Country music is one of the biggest genres in the world of music. It began way back in the 20’s. However, as time goes by, the once country music we know has been constantly changing. Change is constant, and we cannot do anything about it, even in music, change has to happen for it to survive. That is why we have numerous sub-genres in country music. However, some people still do not consider the modern country music such as country rap, or even country pop as true country music. This style of music is prominent in this generation to cater to younger listeners.
Since most of the country music we listen to nowadays is the new kind of country music we loved, let us go back to the past and run down the best and "real" country music that we all know. If some of the songs you know did not make it to the list, it does not mean that it is not a good song. It’s just that the list is not enough to write down all the country songs that we heard before.
Here are the 20 Best and Real country music of all time, not in any particular order.
“Harper Valley PTA” by Jeannie C. Riley
In 1968, Jeannie Riley recorded a song written by Tom T. Hall. She recorded the song as the lead single for her same-titled album. This was her first song to top the US Billboard Hot Country chart. Furthermore, her song also crossed over to the pop chart of the Billboard at No. 1. Thus, making her the first female country singer to top the Billboard pop chart.
Tom T. Hall wrote the song because he was asked by singer Margie Singleton to write a song for her. Hall’s inspiration came when he was passing by a school named Harpeth Valley Elementary School. He was enchanted by the named that he wrote it down, which now became the title of Jeannie Riley’s best-known country song.
The song that Hall wrote was based on a true story. Hall said to The Boot that this story was based on a story he heard when he was nine. He even met the woman in his song. Hall changed the name of the characters in the song to protect their identity.
“There were 10 kids in our family. We'd get up in the morning, and my mother and father would get bored with us running around, and we'd go terrorize the neighbors up and down this little road we lived on -- after we had done our chores, of course. I was just hanging around downtown when I was about nine years old and heard the story and got to know this lady. I was fascinated by her grit. To see this very insignificant, socially disenfranchised lady -- a single mother -- who was willing to march down to the local aristocracy read them the riot act, so to speak, was fascinating.”
“New San Antonio Rose” by Bob Wills
Bob Wills who is known as the “King of Western Swing” wrote his most successful song of all time. “New San Antonio Rose” was first named “San Antonio Rose,” and was recorded by Bob Wills and his band the Texas Playboys without any lyrics on it. In 1940, when the recording company said they will release Wills’ song if he will write words for it. When Wills and the band wrote the song, they now changed the name to “New San Antonio Rose.”
“Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Bill Monroe
This song is perhaps the most famous song of Bill Monroe, which he wrote in 1946. Bill is known to create the Bluegrass style of music, thus, he was dubbed as the “Father of Bluegrass.” During the recording of this song, Monroe was accompanied with his band the Blue Grass boy which was then comprised of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs.
Monroe was inspired when he was on tour, and he saw a full moon. The moon reminded him of the moon he sees in his hometown Kentucky. Later on, this song was recorded by Elvis Presley but they changed the beat of the song to rockabilly.
“Always on my Mind” by Willie Nelson
“Always on my Mind” was first recorded by Gwen McCrae and Brenda Lee. The song became a hit in 1972. Another artist who made a cover of this song was Elvis Presley the same year. His version became a hit too and together with his A-side song “Separate Ways.” However, it was Willie Nelson’s version of this song that made it to the top of the Billboard chart. “Always on my Mind” peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs. In addition, the song crossed over to the No. 5 of the pop chart. Willie’s version made him win three Grammy Awards. The song won Grammy Award Song of the Year, Best Country Song, and Best Male Country Vocal Performance.
The song was supposed to be recorded by Merle Haggard, but he turned it down.
“Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell
This is the best-known song of Glen Campbell which he recorded in 1975. He made the song peak at No. 1 on various charts of Billboard. “Rhinestone Cowboy” reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart, Hot 100, and Adult Contemporary chart. Aside from topping the charts, Glen was able to win and be nominated on various music award shows.
The song was first recorded by the songwriter Larry Weiss, but it wasn't able to gain recognition. Glen heard the song on the radio, and he liked it. He listened to it over and over again while he was on tour in Australia. When he returned to the US, he went to record the song.
“Amarillo by Morning” by George Strait
“Amarillo by Morning” is a classic rodeo song recorded by George Strait in 1983. This became his signature song even though he didn’t make it peak at No. 1. George Strait’s version reached No. 4 on the Billboard Country chart. Terry Stafford wrote the song with Paul Fraser in 1973. Stafford recorded this song first. It became so popular that it was made into the A-side of his album.
Terry said that the idea of the song came when he was traveling all night long.
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones
George Jones' song has the most interesting story behind its making. Bobby Braddock and Curly Putman wrote the song. Braddock and Putman wrote George Jones ex-wife’s song, Tammy Wynette, “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.” Jones’ hated the song at first, he didn’t want to record the song Jones’ hated the song at first. He didn’t want to record the song.
“Too long, too sad, too depressing.”
He even said,
“Nobody’ll buy that morbid son of a bitch.”
However, when his song hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart, he finally said that:
“The three-minute tune salvaged a four-decade career.”
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” became his first No. 1 song after six years. The song was one of the tracks in his album I Am What I Am.
“The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers
The success of Kenny Rogers' song “The Gambler” not only gave Kenny attention, but it also gave the songwriter Don Schiltz the chance to achieve his dream as a songwriter. When “The Gambler” became a success, Schiltz quit his night job and worked as a songwriter.
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton
“I wrote that years ago when my husband was spending a little more time with Jolene than I thought he should be. I put a stop to that. Got rid of the redhead woman in a hurry. Had it not been for that woman I would never have written “Jolene” and I wouldn’t have made all that money, so thank you Jolene.” – Dolly Parton at Glastonbury
She wrote and recorded the song in 1973 for her same-titled album. The song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Country chart.
“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” by Kitty Wells
This was one of the most successful songs that were written as an answer to a previous song. Kitty Wells recorded the song in 1952. During those times women are not topping the charts of country music. However, Kitty Wells' song reached the No. 1 of the charts. The song was written by Jay Miller as an answer back to Hank Thompson’s song “The Wild Side of Life.”
“Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard is one of the best country artists. He has a total of 38 No. 1 songs on the chart. He usually writes songs based on his life. “Mama Tried” was one of those songs that were inspired by his life when he was young. The song was a story of his mother who tried her best to lead him into a good life, despite him refusing to follow his mother. Merle was a troubled kid in his early years however, he picked himself up and turned out to be one of the best country singers ever known. “Mama Tried” is Haggard’s 5th No. 1 song released in 1968.
“Stand By Your Man” by Tammy Wynette
If you thought that “D-I-V-O-R-C-E” is Tammy Wynette’s signature song, then you’re wrong. “Stand by Your Man” was written by Billy Sherrill and Tammy Wynette in 1968. Her song peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs and even crossed over to the Billboards pop chart at No. 19. However, despite being a very popular song, it was against the women’s movement that the song was labeled anti-feminist. Tammy defended herself and the song.
“I'm so Lonesome I Could Cry” by Hank Williams Sr.
According to Elvis Presley, this is the saddest song he has heard. The song was written by Hank Williams Sr. but it wasn’t written to be a song. He was supposed to record this as spoken words under his alter ego “Luke the Drifter.” This song was about his relationship with his then-wife Audrey Sheppard. This is one of the oldest and best real country music ever existed. The words are pure and honest that anyone who listens to Hank’s song will feel the way he feels.
“Crazy” by Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline’s version of “Crazy” is the most notable versions of all the artists that recorded it. Here is how she came to record the song. It was said that her husband, Charlie Dick, introduced this song to her. However, Patsy didn’t like it at first. When the song was pitched to her by Owen Bradley, a music producer, Cline decided to record the song finally. Before the recording session, Cline was in an automobile accident. Therefore, she found it difficult to record the song.
“Crazy” entered the US Billboard Hot Country chart at No. 2, and Billboard Hot 100 at No. 9. Since Cline released the song, it gave Willie Nelson, writer of the song, the chance to make it in country music as a singer and songwriter.
“I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash
In 1956, Johnny Cash recorded his first song to reach the No. 1 spot on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Cash said that he wrote this song in only 20 minutes. Cash wrote this song while he was serving in the Air Force. The title of his song was suggested by his music producer Sam Phillips.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver
The well-known country hit by John Denver has an interesting story to it. Before this song was recorded, Billy Danoff and his ex-wife Taffy Nivert were inspired by their trip to Maryland, although the song is about the beautiful mountainous place of West Virginia. The songwriters together with John Denver haven’t been to Virginia even though the song is about Virginia. This beautiful song about Virginia is now one of the theme songs in West Virginia University.
“Take Me Home, Country Roads” entered the chart of the Billboard at No. 50 only, yet it is one of the most popular songs known. It peaked at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 3 on the Adult Contemporary chart.
“El Paso” by Marty Robbins
Marty Robbins had already released songs that topped at No. 1 on the Billboard chart, such as “A White Sports Coat,” “The Story of My Life,” and “Singing the Blues.” However, none of them can be compared to his most famous song as well as his signature song “El Paso.” “El Paso” is a ballad about love and murder became the first song that is more than 3 minutes to peak at No.1. Marty also won his first Grammy for Best Country and Western song in 1961 because of his song.
Marty was inspired when he was traveling with his family to Phoenix. The song came to Marty as they were passing by El Paso. He finally finished the song when they have arrived at their destination.
“I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline
“It’s too country”
And to Roy Drusky,
“The song is made for a woman.”
Second, when Patsy was recording the song, she started not to like it because she feared that the way her producer asked her to record it is not what she wanted. However, after all of this “I Fall to Pieces” became Patsy’s first No. 1 song to enter the Billboard Country chart in 1961.
“Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” was inspired by the movie Inside the Walls of Folsom Prison, a movie Johnny watched when he was serving in the US Air Force. The melody of his song was inspired by Gordon Jenkins. The song is a story of a man who killed someone and went to prison.
“Coal Miner’s Daughter” by Loretta Lynn
In 1970, Loretta Lynn released her song “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” It is a story of her life living with little money from her father’s salary. Loretta grew up in Kentucky, and despite living a difficult life, she is proud of it. Her song captured a lot of listeners, thus, making it her fourth No. 1 song on the country chart. “Coal Miner’s Daughter” has been Loretta’s signature song.
“Hello Darlin’” by Conway Twitty
This has been Conway Twitty's signature song that he even sings it during the opening of his concert. It was written by him and released in 1970. His song reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and No. 60 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams Sr.
Hank Williams Sr. has set the standards of country music. Despite his short time as an artist, he has released songs that become an inspiration to many. “Your Cheatin’ Heart” is a song he wrote in 1952 about his first wife Audrey Sheppard. The song was released after his death.