The 70s have become famous for quite a few things. Bell-bottom jeans and disco, yes, but there were many other great things to come from this flashy decade. The world of Country music experienced what many regarded as its golden age during the 60s and 70s.
Some of the best male voices to come out of Country music had their heyday in the 70s. So, today I’ll be taking a look at just a few of the most famous male Country singers of the 1970s. Let’s get started with the legendary…
Top 9 Most Famous Male Country Singers Of The 1970s
Merle Ronald Haggard’s family had moved from Oklahoma to California two years before he was born in 1937 because their barn had burned down. The family was already in hard times due to The Great Depression.
Haggard’s elder brother gave him his first guitar at the age of twelve, and he started learning how to play. Using the records he had at home, he would play along to songs by artists such as Bob Wills and Lefty Frizzell.
Before starting a career in music…
Merle was living a life of crime. He started with simple theft and forged cheques and had a bunch of stints in juvenile detention centers. After some cross-country hitchhiking and hustling, he was eventually arrested after a failed bank robbery. As a result, he was sentenced to serve hard time in San Quentin.
He was released in 1960 and started playing music in his free time. His first glimpse of success came with his recording of “My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers” in 1965. Two years later, he recorded Branded Man, which contained his first #1 hit, “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive.”
In 1968, Haggard dropped two albums, Sing Me Back Home and The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde. Both are regarded as some of the most successful records of their time. Haggard recorded more than thirty albums and had thirty-eight #1 hits. He is regarded as one of the most influential male singers in Country music.
George Glenn Jones was born in Saratoga, Texas, in 1931. He used to lie awake with his parents on Saturday nights so he could listen to The Grand Ole Opry. In particular, he enjoyed hearing the works of Roy Acuff and Bill Monroe.
George left home at sixteen to work at a radio station and was soon conscripted into the army. After serving his term in California, he was discharged in 1953. A year later, he released his first song, “No Money In This Deal.”
In 1955, he got his first Top 10 hit with “Why Baby Why.” The track made him well-known enough to start playing shows with Elvis and Johnny Cash, with whom he remained lifelong friends. George’s first #1 was “White Lightning,” released in 1959.
Jones isn’t only remembered as a great performer of his material…
But also as an incredible songwriter. Many of his tracks would later be covered by other artists who would then enjoy tremendous success. “The Window Up Above” was not only a Top 5 hit for Jones but later became a smash hit for Micky Gilley. Likewise, the unforgettable “Seasons of My Heart” was later covered by Johnny Cash and Willy Nelson.
All told, George had more than 150 charting singles to his name before he passed in 2013. He is sometimes called the “Rolls Royce of Country Music.” And he is easily one of the most famous male Country singers of the 1970s.
Charley Frank Pride was born in Sledge, Mississippi, in 1934. He was the fourth of eleven children and started his life as a baseball player. Between baseball, the army, and even a job as a smelter, at some point, he found some time to perform on his own and with bands.
Charley decided to get serious about music in the 50s. Eventually, he recorded a demo tape that got heard by none other than Chet Atkins. This led to Pride getting his first recording contract. Charley’s first Top 10 hit was “Just Between You and Me” in 1967.
Pride’s race seemed to be of little consequence after he gave his first big live performance. He followed up with a string of great tracks, many of which ended up becoming #1 Country hits. Some of Charley’s early hits include “All I Have To Offer You (Is Me),” “I Can’t Believe That You Stopped Loving Me,” and “Is Anyone Going To San Antone?“
Pride’s legacy as a performer and writer was only starting…
Throughout the late-60s and early-70s, he was the second highest-selling RCA artist. The first was Elvis Presley. He recorded “All His Children,” which ended up in the 1971 film Sometimes A Great Notion, which earned two Oscar nominations.
Arguably, Pride’s biggest hit was “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’,” which also came out in 1971. The million-selling single was his eighth #1, and his first crossover hit, peaking in the Top 40. He continued to release massive hits and is now remembered as one of the greatest Country singers of the 70s.
Waylon Jennings was born on a farm close to Littlefield, Texas, in 1937. His mother bought him his first guitar at the age of eight, and his first song was “Thirty Pieces Of Silver.” Soon, he started learning songs by Bob Wills, Floyd Tillman, Ernest Tubb, and Elvis Presley.
Waylon started his career in music by working at radio stations and making friends with musicians and producers. After releasing some material with A&R, he moved to RCA Victor. And in 1965, he released his first charting single, “That’s The Chance I’ll Have To Take.”
Throughout the rest of the 60s…
Jennings released a string of mildly successful albums, some of which did produce Top 10 hits. The 1966 album Leavin’ Town delivered “Anita You’re Dreaming,” “Time To Bum Again,” and “That’s What You Get For Loving Me.” Despite his success at RCA, Waylon felt artistically held back under the management of the label.
In 1972, Jennings went way off the reservation but in the best way with Ladies Love Outlaws. The album gave him the success he’d always wanted. But, it also established a whole new sound within the genre known as “Outlaw Country.” This new genre made Jennings one of the most well-known male Country singers in the 70s. And, in turn, a legend in the industry.
Along with the title track, “Ladies Love Outlaws,” the album became a landmark album thanks to other tracks like “Never Been To Spain” and the duet “Under Your Spell Again,” which features his wife.
Kenneth Ray Rogers was born in Houston, Texas, in 1938 and was the fourth of eight children. Rogers went through various musical phases in his life. From angst-ridden Rock ‘n Roll to more Psychedelic and even Jazz periods.
His first true stint in successful recording and performing came as part of the group, The First Edition. They later became Kenny Rogers and The First Edition. The group enjoyed quite a bit of success for over a decade with hits like “Just Dropped In To See What Condition My Condition Was In,” “But You Know I Love You,” and “Something’s Burning.”
However, the group disbanded in 1976…
This prompted Rogers to try and make it as a solo act. His first album did moderately well. But, his self-titled second album, Kenny Rogers, started a career that would last decades and result in more than sixty Top 40 songs. The album features hits like “Laura What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got” and the international chart-topper “Lucille.”
It was 1978’s The Gambler that etched Kenny’s name permanently into the halls of Country Music history. The album sold well over five million copies and made Rogers a star across the world.
The title track, “The Gambler,” became his signature song and even spawned a whole series of films in which Kenny portrayed the mysterious Gambler. Rogers has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the highest-selling male Country singers in history.
Henry John Deutschendorf Jr. was born in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1949. Because his father was in the military, the family moved around quite a lot. John received his first guitar at the age of eleven. And, by the time he was in college, he was good enough to play in bars and join folk groups.
His first release as a solo artist was Rhymes and Reasons for RCA Victor in 1969. The album contained the now-famous song “Leaving On A Jet Plane.” Although, at the time of release, the track did not do much.
Denver released a few more albums thereafter, but his big breakthrough came in 1971 when he released Poems Prayers & Promises. The album contained the now legendary track, “Take Me Home Country Roads,” which sparked the beginning of a great career.
Less than a year later…
Denver released Rocky Mountain Way, which became his first #1 album. This was followed by three #1 albums, John Denver’s Greatest Hits, Back Home Again, and Windsong. To complement this, he had four #1 songs within one year. Namely, “Sunshine On My Shoulders,” “Annie’s Song,” “Thank God I’m A Country Boy,” and “I’m Sorry.”
Denver recorded more than 200 songs in his lifetime. He released 33 albums, of which twelve became gold and four platinum. In total, he sold more than 30 million records.
Glen Travis Campbell was born in Arkansas in 1936. He got his first guitar from his dad at age four and was taught the basics by his uncle. By age six, he was performing on local radio stations.
Campbell started his musical career by being a session musician. Soon after, he gained a reputation as a good player and ended up playing for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Merle Haggard, and Elvis.
After releasing a bunch of unsuccessful tracks on Capitol Records…
Glen ended up getting partnered with producer Al De Lory. With De Lory, he recorded Burning Bridges, and the title track of that album became a Top 20 hit.
The two soon followed up with arguably Campbell’s first big hit, “Gentle On My Mind,” which earned him four Grammys. In the same year, Campbell and De Lory dropped “By The Time I Get To Pheonix,” “I Wana Live,” and “Wichita Lineman.” All of those tracks would become massively successful.
Campbell also had a successful career as an actor…
Most notably, he starred in the 1969 Western True Grit. He also sang the title song for the film, and the track earned Oscar and Golden Globe nominations.
Glen remains one of the most successful country singers of the era. But, is considered by many to be one of the most important male singers in Country Music.
John R. Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, in February of 1932. He was the son of cotton farmers and enlisted in the Air Force after finishing high school. In the early fifties, he started playing music in his free time and eventually got lulled into auditioning for a contract at Sun Records.
He auditioned with some gospel music since it was his main influence growing up. But, after being told that gospel was not popular at the moment, he performed “Hey Porter!” and “Cry, Cry, Cry.” These tracks are now considered some of the earliest Rockabilly songs ever and are some of Cash’s most enduring tunes.
Johnny’s next record, Folsom Prison Blues, got him quite a bit of national acclaim. But, the monster 1959 hit “I Walk The Line” took things to a whole new level. Cash became an overnight sensation.
Thanks to his outlaw image and his signature sound…
Cash was able to dominate the charts with timeless hits like “Ring of Fire,” “Get Rhythm,” “Man in Black,” and “A Boy Named Sue.” Johnny later hosted his own TV show called the Johnny Cash Show. He was often joined by his wife, June, and many of the era’s greatest musicians.
Johnny’s life was immortalized in the 2005 film I Walk The Line, starring Joaquin Pheonix. Cash is one of the best-selling artists in history, with over 90 million records sold worldwide. So, there is no denying he is one of the most famous male Country singers of the 1970s.
Willie Hugh Nelson was born in April of 1936 in Abbot, Texas. His grandfather gave him his first guitar at age six, and a year later, he wrote his first song. And two years after that, he played guitar for a local band called Bohemian Polka.
Willie’s rise to success was a long and obscure path of working at radio stations, performing gigs wherever he could, as well as moving all over the country in search of better opportunities. And, at one point, literally sleeping in a ditch.
While he did release some material of note throughout the mid to late sixties, it was in the 70s that things got going. Thanks largely to the rise of Outlaw Country and the release of his seminal 1975 record Red Haired Stranger. The album became multi-platinum and contained the monster hit “Blue Eyes Cryin’ In The Rain.”
The album is considered one of the most important releases in Country Music…
He used it to promote the PBS television show Austin City Limits, which has now become the longest-running music show ever. Nelson’s 1978 album, Stardust, solidified his reputation as one of the greatest storytellers in Country music. The multi-platinum album features some of his most enduring hits like “Blue Skies,” “All Of Me,” “Georgia on My Mind,” and “On The Sunny Side Of The Street.”
Along with music, Nelson has appeared in over 70 films. These include Red Headed Stranger, The Last Days Of Frank And Jesse James, Half Baked, and Beerfest.
Want More Fantastic Country Music?
If so, have a look at our detailed articles on the Most Famous Female Country Singers Of All Time, the Most Famous Black Country Singers, the Top Country Singers with Deep Voices, the Best 90s Country Songs, and the Best Country Love Songs for more amazing Country Music song selections.
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Most Famous Male Country Singers Of The 1970s – Final Thoughts
There you have it. And, now you know that some of the best male country singers did some of their best work during the seventies. There was more than enough great country music to balance out all that disco and glitter balls. Next time you want to hear something good that came from the seventies, try listening to some Country compilations. You’ll be glad you did.
Until next time, happy listening.