THEN AND NOW: The most iconic country stars of all time

Country music has one of the strongest followings of all genres, and it’s country music stars like these that keep fans loyal and hopeful for more. We’re taking a look back at where some of country music’s most notable stars started, and where they are now.


Dolly Parton went from farm girl to country icon.

AP Images/Michael Loccisano/GettyDolly Parton in the ’70s and 2017.

From a girl who grew up on a farm, singing in church, to a household name in country music, Dolly Parton is an icon. She made her debut in the ’70s, and has since made countless hits, won many awards, opened her own theme park, starred in films, and is now going to be producing films as well.

You can’t think of country music stars, and not think of Dolly Parton.


Luke Bryan worked on a peanut farm.

Bryan worked at a family-owned peanut plant during the day, and played gigs at night for years, before taking the country music scene by storm. Luke Bryan actually wrote hits for fellow artists, before getting his first record deal in 2007.

Since then, he’s been awarded Entertainer of the Year amongst other things, sold out countless arenas, released many chart-topping hits, and acted as a judge on “American Idol.”

He’s currently on tour and on his way to becoming a household name in country music.


Blake Shelton went from songwriter to TV judge.

Mark Humphrey/Charles Sykes/GettyShelton in 2007 and 2017.

Songwriter turned singer Blake Shelton began his rise to popularity in Nashville at just 17 years old. Presently, he is People Magazine’s “Sexiest Man Alive” of 2017, and is also a fan favourite coach and judge on “The Voice.”

Does anyone else remember singing along to his first hit song “Austin,” which was released nearly 20 years ago?


The Dixie Chicks are now iconic.

Ezra Shaw/Kevin Winter/GettyThe Dixie Chicks in 2003 and 2014.

The Dixie Chicks began as a bluegrass group with four founding members including Emily and Martie Erwin, but not lead singer Natalie Maines. Natalie later joined the group that we all know as The Dixie Chicks, and they had numerous hits throughout the 90s and early 2000s.

Many associate The Dixie Chicks with their outspoken nature; it’s been 15 years since they made news stirring the political pot in the wake of 9/11.

While they haven’t released much new music in a while, they still tour from time to time with other headliners.


Carrie Underwood won “American Idol” and shot up to superstardom.

Jason Merritt/Getty/Scott Gries/GettyCarrie Underwood in 20016 and 2018.

Carrie Underwood made her entrance onto the country music scene in 2005 as the winner of “American Idol.” She’s since had many multi-platinum albums, won countless awards, been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and married and had a baby.

From small town girl to country superstar, Carrie Underwood has built a huge following, and career, “spanning achievements in music, television, and film.


Rascal Flatts is still putting out music.

Frank Micelotta/Mike Coppola/GettyRascal Flatts at the CMA’s in 2004 and 2018.

When Rascal Flatts first entered the country music scene, they were sporting frosted tips, camo, and leather on the regular.

They have changed in appearance quite a bit over the years, but these guys know what they’re doing, and have the fan base to prove it. With 16 number one hits, over 10 million tickets sold, and an album that was just released, it’s safe to say there’s still more good music to come.


Keith Urban started his love of music at just 6.

Jason Kirk/Dia Dipasupil/GettyKeith Urban in 2001 and 2018.

Urban began playing guitar at just 6 years old, according to All Music. He’s a New Zealand native, raised in Australia, but has had a great deal of success in Nashville.

He began his climb to success in country music in the early ’90s, and since then has won many awards, released several chart-topping songs, and acted as a judge on both “American Idol” and Australia’s “The Voice.”

Keith Urban’s style has shifted slightly over the last 25 years, but his hair and sound are still pretty much the same.


Taylor Swift went from country queen to pop icon.

Evan Agostini/Larry Busaca/GettyTaylor Swift in 2007 and 2015.

Taylor Swift landed in the country music scene at just 16 years old, sporting long curly hair, sundresses, and a relatable nature that’s hard to match. Today, at 28 years old, her look has changed quite a bit, her success has grown tremendously, and her sound has expanded to include the pop genre in addition to country.

She’s been a fan favourite from the get-go, and she’s certainly one of the most popular artists in music, period.


Dierks Bentley started out in bluegrass.

Frederick M. Brown/Michael Loccisano/GettyDierks Bentley in 2004 and 2018.

Who knew he worked as a researcher for television networks before becoming a country music star and the youngest Grand Ole Opry inductee ever? Dierks Bentley was actually singing bluegrass before tapping into the country music scene.

He’s now an award winner, country music heartthrob, and successful headliner.


Tim McGraw is better than ever.

Lawrence Lucier/Larry Busacca/GettyTim McGraw in 2002 and 2016.

Tim McGraw began topping country music charts in the early ’90s, sporting longer hair and never seen without his cowboy hat. Now, he’s married, healthier than ever, has a beautiful family, and much success. McGraw is still releasing chart-toppers and is currently on tour with wife, Faith Hill.

Taste of Country put it best in saying that “time has been good to McGraw.”


Darius Rucker went from heading up Hootie & the Blowfish to being a country sensation.

Evan Agostini/Rick Diamond/GettyDarius Rucker in 2004 and 2018.

From lead singer of Hootie & the Blowfish in the ’80s to present-day solo country music star, Darius Rucker has been in the public eye for over 30 years. With hits like “Only Wanna Be With You” and “Wagon Wheel,” we hope Darius Rucker doesn’t stop making music any time soon.


Kenny Chesney has a huge following.

Vince Bucci/Michael Loccisano/GettyKenny Chesney in 2004 and 2016.

Kenny Chesney began playing music when he joined a band in college while pursuing an advertising degree at East Tennessee State University. According to Rolling Stone, he moved to Nashville after graduation, signed his first record deal, and then released his debut album in 1994.

Since then, he’s been the recipient of countless awards, including Entertainer of the Year multiple times, and he has arguably one of the biggest and strongest followings in all of country music with no signs of slowing down anytime soon.


Reba McEntire remains wildly popular.

Jon Kopaloff/Michael Loccisano/GettyReba McEntire in 2002 and 2017.

The Encyclopedia Britannica lists Reba McEntire as “one of the most popular female country vocal artists of the late 20th century.” Reba McEntire began pursuing music in the ninth grade, in a band with her siblings. She went on to minor in music in college, and landed her first record deal shortly before graduating.

Over the years, McEntire has built an admirable career, both in music and television. She is “one of only four entertainers in history to receive the National Artistic Achievement Award from the US Congress.”

Presently, she just released a new album last year.

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