Country music fans all have their favorite artists, and often those artists are celebrated commercial successes. These popular artists have lengthy and impressive careers spanning years and sometimes even decades. But the ability for an artist to find even small success in the music industry is an impressive accomplishment. However, sometimes those artists are one-hit wonders, but other times they have two hits, hit albums, or even a couple of years of success. These artists made their impact on the music industry before fading from the spotlight, but who really remembers them?
Some artists had catchy tunes or just plain fun lyrics, but the result was always an enjoyable experience. These artists were known for their big hits that country music fans still sing along to today.
Chris Cagle was big in the early 2000s. Some of his successful singles include ‘Chicks Dig It,’ ‘What a Beautiful Day’ and ‘Let There Be Cowgirls.’ But his only number 1 song was ‘I Breathe In, I Breathe Out.’ Cagle’s career took a turn after a split with his record label and relationship issues. Cagle announced his retirement from country music via Facebook in October 2015. “I’d like to thank everyone for 15 years of a great time… From B[rooks]&D[unn] to [Rascal] Flatts and fans!! I’m gonna miss my band and everyone… All this means, I’m going home! I’m going to be a Father and a GREAT Husband and enjoy my life! I thank you ALL for everything! I’ve had a great run and would just like to go home with my dignity!”
But not all artists simply “fall off the face of the earth,” instead some used their careers in country music to create a platform for other careers. Jimmy Wayne did just this. Wayne’s music often centered around his abandonment by his father and his time in the foster care system. ‘I Love You This Much’ is a heart-breaking personal tale of how Jimmy felt about his dad. But he used this hurt to make a difference. His time as a solo artist allowed him to become an author, motivational speaker, and national spokesperson for CASA. CASA is a volunteer network that serves neglected and abused children
The smooth crooners are always welcome in country music and Steve Holy was a prime example. His soulful ‘Good Morning Beautiful’ will always be a favorite for couples. He had further success several years later with the riotously funny ‘Brand New Girlfriend.’ But the rest of his success was sporadic and recently he seems to be focused on anything but music.
One artist that still makes occasional cameo appearances in music videos and album covers is Jamey Johnson. Johnson could be considered a contemporary of Chris Stapleton with similar styles and vocals. Jamey began his career as a songwriter. He wrote George Strait’s hit single ‘Give it Away’ and then found his own success as a solo artist with ‘Seen it in Color’ in 2008 The record That Lonesome Song was certified platinum and Jamey’s follow-up album The Guitar Song was even certified Gold. So, what happened? Well, it turns out that Johnson was injured when he fell on a patch of ice leaving the studio. That fall might have caused neurological damage that prevents him from focusing and makes writing and performing difficult.
Rounding everything off, the last artist to mention is Buddy Jewel. Buddy won the inaugural season of Nashville Star. Jewel actually beat Country Queen Miranda Lambert for the title. After his win, he had two hit singles in quick succession, ‘Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey’s Song)’ and ‘Sweet Southern Comfort.’ However, after the success of his first album the failure of his second album to have a commercial hit led to his label dropping him. Buddy has produced multiple albums since, but none have been considered a success. He even said, “As it is with Nashville you’re only as good as your last project. I’ve actually had to pray to God to give me the willingness to forgive some people for making some bad decisions about my career.
But not all surprising career endings are from recent history. Some of the most memorable artists that left country music did so voluntarily. Charly McClain was a hit in the mid-70s and 80s. She had multiple hits, one being ‘Whose Cheatin’ Who,’ which Alan Jackson did a cover of and made into a hit again. But McClain got tired of hustling in the music industry after fifteen years and decided to step away to spend time with her family.
Now, one of the most surprising people to leave music was Bobbie Gentry. Gentry was a country music star in the 1960s and her most famous song was ‘Ode to Billie Joe.’ This song not only netted Gentry a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal in 1967, but she also won Best New Artist the same year. Bobbie continued to have a thriving career but by the 80s she was tired of performing. Her final public performance was the 1982 ACM Awards. But one part of her career that should never be overlooked is the song she wrote in 1970, ‘Fancy.’ The song was only a minor hit for Gentry but it became an iconic number for Reba McEntire.
Now the last group of artists are ones that showed unbelievable promise but sadly did not reach the success they could have claimed.
Don’t worry fans, the other ladies have not been forgotten. Who remembers SHeDAISY? This group was comprised of three sisters and they were a commercial success at the turn of the millennium. The group had hits like ‘Passenger Seat’ and ‘Little Goodbyes’ and played venues like the 2003 Orange Bowl half-time show. But over time the group’s popularity began to wane as the years went on. They had a record label dispute during their fifth album and have not released any new music since.
The next group in this list is The Wreckers. The sassy female duo of Michelle Branch and Jessica Harp made waves immediately out of the gate. The pair exploded on the country music scene in 2005 with their smash hit ‘Leave the Pieces When You Go.’ The Wreckers opened with more commercial success immediately than almost any other female artist of the time. However, in 2007 the band decided to split and both Branch and Harp went on to produce solo projects.
The last group that seemed to disappear from country music was The Band Perry. This group of two brothers and a sister had two extremely popular country albums. With songs like ‘If I Die Young,’ ‘Chainsaw’ and ‘Dig Two’ propelling them to near superstardom. The group later wanted to branch out and work with different sounds in their music. They tried out multiple sounds but the lack of cohesion in their music lead to a split with their label. They are still making music but thus far none have reached the success of their country albums.
Would you want to hear more from them?
Some of these artists could try to make a comeback at any point in the future, but would country music want them back? Would the fans want them back?
Some artists still have loyal fans that would absolutely love to have new music. But commercial success is a fickle thing, as all of these singers can attest. One day you may be on top of the world and the next you are fondly remembered. But country music has always had a very loyal fan base that simply appreciates good music, so anything is possible.
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