Music

The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time 

Ranker Music
Updated July 13, 2020 17.2k votes 691 voters 9.2k views 211 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
George Strait is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
George Harvey Strait Sr. (born May 18, 1952) is an American country music singer, songwriter, actor, and music producer. George Strait is known as the "King of Country" and is ...more

More George Strait 

The Best George Strait Albums of All Time #79 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #351 of 372 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

2
Willie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Willie Hugh Nelson (born April 29, 1933) is an American singer, songwriter, musician, actor, producer, author, poet, and activist. The critical success of the album Shotgun Willie (1973), ...more

More Willie Nelson 

Insane Willie Nelson Stories That Are 100% True #6 of 225 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #58 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World

3
Hank Williams is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Hiram King "Hank" Williams (September 17, 1923 – January 1, 1953) was an American singer-songwriter and musician. Regarded as one of the most significant and influential American ...more

More Hank Williams 

The Best Hank Williams Songs #239 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #233 of 541 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

4
Merle Haggard is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Merle Ronald Haggard (April 6, 1937 – April 6, 2016) was an American country singer, songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler. Haggard was born in Oildale, California, during the Great Depression. His ...more

More Merle Haggard 

The Best Merle Haggard Albums of All Time #215 of 541 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time #567 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time

5
Dolly Parton is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Dolly Rebecca Parton (born January 19, 1946) is an American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, actress, author, businesswoman, and humanitarian, known primarily for her ...more

More Dolly Parton 

25 Weird And Charming Facts About Dolly Parton #20 of 225 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #7 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World

6
Patsy Cline is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Patsy Cline (born Virginia Patterson Hensley; September 8, 1932 – March 5, 1963) was an American singer. She is considered one of the most influential vocalists of the 20th century and was one ...more

More Patsy Cline 

#257 of 372 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame #73 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #82 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time

7
George Jones is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
George Glenn Jones (September 12, 1931 – April 26, 2013) was an American musician, singer and songwriter. He achieved international fame for his long list of hit records, including his best ...more

More George Jones 

The Best George Jones Albums of All Time #258 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time #127 of 526 Which Artist Would You Bring Back From The Dead To Write One More Song?

8
Waylon Jennings is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Waylon Arnold Jennings (pronounced ; June 15, 1937 – February 13, 2002) was an American singer, songwriter, and musician. In 1958, Buddy Holly arranged Jennings's first recording session, and ...more

More Waylon Jennings 

The Best Waylon Jennings Albums of All Time #535 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #224 of 541 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time

9
Alabama is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Alabama is an American country and Southern rock band formed in Fort Payne, Alabama, in 1969. The band was founded by Randy Owen (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and his cousin Teddy Gentry (bass, ...more

More Alabama 

#576 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #213 of 263 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands #151 of 279 The Greatest American Rock Bands

10
Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Loretta Lynn (née Webb; born April 14, 1932) is an American country music singer-songwriter with multiple gold albums in a career spanning almost 60 years. She is famous for hits such as ...more

More Loretta Lynn 

The Best Loretta Lynn Albums of All Time #52 of 225 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #177 of 372 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

11
Alison Krauss is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Alison Maria Krauss (born July 23, 1971) is an American bluegrass-country singer and musician. She entered the music industry at an early age, winning local contests by the age of 10 and ...more

More Alison Krauss 

The Best Alison Krauss Albums of All Time #151 of 269 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #108 of 316 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years

12
Don Williams is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Donald Ray Williams (May 27, 1939 – September 8, 2017) was an American country singer, songwriter, and 2010 inductee to the Country Music Hall of Fame. He began his solo career in 1971, singing ...more

More Don Williams 

The Best Don Williams Albums of All Time #122 of 526 Which Artist Would You Bring Back From The Dead To Write One More Song? #22 of 291 The Top Country Artists of All Time

13
Marty Robbins is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Marty Robbins
Martin David Robinson (September 26, 1925 – December 8, 1982), known professionally as Marty Robbins, was an American singer, songwriter, actor, multi-instrumentalist, and racing driver. One of ...more

More Marty Robbins 

The Best Marty Robbins Albums of All Time #650 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #384 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time

14
Vince Gill is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Vincent Grant Gill (born April 12, 1957) is an American country singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. He has achieved commercial success and fame both as frontman to the country rock ...more

More Vince Gill 

#193 of 316 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #137 of 541 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time #447 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time

15
Glen Campbell is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Glen Travis Campbell (April 22, 1936 – August 8, 2017) was an American singer, guitarist, songwriter, television host, and actor. He was best known for a series of hit songs in the 1960s and ...more

More Glen Campbell 

The Best Glen Campbell Albums of All Time #262 of 372 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Famelisted on 1970s Christian Pop Artists

16
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Randall Hank Williams (born May 26, 1949), known professionally as Hank Williams Jr., or alternatively as "Bocephus", is an American southern rock singer-songwriter and musician. His ...more

More Hank Williams, Jr. 

The Best Hank Williams, Jr. Songs #62 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time #314 of 1,728 The Best Rock Bands of All Time

17
Dwight Yoakam is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Dwight David Yoakam (born October 23, 1956) is an American singer-songwriter, musician, and actor, known for his pioneering style of country music. First becoming popular in the mid-1980s, ...more

More Dwight Yoakam 

The Best Dwight Yoakam Albums of All Time #303 of 541 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time #19 of 291 The Top Country Artists of All Time

18
Emmylou Harris is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Emmylou Harris (born April 2, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter, and musician. She has released dozens of albums and singles over the course of her career and won 14 Grammys, the Polar ...more

More Emmylou Harris 

The Best Emmylou Harris Albums of All Time #131 of 316 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #265 of 372 Musicians Who Belong In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame

19
Kris Kristofferson is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Kristoffer Kristofferson (born June 22, 1936) is an American singer-songwriter and actor. Among his songwriting credits are the songs "Me and Bobby McGee", "For the Good ...more

More Kris Kristofferson 

The Best Kris Kristofferson Movies #22 of 225 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #165 of 316 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years

20
Tammy Wynette is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Tammy Wynette (; born Virginia Wynette Pugh; May 5, 1942 – April 6, 1998), was an American country music singer-songwriter and one of country music's best-known artists and biggest-selling ...more

More Tammy Wynette 

#90 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time #93 of 526 Which Artist Would You Bring Back From The Dead To Write One More Song? #276 of 753 People We Wish Were Still Alive

21
Ricky Nelson is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Eric Hilliard Nelson (May 8, 1940 – December 31, 1985) was an American pop star, musician, and singer-songwriter. From age eight he starred alongside his family in the radio and television ...more

More Ricky Nelson 

The Best Ricky Nelson Albums of All Time #1,012 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #42 of 784 The Best Singers of All Time

22
Eddy Arnold is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Richard Edward "Eddy" Arnold (May 15, 1918 – May 8, 2008) was an American country music singer who performed for six decades. He was a Nashville sound (country/popular music) innovator ...more

More Eddy Arnold 

#269 of 526 Which Artist Would You Bring Back From The Dead To Write One More Song? #45 of 291 The Top Country Artists of All Time #34 of 184 The Best Male Country Singers of All Time

23
Tanya Tucker is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Tanya Denise Tucker (born October 10, 1958) is an American country music artist who had her first hit, "Delta Dawn", in 1972 at the age of 13. Over the succeeding decades, Tucker ...more

More Tanya Tucker 

The Best Tanya Tucker Albums of All Time #935 of 1,891 The Greatest Musical Artists of All Time #180 of 677 The Best Female Vocalists Ever

24
Ernest Tubb is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Ernest Dale Tubb (February 9, 1914 – September 6, 1984), nicknamed the Texas Troubadour, was an American singer and songwriter and one of the pioneers of country music. His biggest career hit ...more
25
Buck Owens is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time
Alvis Edgar Owens Jr. (August 12, 1929 – March 25, 2006), professionally known as Buck Owens, was an American musician, singer, songwriter and band leader who had 21 No. 1 hits on the Billboard ...more

More Buck Owens 

The Best Buck Owens Songs #94 of 526 Which Artist Would You Bring Back From The Dead To Write One More Song? #62 of 254 The Best Bands With Animal Names