There is no denying that country music is a product of the black experience in America. African American country artists have been forced to overcome decades of dehumanizing social stigmas and prejudice on their path to success and popularity. Despite the obstacles, black male country singers have defied the odds to contribute some amazing music to the country genre. Here are ten of our favorite singers.
Black Male Country Singers of the 60s
Unforgettable African American country singers have existed for years prior to the Civil Rights movement, but the game began to change as black artists made monumental public traction in the 50’s and 60’s.
In the 60s Ray Charles made a massive impact on country music by pulling an unpopular genre into the spotlight of popular music, and he did so by pursuing the unconventional.
As we all know, Ray is originally known for his career in soul music, but around 1962 he decided to pursue a different genre, one not many others cared much for, the untapped potential of hillbilly music.
Charles’ atypical release of a country album challenged the segregated social and musical climates at the time. The album not only integrated country music into the world of mainstream, but also broke racial barriers by uniting white and black listeners alike.
The same year that George Wallace gave his cringy 1963 Inaugural Address stating “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever,” Charles’ country song “You Are My Sunshine” sat proudly in the number one spot on the nation’s R&B chart.
Ray Charles’ country album The Modern Sound of Country and Western Music changed America and Country music simultaneously, earning him a spot within the country Music Hall of Fame in May 2022, eighteen years after his death.
- You Might Like: Best Classic Country Albums
Ray Charles wasn’t the only black male singer making honky tonk noise during peak segregation years: enter country music’s first black superstar Charley Pride, circa 1957.
Pride’s songs embody the classic American country sound, with topics working class Americans can relate to. Beautifully delivered in a deep, silky vocal range, Pride’s collection of songs sounded much like other American country music of his time.
Interestingly enough, many of Pride’s fans didn’t know he was black when he first started gaining stardom. In fact, his first big show in 1966 was the first time many of Pride’s fans had ever laid eyes on him. The erupting applause of 10,000 people dissipated into silence as his white audience addressed the reality standing in front of them.
Heaven forbid they had fallen in love with country songs of a black man.
Naturally, classy Charley Pride took the response in stride and responded to their racist reaction by pointing out the obvious – yes, he’s black, yes, he’s singing Country music, and yes, he still plans on performing.
Pride’s unconcerned response seemed to appease the audience, leading to many more live shows afterwards. Eventually his white fans were able to rise above their close-minded thinking and come to terms with what mattered – Charley’s music was damn good.
In 1993, Pride went on to be the first of two black artists inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Years later, he would be one of just three black artists inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame to this day.
- You Might Also Like: Black Male Singers of the 70s
Black Male Country Singers of the 2000s
The progression of unforgettable black male Country singers continues as we move away from the Civil Rights era and into the early 21st Century.
Cowboy Troy is a Country music trailblazer all his own, but not in the traditional Country sense.
Beginning in 2005, Troy’s musical style birthed the term hick hop – a unique blend of Country and Rap music styles. Surprisingly enough, Troy’s inspiration to create such a unique sound didn’t come from any specific artist before him.
Instead, Troy explains his inventiveness derives from his realization that cowboys like Rap music too. In college, Troy and his friends would go out to Texas bars where DJs would typically start the night with Country hits, but then make their way into Rap music as the night got later. This simple social observation led to all that Cowboy Troy is today.
Check out Troy’s catchy song “I Play Chicken With a Train” featuring Big & Rich. This song serves as the perfect party pump up song that tips a hat to Troy’s sincere musical individuality.
- You Might Like: Best Moran Wallen Songs
Dom (Dominque) Flemons
While Cowboy Troy gave rise to an untouched country style of his time, The American Songster Dom Flemons preserves Country music history by honing the original craft.
Dom Flemons demonstrates a superb expression of Neo-traditional Country, honoring the origins of Country music. Flemons appears to have no musical limitation. His collection of work spans nearly a century’s worth of early American popular music, and his ability to play instruments reaches into both classic and unorthodox mechanisms.
Dom’s musical success has preserved the historic relevance of African Americans in the development of American country music. For example, his 2018 album release of Black Cowboys sheds light on the forgotten black men of the wild, wild west. Black Cowboys achieves something modern day Country music culture has yet to fully address – that original cowboy songs belong primarily to black cowboys and their ancestors.
Of that monumental album, I highly recommend “Old Chisholm Trail,” a cowboy work song about the toils of driving cattle between Kansas and Texas. “Old Chisholm Trail” is a praiseworthy representation of Flemons’ vocal ability, as well as his historical Country music representation.
- You Might Like: Country Songs About Cheating
Many of the black male country artists we’ve spoken about have demonstrated a level of creativity unseen anywhere else, and the same goes for Pop Country Gospel singer Coffey Anderson.
Growing up as a church singer, Anderson started his pursuit of professional country singing in 2006, but not in the way that most did at the time. Instead of waiting on others to make him famous, Anderson discovered the value in a new, yet handy, little tool also known as YouTube. After leveraging the internet to reach the masses, Anderson eventually signed with Los Angeles label Dream Records.
Within his collection of eleven albums, only 5 are regular country albums – the rest are Christian Country albums. Funny enough, Coffey’s Christian music success includes a bit of irony in the foundation on which his musical story is built. A quirky, slightly comedic fact about Coffey: he started making music on the stolen guitar of his ex-girlfriend’s father.
Jokes aside, Coffey’s self-production is truly an impressive one. While his simply beautiful voice is no doubt a major contributing factor to his career, one can’t help but also give credit to his self-propelled determination and drive. Don’t take my word for it though, check out one of his first songs “Memphis” on his YouTube channel, and you’ll find all the proof you need right there.
- You Might Like: Country Songs About Trucks
- You Might Like: Songs About Farming
I can’t talk about unforgettable black male country performers and not spotlight Darius Rucker. Originally known as the lead vocals and rhythm guitarist of Hootie & the Blowfish, Darius Rucker moved into the Country genre with a solo career in 2008.
The multi-platinum voice previously known as Hootie transferred over into the Country Music scene quite seamlessly with his first hit single “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It.” Landing an almost instantaneous number one spot on Billboard’s Hot Country list, Rucker made music history as the first black artist to reach top of Country charts since our dear friend Mr. Charley Pride in 1983.
Rucker is far from a one hit wonder and his continued marathon of country music success has shown that. With a handful of preceding number one singles, Rucker also went on to achieve CMA’s New Artist of the Year award in 2009 and was inducted as the second of two black members of the Grand Ole Opry in 2012. He credits Kenny Rogers as one of his major country influences on his career, and continues to make major country music moves today.
When it comes to a recommendation of Darius Rucker songs, I would have to admit his cover of “Wagon Wheel” is the first one that comes to mind. “Wagon Wheel” is a must-listen when you need a serotonin boost. The buoyant sound of violin instrumentals, paired with Rucker’s smooth baritone voice will have you singing along in no time.
And don’t sleep on his Christmas joints, either. In fact, if you love Christmas country songs, definitely check out Darius Rucker’s “Candy Cane Christmas.”
- You Might Also Like: Black Female Singers of the 70s
Black Male Country Singers of Today
With musicians like Dom Flemons preserving the black country sounds of the past, many black male singers in country music of today continue to reclaim the genre founded by their ancestors. In recent years, we’ve seen an even more prominent influx of black country singers surfacing, at an even quicker rate than before.
Like Coffey Anderson, Kane Brown utilized social media in the beginning of his musical escapades. As one of the newer faces of Country music, Kane signed with RCA Nashville and released his first EP in 2016.
His smooth baritone voice stands out in his music and can be found in many of today’s Pop Country songs. His success has been undeniable as Brown snagged the number one spot on Billboard 200’s charts with his second album Experiment, released in 2018.
As demonstrated in his cover of “Check Yes Or No” by George Strait, Kane has the ability to perfectly land the classic Country sound, as well as implement his own personal Pop flair in his originals.
If you want to hear a clear example of Kane’s Country Pop flavor, check out his song “Lose It.” Available in both original and acoustic production, “Lose It” showcases Kane’s vocal talent and modern Country music versatility by incorporating traditional instrumentals of banjo and violin, as well as electric guitar solos and a Pop music tempo.
- You Might Like: Country Beach Songs
Around the same time that Kane Brown was dominating the country music charts, R&B Country singer Jimmie Allen was also making his way, releasing his debut album Mercury Lane in 2018.
Jimmie Allen’s repertoire doesn’t stop at Country R&B. In 2021 Allen released his album Bettie James Gold Edition which gained attention from Billboard Magazine, considering it a collection that broadens the borders of Country music. No artist is off limits when it comes to Jimmie’s collaborations, as many of his songs within the album consist of partnerships with artists like Noah Cyrus, Nelly, Tim McGraw, Pitbull, and even the great Charley Pride.
I highly recommend checking out Jimmie Allen’s song “be alright” on his newest 2022 album Tulip Drive. The song starts out with the sound of a banjo plucking the melody, and then erupts into a Pop style feel-good tune that reminds us sometimes we need to lay back and trust the process.
- You Might Like: Country Songs About Death
Even newer to the country music scene with distinct country music style is Country Hip Hop singer Blanco Brown.
Blanco pushes the boundaries of the Country music sound even more so than his fellow modern-day pioneers. As a lover of Hip Hop and Country, Blanco shows his appreciation for both genres in his music. Additionally, Blanco’s extensive experience producing artists like Chris Brown and Pitbull provides him with a vast music knowledge, adding a unique edge to his sound.
Commonly known for his hit single “The Get Up,” which inspired a viral social media challenge in 2019, Blanco’s repertoire of music infuses the classic Country sound with a perfectly balanced taste of Hip Hop instrumentals.
Blanco has made a significant impact on the ever-evolving world of Country music as his ingenuity transforms traditional Country sound into one of kind songs.
If you’re in the mood for the true Blanco Brown experience, I highly recommend his song “Tn Whiskey” from his album Honeysuckle and Lightening Bugs. The song incorporates the familiar Country sound of acoustic guitar but maintains a perfectly paired Hip Hop backbeat.
- You Might Also Enjoy: Hottest Female Country Singers
Last, but certainly not least, we have the unforgettable songs of Willie Jones.
As the newest black male Country singer on the list, coined by Rolling Stone as a Country Artist You Need to Know, this Louisiana native is quickly gained popularity after hitting the scene in 2021.
Like Blanco Brown, Willie Jones fuses Country and Hip Hop but does so with a powerful and infectious impact. His commanding patriotic single “American Dream” debuted simultaneously on both CMT and BET, showcasing an intense and creative visual of what the American Dream means to a black man in present-day America.
As many of the Country music pioneers before him, Jones is a modern-day path paver himself. He utilizes his Country music abilities to provide undeniable good vibes to the American people, while also demonstrating pride in his roots.
I highly recommend checking out the previously mentioned song “American Dream.” While the audio alone makes a lasting impression, this song is best consumed with the complimenting visual aid of its artistically crafted music video.
- You Might Also Like: Black Opera Singers
As the United States gradually learns that perhaps oppressing a population due to their skin color isn’t America living its best life, the opportunity for black country music success continues to progress forward with impressive individuality and drive.
Here’s the simple truth: country music owes a significant amount of reparation to the black community. While it appears to be a lesson the industry is still slowly learning, progress is being made and more credit is being given in time. I look forward to the day the number of black artists in the Country Music Hall of Fame can no longer be counted on one hand, and the Grand Ole Opry serves as a familiar home to many more black artist members. Until that day comes, keep creating, keep streaming, and keep supporting.
- You Might Also Want to Read: Country Songs for Funerals