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Looking Back at Country Music in 2003

The Year in Retrospect


Dixie Chicks in Concert

Dixie Chicks - Best Selling Tour of 2003

Shelly Fabian
The year was one of ups and downs. We lost one of the most influential men in country music with Johnny Cash. The drinking song made a comeback. Radio leaned to a more traditional sound. But most of all, country music was dominated by male artists. Even in the new artist category, only one female, Jennifer Hanson cracked the top 10 new artist list for the year.

Top 5 Country Tours for 2003

  1. Dixie Chicks "Top of the World Tour" - $62,224,732.
  2. Toby Keith "Shock n' Y'all Tour" - $41,228,003.
  3. Kenny Chesney "Se&#s41;oritas & Margaritas Tour" - $39,678,021.
  4. Tim McGraw "One Band Show" - $32,959,547.
  5. Shania Twain "Up! World Tour 2003" - $25,334,520.

Billboard's Top 10 New Country Artists for 2003

  1. Dierks Bentley
  2. Buddy Jewell
  3. Jimmy Wayne
  4. Craig Morgan
  5. Jeff Bates
  6. Aaron Lines
  7. Brian McComas
  8. Billy Currington
  9. Jennifer Hanson
  10. Rushlow

While drinking songs made a comeback, a couple stars had problems with drinking themselves. Both Wynonna and Glen Campbell were both arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol.

The Dixie Chicks were riding high, having just scored a No. 1 song with "Travelin' Soldier" when Natalie Maines made the comment heard 'round the world while the group was onstage in England, "Just so you know, we're ashamed the President of the United States is from the state of Texas." Immediately, many radio stations banned the Dixie Chicks music, and their sales plummeted. This happened after the Dixie Chicks tickets went on sale for their "Top of the World" tour, which sold $47 million in tickets, selling out 52 of their 73 shows. There were death threats, and security was beefed up at the shows, but there really wasn't much protesting at all.

Shania Twain proved she was no flash in the pan as her album Up! debuted at No. 1 on the Country Album charts last December, and continued to sell well enough to earn her another 10 million in sales, making her the only artist to sell more than 10 million copies of three albums in a row.

Songs with a spiritual flavor made a comeback this year, and one is responsible for Randy Travis' return to the top of the country charts once again. His song "Three Wooden Crosses" not only gave him a No. 1 song, but was nominated and won both the CMA Song of the Year award and the Christian Country Music Association Song of the Year award, and is currently up for a Grammy in 2004 in the Male Vocalist category. Other songs with a spiritual message were were Josh Turner's "Long Black Train," Sherrié Austin's "Streets of Heaven," and Buddy Jewell's "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)."

Saying Goodbye

Below is a list of the many people of country music that passed on in 2003.

  • Johnny Paycheck, 64. Hell-raising country singer known for his 1977 working man's anthem, "Take This Job and Shove It." Feb. 18.
  • Bill Carlisle, 94. Country singer and Grand Ole Opry member since 1953. Inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003. March 17.
  • Rusty Draper, 80. Country, pop singer with a string of hits in the 1950s and '60s. ("Shifting Whispering Sands," "Night Life"). March 28.
  • Felice Bryant, 77. With her husband, she wrote the Everly Brothers' "Bye Bye Love" and the bluegrass standard "Rocky Top." April 22.
  • June Carter Cash, 73. Grammy-winning scion of one of country music's pioneering families and the wife of Johnny Cash. May 15.
  • Sam Phillips, 80. Record producer who discovered Elvis Presley and helped usher in the rock 'n' roll revolution. July 30.
  • Henry Redd Stewart, 80. Singer, co-writer of such country hits as "Tennessee Waltz." Aug. 3.
  • Floyd Tillman, 88. Honky-tonk pioneer; one of country music's first great electric guitarists ("They Took the Stars out of Heaven"). Aug. 22.
  • Johnny Cash, 71. A towering musical figure whose rough, unsteady voice championed the downtrodden and reached across generations. Sept. 12.
  • Wesley Tuttle, 85. Country singer whose hits in the 1940s and '50s included "With Tears in My Eyes." Sept. 29.
  • Don Gibson, 75. Country music great; standards included "I Can't Stop Loving You," "Oh Lonesome Me." Nov. 17.
  • Teddy Wilburn, 71. Half of country music duo the Wilburn Brothers ("Trouble's Back in Town"). Nov. 24.
  • Gary Stewart, 58. He had No. 1 country hit in 1975 with "She's Actin' Single (I'm Drinkin' Doubles)". Dec. 16.
  • Dave Dudley, 75. Country singer who popularized truck driving songs with hits such as "Six Days on the Road" and "Truck Drivin' Son-of-a-Gun." Dec 22.

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