Country Artists in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame: Who’s Inducted, and Who Should Be Next?

Dolly Parton’s 2022 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was historic and euphoric. And it was followed in 2023 by the selection of Willie Nelson.

These inductions led to one obvious question: Which country artists are next in line for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?

country artists - rock roll hall fame

It’s shocking how few country artists are currently in the Hall. Some folks think that country music shouldn’t be in the Hall, since there’s already a Country Music Hall of Fame. But that argument isn’t very convincing. The Hall is now embracing all types of music, from disco to rap. Why should country be left out?

Some of the most important and influential musicians in history have performed country music, and they deserve to be honored too.

So who will be next to take the ride from Nashville to Rock and Roll immortality? Let’s take a look at the country artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame right now, and then make predictions about which acts from Nashville are the leading candidates.

Country Artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Already

As of 2024, only a few artists who primarily performed country music have been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Country Artists in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame:
Jimmie Rodgers (1986)
Hank Williams (1987)
Johnny Cash (1992)
Bill Monroe (1997)
Johnny Gimble (1999)
Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys (1999)
Chet Atkins (2002)
Floyd Cramer (2003)
Dolly Parton (2022)
Willie Nelson (2023)

And the Hall has inducted a few artists who sometimes performed country music in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame:

Ray Charles (1986)
Elvis Presley (1986)
Jerry Lee Lewis (1986)
The Everly Brothers (1986)
Carl Perkins (1987)
Roy Orbison (1987)
Gene Vincent (1998)
Brenda Lee (2002)
Linda Ronstadt (2014)
Lionel Richie (2022)

That’s pretty much the entire list. For years, the Rock Hall just didn’t seem interested in recognizing Nashville country artists. The reasoning was that they weren’t “rock and roll” enough, and that they already have a Country Music Hall of Fame.

But Parton’s induction means that being “rock” is no longer required. So a huge line of country music stars should be ready for Rock Hall consideration.

The Top 10 Country Artists Who Should Be Inducted Next

1 Garth Brooks

Garth Brooks was a rock star, plain and simple. He might be the biggest Rock Hall snub in all of music. Brooks achieved a preposterous six Diamond-certified albums (10 million sales) in the ’90s. He sold out arenas and stadiums. He rivaled Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and all of pop music’s big names in terms of album and concert ticket sales.

His stadium shows had a rock star vibe, as Garth got the crowd singing along with “Friends in Low Places,” “The Thunder Rolls,” and “The River.” Brooks was such a massive crossover superstar that it’s surprising his name hasn’t come up yet in Rock Hall of Fame debates.

2 Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn rose to fame with authentic and controversial lyrics that touched on love, heartbreak, and the struggles of women in rural America. Her string of hits included “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind),” “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man),” and “Coal Miner’s Daughter.”

Lynn became the first woman to win the CMA Entertainer of the Year award in 1972. Her storytelling prowess and distinctive voice made her an icon. Lynn even made a grand comeback in 2004 with Van Lear Rose, the Jack White-produced record featuring the rock-edged “Portland, Oregon” and “Miss Being Mrs.,” a gorgeous ballad she wrote about the pain of being a widow.

3 Gram Parsons

Sometimes called the “father of country-rock,” Gram Parsons was never a commercial hitmaker — his highest-charting album as a credited artist only reached #185 on the album chart, in fact. But his legacy is massive. His work with progressive country and country-rock helped bring country music to a wider audience.

Rolling Stone named Parsons one of the 100 Greatest Artists of All-Time, and Parsons has been praised by stars like Keith Richards and Emmylou Harris. Parsons was previously nominated for the Rock Hall in 2002, 2004, and 2005, yet hasn’t received the honor.

In addition to his solo work, Parsons was a member of the acclaimed Flying Burrito Brothers, and he had a stint as a member of the legendary band the Byrds, but was not included when they got inducted into the Rock Hall in 1991.

4 Merle Haggard

“They sound tired, but they don’t sound Haggard,” Natalie Maines sang in the Chicks’ 2002 hit “Long Time Gone,” an ode to country music’s earlier days that gave shout-outs to some of the genre’s greats, like outlaw country artist Merle Haggard.

Haggard was a rebel who became an incredibly successful artist, earning a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame induction, and 38 #1 hits on the country charts.

He’s the kind of rock-leaning country artist who could potentially earn a large amount of votes from Rock and Roll Hall of Fame voters.

5 Hank Williams Jr.

The son of a country music legend managed to forge his own path by blending Southern rock with country music. Hank Williams, Jr. accumulated 23 Gold or Platinum albums over his career, while recording raucous anthems like “All My Rowdy Friends are Coming Over Tonight.”

Williams sang the original theme to Monday Night Football. That kind of major cultural achievement matters when it comes to convincing voters that a country act had enough mainstream relevance for Rock Hall induction.

6 Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers was one of biggest pop stars of late ’70s and early ’80s. In a lot of ways, he was the male Dolly Parton. He may not have been as beloved, but like Dolly, he scored a similar string of pop-leaning country hits, from “The Gambler” to “Lady” to “She Believes in Me.”

And, of course, his duet with Dolly, “Islands in the Stream,” became a classic. Rogers only penned a handful of his big hits, but he became known as a great storyteller and interpreter of material, with a signature smoky voice that made every song his own.

Rogers actually began his career playing in psychedelic rock bands, which could earn him some cred with Hall voters.

7 Waylon Jennings

Waylon Jennings was another of the outlaw country performers who brought a rock & roll edge to their sound. In the ’80s, he joined up with Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson to form the supergroup the Highwaymen.

Jennings infamously walked out of the “We Are the World” recording session, an unfortunate blemish on his resume, but one which reinforced his rebel image. He scored a handful of hits on the pop charts, including his 1981 theme to the tv show Dukes of Hazzard.

8 Patsy Cline

“Crazy” is the Patsy Cline song that has endured the most, but she scored a bundle of hits during her brief career. She was one of the first country stars to successfully crossover into pop music, setting a blueprint that has been followed by everyone from Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton to Shania Twain and Taylor Swift.

Cline passed away in 1963 at only 30 years old, but her legacy remains strong. It’s unlikely that the RRHOF main voting body would elect her — she’d probably have to get inducted via the “Musical Influence” category.

9 Reba McEntire

With a massive collection of hits, a successful sitcom, numerous business ventures, and a likable personality, Reba might be the obvious heir to Dolly’s throne. She recorded 57 Top 10 hits on the country charts, more than any woman in history.

Her list of smash hits is nearly endless: “Fancy,” “The Night the Lights Went Down in Georgia,” “For My Broken Heart,” “The Fear of Being Alone,” “The Heart Won’t Lie,” “Is There Life Out There,” and “Whoever’s in New England,” and “Does He Love You.”

10 Kris Kristofferson

Another member of the Highwaymen, Kris Kristofferson is already a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and won the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

In addition to his own hits, like the Country #1 “Why Me,” Kristofferson has a couple things going for him that could help his candidacy. One, he wrote lots of hit songs for other artists, including Janis Joplin’s classic “Me and Bobby McGee.” Second, he had a successful film career, including the Bradley Cooper role in the original A Star is Born with Barbra Streisand.

Other Country Artists Who May Be Considered in the Future

Alabama: No band in country music history racked up as many hits as Alabama, including “Mountain Music,” “Song of the South,” “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas (You Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band),” and “I’m in a Hurry (And Don’t Know Why.)”

Alabama probably didn’t have too much influence on the genre of rock music, but scoring more than 40 #1 songs over two decades should put them into consideration. Unlike many country groups, Alabama played their own instruments and wrote their own songs.

Conway Twitty: Conway Twitty started out in rockabilly bands in the 1950s, pivoting to country music and becoming a Nashville legend. He set a record with 40 #1 songs on the Country chart, and even scored some Top 10 hits on the Pop charts.

That level of crossover success could make him a strong Hall candidate. Twitty was actually a finalist for the Rock Hall once, back in 2005, but hasn’t been considered since then.

Brooks & Dunn: Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn are the most successful duo in country music history, and rank right up there with Hall & Oates among duos in all of music. They won an astounding 30 ACM Awards and 18 CMA Awards.

With “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Neon Moon,” “Hard Workin’ Man,” “Ain’t Nothing ‘Bout You,” “She’s Not the Cheatin’ Kind,” and “My Maria,” Brooks & Dunn had a rock edge and massive commercial success.

Glen Campbell: Glen Campbell was nominated for Record of the Year three times in the ’60s and ’70s at the Grammys, for “Wichita Lineman,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” and his signature song “Rhinestone Cowboy.”

As for rock & roll cred, Campbell did have some hits on the Pop and Adult Contemporary charts. And he was a member of the LA-based session musician team the Wrecking Crew, during which time he performed on songs by the Beach Boys, Elvis Presley, Ricky Nelson, and Lou Rawls.

George Jones: George Jones had an incredibly lengthy and successful career. His initial breakthrough was a song written by the Big Bopper back in the ’50s. He continued making an impact into the new millennium, when his late-career confessional single “Choices” won several awards in 2000.

In between, Jones charted more than 100 singles, won numerous awards, and recorded duets with superstars like Tammy Wynette and Merle Haggard. Rolling Stone ranked him as the #24 best singer in music history, behind only Elvis and Patsy Cline among country performers.

Tammy Wynette: From “Stand By Your Man” to “D-I-V-O-R-C-E,” Tammy Wynette was so prolific she became known as The First Lady of Country Music. She’s been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

She was never a rocker, but in 1991, Wynette showed some rock and roll boldness by doing something most country stars would never dream of — she teamed up with British hip hop group The KLF for an innovative track called “Justified and Ancient,” which nearly cracked the Top 10 on the pop chart and remains one of popular music’s most stunning collabs of all-time.

Shania Twain: If we’re being honest, many of the artists on this list will never get inducted into the Rock Hall. But Shania Twain has a real chance. She took over the Garth Brooks mantle as Nashville’s dominant arena rock star, thanks to the success of The Woman in Me and Come on Over.

Twain has more songs that have endured across country and pop music than just about anybody else over the past 30 years, including “Any Man of Mine,” “You’re Still the One,” “From This Moment On,” “Man! I Feel Like a Woman!,” and “That Don’t Impress Me Much.”

Vince Gill: Add Vince Gill to the list of accomplished country artists who have a rock background. He played in bluegrass bands before earning a Top 10 pop hit as lead singer of Pure Prairie League in 1980.

As a solo artist, he was known for his vocal ballads, like “I Still Believe in You,” “Go Rest High on That Mountain, and “The Heart Won’t Lie.” Gill has won an astounding 22 Grammy Awards, and a combined 26 CMA & ACM Awards.

Charley Pride: The first Black country music superstar, Charley Pride broke down all sorts of barriers. His inviting baritone helped him win Entertainer of the Year and become a fixture on Nashville radio for years.

From 1966 to 1984, Pride reached the Country Top 10 with all 51 singles he released, aside from one gospel track. More than half of those hit #1.

Tanya Tucker: Tanya Tucker had to wait until 2023 to earn Country Music Hall of Fame induction, so her wait for the Rock Hall will likely last a lot longer. She became a star as a teenager in the ’70s, and went on to have a career with a number of peaks and valleys.

She made a comeback in the late ’80s, earning 20 Top-5 hits on the Country charts in a nine-year span. Her second comeback in 2017, assisted by Brandi Carlile, produced two brilliant albums, While I’m Livin’ and Sweet Western Sound, and reminded the world that she was a legend.

George Strait: Consistent is the word to describe George Strait. For decades, he released a new album every year, with a few singles from each one, most of which inevitably topped the charts. He has more #1 Country songs than anyone in history, in fact.

From 1981 through 2009, Strait released 25 consecutive albums that attained at least Gold status. Strait songs that have stood the test of time include “All My Ex’s Live in Texas,” “Check Yes or No,” and “Carrying Your Love With Me.”

The Chicks: The trio formerly known as the Dixie Chicks have been eligible for the Rock Hall since 2016. Few country acts have ever reached the heights the Chicks did, when they released two Diamond albums in a row and became country crossover superstars.

They could’ve gone on to one of the most successful careers in country music history had they not been canceled in 2003 after insulting President Bush. But even their short time in the genre gave us unforgettable chart-toppers like “Ready to Run,” “Goodbye Earl,” “Wide Open Spaces,” and “Cowboy Take Me Away.”

Buck Owens: Back in the 1950s, guitarist Buck Owens was influential in the creation of the “Bakersfield Sound,” which emphasized rock and honky tonk styles over the more polished sound of Nashville.

Owens nabbed more than 20 Country chart-toppers. The Beatles even covered one of his hits. He also co-hosted Hee Haw, giving him name recognition with the broader mainstream public.

Alan Jackson: With “Chattahoochie,” “Don’t Rock the Jukebox,” “Gone Country,” and “Livin’ on Love,” Alan Jackson was the sound of ’90s country. The three-time Entertainer of the Year wrote many of his own songs. He was a traditionalist who sounded modern at the same time, and he had the record sales to prove that his music connected with large audiences.

In the 2000s, Jackson continued his string of hits with the Jimmy Buffett collab “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” and the 9/11 tribute ballad “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

Randy Travis: For a period of six years, from roughly 1986 to 1992, Randy Travis was an unstoppable force, earning a stunning 14 #1 songs during that time, including “Diggin’ Up Bones” and “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

His down-home persona and friendly attitude made him a fan favorite. He even earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a signal of his influence beyond country music.

Oak Ridge Boys: The Oak Ridge Boys have existed in some form since 1947(!), first as a gospel group and then a country act. The quartet’s current lineup has been together for a staggering 50 years.

With a whopping 33 country Top 10 hits, including 17 #1s, the Oak Ridge Boys were hugely successful. But it’s unlikely they’ll ever get inducted to the RRHOF, as they rarely crossed over to the Hot 100, their only enduring pop hit being 1981’s smash “Elvira.”

Taylor Swift: No, she’s not eligible yet, and no, she’s not really a country artist anymore. But Taylor Swift will undoubtedly earn Rock Hall induction someday. She’ll be eligible for the first time in 2031.

She’s simply the biggest star in the world right now. Read our in-depth analysis of Swift’s Rock Hall credentials, and why we think she’ll be a first-ballot inductee.

Leave a comment and let us know which country acts you’d like to see earn Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction next!

Last Updated on July 8, 2024

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