Country Music in the 1970s: A Look Back at the Biggest Artists, Moments + More
In the 1970s, the country music charts were filled with artists who first found fame during the previous decade(s): to name a few, Glen Campbell, Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley. But there were also a number of promising newcomers -- such as Emmylou Harris and Tanya Tucker -- making names for themselves.
The scope of country music expanded by leaps and bounds as the '70s progressed — much in the same way as rock 'n' roll did during the 1960s. Read on for the highlights.
Country Music Milestones of the 1970s
Dec. 26, 1970: Lynn Anderson hits No. 1 with "(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden." Recorded in September of that year, the song is the title track of Anderson's No. 1 Rose Garden album, which ruled the charts for 14 weeks in 1971.
April 3, 1971: Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty hit No. 1 with "After the Fire Is Gone." It's the first single the pair released as a duo.
April 12, 1971: John Denver releases "Take Me Home, Country Roads." The song was a hit on the country charts, as well as on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 and the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts.
Oct. 16, 1972: Loretta Lynn is named Entertainer of the Year at the CMA Awards -- the first woman to win the honor. She beat out Merle Haggard, Freddie Hart, Charley Pride and Jerry Reed to take home the trophy; it was another six years until another woman, Dolly Parton, won Entertainer of the Year, in 1978.
Nov. 20, 1972: Loretta Lynn releases "Rated X," a controversial song about divorced women. Despite its subject matter, it became the Kentucky native's sixth chart-topping tune.
Sept. 19, 1973: Gram Parsons dies. In the wake of his death, his friend and musical partner Emmylou Harris released "Boulder to Birmingham" on her 1975 album Pieces of the Sky in response -- her first successful release as a solo country artist.
Feb. 2, 1974: Dolly Parton's "Jolene" becomes a No. 1 hit. The song was based, at least partly, on an innocuous relationship her husband had with a red-haired bank teller; a fan named Jolene gave Parton the title, though.
Feb. 19, 1974: Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner end their professional partnership, after more than seven years together. Parton was a mainstay on Wagoner's TV variety show, and the pair recorded several albums together as well. To wish Wagoner farewell, Parton penned the iconic song "I Will Always Love You," which hit No. 1 in June of 1974.
Oct. 4, 1974: Charlie Daniels holds the first-ever Volunteer Jam. originally scheduled as a live recording session for two songs, from the Charlie Daniels Band's 1974 Fire on the Mountain album, the show started a tradition that has carried on for more than four decades.
Jan. 2, 1975: The first episode of Austin City Limits airs. The show's inaugural episode, which aired as part of a PBS pledge drive, featured Willie Nelson as its very first guest.
May 1975: Willie Nelson releases Red Headed Stranger. Though his record label thought it was too difficult a listening experience to succeed, the album was a commercial and critical smash, and has gone on to become one of the keystone albums in the history of country music.
Aug. 8, 1975: Hank Williams Jr. suffers a near-fatal fall while hiking Ajax Peak in Beaverhead County, Mont. He spent more than two years recovering from the incident.
Nov. 11, 1975: Reba McEntire signs her first record deal. While still enrolled in college, McEntire was invited to perform the National Anthem at the National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City, Okla.; country singer Red Stegall was in attendance and, impressed by what he heard, offered to help the young singer secure a recording contract.
January 1976: Wanted! The Outlaws hits No. 1. Driven by the success of two hit singles -- Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter's "Suspicious Minds," and Jennings' "Good Hearted Woman" -- the album sold a million copies, becoming the first country album to be certified platinum.
April 1978: Willie Nelson release Stardust. An album of pop standards, it became the best-selling record of his career and cemented his status as a musical iconoclast; at the time, however, it wasn't necessarily an obvious career move.
Dec. 21, 1979: Willie Nelson makes his movie debut in The Electric Horseman. In addition to starring in the film, Nelson also contributed several songs, including "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys," "Midnight Rider" and "Mammas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys."
The Best of Country Music in the 1970s
Top 10 Country Songs of the 1970s: Many of the '70s biggest country artists landed a No. 1 hit (or hits), of course. But even those that didn't contributed albums and songs that helped steer country music into the 1980s (and beyond). Some of this music even endures today, thanks to savvy pop culture placement.
Top 10 Country Albums of the 1970s: As the decade started, genre stalwarts such as Charley Pride, Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard dominated the top of the charts. But as the '70s wore on, country music started embracing a broader palette of sounds and themes.
Top 10 Country Artists of the 1970s: In the 1970s, country music was starting to stretch: Some of its stars achieved crossover success in the pop realm; others brought it to new places by pioneering a new sub-genre, outlaw country.
Country Music in the 1970s: Hear a Playlist
Jump into the playlist below for more than two hours of non-stop country hits from the 1970s. Let our "Country Roads" take you home to meet (or reacquaint yourself with) the "Honky Tonk Heroes" of the 1970s.