If Elvis Presley is widely regarded as the king of rock ‘n roll, Michael Jackson is the king of pop, then who is the “king of country music”?
The interesting thing about it is that Country has given the singers all kinds of titles, just as George Jones and Tammy Wynette are the president and first lady of country music respectively, Jimmie Rodgers as the father and Maybelle Carter as the mother of the genre. But there has never been someone who has been crowned unquestionably with the title of “King of Country Music”.
Well, there’s sort of a controversial debate going on around that, as we all know, and for years until now there has never been a general consensus among fans. But there are three most-mentioned names that fans believe rightfully deserve that royal title: George Strait, Roy Acuff, and Hank Williams. Save country music ‘The 2016 Country Music Royalty Collection also agrees.
Although some argue that Johnny Cash deserves a spot, as does Garth Brooks. Chris Stapleton has also been nominated a few times, but it was more about being the next contender for the title. And last year, NBC’s The Voice named Blake Shelton as the King of Country, which sparked an uproar of disagreeable comments.
But who among these names really deserves to be called the “king”? Let’s take a recap of their careers and accomplishments and see who really fits the crown.
What does it take to be country music royalty?
Before we dive right into the list, let’s first take a very quick look at these two questions: First, why do we have kings and queens in country music, and second, who are those who have legitimate rights to these thrones?
Country music has always helped keep the genre’s lineage alive by paying special tribute to singers who helped popularize the genre and reach a larger audience. And these royal nicknames, which have now formed a royal family in the genre, are universally recognized by the public and are widely used as well. While there is still debate over who owns the titles right, there is a list of those who can officially claim them.
Strait of George
Country Thang Daily has always celebrated George Strait as the “King of Country Music”, as have the mainstream of country music fans. And this man deserves every part of the celebration.
All country music fans, probably even new ones, are familiar with the name “George Strait”. His 80s songs like “Fool Hearted Memory”, “Amarillo by Morning”, “Lefty’s Gone”, “The Chair” and “Baby Blue” have earned him one hit after another. By the end of this decade, George Strait had already achieved his 11th number one ‘strait’ hit. It is undeniable that the year 1980 was not complete without the songs of the Strait of George.
At the dawn of the 90s until the 2000s, he continued to make a name for himself and to display his unparalleled talent. As they say, with George Strait: what you see is what you will get. Every time he straps on his guitar and takes the stage, he delivers pure, straightforward country music with a power that makes sounds comfortable and all too familiar yet fresh and exciting.
And in more than a three-decade career, George Strait has established himself as one of the greatest artists of his time, and his achievements have yet to be surpassed by country music artists today, this which is certainly an achievement. After all, we’re talking 60 number one singles, 33 platinum and multi-platinum albums, 70 million albums sold, 60 entertainment grand prizes, and even a record as the only act in history with a Top 10 every year. for over 30 years.
On their own, he deserves the title of “king”, but that’s not all. George Strait undoubtedly attracted a lot of fans, and even in an era when country music was evolving, he still managed to stay on top. In fact, in 2014, Strait shattered North American indoor concert attendance for his The Cowboy Rides Away Tour final at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. There were 104,793 spectators present in a stadium with a maximum capacity of 105,000. In addition, due to the high demand for its Detroit to Vegas residency in 2016, it was extended until 2017.
Needless to say, the Strait of George went straight up to the top and never really slipped from there. And that is why most say he is the undisputed ‘King of Country Music’ of his generation until today.
Before George Strait, there was Roy Acuff. But unlike Strait, Acuff wasn’t called the “king” for his entertainment successes and accolades. Rather, he claimed the throne with his massive influence in the genre that inspired many country music artists who came after him, including Hank Williams and George Jones, who are also considered greats in the genre.
Roy Acuff didn’t plan his life to be a musician, but it was as if life had planned it for him. Playing ball didn’t work for him, so he decided to pick up a violin and explore the world as a local healer’s apprentice. After a series of unfortunate performances without significant progress, Acuff found himself at the top with “The Great Speckled Bird”. This song changed his life and started what Saving Country Music described as his “legendary Hall of Fame caliber run”.
Acuff’s legendary run can be summed up by his two greatest contributions: first, helping to make the Grand Ole Opry famous and eventually becoming the master, and second, co-founding the Acuff-Rose publishing house, which would later become Sony ATV. In fact, with just these, Acuff had already marked his legacy and established himself as one of the most important figures in the history of country music. But that was not all.
He was the very first commercially successful country music star, and honestly, if we think about it, country music would never have been an industry without him. He set a precedent for the quality of original music, pioneering an influential vocal style that matched his simple songs, and on top of that he also had the business intelligence that brought country music to the masses. . He laid a very important foundation for how country music would be handled from an editing standpoint from that point on.
Although his heritage is almost always eclipsed, he still deserves the title of “King of Country Music”, which he lived for over 60 years.
Hank Williams didn’t live long enough to enjoy his career, but he definitely made the most of the years he did. He was the 1950s star, a country music superstar after Acuff, credited with his immense talent in songwriting and his passionate vocal sound. Besides country music, he also made a place for himself in crossover pop music, where he was very successful.
Williams was a musical protege of African-American street artist Tee-Tot whose real name was Rufus Payne. Taught Williams his first chords, which he learned to play skillfully at the age of 8. At 13 he had already made his radio debut and at 14 he had already formed his first band. Things really turned out for him in 1946 when he landed a songwriting contract with the co-founded publishing company of Acuff. Later that year he signed his first recording contract with Sterling Records and then with MGM, where he got his first hit, “Move It on Over”, in 1947. After that, it was only a series of hits, including “Lovesick Blues” in 1949, which was considered his defining moment.
Roy Acuff was a pioneer of his time, and George Strait achieved what no other artist has yet surpassed, but Hank Williams was something different. It was his straightforward and emotionally honest lyrics that resonated with fans and even a wider audience. Arguably his music was not groundbreaking, but as country music historian Bill Malone noted, Williams “sang with the quality that characterizes every great hillbilly singer: utter sincerity.” And it’s basically the best ingredient in any song that touches the hearts of anyone who listens to it. That’s why it’s no wonder fans think he deserves the crown as well.
As he said himself, he was a good Acuff imitator, but country music already had it. So he decided to be himself and sing like him, and that’s what made him one of the greatest country music singers of his time.
Claims still contested
Johnny Cash was not one of the technical greats, but what separated him from the rest was his unforgettable sound. He had that unmistakable bass-baritone flavor mixed with country, rock ‘n roll and folk sounds. And more importantly, he was ready to explore themes that all other popular artists of his time dared not touch.
He has given concerts in prisons – first in 1957 at Huntsville State Prison in Texas and more still in Folsom and San Quentin. His concerts were intense, rebellious, and filled with dark, gritty humor. He never held back, and this is one of the reasons these live recordings have become legendary not only in the United States but internationally as well.
And that was also something that really resonated with fans of his music and why they argue that he deserved the title just as much as Strait, Acuff, and Williams. Although he fell when a new climate emerged in Nashville in the ’70s, he was still the compatriot of the’ 60s. And while fans wait for him to win that title, he remains a legendary and timeless musician.
Garth Brooks comes in second in terms of career awards and decorations at George Strait. The Oklahoman country musician is now considered an icon of the genre, and apparently some even mention him as the “king of country music” of probably the new generation.
Brooks’ resume is truly impressive as the first artist in history with 9 Diamond Awards and the best-selling solo artist in the United States with over 156 million albums sold. He has been inducted into various prestigious Hall of Fames and even broke touring records by selling over 6.3 million tickets with his Garth Brooks World Tour with his now wife Trisha Yearwood. It has also won over 22 Academy of Country Music Awards as well as two Grammy Awards.
But as to calling it King of Country Music now, that’s probably still a bit of a stretch. Maybe a few more years, and Garth would likely be eligible for the crown. We’ll see.