ACM Preview: Country Music’s Oddest Chart-Toppers

Paul Grein
April 3, 2014

Hundreds of artists have reached #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart since it was introduced 70 years ago (as Most Played Juke Box Folk Records). Most have been top country stars, but some have come out of left field.

In preparation for this weekend's Academy of Country Music Awards, Here are 15 artists you probably never would have guessed have a #1 country hit to their credit.

15. The Mike Curb Congregation. The pop vocal ensemble was featured on Hank Williams Jr.'s "All for the Love of Sunshine," which hit #1 in September 1970. The song was featured in the movie "Kelly's Heroes," which starred Clint Eastwood. The ensemble backed Williams on two more top 10 country hits. Here's something even more unexpected — in 1978, Curb was elected Lt. Governor of California.

14. Jimmy Buffett. The laid-back pop star teamed with Alan Jackson for "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere," which spent eight weeks at #1 in 2003 and was voted Single of the Year by the Academy of Country Music. The following year, Jackson was among the country stars who guested on Buffett's remake of Hank Williams's "Hey Good Lookin'," which became a top 10 country hit. In 2011, Buffett was back at #1, featured on Zac Brown Band's "Knee Deep."

13. Uncle Kracker. The pop/rock singer, a Kid Rock protégé, teamed with Kenny Chesney for "When the Sun Goes Down," which spent five weeks on top in spring 2004. It was the title track of Chesney's album, which topped both the pop and country charts.

12. The Wailers. The band that once backed reggae legend Bob Marley was featured on Kenny Chesney's "Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven," which hit #1 in October 2008.

11. Debby Boone. In May 1980, two and a half years after she topped the pop chart with "You Light Up My Life," Boone reached #1 at country with the catchy "Are You on the Road to Lovin' Me Again?" (Boone's famous father never topped the country chart. Pat Boone's highest-charting country single, "Texas Woman," peaked at #34 in 1976.)

10. Leon Russell. The pianist and songwriter teamed with Willie Nelson for a spirited cover of Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" (which had topped the pop and country charts in 1956). The remake hit #1 in September 1979, two years after Presley's death.

9. Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters. The pop crooner and the popular sister trio were #1 on the very first country chart in January 1944. They scored with a cover version of "Pistol Packin' Mama." The following month, the original version by Al Dexter and his Troopers replaced the cover version at #1. In 1949, the Andrews Sisters teamed with country great Ernest Tubb for two more top 10 country hits.

8. The King Cole Trio. The jazz trio that featured Nat "King" Cole hit #1 in June 1944 with "Straighten Up and Fly Right." The song also topped the R&B chart (then called Harlem Hit Parade; Billboard was still trying to figure out how to do genre-specific charts).

7. Lawrence Welk and his Orchestra. The bandleader and future star of a long-running TV variety show hit #1 in November 1945 with "Shame on You." The record featured country star Red Foley. The original version of the "Western swing" classic by Spade Cooley had reached #1 earlier that year.

6. Kelly Clarkson. The versatile singer was featured on Jason Aldean's "Don't You Wanna Stay," which spent three weeks at #1 in March 2011. The power ballad won the ACM award for Single Record of the Year. In 2007, Clarkson just missed the top spot with a duet with Reba McEntire. Their remake of Clarkson's 2005 pop hit "Because of You" reached #2 on the country chart.

5. Julio Iglesias. The Latin heartthrob (and father of current heartthrob Enrique Iglesias) teamed with Willie Nelson for "To All the Girls I've Loved Before," which spent two weeks on top in May 1984 and won as Single of the Year at the ACM Awards. The suave Spaniard and the homespun Texan re-teamed four years later for a remake of the standard "Spanish Eyes," which went top 10.

4. Tom Jones. The Welsh singing stud hit #1 in February 1977 with the catchy "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow." Here's an oddity: Jones never had a #1 pop hit. His highest-charting pop hit, 1971's "She's a Lady," peaked at #2.

3. Sheena Easton. The Scottish pop singer teamed with Kenny Rogers for an elegant cover of Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight." The song reached #1 in April 1983.

2. Bon Jovi. The arena rock band hit #1 in May 2006 with the robust "Who Says You Can't Go Home," which featured Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland.

1. Clint Eastwood. The movie legend teamed with Merle Haggard for "Bar Room Buddies," a song from the movie "Bronco Billy," which Eastwood directed and in which he starred. The lighthearted song hit #1 in July 1980. Four years later, Eastwood's iconic catchphrase "Make My Day" provided the title of a hit by T.G. Sheppard, on which Eastwood was featured.

Get more Academy of Country Music Awards news at acmawards.com