100 Most Popular Country Music Stars

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20. Toby Keith
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 1,083
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 508,988
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 36

Toby Keith was a semi-pro football player before turning to music, releasing his self-titled debut album in 1993, featuring “Should’ve Been a Cowboy,” which hit the top spot on the country charts. A series of honky-tonk-flavored albums and singles followed (including duets with Willie Nelson and Sting), but what made the singer a household name was his controversial 2002 recording “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American”), which garnered an avalanche of publicity when ABC-TV wouldn’t let him perform it on a Fourth of July special.

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19. Dixie Chicks
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 359
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 727,553
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 71

Formed as a bluegrass-oriented band in 1989 by sisters Martie and Emily Erwin and Natalie Maines (daughter of revered pedal steel player and record producer Lloyd Maines), the Dixie Chicks pivoted to more commercial country music in 1998 with their first hits, “There’s Your Trouble” and “Wide Open Spaces.” Their career nearly tanked after in a London concert in 2003 Maines spoke out on stage against the Iraq war and President George W. Bush, sparking a widespread country-music-industry boycott. But their 2006 comeback album, “Taking the Long Way,” and its lead single “Not Ready to Make Nice,” won a total of four Grammys, and the criticism died down.

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18. Dolly Parton
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 647
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 4,814,629
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 36

A country mega-star whose international fame crosses categories, Dolly Parton first recorded at the age of 13. At age 24, she had her first No. 1 country hit, “Joshua” — the first of many efforts to top the country and pop charts. Collaborations with Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris (see No. 68), Ricky Van Shelton (No. 60), and many others followed, as did starring roles in such popular films as “9 to 5” (whose title song became Parton’s first No. 1 pop single) and “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas.” Parton even co-owns her own theme park, Dollywood, in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

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17. Reba McEntire
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 1,021
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 1,686,433
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 38

Reba McEntire is considered to have been country music’s biggest star in the 1980s, with hits like “One Promise Too Late” and “Love Will Find Its Way to You,” but she went on to enjoy crossover success in the pop field as well. In the 2000s, McEntire turned to acting, appearing on Broadway, in films, and on TV (she had her own sitcom, “Reba,” for six seasons), but never gave up country music. Earlier this year, she released “Stronger Than the Truth,” an album hailed as a return to her roots.

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16. Alan Jackson
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 1,148
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 665,768
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 42

One of the biggest country stars of the 1990s, Alan Jackson released his first album at the beginning of the decade, scoring four top-five country hits — one of which, “I’d Love You All Over Again,” made it to No. 1. Many other top-ranked hits ensued, including the Nashville-music-industry satire “Gone Country,” a cover of “It Must Be Love” by Don Williams (No. 59), and the crossover duet with Jimmy Buffett, “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere.”

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15. Merle Haggard
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 982
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 1,115,615
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 51

Merle Haggard emerged from a hardscrabble existence in Depression-era California, where he served time in San Quentin prison, to become a country music legend. Haggard amassed 38 No. 1 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart. His first authored No.1 song was “Branded Man” in 1967, and he churned out hits through the late 1980s. Haggard won two Grammy Awards and was nominated 13 times.

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14. Buck Owens
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 893
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 403,571
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 60

Buck Owens popularized the twangy, electrified Bakersfield sound in the 1960s, when he recorded almost all of his 21 No. 1 Top Country Songs chart. Owens boosted his profile and that of country music as co-host of the primetime variety television show “Hee Haw.” The Texas-born singer influenced generations of country music

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13. Kenny Chesney
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 1,086
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 959,105
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 49

Kenny Chesney is not cut from the old school country mode — he studied marketing at East Tennessee State University and didn’t get into music until he was in college. Once he did, Chesney forged an image as an emotionally frank heartthrob. And he parlayed that into a string of 23 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s country charts. Chesney’s single “How Forever Feels” occupied the top spot for six weeks.

Source: Photo by David Redfern / Redferns

12. Waylon Jennings
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 760
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 1,422,521
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 69

Waylon Jennings personified the outlaw country era, a swaggering, guitar-wielding figure in the 1970s. The Grammy-winning singer from Texas began playing in a band by age 12. By the time he died in 2002, Jennings had recorded 15 chart-toppers on the Hot Country Songs chart, including the “Theme From the Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys)” and two duets with Willie Nelson (see No. 5).

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11. Randy Travis
> No. of weeks on Hot Country chart (all time): 614
> Wikipedia page views (1 yr.): 857,605
> Weeks with an album at No. 1: 80

Randy Travis brought country music back to its roots in the 1980s. He has also sung extensively about his Christian faith. The seven-time Grammy winner has recorded 16 No. 1 hits on the Hot Country Songs chart, with songs like “On the Other Hand” and “Three Wooden Crosses.”