Special Report

100 Most Popular Country Music Stars

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Michael Ochs Archives via Getty Images

90. Freddie Hart
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 376
> Freddie Hart Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 21,437
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 9
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Easy Loving (9 weeks)

Before Freddie Hart attained country music stardom in his 40s, with six No. 1 hits in the 1970s such as “Easy Loving” and “My Hang-Up is You,” the Alabama singer-songwriter had lived a full life. Hart, born Fred Segrest, started playing guitar at age 5; joined the Civilian Conservation Corps at 12; lied about his age to get into the Marines at age 14 and fought in the Pacific during World War II; and earned black belts in jiu jitsu and judo.

Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

89. Maren Morris
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 252
> Maren Morris Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 1,064,475
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 1
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Hero (1 week)

The Texas-born Maren Morris shot to fame in 2016 with her debut single “My Church,” which peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and earned Morris her first Grammy nomination. Her latest single, “The Bones,” reached No. 12 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Both of her two full-length albums, released in 2016 and 2019, reached No. 1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart. Morris is known for her powerful vocals and honest lyrics.

Source: Express Newspapers / Getty Images

88. Ray Charles
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 52
> Ray Charles Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 2,023,380
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 1
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Friendship (1 week)

A prolific songwriter and performer whose music spanned genres and generation, Ray Charles spent a good deal of time on the country Billboard charts. After achieving mainstream success through pop hits like “Hit the Road Jack” and “Unchain My Heart,” Charles released “Modern Sounds in Western and Country Music” in 1962. His 1984 album “Friendship,” which featured duets with country luminaries like Merle Haggard (see No. 16), Johnny Cash (see No. 6), and Willie Nelson ( see No. 9), peaked at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart.

Source: Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

87. Mickey Gilley
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 464
> Mickey Gilley Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 198,175
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 1
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Room Full of Roses (1 week)

Mickey GIlley, a cousin of rock pioneer Jerry Lee Lewis and evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, had two country No. 1 albums in the 1970s — “Room Full of Rose” and “City Lights.” The Mississippi-born Gilley, who plays guitar and piano, now lives in Branson, Missouri, where he owns a theater and cafe and plays six shows a week.

Source: Epic Records / Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

86. David Houston
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 526
> David Houston Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 1,550
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 1
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Almost Persuaded (1 week)

David Houston posted seven No. 1 country hits in the 1960s and early ’70s, including the 1966 hit “Almost Persuaded,” which occupied the top slot on the Hot Country Songs chart for nine weeks. Houston, from Louisiana, won two Grammy Awards for “Almost Persuaded.”

Source: Ethan Miller / Getty Images

85. Kacey Musgraves
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 148
> Kacey Musgraves Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 1,600,063
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 2
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Same Trailer Different Park (2 weeks)

Kacey Musgraves wrote her first song at age 8, and the Texas-born singer-songwriter is today. She won four Grammy Awards in 2018, including Album of the Year (“Golden Hour”). “Follow Your Arrow,” a song about being true to yourself, has been her biggest hit, climbing to No. 10 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. The song, which she also co-wrote, was the Country Music Association’s 2014 Song of the Year.

Source: Kevin Winter / Getty Images Entertainment via Getty Images

84. Sara Evans
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 475
> Sara Evans Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 287,875
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 2
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Stronger (2 weeks)

Missouri native Sara Evans has scored five No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs list, starting in 1999, including “A Little Bit Stronger,” “Born to Fly,” and “Suds in the Bucket.” Evans, who grew up on a farm in Missouri, has also had two No. 1 country albums — “Real Fine Place” and “Stronger.”

Source: Rick Diamond / Getty Images

83. Jake Owen
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 516
> Jake Owen Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 164,825
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 1
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Barefoot Blue Jean Night (1 week)

A native Floridian who once considered a professional golfing career, Jake Owen turned to music after an injury derailed his sports ambitions. He broke into the big time with his 2011 album and single “Barefoot Blue Jean Night,” and last year he had a country Top 10 with “I Was Jack (You Were Diane),” inspired by John Cougar Mellencamp’s hit “Jack & Diane.”

Source: Keystone / Hulton Archive via Getty Images

82. Kris Kristofferson
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 17
> Kris Kristofferson Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 2,407,977
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 1
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Jesus Was a Capricorn (1 week)

Kris Kristofferson started his career in country music as a writer, penning hits like “Me and Bobby McGee” for Roger Miller (see No. 99) and “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” for Johnny Cash (see No. 6). He later found mainstream success as a solo recording artist, and eventually as a member of the supergroup The Highwaymen, along with Cash, Waylon Jennings (see No. 17), and Willie Nelson (see No. 9).

Source: Photo by Paul Natkin / Getty Images

81. Ricky Van Shelton
> All time appearances on Billboard’s Hot Country chart: 344
> Ricky Van Shelton Wikipedia page views in the last 12 months: 85,788
> All time weeks with any album at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart: 10
> Album with most No. 1 appearances: Loving Proof (10 weeks)

A country-pop performer who first made the country chart Top 10 in 1987 with his debut single, “Crime of Passion,” Ricky Van Shelton had an impressive run of 17 country Top-10 hits in the late ’80s and early ’90s. He released his final album in 2000 and announced in 2006 that he was retiring from touring.