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Top 25 Classic Country Singers

Country music's essential solo artists

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Patsy Cline - 12 Greatest Hits

Patsy Cline - '12 Greatest Hits'

Image courtesy of MCA Records

11. Buck Owens
Essential Album: The Buck Owens Collection 1959-1990
Buck Owens was the ambassador of the Bakersfield Sound. His amped-up honky-tonk gave Nashville a run for its money, electrifying the charts with the songs "Act Naturally" and "Tiger by the Tail."

12. Gene Autry
Essential Album: 22 Legendary Hits
The epitome of the singing cowboy, Gene Autry was a star both on record and onscreen. His clean-cut persona brought new fans to country music with the help of frontier classics like "Back in the Saddle Again" and "Tumbling Tumbleweeds."

13. Kitty Wells
Essential Album: The Golden Years
Wells set the mold for female country singers in 1952. "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels" broke down barriers, proving female country singers were commercially viable -- and weren't to be trifled with.

14. Kris Kristofferson
Essential Album: Kristofferson
Kristofferson's gem-cut lyrics earned him a reputation as a songwriter's songwriter -- country music's answer to Bob Dylan. Janis Joplin ("Me and Bobby McGee") and Johnny Cash ("Sunday Morning Coming Down") performed his songs before his gravelly voice proved itself a worthy instrument.

15. Gram Parsons
Essential Album: Grievous Angel
Gram Parsons pioneered country rock as a member of multiple bands, among them The Flying Burrito Brothers. After the group dissolved, he came into his own as a solo artist in the 1970s with a pair of classic albums, followed by a death by overdose in 1973.

16. Glen Campbell
Essential Album: Glen Campbell - The Capitol Years 1965-1977
In the 1960s, Glen Campbell brought a pop sheen to country music. His honey voice and orchestral arrangements yielded the #1 hits "Wichita Lineman," "Galveston," and "Rhinestone Cowboy."

17. Patsy Cline
Essential Album: Gold
Patsy Cline took country music into the pop charts with her full-throated vocals on "Crazy," "Walkin' After Midnight," and "I Fall to Pieces," before her life was cut short by a plane crash in 1963.

18. Porter Wagoner
Essential Album: Essential Porter Wagoner
Porter Wagoner did more than just help introduce Dolly Parton to the world ("I Will Always Love You" was dedicated to him). As host of his own TV show and singer of "Carroll County Accident," he was also one of country music's most singular figures.

19. Ernest Tubb
Essential Album: The Singer, the Writer, the Country Pioneer
Ernest Tubb's folksy delivery and ubiquitous lead guitar put him in the lineage of Jimmie Rodgers. He was country music's next big star, whose lovelorn "Walkin' the Floor Over You" stomped all over the charts in 1941.

20. Tammy Wynette
Essential Album: Stand by Your Man
Best known for "Stand by Your Man," Tammy Wynette was one of country's biggest female stars in the '60s and '70s. Her embattled marriage with George Jones made her life as much of a soap opera as her music.

21. Chet Atkins
Essential Album: The Essential Chet Atkins
Chet Atkins was a highly influential producer, music exec, and guitar player. His distinctive picking is heard on hundreds of country recordings, including his own as a solo artist: "Mister Sandman" and "Boo Boo Stick Beat" among them.

22. Jim Reeves
Essential Album: Anthology
Jim Reeves's smooth country stylings make him a trademark example of the Nashville Sound. His popularity was only strengthened after his death, thanks to the canny handling of unreleased recordings by his widow.

23. Roy Acuff
Essential Album: The Essential Roy Acuff 1936-1949
Roy Acuff's voice is straight from the Tennessee hills. He brought an old-timey dimension to every song he performed. He was also a notable songwriter and music industry figure, who played a significant role in the careers of Hank Williams, Roy Orbison, and many others.

24. Ray Price
Essential Album: The Essential Ray Price
Ray Price's songs were the equivalent of a feather-stuffed bed, with silken arrangements pinned by his smooth vocals. "Heartaches by the Number" and "Release Me" are among his best known songs.

25. Roger Miller
Essential Album: King of the Road: The Genius of Roger Miller
Country music's resident satirist is good for more than a laugh. Despite being one of Nashville's weirdest acts, he managed to crack the top 10 with songs like "King of the Road" and "Dang Me."

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