionally as Keith Urban, began his music career in Australia. He grew up with his parents encouraging him to learn instruments such as ukulele and guitar.
His self-titled debut album came out in 1990 but only in Australia (it was released worldwide in 2005). In 1992, Urban moved to Tennessee, but it wasn’t until 1999 that he released his American self-titled album. It gave him his first song to make the Hot Country Songs chart with “But for the Grace of God.”
“Somebody Like You,” from his second album Golden Road, was named the biggest country hit of the 2000s.
Urban continues his successful career with 11 studio albums, 18 #1 singles, and numerous awards in Australia and the US. Throughout his career, he sold more than 17 million records worldwide.
20. Jason Aldean
Our next country singer on the list is Jason Aldean. He has enjoyed success since his career began in 2005 when he won the ACM award for Top New Male Vocalist.
But it had not been an easy start for Aldean. He had moved to Nashville early in his career and twice signed with a label only to be dropped before recording. He struggled for several years before signing with Broken Bow Records in 2005.
Since then, Aldean has won many more awards, including Artist of the Year, Entertainer of the Year, and the ACM Dick Clark Artist of the Decade Award.
Aldean has released 11 studio albums and 38 singles, of which 27 hit #1 on either the Hot Country Songs or Country Airplay charts. Some of his most famous and successful singles include “She’s Country,” “The Truth,” and “Tonight Looks Good on You.”
21. Brad Paisley
Country singer Brad Paisley has been performing nearly his entire life. A member of the Grand Ole Opry, he has earned three Grammys and numerous other awards.
Paisley began playing guitar at age eight. By third grade, he was booking gigs all over town at events and parties.
When he played at a local Rotary Club meeting while still in junior high, the program director of a radio station invited him to be a guest on Jamboree USA. Paisley became part of the show’s weekly lineup for eight years and was the youngest person ever inducted into the Jamboree USA Hall of Fame.
Paisley attended Belmont University in Nashville on a fully paid ASCAP scholarship before releasing his debut single less than a year after graduation.
Paisley has since released 11 studio albums, all Gold certified or higher. He had 35 Top 10 singles on the Country Airplay chart. Twenty of these reached #1. In his career, he has sold more than 11 million records worldwide.
22. Trace Adkins
Coming up next is Trace Adkins, who is known for his bass-baritone singing voice. His distinctive sound and relatable songs have captivated audiences around the world.
Known for hits such as “(This Ain’t) No Thinkin’ Thing,” “Ladies Love Country Boys,” and “You’re Gonna Miss This,” Adkins rose to fame in the late 1990s.
With a career that spanned several decades, Adkins released 12 studio albums and six greatest hits albums. His best-selling album is 2005’s Songs About Me, which was certified two times Platinum by the RIAA.
In addition, 37 out of 40 singles were in the Top 40 of the Billboard country charts. Four of these were #1 hits. So far, Adkins has sold more than 11 million records worldwide.
23. Blake Shelton
One of the biggest country stars of today is singer and television personality, Blake Shelton. He grew up in Ada, Oklahoma, and always knew he wanted to be a musician. He began writing songs at 15 and moved to Nashville at 17.
Shortly after he arrived in Nashville, Shelton signed a recording contract, and in 2001 he released his first single, “Austin.” The song was #1 on Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks charts for five weeks. His self-titled debut album, meanwhile, was on the Top 40 charts for 70 weeks.
Blake never lost steam and has continued recording hit after hit. He has won numerous awards, been nominated for nine Grammys, and is now well known as a coach on The Voice. Throughout his career, he has sold more than 10 million records worldwide.
24. Chris Stapleton
One of the most talented music artists out there is Chris Stapleton, who had his start in Nashville in 2001 as a songwriter. He has written or co-written over 170 songs, six of which have been #1 country hits.
Notable songs Stapleton has written include Josh Turner’s “Your Man,” Luke Bryan’s “Drink a Beer,” and Kenny Chesney’s “Never Wanted Nothing More.”
Stapleton sang lead in two bands before going solo in 2015. His debut album, Traveller, reached #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and went four times platinum.
In addition, he won eight Grammy awards, 10 ACM awards, and 14 CMA awards. ACM named him Artist-Songwriter of the Decade. As of this writing, Stapleton is at #170 on Rolling Stone‘s 200 Greatest Singers of All Time.
25. Luke Combs
He may be relatively new to the country music scene, but Luke Combs has already made a big impression by selling almost nine million records worldwide.
Combs has been performing since he was a child. While still in high school, he performed a vocal solo at Carnegie Hall.
He eventually dropped out of college to pursue a music career in Nashville. As of this writing, he has an EP and four studio albums to boot. His 2019 album, What You See is What You Get, reached #1 on the Billboard charts.
Combs also earned three Grammy nominations, four ACM Awards, and six CMA Awards. He won CMA’s Entertainer of the Year awards in 2021 and 2022.
26. Eric Church
Some country music artists began young, such as Eric Church. He began playing guitar and writing songs at age 13. By the end of high school, he was playing gigs at local bars.
Church earned a degree in marketing from Appalachian State University but ultimately decided he wanted to pursue music professionally and moved to Nashville.
In 2006, Church’s debut album, Sinners Like Me, gave him three Top 20 hits. And in 2007, his second album, Carolina, gave him his first two Top 10 hits.
His third album, Chief, propelled him to stardom with his first #1 hits, “Drink in My Hand” and “Springsteen.”
Church continues to produce chart-toppers and has released several studio albums that sold more than eight million records worldwide.
27. George Jones
Dubbed “The Rolls-Royce of Country Music” is George Jones, a legendary American country singer-songwriter. With more than five decades in his career, he achieved international fame and is one of the greatest country singers of all time.
No wonder, though, as he had more than 160 singles that charted beginning in 1955 until his death in 2013. Thirteen of his songs were #1 hits. He is best known for the songs “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “White Lightning,” and “The Grand Tour.”
His contribution to country music was given accolades and awards. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. Many musicians also looked at him as an inspiration, such as Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, and Gram Parsons.
28. Kris Kristofferson
The late 1960s saw the rise to fame of Kris Kristofferson in country music. Like others on this list, his life and career are unparalleled, leaving his mark on the music industry.
Kristofferson began as a songwriter, penning hit songs such as “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and “Bobby McGee.” He wrote songs that charted and were performed by various artists such as Roy Drusky, Ray Stevens, and Jerry Lee Lewis, among others. His solo career took flight after Johnny Cash introduced him at the Newport Folk Festival.
In his career, he won three Grammys from 13 nominations. In 2014, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award. In addition, he won three CMA Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and two ACM Awards.
29. Merle Haggard
Born toward the end of the Great Depression, it was not a good start for Merle Haggard. His childhood was marked by troubles that got him into prison. However, he is proof that anyone can turn his life around. Because that was just what he did, eventually becoming a pivotal figure in country music.
Haggard sold more than six million records worldwide, proof of his dedication to his craft. He put 38 singles on the country charts that were #1 hits. Some of his most successful songs include “Mama Tried,” “Okie From Muskogee,” and “If We Make It Through December.”
He also received various awards for his contributions to music, such as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a BMI Icon Award. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame.
30. Kane Brown
One of the newest faces in country music is Kane Brown. His career began on social media, where he gained a huge following by posting videos of himself singing covers of country songs.
When Brown posted a clip of his first original song, “Used to Love You Sober,” it gained a million views in three hours. He subsequently raised money on Kickstarter to produce his first EP, Closer, in 2015. In 2018, his second album, Experiment, hit #1 on the Billboard 200.
In 2021, Brown made waves by being the first black person to win ACM’s Video of the Year award. In the same year, he was listed in Time‘s list of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Related: More famous black country singers.
31. Roy Acuff
Last but definitely not least is Roy Acuff, dubbed the “King of Country Music.” He was credited with helping move the genre from a string band format to a singer-based one.
His career began in the 1930s and he became known for being the singer and fiddler of the Smoky Mountain Boys. The band’s distinctive sound came from the combination of Acuff’s clear vocals and another member’s dobro playing and backing vocals.
Outside of performing, Acuff co-founded Acuff-Rose Music with songwriter Fred Rose. This country music publishing company signed big names such as Hank Williams and Roy Orbison.
Summing Up Our List Of Famous Male Country Singers
There you have it, all the men who have greatly contributed to what country music is now. Their contributions added to the genre’s rich and diverse sound.
This is by no means a comprehensive list, as there are new artists waiting to be discovered. But if you think we have missed some names and want them to be included, let us know and we’ll add them for you.