5 Classic Country Singers You Should Know

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You may be able to sing along with every Taylor Swift song, but do you know the country artists who helped shape her sound? Most country singers aren’t shy about crediting their inspirations and influences, but you may not be familiar with the people they name. However, if you’d like to increase your classic country music IQ, it’s worth investigating these five trailblazers.

Patsy Cline

Even though their sounds are different, Patsy Cline was one of the many women who helped pave the way for Taylor Swift to become a success. While she gained fame as a country artist, Cline was also one of the first crossover stars. Her 1956 hit “Walkin’ After Midnight” hit No. 12 on Billboard’s pop music chart and No. 2 on Billboard’s country music chart.

George Jones

Although he toured right up until his death in 2013, many modern fans aren’t familiar with this icon of country music. If you can appreciate classic country, it’s worth listening to hits like “A Good Year for the Roses” and “I Always Get Lucky With You.” In a statement about Jones’ death, Vince Gill said, “There aren’t words in our language to describe the depth of his greatness.”

Johnny Cash

While you’re probably familiar with the Man in Black, can you name any of his earlier songs? Young fans may know Cash from his cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt,” but they should also take the time to listen to his earlier hits. “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues” and other Cash songs influenced dozens of country, rock and alternative singers.

Hank Williams Sr.

If you’re looking for country music’s first superstar, Hank Williams is your man. Williams had a voice with an unmistakable twang and lyrical talents that won him a Pulitzer citation for songwriting. Unfortunately, the country icon was also a pioneer of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, “I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” singer died at the young age of 29 from a heart attack.

Kitty Wells

Female country artists who hit No. 1 on the country charts should tip their cowboy hats to Kitty Wells. She was the first woman who made it to No. 1 with her 1952 hit “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels.” The song not only helped Kitty Wells land a spot on the Grand Ole Opry but proved that a female artist could be financially successful.

Image sources: Patsy Cline Tribute Site, Flickr/Terry Harmon, NPR/Bozeman Media, Wikipedia, Sony