CMT’s 40 Most Influential Artists

CMT_logoThe folks at CMT are releasing the names in their list of country music’s 40 most influential artists of all time. So far, the list includes some obvious names, with George Strait at #5, Johnny Cash at #8, and George Jones at #10. Surprisingly, it also includes a number of performers who are not country themselves, but who have nevertheless influenced the genre in notable ways, including Michael Jackson (#12), The Beatles (#14), and Led Zeppelin (#32).

Yesterday, the site revealed its entry for #4 — Dolly Parton. (Great choice.) Now, the question is, what artists will claim the top 3 spots?

It’s not an easy question to answer. There are a lot of classic country performers whose names haven’t appeared yet–Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family, Gene Autry, Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe, Ernest Tubb, Chet Atkins, Lefty Frizzell, Webb Pierce, Kitty Wells, Marty Robbins, Waylon Jennings, and Tammy Wynette to name just a few. Despite Dolly’s high ranking, the list is shy on female performers, and Wells–the first woman to truly crack country music’s “men’s club” wide open–would be a deserving contender. Given the list’s overall modern bias, I guess it’s also possible that Shania Twain, the Dixie Chicks, or even Blake Shelton could find a place in the top 3, but I doubt it.

Here are my off-the-cuff predictions for the last names to be revealed:

Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival 2010 - Day 1#3. Merle Haggard. Like Dolly, Merle’s been on the scene since the 1960s and has become one of the genre’s most respected elder statesmen. I think #3 is a little high (not a diss — I think he’s great), but it’s hard to imagine CMT leaving Bakersfield’s favorite ex-convict hanging.

Elvis-Presley#2. Elvis Presley. Like I mentioned, the list includes several artists who are more associated with rock/pop than country. Realistically, Elvis probably deserves the #1 spot, as country music has never quite recovered from “Heartbreak Hotel,” which topped all the charts in 1956. But he just can’t win this fight because…

bestcountry-hanksplash#1. Hank Williams. More than 60 years after his death, ole Hank remains one of country music’s favorite inspirations and most recognizable icons. It will be a complete and utter rebellion if any other artist claims the top spot.

So there you have it. It’s not clear when #3 and #2 will be announced, but #1 will be revealed on December 1. What performers do you think might make the final 3? Who are you surprised to see on (or omitted from) this list?

(P.S. Yes, you’ll get credit for commenting on my post. I want love, too, y’all.)


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3 Responses to CMT’s 40 Most Influential Artists

  1. Ramie Payne

    I definitely agree that Elvis should be somewhere in the top 3 of this list. He changed everything about how country music was made, how it sounds, and how it is performed. But at the same time, he kept a lot of the aspects of country music like the steel guitar and songs about love and heartbreak. I also think Elvis should be in the top 3 because his music is timeless, as all great music should be. Young children know his music and can recognize his songs even though his last album was released in the 70s. That’s impressive. Elvis deserves a place in the top 3 and I hope when these top three names are announced, he is in there.

  2. William Glass

    I love who you have for the #1 spot. Hank Williams represents true country music and he’s really fun to listen to. After reviewing the top 40 so far I have some disagreements that come to my mind involving some artists. Personally, I believe Willie Nelson should be ahead of Dolly Parton. Willie helped create the Outlaw movement of the 70’s along with Kris Kristofferson and Waylon Jennings, which helped country music take a swing for the better. Having that said, it would be hard to put Jennings over Nelson because they have too much in common in my mind to pick one over the other. Can’t wait to see the top three though, it should be exciting.

  3. Gerrit Cook

    I think that it is cool how the state of country is so different from when some of these names were active. The popular country songs obviously sound so different, but I am glad that these people are getting recognition. I can see why Elvis is on there because it is hard to not think of him as a contributor to a variety of genres. I haven’t heard much of Hank Williams’ music, but since we talk about him so much in class I understand that he had a big part in developing country music. Michael Jackson’s nomination makes me scratch my head.

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