Music

The Greatest Classic Country & Western Artists Of All-Time 

Ranker Music
Updated December 10, 2019 16k votes 620 voters 7.6k views 210 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
Willie Nelson is listed (or ranked) 1 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

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2
George Strait is listed (or ranked) 2 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

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The Best George Strait Albums of All Time #111 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #910 of 1,038 The Worst Bands & Musicians of All Time

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

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The Best Hank Williams Songs #127 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists #238 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive

4
George Jones is listed (or ranked) 4 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

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The Best George Jones Albums of All Time #558 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #6 of 332 The Top Country Artists 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

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The Best Dolly Parton Albums of All Time #23 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #374 of 940 The Best Actresses in Film History

6
Merle Haggard is listed (or ranked) 6 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

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The Best Merle Haggard Albums of All Time #320 of 639 The Greatest Guitarists Of All Time #410 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time

7
Alison Krauss is listed (or ranked) 7 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

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The Best Alison Krauss Albums of All Time #146 of 274 The Most Trustworthy Celebrities in the World #66 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever

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

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The Best Waylon Jennings Albums of All Time #282 of 925 People We Wish Were Still Alive #253 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time

9
Loretta Lynn is listed (or ranked) 9 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

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The Best Loretta Lynn Albums of All Time #79 of 303 The Greatest Living Rock Songwriters #241 of 695 The Best Rock Vocalists

10
Alabama is listed (or ranked) 10 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

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#202 of 502 The Greatest Musical Artists of the '80s #222 of 333 The Greatest Classic Rock Bands

11
Patsy Cline is listed (or ranked) 11 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

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#25 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #55 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time #12 of 332 The Top Country Artists of All Time

12
Glen Campbell is listed (or ranked) 12 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

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13
Hank Williams, Jr. is listed (or ranked) 13 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

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The Best Hank Williams, Jr. Songs #362 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time #16 of 332 The Top Country Artists of All Time

14
Don Williams is listed (or ranked) 14 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

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15
Vince Gill is listed (or ranked) 15 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

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#115 of 453 The Greatest Singers of the Past 30 Years #220 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time

16
Kris Kristofferson is listed (or ranked) 16 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

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17
Emmylou Harris is listed (or ranked) 17 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

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18
Dwight Yoakam is listed (or ranked) 18 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

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The Best Dwight Yoakam Albums of All Time #975 of 1,038 The Worst Bands & Musicians of All Time #23 of 332 The Top Country Artists of All Time

19
Eddy Arnold is listed (or ranked) 19 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

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#55 of 332 The Top Country Artists of All Time #42 of 217 The Best Male Country Singers of All Time

20
Marty Robbins is listed (or ranked) 20 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

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The Best Marty Robbins Albums of All Time #336 of 1,042 The Best Singers of All Time #20 of 332 The Top Country Artists of All Time

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

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22
Tanya Tucker is listed (or ranked) 22 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

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23
Tammy Wynette is listed (or ranked) 23 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

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#134 of 935 The Best Female Vocalists Ever #25 of 332 The Top Country Artists of All Time

24
Buck Owens is listed (or ranked) 24 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

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25
Ernest Tubb is listed (or ranked) 25 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