Best country artists of the 1980's

Country music continued to change in the 1980's as additional rock guitars and drums were being added and the sound of Southern Rock was emerging more into the "traditional" country sound. The sound was different from the artists of the 1960s and those in the 1970s. Groups began to emerge at the top of the charts and album sales as the crossover hits continued to climb and more artists were able to release music videos of their songs. 

Clint BlackBlack's 1989 debut album Killin' Time produced five straight number one singles on the charts. Although he hit the mainstream in 1989, Black carried his success over to the 1990's as well. Black won the Country Music Association's Horizon Award for best newcomer in 1989. His more traditional sound brought back nostalgic memories of years gone by and added a fresh sound to the country radio stations during the late 1980's. His career began to slow in the 1990's as legal issues arose with management. 

Reba McEntire - McEntire had released nine studio albums before reaching the height of her career, but in 1986 she released two albums which sent her career soaring. In Feb. 1986 Whoever's in New England was released and the title track was the lead single from the album and became a Number One single.  Later that year, she released her album What Am I Gonna Do About You, which was another hit with listeners. With continuous releases of Greatest Hits Compilations and a Christmas album, McEntire continued to climb the charts. She increased her involvement in her career in 1988 when she founded Starstruck Entertainment. The business would control her management, booking, publishing, promotion, publicity, accounting, ticket sales, and fan club administration. She moved effortlessly into the 1990s and continued her reign in country music sales, hits and touring. She continues to change over time from Broadway, television, films and new music. McEntire will release a new gospel album in early 2017.

Barbara Mandrell - At the age of thirteen, Mandrell was already playing steel guitar for Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and George Jones on tour. As a singer, Mandrell was hitting the top of the charts in the late 1970s, but etched her name into the list of the best country artists during the 1980s.  Between 1981 and 1983, Mandrell received numerous industry awards and accolades from fellow artists and critics. In 1980 Mandrell became the third woman to win the "Entertainer of the Year" award from the Country Music Association and repeated the win again in 1981. Her non-stop touring, hit records and popular TV show helped Mandrell hit a career peak during the 1980s. Mandrell was at the peak of her popularity when she had a major setback after being involved in a serious automobile crash on September 11, 1984. Mandrell is able to play the pedal steel and lap steel guitars along with many other instruments, including the accordion, saxophone, and banjo. 

Dolly Parton - Parton continued her run on the charts during the 1980's with singles "9 to 5" from the movie in which she co-starred in and "Islands in the Streams" a duet with Kenny Rogers. The duet with Rogers was named the best country duet of all-time on CMT. In 1986, Parton wanted to increase interest in her hometown area and purchased the Silver Dollar City Theme Park and renamed the park as Dollywood. She has continued to increase the business ventures in the area to include a water park, dinner shows and a resort. Parton said she had become involved with the operation because she "always thought that if I made it big or got successful at what I had started out to do, that I wanted to come back to my part of the country and do something great, something that would bring a lot of jobs into this area."

The Judds - This mother-daughter duo reigned in country music during the 1980's as they released hit singles throughout the decade.  The duo released six studio albums between 1983 and 1991 and became one of the most successful acts in country music. The Judds charted twenty-five singles on the country music charts with fourteen going to Number One and six more making the Top Ten. Their biggest hits, "Girls Night Out "; "Turn it Loose"; "Why Not Me"; and "Grandpa" struck a nerve with listeners and had these ladies rising in fame.  Wynonna and Naomi were named the Top Vocal Duo at the Academy of Country Music Awards from 1984 until 1990.

Alabama - A group of three cousins and a drummer comprised this band that ruled the top of the charts in the 1980's with hit singles "She and I", "Mountain Music" and "Tennessee River".  The band had over twenty-seven number one hits, seven multi-platinum albums and received numerous awards as the top vocal group. The band's blend of traditional country music and Southern rock gave it a crossover appeal that helped lead to their success as they added blends of pop music to the mix. Alabama is the most awarded band in the history of country music.

George Strait - The King of country music, Strait's success began when his first single "Unwound" became a hit in 1981. He rode his wave of hits during the 1980's when seven of his albums reached number one on the country charts. Although his success continued throughout the years following the 1980's, Strait was one of the top selling artists during that decade. He has had a total of sixty-one number-one hits, breaking a record also previously set by Conway Twitty, giving Strait more number one songs than any other artist in any genre of music. He moved into film as the 1990's began and continued hit singles during that decade as well into the 2000's.

As the 1980's were coming to a close, the sound was beginning to change to a new outlaw movement and Southern Rock enters the genre. New artists would emerge and some of these artists would remain on top.