Music

The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time  

Ranker Music
9.8k votes 375 voters 4.2k views 209 items

List Rules Vote up the best country musicians who were prominent before 1990.

Here are the greatest classic country artists ever, ranked by fans everywhere. A long list indeed, given that there are many amazing talents in such a rich genre of American music. Featuring famous country western singers and legendary bands, this list of country artists is focused on the classic style of country, not the more "contemporary country" that started in the 80s and has evolved through today. In other words, don't expect to see many modern country artists ranked here. From early pioneers of the genre like Doc Boggs, to 60s country singers, like Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton, to some of the 80s country artists, like Patty Loveless, all the most prominent figures in country music who perform the more classic country and western styles are recognized here.  

Vote up the top male and female classic country singers, as well as classic country bands, and add your favorites if they deserve to be on this list. 

list ordered by
1
Hank Williams is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Hiram King "Hank" Williams, Sr. was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential singers and songwriters of the 20th Century, ...more
2
Patsy Cline is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Virginia Patterson Hensley, known professionally as Patsy Cline, was an American singer. Part of the early 1960s Nashville sound, Cline successfully "crossed over" to pop music. She ...more
3
Merle Haggard is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Merle Ronald Haggard is an American country and Western song writer, singer, guitarist, fiddler, and instrumentalist. Along with Buck Owens, Haggard and his band The Strangers helped create the ...more
4
Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Loretta Lynn, is a multiple gold album American country music singer-songwriter whose work spans more than 50 years. She has received numerous awards and other accolades for her groundbreaking ...more
5
George Jones is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
George Glenn Jones was an American musician, singer and songwriter who achieved international fame for his long list of hit records, including "White Lightning", as well as his ...more
6
Marty Robbins is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Martin David Robinson, known professionally as Marty Robbins, was an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and racing driver. One of the most popular and successful country and ...more
7
Jim Reeves is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
James Travis "Jim" Reeves was an American country and popular music singer-songwriter. With records charting from the 1950s to the 1980s, he became well known as a practitioner of the ...more
8
Waylon Jennings is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Waylon Arnold Jennings was an American singer, songwriter, musician, and actor. Jennings began playing guitar at 8 and began performing at 12 on KVOW radio. His first band was The Texas ...more
9
Tammy Wynette is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Virginia Wynette Pugh, known professionally by her stage name Tammy Wynette, was an American country music singer-songwriter and one of country music's best-known artists and biggest-selling ...more
10
Dolly Parton is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Dolly Rebecca Parton is an American singer-songwriter, instrumentalist, actress, author, and philanthropist, known primarily for her work in country music. Her career began as a child performer ...more
11
Glen Campbell is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Glen Travis Campbell is an American country music singer, guitarist, television host, and occasional actor. He is best known for a series of hits in the 1960s and 1970s, and for hosting a ...more
12
Tanya Tucker is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Tanya Denise Tucker is an American female country music artist who had her first hit, "Delta Dawn", in 1972 at the age of 13. Over the succeeding decades, Tucker became one of the few ...more
13
George Strait is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
George Harvey Strait is an American singer, actor, and music producer known as the "King of Country" and one of the most influential and popular recording artists of all time. He is ...more
14
Alabama is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Alabama is an American country, Southern rock and bluegrass band formed in Fort Payne, Alabama in 1969. The band was founded by Randy Owen and his cousin Teddy Gentry, soon joined by their other ...more
15
Eddy Arnold is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Richard Edward "Eddy" Arnold was an American country music singer who performed for six decades. He was a so-called Nashville sound innovator of the late 1950s, and scored 147 songs on ...more
16
Don Williams is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Don Williams is an American country singer, songwriter and a 2010 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He grew up in Portland, Texas, and graduated in 1958 from Gregory-Portland High ...more
17
Vince Gill is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Vincent Grant "Vince" Gill is an American country singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He has achieved commercial success and fame both as frontman to the country rock band ...more
18
Kitty Wells is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Ellen Muriel Deason, known professionally as Kitty Wells, was an American pioneering female country music singer. She broke down a female barrier in country music with her 1952 hit recording, ...more
19
Buck Owens is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Alvis Edgar Owens, Jr., known professionally as Buck Owens, was an American musician, singer, songwriter and band leader who had 21 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country music charts with his band ...more
20
Kris Kristofferson is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Kristoffer "Kris" Kristofferson is an American singer, songwriter, musician, actor, and former soldier. He is known for writing and recording such hits as "Me and Bobby ...more
21
Dwight Yoakam is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Dwight David Yoakam is an American singer-songwriter, actor and film director, most famous for his pioneering country music. Popular since the early 1980s, he has recorded more than 21 albums ...more
22
Ernest Tubb is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Ernest Dale Tubb, nicknamed the Texas Troubadour, was an American singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of country music. His biggest career hit song, "Walking the Floor Over ...more
23
Ricky Nelson is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Eric Hilliard Nelson – known as Ricky Nelson, later also as Rick Nelson – was an American actor, musician and singer-songwriter. He starred alongside his family in the television series, The ...more
24
Emmylou Harris is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Emmylou Harris is an American singer and songwriter. She has released many popular albums and singles over the course of her career, and as of 2015 she has won 13 Grammys as well as numerous ...more
25
Willie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Willie Hugh Nelson is an American singer-songwriter, musician, guitarist, author, poet, actor, and activist. The critical success of the album Shotgun Willie, combined with the critical and ...more