31 Best 50s Country Songs

When we think of music from the 1950s, most of us think about rock and roll. That is the image given whenever the era is depicted in the movies. Sock hops, hula hoops, and poodle skirts were everywhere.

But that’s not all the 1950s were. It was also a revolutionary time in country music. Artists like Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, and Patsy Cline were at the top of the charts with the best 50s country songs.

So, put on your cowboy boots and listen to some of the top country songs of the 1950s.

“I Walk the Line” by Johnny Cash

Song Year: 1956

Johnny Cash had a lot of songs that die-hard fans knew well, but this was one of his first chart-toppers. It has become synonymous with him and is one of his best-known classics.

Cash was inspired to write the melody after hearing the backward playback of guitar music. The lyrics came as a pledge of devotion to his new bride.

“Walkin’ After Midnight” by Patsy Cline

Song Year: 1957

Amazingly, one of Patsy Cline’s most well-known songs sat on a shelf for years before she recorded it because it was intended to be a pop song. She was able to change the chords and suited them to her voice. A hit was born.

“Sixteen Tons” by Tennessee Ernie Ford

Song Year: 1955

This classic song was written by Merle Travis in 1946 about his family working in the coal mines of Kentucky. Tennesse Ernie Ford recorded his version in 1955, becoming a number one hit on the Billboard charts.

Ford’s recording of the song is most remembered and was inducted into the Library of Congress as part of their National Recording Registry.

“Under Your Spell Again” by Buck Owens

Song Year: 1959

Many people hear the name Buck Owens and think of Hee-Haw, the TV show that he made famous in the 1970s and 1980s. But he was a well-known singer/songwriter decades before that.

Owens had a string of singles in the 1950s, including this classic love song from 1959.

“Hey, Good Lookin’” by Hank Williams

Song Year: 1951

When he released this song, Hank Williams was a well-known musician, but it earned him a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2001. It has been named one of the 100 Greatest Songs of Country Music.

The song was a reimagining of another one written by Cole Porter in 1942. He wrote it in 20 minutes for his friend, Jimmy Dickens, to record. However, he recorded it instead a week later.

“White Lightning” by George Jones

Song Year: 1959

George Jones recorded this song written by J.P. Richardson, best known as the Big Bopper. It was the first song Jones released that became a number-one single. “White Lightning” led to some pop music crossovers later in his career, but Jones never saw that kind of success again.

“In the Jailhouse Now” by Webb Pierce

Song Year: 1955

This old vaudeville tune has been recorded dozens of times over the years. In 1955, Webb Pierce recorded it as a number one hit.

Pierce stayed at the top of the charts for 21 weeks, a record not broken until 2013.

“Man of Constant Sorrow” by The Stanley Brothers

Song Year: 1951

This old folk song, which dates back to 1913, has been recorded by many artists over the years. In 2000, it gained a lot of interest after being released on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

The Stanley Brothers recorded it in 1951 and brought it into the limelight. They were the ones that popularized it and made it a current hit.

“Just Bummin’ Around” by Jimmy Dean

Song Year: 1952

The 1960s and 1970s had a slew of songs written about just hanging out and doing nothing. Jimmy Dean was early on this trend when he released this hit in 1952. Jimmy Dean later had a lot of hits throughout the 1960s and his television show, but this was the first song he recorded that made it to number 5 on the Billboard charts.

“Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash

Song Year: 1955

It is no surprise that Johnny Cash appears on this list more than once. “Folsom Prison Blues” was a signature song for him. He performed it at almost all his shows, including once at the actual Folsom State Prison in 1968.

Cash used the old styles of train and prison songs to create the unique sound of this track. He went back to that technique for the rest of his life.

“El Paso” by Marty Robbins

Song Year: 1959

This western ballad tells the story of a cowboy who fell in love with a Mexican dancer at a Cantina in El Paso, Texas.

Released in 1959, it hit number one on the chart in 1960. The Western Writers of America placed “El Paso” on their list of the top 100 western songs ever.

“If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time” by Lefty Frizzell

Song Year: 1950

Only the second song released by Lefty Frizzell, “If You’ve Got the Money I’ve Got the Time” made it to the top of the charts. The song is about a man with no money telling a woman they can go out and have a good time if she pays for it.

“The Battle of New Orleans” by Jimmy Driftwood

Song Year: 1959

This comical retelling of a battle from the War of 1812 was popular during a time dominated by rock music. Considered one of the top western songs of all time, Jimmy Driftwood saw himself make it to number one. It has been remade dozens of times over the years.

“Bye Bye Love” by The Everly Brothers

Song Year: 1957

One of the best country songs of the 50s, “Bye Bye Love” is best known as the version The Everly Brothers recorded. It was later recorded by the likes of Simon & Garfunkel, The Beatles, and Webb Pierce. Its crossover sound could be played on country and rock stations, making it accessible to a much wider audience.

“Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” by Pete Seeger

Song Year: 1950

It’s funny that this classic love song originated as an old Irish folk song about a farmer and his dead cow. Pete Seeger created this definitive version in 1950.

With some moderate success as a singer/songwriter, Seeger is probably best known for his activist work during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. But his early work is best represented in this piece.

“It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels” by Kitty Wells

Song Year: 1952

Using familiar melodies, Kitty Wells opened the floodgates for women like Patsy Cline and Dolly Parton to sing songs about unfaithful men. This number one hit from 1952 was the first of its kind as the voice of a woman blaming unfaithful men for the creation of unfaithful women.

“Bonaparte’s Retreat” by Pee Wee King

Song Year: 1950

Like many country songs, “Bonaparte’s Retreat” originated in the folk music of the 1800s. The original song was a melody with no words, designed to spotlight a violin.

Pee Wee King took the melody and added lyrics to turn it into a humorous love song about a man trying to gain the affections of a woman during Napoleon’s retreat from Russia in 1812.

“Blue Moon of Kentucky” by Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1954

Early in his career, Elvis recorded a country classic from the previous decade and brought new life to it. He took the slow waltz and added a bluesy rock tempo to it. It could be played on country and pop stations, making it popular among a wider audience.

“Singing the Blues” by Guy Mitchell

Song Year: 1956

This song was released by Melvin Endsley. But the more famous recording was done by Guy Mitchell in the UK. It overtook the original in the charts and made it to number one on three separate occasions.

It is one of only four songs to spend three non-consecutive weeks at number one. The others are “Happy” by Pharell Williams, “I Believe” by Frankie Laine, and “What Do You Mean” by Justin Bieber.

“Young Love” by Ric Cartey

“Young Love” by Ric Cartey

Song Year: 1956

A rockabilly singer from Atlanta, Georgia, Cartey co-wrote this song with Carole Joyner and recorded it with his band, the Jiva-Tones. It was so popular that three other artists recorded versions of it within a year of its release. Other recordings were made by artists like Donny Osmond in the 70s, proving the longevity of this love song through the years.

“Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” by Jerry Lee Lewis

Song Year: 1957

Many country songs from the 1950s that have had staying power over the years were the ones that crossed genres. Songs that could be played on multiple radio stations could reach more people and gain popularity.

In 1956, Jerry Lee Lewis recorded this classic piece of music. And while widely accepted as one of the earliest examples of rock music, it had its roots in country music. It was originally sung by Big Maybelle in 1955.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” by Hank Williams

Song Year: 1953

Hank Williams was one of the founders of modern country music. His influence over the genre could be heard decades after his death, and many of his songs are considered standards in American music.

“Your Cheatin’ Heart” may be widely played in TV commercials, but that doesn’t sway the fact that it is one of the most famous songs in American history. Having written the song on a road trip from Tennessee to Louisiana, it was propelled in popularity by his death later that year.

“Oh Lonesome Me” by Don Gibson

Song Year: 1957

This version of “Oh Lonesome Me” may not be the one most remembered, but it is the original and spent an impressive eight weeks at the top of the country charts upon its release. In later years, it was recorded again by artists like Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, and Bing Crosby.

The Kentucky Headhunters made a version of this song in 1990 that became their biggest hit, making it to number eight.

“It’s Only Make Believe” by Conway Twitty

Song Year: 1958

Conway Twitty recorded this song as a rock hit. It made it to number one on the Billboard charts. But his heart was always in country music, and he made the switch soon after.

He recorded “It’s Only Make Believe” as a country song several times. While it was among his most popular, it never made it as high as that original version did. However, in the years since his death, it has come to be considered a country standard.

“On Top of Old Smoky” by The Weavers

Song Year: 1951

Another old folk song with unknown origins made its way into country music with The Weavers, recorded in 1951. No one is quite sure when this song originated, but it is thought to be about a place in the Appalachian Mountains known as Clingman’s Dome. This is the heart of what is known as the Great Smoky Mountains.

The song has been recorded and parodied many times over the years. Most notably, Tom Glazer made a version that is popular with children called “On Top of Spaghetti (All Covered with Cheese).”

“Blue Christmas” by Ernest Tubb

Song Year: 1953

Some of the most famous country tracks are Christmas songs. This song was originally recorded by Doye O’Dell in the 1940s. But it was Ernest Tubb that created the version most widely listened to over the following decade. He was knocked off the pedestal in the 1960s when Elvis Presley recorded the definitive version that we still hear today.

“I Don’t Hurt Anymore” by Hank Snow

Song Year: 1954

It is well known that some of the most famous country songs are sad ones. Songs about lost love and the despair it causes are among those that become popular. This song by Hank Snow is about a man that finally doesn’t hurt over the thought of his lover leaving him because he dies.

It was so popular that it has been recorded many times over the years by artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, Bob Dylan, and Martina McBride.

“A Satisfied Mind” by Porter Wagner

Song Year: 1955

Originally written by Joe Hayes and Jack Rhodes, this song was based on things they remembered their mothers saying to them as they grew up. The song was recorded many times over the years, but the first person to pick it up was Porter Wagner. He made his version in 1955 and made it to the top of the Billboard charts. It is widely regarded as “his” song.

“I Forgot To Remember To Forget” by Elvis Presley

Song Year: 1955

This rockabilly country song was the first number one hit for Elvis. The steel guitar sound and his brooding vocals made a sound that was undeniably country and a departure from the rock and roll that he would eventually become known for.

The popularity of the song lasted for years, later being recorded by The Beatles on a BBC radio show.

“Gone” by Ferlin Husky

Song Year: 1957

This was the first example of the “Nashville Sound” because of its use of echo and hollow instrumentals. Husky was a regular at the Grand Ole Opry before recording it. After it became popular, he began to make his way around network television, appearing on shows like The Tonight Show.

“Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis

Song Year: 1958

Another chart-topping crossover song from Jerry Lee Lewis appears on our list again. This song appeared on charts for both country and rock and helped Lewis rocket to the top. It landed him an appearance in the film Jamboree that year as well.

Top 50s Country Songs, Final Thoughts

That wraps up our list of the best 50s country songs. We brought you some of the most popular chart-toppers, as well as a few deep cuts that don’t get as much play. Dive in and listen to some of these classic songs and discover some of the best music in American history.

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