It’s time to step back to country music's golden era as we journey through the 1960s, where the twang of guitars and heartfelt lyrics echoed through the airwaves.
In this article, we pay homage to the best male country singers of the 60s, and the iconic voices that shaped a generation.
1. John Denver
The 1960s was a time of significant transformation for country music, with artists like John Denver at the forefront. He was known for his sunny disposition, gentle voice, and heartfelt lyrics.
Denver's musical journey started in the late 1960s when he joined the folk group, The Mitchell Trio. However, his decision to go solo led to his groundbreaking entry into the country music scene.
Denver's iconic track “Take Me Home, Country Roads” led to his breakthrough, and became his legacy. Other iconic tracks of his include “Back Home Again,” which was named the Country Music Association's (CMA) Song of the Year in 1975.
2. Hank Williams, Jr.
Hank Williams, Jr. is a popular country music singer and musician and the son of the iconic Hiram “Hank” Williams. He emerged from his father's shadow in the late 1960s and quickly made a name for himself as a rowdy country rocker.
Hank Jr. released numerous hits such as “A Country Boy Can Survive” and “Long Gone Lonesome Blues.” He honored his heritage by reinterpreting his father's classic songs while making a name for himself with original works.
For over two decades, his rendition of “All My Rowdy Friends Are Coming Over Tonight” was the opening theme for “Monday Night Football” on ABC.
3. Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson is a legendary figure in country music. He is not just a singer but also a talented songwriter, musician, political activist, and actor.
During the 60s, he had several mid-chart hits and became known for his unique vocal style and poetic songwriting, creating notable tracks like “Always On My Mind” and “On the Road Again.”
Nelson has had an incredible twenty #1 country hits and 114 chart singles. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1993 and won 12 Grammy Awards.
4. Marty Robbins
In country music, one name shines brightly—Marty Robbins. His velvety voice and poetic storytelling earned him a revered place as the balladeer of the genre.
He skillfully blended various styles within country music, including Western, rockabilly, and traditional country. Among his most famous tracks are “Big Iron” and “El Paso.” El Paso won a Grammy Award for Best Country and Western Performance in 1961. He also became a revered member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1953.
Besides his musical achievements, Robbins was a skilled race car driver and even competed in NASCAR events, earning him recognition in motorsports.
5. Conway Twitty
Born Harold Lloyd Jenkins, Conway Twitty began his music journey not as a country singer but as a rockabilly performer. With his unique voice and sweeping talent, it wasn't long before he transitioned to the world of country music, where he garnered massive success.
Twitty's career boasted over 50 chart-topping country singles that reached audiences nationwide. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.
In the 1970s alone, he experienced an impressive streak of hits like “You've Never Been This Far Before” and “Hello Darlin'” that certified his place among some of the most iconic names in the genre's history.
6. Glen Campbell
Glen Campbell was a talented and versatile artist who made his mark in the country music scene of the 60s with his soulful voice and exceptional guitar skills.
During the late 1960s, he achieved incredible success as a country-pop musician. He released a string of hit songs that climbed the charts, including “Rhinestone Cowboy” and “Gentle on My Mind.” He also received 6 Grammy Awards throughout his career.
Beyond his musical achievements, Campbell showcased his acting skills in films like “True Grit” (1969) and starred in “The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour,” a popular variety television show that ran from 1969 to 1972.
7. Merle Haggard
Merle Haggard made an indelible impact on country music. Raised during the Great Depression, his unique upbringing and challenging youth were reflected in his poignant songwriting, earning him a reputation as the “Poet of the Common Man.”
His extensive discography is adorned with a treasure trove of classics, including “Okie from Muskogee” and “Sing Me Back Home.”
By the late 20th century, Haggard became one of the most popular performers in country music, with nearly 40 #1 hits under his belt. Additionally, he received multiple accolades from revered institutions like The Academy of Country Music Awards, where he was voted Top Male Vocalist.
8. Waylon Jennings
Waylon Jennings pioneered the country music industry and played an important role in the outlaw movement. His rugged voice and rebellious spirit set him apart as a trailblazer in the genre.
He rose to fame as the bassist for Buddy Holly on the “Winter Dance Party” tour. They were close friends and roommates during their early careers.
Among his notable tracks are “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” as well as “Good Hearted Woman.” In addition to winning 2 Grammy Awards, The CMA honored him with several awards, including Single of the Year for “Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)” in 1977.
9. George Jones
George Jones was a talented musician, singer, and songwriter in the country music genre. In the early 1960s, he had already become one of the top singers in country music with his soul-stirring voice and emotional depth.
Jones was known for his heartfelt songs about heartbreak. Among his masterpieces are the notable tracks “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and “Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes.”
Furthermore, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1992. He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012, a testament to his lasting impact on the music industry.
10. Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash stood apart from his country peers with his deep, resonant baritone and catchy, vivid lyrics. He was one of the definitive country stars of his age and had a career that extended well past that golden era.
Throughout his illustrious career, Cash released many hits that have become timeless classics, including “Ring of Fire” and “A Boy Named Sue.” He even won a Grammy award for the latter in 1970.
Over his lifetime, Cash sold over 90 million records worldwide—an astounding number confirming him as one of the best-selling music artists ever.
11. Charley Pride
Charley Pride was an American country music singer who succeeded greatly in the 1960s. He became the most successful African American star in country music during that decade.
Pride made history as the first black member of the Grand Ole Opry after DeFord Bailey and became the first black singer to have a #1 country record. He was named the CMA's top male vocalist in 1971 and 1972.
Pride had an impressive 52 Top-10 Country hits at the height of his musical career. His best tracks include “Kiss an Angel Good Mornin'” and “Crystal Chandeliers.”
12. Faron Young
Known as the “Hillbilly Heartthrob,” Faron Young stood out in the country music genre. His charm, charisma, and undeniable talent contributed significantly to the era's music landscape.
One of his signature songs, “Hello Walls,” topped the Billboard Country charts and crossed over to the pop charts. Penned by a then-unknown Willie Nelson, it showcases Young's emotive singing and ability to weave a compelling narrative.
In 2000, he was rightfully brought into the Country Music Hall of Fame. Beyond his successful music career, Young also enjoyed a fruitful acting career, appearing in films like “Hidden Guns” and “Raiders of Old California.”
13. Johnny Horton
Johnny Horton is another memorable artist from the 1960s country music scene. With his powerful voice and unique storytelling skills, he succeeded after performing regularly on the popular radio program “Louisiana Hayride.”
His 1959 single “The Battle of New Orleans” became a monumental hit, topping both country and pop charts. It won the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Performance in 1960.
Other notable songs in his discography include “North to Alaska” and “Sink the Bismark.”
Though his career was tragically cut short by a car accident in 1960, Horton's influence on the country music scene still inspires us today.
14. Bobby Bare
When reminiscing about the best 60s male country singers, it would be remiss not to mention Bobby Bare. His rich baritone voice and unique storytelling ability set him apart as a versatile artist, dabbling in several genres like pop and folk.
Following his discharge from the army, Bare moved to Los Angeles and, in 1958, achieved his first success with the novelty song “The All American Boy.”
However, it was in the 1960s that he found his stride, establishing himself as a prominent country artist with hits like “Detroit City.” This song earned him the Grammy Award for Best Country & Western Recording in 1964.
15. Don Gibson
Don Gibson was a legendary country musician during the 1950s and 1960s. He made significant contributions to the Nashville Sound genre, which featured smoother production and appealed to pop audiences. He was also a talented songwriter.
Many famous artists, including Johnny Cash, recorded his songs, cementing his place in country music history. Some of his most famous songs include “Sea of Heartbreak” and “I Can't Stop Loving You.”
As recognition of his immense talent and impact on country music, Gibson was also inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1973.
16. Ferlin Husky
In the dynamic world of 1960s country music, Ferlin Husky showed great versatility and charisma with his rich voice and unique comedic alter ego.
Starting as a disc jockey, he soon found his true calling in music. His first significant success came with his 1953 hit “A Dear John Letter,” a duet with Jean Shepard.
However, the 1960 release of “Wings of a Dove” solidified Husky's standing in country music. This spiritually-infused song was a crossover hit, reaching #1 on the country charts and climbing to the Top 15 on the pop charts.
17. Eddy Arnold
In the rolling hills of Tennessee, a musical luminary emerged—Eddy Arnold, who left a noticeable mark on country music for generations. His smooth, velvety vocal style made him a standout figure in the genre.
Arnold burst onto the music scene in 1945, but it was during the 1960s when he truly came into his own. One of his greatest hits was the heart-rending “Make the World Go Away,” which topped the Billboard Country charts.
Throughout his career, he sold more than 85 million records. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.
18. Buck Owens
Buck Owens was a legendary country music singer and songwriter who impacted the genre in the 1960s. He is best known for popularizing the “Bakersfield sound,” characterized by its clear, twangy, and danceable style.
His energetic performances and catchy songs made him a fan favorite during this era, with hit tracks such as “Act Naturally” and “Love's Gonna Live Here.” He was inducted into the prestigious Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in 1996.
Owens also co-hosted the popular television variety show “Hee Haw” from 1969 to 1986, becoming a beloved figure in households across America.
19. Porter Wagoner
Porter Wagoner was a renowned country music singer in the 1960s. His rich baritone voice and flamboyant rhinestone-studded suits made him a memorable figure in the genre.
Wagoner's career peaked during the 60s with the success of his country show. He often collaborated with fellow country singer Norma Jean and even brought soul music icon James Brown to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.
Some of his most notable tracks include “Green, Green Grass of Home” and “The Carroll County Accident.” His contributions to country music earned him 3 Grammy Awards and a Grand Ole Opry Membership in 1957.
20. Stonewall Jackson
In the rich tapestry of the 1960s country music scene, Stonewall Jackson emerged as a vibrant figure with his unique blend of honky-tonk and traditional country music.
One of his greatest hits includes the track “Waterloo,” with its traditional honky-tonk rhythms. The song reached #1 on the country charts and crossed over to the pop charts, establishing him as a household name in country music.
He was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 1956, a prestigious membership he held for over 60 years.
21. Sonny James
Sonny James emerged as a distinctive and captivating voice in the 1960s country music landscape. He was introduced to music early by his parents, who were amateur musicians.
His first major hit was “Young Love,” which topped the country and pop charts. In the 1960s, he dominated the country charts with hits such as “You're the Only World I Know” and “Take Good Care of Her.”
In 1967, he received the first of two back-to-back Male Vocalist of the Year awards from the Academy of Country Music. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006.
22. Roger Miller
Roger Miller was a highly influential American singer-songwriter in the 1960s, known for his honky-tonk-influenced novelty songs.
One of his biggest hits from the era was “King of the Road,” showcasing his songwriting abilities and charismatic stage presence.
In addition to his singing talents, Miller was an accomplished songwriter, guitarist, fiddler, drummer, T.V. star, and Broadway composer. He won an impressive 11 Grammy Awards, spanning various categories such as Best Country & Western Song and Best Country Vocal Performance.
23. Bill Anderson
Nicknamed “Whispering Bill” for his soft, intimate vocal style, Bill Anderson revolutionized country music in the 1960s with uniquely evocative delivery.
Anderson's breakthrough hit was “City Lights,” a song he wrote at 19, popularized by Ray Price in 1958. However, it was during the 1960s that Anderson's solo career flourished with famous singles like “Po' Folks” and “Mama Sang a Song.”
Anderson was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1975. He was also the first country singer to receive a BMI Icon Award in 2002.
24. Billy “Crash” Craddock
Billy Craddock is a memorable artist for his music, unique energy, and charm. He adopted the stage name Billy “Crash” Craddock, a nod to his youthful energy and irreverent persona.
His early career took off in the late 1950s with a rockabilly style in Australia with tracks like “Boom Boom Baby” and “One Last Kiss.” His international success paved the way for his country music resurgence in the U.S.
By the mid-1970s, Craddock had firmly established himself as a country star in the U.S., with hits like “Rub It In” and “Sweet Magnolia Blossom.”
25. Jim Ed Brown
Jim Ed Brown was a talented country singer who made his mark on the music scene in the 1960s. He started his career as part of the group The Browns alongside his two sisters.
He had a successful solo career in the 60s, with many of his songs reaching the top of the charts. These include “Pop a Top” and “I Don't Want to Have to Marry You,” his hit duet with Helen Cornelius.
In 2015, Brown was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, showcasing his lasting impact on the genre.
26. Dick Curless
With his rich baritone voice and signature eyepatch, Dick Curless was one of the most intriguing artists in the landscape of 1960s country music.
His journey into country music began when he started his radio show. However, his big break came in the 60s, with the release of his most iconic song, “A Tombstone Every Mile.” It resonated deeply with truckers and country music fans alike.
Curless released several notable tracks throughout his career, such as “Bury the Bottle with Me” and “Big Wheel Cannonball.”
27. Roy Drusky
Although less well-known than the others on this list, Roy Drusky's silky voice and suave stage presence cemented his name in country music history.
His big break came in the 1960s, with the release of his chart-topping hit “Yes Mr. Peters,” a humorous duet with Priscilla Mitchell. Famous tracks include “Peel Me a Nanner” and “Long Long Texas Road.”
Drusky was also invited to join the Grand Ole Opry, a highly prestigious platform for any country artist.
Top Male Country Singers Of The 60s, Final Thoughts
The golden age of country music in the 1960s witnessed the rise of many talented artists who left a permanent mark on the genre. These 60s male country singers, with their unique styles and authentic storytelling, shaped the course of country music and continue to inspire future generations today.