Just like rock and roll, country music stumbled upon crossroads during the 1980s. This is because it was the era where the pop-country genre became an even bigger economic force. Which is why it’s easy to see that the ’80s was a transitional decade for country music. This was a time when artists could try out different styles and approaches as well as adopt new traditions that would come to resound in the ’90s and beyond. This is why in this article, we are going to give you a list of iconic country artists during the 1980s.
Along with other artists such as Lone Justice, Jason and the Scorchers, and the Blasters, Dwight Yoakam decided to mix a little rock ‘n’ roll spin on traditional country music during the ’80s. He became very successful during this decade that the first three albums all went platinum and was able to hit No. 1 on the country charts. This included his 1986 debut album entitled “Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc.,” which spawned Top 5 hits songs such as “Guitars, Cadillacs” and “Honky Tonk Man.”
McEntire released nine studio albums before she managed to reach the height of her career. In 1986, she released two albums, which helped her rose to fame. In February that year, she released her album entitled “Whoever’s in New England,” and the album’s title track and debut single became a number one hit song. Later that year, Reba McIntire released her album called “What Am I Gonna Do About You,” which became another hit album. She followed her success with continuous releases of several collections, such as a greatest hits compilations along with a Christmas album. Reba McEntire continued to climb the charts and skyrocketed to fame. She was able to move her career effortlessly into the 1990s and continued her reign in country music sales along with several hit songs and touring.
At just the tender age of thirteen, Barbara Mandrell was already in the music scene, because she played steel guitar for several artists such as Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and George Jones when they are on tour. As a singer, Mandrell’s career was hitting the top of the charts in the late 1970s. However, it was during the 1980s when she was able to put her name into the list of the best country artists. Between 1981 and 1983, Mandrell was able to receive several industry awards from fellow artists and critics. In the ’80s, Mandrell also won the “Entertainer of the Year” award from the Country Music Association for two consecutive years. Her career was able to soar high during the ’80s because of her non-stop touring, several hit songs along with a popular TV show.
Dolly Parton continued her reign on the charts during the 1980’s with her hit singles such as “9 to 5” which also became a part of the soundtrack of a movie in which she co-starred in. Her song “Islands in the Streams,” a duet with Kenny Rogers, was named the best country duet of all-time on CMT. In 1986, Parton wanted tourism to increase in her hometown, which is why she decided to purchase the Silver Dollar City Theme Park, where she renamed the park as Dollywood. Dolly Parton continued to expand her business ventures in the area, and it included a water park, a resort, and dinner shows.
This iconic country artist is a mother-daughter duo, and they reigned the country music scene during the 1980s because they released consecutive hit singles throughout the decade. The Judds released a total of six studio albums between 1983 and 1991. They were able to become one of the most successful artists in the country music scene. The Judds managed to have twenty-five hit singles on the country music charts, and fourteen of them went to the number one spot, and six more of the said singles managed to make it to the top ten. Some of their biggest hit songs were “Girls Night Out “, “Why Not Me,” “Grandpa,” and “Turn it Loose.” The Judds were even hailed as the Top Vocal Duo at the Academy of Country Music Awards from 1984 to 1990.
Rosanne Cash was one of the most consistent country artists during the ’80s. In fact, all but one of the 21 songs that she was part of managed to make it in the Top 40, where 11 of those said songs even reached the number one spot. Probably her biggest mainstream hit was the self-penned crossover song entitled “Seven Year Ache.” As the ’80s proceeded, Rosanne Cash started recording more of her own songs, and it showed the alt-country movement because she mixed in nods to roots and Americana.
Alabama is a group of three cousins and a drummer that ruled the top of the charts during the 1980s with their hit songs, namely, “Mountain Music,” “Tennessee River,” and “She and I.” Throughout their career, the band managed to achieve over the twenty-seven number one hit songs, and seven multi-platinum albums. They even received several awards for being the top vocal group in the country music scene. Alabama’s blend of traditional country music along with Southern rock gave them that crossover appeal, which helped them climb the ladder of success. The also added combinations of pop music to the mix, which also enabled them to be the most awarded band in the country music scene.
Also known as the King of country music, George Strait’s success in the country music scene began when he released his first single entitled “Unwound” in 1981. Strait climbed his ladder of success when seven of his albums reached the number one spot on the country charts. Strait’s success continued throughout the years after the 1980s, and he was able to become one of the top-selling artists during that decade. George Strait had a total of 61 songs that reached the top spot of the charts. He broke the record, which was previously set by Conway Twitty. This means that George Strait had number one songs than any other artist in any genre of music.
Kenny Rogers was at the peak of his career at the start of the ’80s. This is all thanks to the runaway success of his 1978 album called The Gambler which was followed by his self-titled album in 1979. The latter was able to spend four months at the top spot of the charts at the start of 1980. For the rest of the ’80s, Kenny Rogers continued his hot streak, he was able to produce four number one albums as well as 20 Top 10 country hit songs, such as “Lady,” “and “Islands in the Stream” which he sang with Dolly Parton.