Country music has always been about telling amazing stories. It’s a genre that has diehard fans from around the globe and has changed over the years. Many don’t realize the impact and participation that Black people have in country music. For example, Ray Charles’ Georgia On My Mind is one of the greatest country classics of all time and has been re-recorded several times. What we have seen in the media when it comes to country music has been limited to white participation but a growing number of black singers are getting more spotlight. Enjoy and comment if you like.
1. Charley Pride
Charley Frank Pride can easily be said to be one of the greatest black pioneers in country music. He was born on the 18th of March 1934. He got his first guitar when he was 14 and taught himself how to play it. Although he had a love for music, he had always dreamt of becoming a professional player in baseball. Charley’s dream came true quite soon for him as he signed his first contract in 1953 with the Boise Yankees.
While still very active in baseball, Charley was being encouraged to consider joining the music field by other country stars such as Red Foley. In 1958, he finally recorded some songs. He got a contract from Chet Atkins and that was his breaking point.
His first single, The Snakes Crawl at Night” was not a success. It was his third single ‘Just Between You and Me’ that made it to number nine on the hot country charts. He faced a lot of racism all through this period.
The single brought so much success to him that it was nominated for a Grammy the next year. In the summer of 1966, he had his first show where there was a large turn-up and people did not know that he was black until he got onto the stage.
That show however became the first of many more to the point where his race was just a minor issue.
Charley hit his peak between 1966 and 1987 where he had 52 of his singles make it to the top 10 hits charts. He also won an award for Entertainer of the year in 1971. He died on 12th December 2020 due to complications of COVID-19 at 86 years.
2. Darius Rucker
Born on 13th May 1966, Darius Carlos Rucker is an American songwriter and singer. In 1986, he founded a band with Mark Bryan in university (Hootie and Blowfish) and he was the lead vocalist. The band released a total of five albums with Darius as a member. In 2002, he released an album but no single charted.
He later signed to Capitol Nashville and released an album in which the first single of it got it to first place on the charts of Hot Country since Charley Pride. He won the new artist award as the first black American in 2009. His third album got to the first position on the billboard charts for US country albums. His most recent album in 2017, got the 8th position on the top 200 US billboards and also 2nd on the top country albums.
3. Kane Brown
Kane Allen Brown was born on 21st October 1993. He is a singer and also a songwriter. He first got into the limelight via social media. In 2015, he released Closer, his first EP, and soon after released another single in 2015 October. Kane signed with RCA Nashville in 2016 and at the end of that year, he released his first complete album that he named Kane Brown on 2nd December 2016. Again in 2017, Kane became the first artist who had a lot of his singles on all the five charts of Billboard country. His second album was released in 2018 and became the first position on the billboard 200
4. Aaron Neville
Neville was born on 24th January 1941. He has Caucasian and also Native American roots. He is an R & B and soul American musician and vocalist. Aaron released his first album in the late ’60s. He released on A & M Records, the Grand Tour which became a platinum-selling with the lead single as “Don’t take away my heaven’. In total Aaron has released four albums that are platinum as well as four singles that were among the top hits in the US.
This includes the three that made it to the first spot on the contemporary chart for adults on billboard. The single Tell it like it is was in the first position for more than four weeks straight.
Neville has also recorded songs with his brothers with their name being The Neville Brothers. Neville at 80 years announced in May of 2021 that he had retired from doing tours but he may record some albums for him to perform during special occasions.
Ray was born on 23rd September 1930. He was a composer, pianist, songwriter, and American singer. Due to glaucoma, he was blinded during his early life. He preferred being called ‘brother Ray’ among his friends. In the 1950s, he pioneered soul through his combination of blues, jazz, rhythm, jazz as well as gospel styles that he inculcated into the music that he recorded for Atlantic. He became one of the first musicians to be granted by a mainstream record company artistic control despite being black.
Charles managed to have quite a number of his singles all through his career reach the top 40 on various charts for Billboard.
Charles received the National Meds of Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors as well as the Polar Music Prize. He also managed to win a total of 17 Grammy Awards, five being posthumous. He died in 2004 due to liver failure complications.
6. Jimmie Allen
James Edward Allen is an American songwriter and singer. His first single in 2018 became the second most added song to the country music playlists on the radio. It was then made into a video. He issued his debut album in 2018. He did a duet with Noah Cyrus in 2020 that was also included in his EP that was released on 10th July 2020. Allan became the first black performer (solo) to win the title of New Male Artist of the year at the ACM Awards.
7. Mickey Guyton
Born on 17th June 1983, Mickey is a country music American singer whose material encompasses different elements of country-pop and contemporary country. The singer was raised in Texas. She then moved to Tennessee where she signed a contract with Capitol Records. Her first debut released in 2015, Unbreakable.
Her single ‘better than you left me’ managed to get to the top 40 in the country chart and that made her a nominee from the Academy of Music Awards in 2015. In 2020, she released another single ‘black like me’. The song speaks about her experience being a black woman in country music. The song aligned with the Floyd case and got so popular such that she got a nomination for the Grammy awards. In May 2021, Mickey became the first country female and black artist to be featured as the singer of the national anthem on Memorial day. She announced that she will release her debut studio album mid 2021.
8. Cowboy Troy
Troy Lee Coleman 3, was born on 18th December 1970. He is better known as Cowboy Troy. He is a songwriter and an American country rap musician as well as one of the members of the MuzikMafia. The MuzikMafia is a group of various country music songwriters and singers such as James Otto, Gretchen Wilson, and Big & Rich. Troy has released seven studio albums as well as one EP. On Warner Bros Records, he has three releases and has also managed to chart on the Billboard country singles charts twice.
Petrella Ann Bonner bills herself as The first lady of country soul. She was born in 1947. She got her first record contract in 1988. However, it was not until 1991 that her single with yet another Record charted. Petrella has managed to score herself the titles of being not only a songwriter and singer but also a music producer as well as an actress. She has released a total of seven studio albums and has had several of her songs charted on the Top 100 Country Singles Chart. She toured the US and in 1994 got to be named the Songwriter of the year by the Songwriters Association of Tennessee.
10. Carl Ray
Born and raised in Houston, Carl had a love for music and started writing his songs. Johnny Nash discovered him. That is when Carl began to develop a love for country music. His talent was noticed soon. He has been invited to the biggest country music festival worldwide and been interviewed by countless print media including Billboard Magazine and Green Card Magazine from France. In 2020, Carl’s single “I Stand with this country” was released in 2020 and got to first place in Cash Box 2021.
There are so many more black country music singers who have made a name for themselves. It is indeed a step in ending racism when the world accepts their music.