ACM Preview: Country’s Top Collaborators

Paul Grein

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Florida Georgia Line is among the top nominees for this year's Academy of Country Music Awards. Luke Bryan, another top nominee, is set to co-host the April 6 show. In a case of perfect timing, their collaboration "This Is How We Roll" has been #1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart for the past two weeks. This is only the second time in the chart's 70-year history that a collaboration by a duo and a solo artist has topped this chart. (This first happened in the summer of 1998 when "If You See Him/If You See Her" by Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn was on top for two weeks.)

Collaborations have long been a mainstay of country music. Can you guess who has reached #1 on the country chart with the most different partners? If you answered Willie Nelson, you know your country music history. The balladeer has reached the top spot with six different partners: Waylon Jennings (three times), Leon Russell (1979's "Heartbreak Hotel"), Merle Haggard (1983's "Pancho And Lefty"), Julio Iglesias (1984's "To All The Girls I've Loved Before"), Ray Charles (1985's "Seven Spanish Angels") and Toby Keith (2003's "Beer For My Horses").

In addition, Nelson reached #1 as a member of the country super-group Highwaymen (which also featured Jennings, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson). They scored with 1985's "Highwayman." The ACM should give Nelson a special award dubbed "Plays Well With Others."

Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, who have collaborated on two #1 country hits (1983's "Islands In The Stream" and 1985's "Real Love"), share second place. They have each hit #1 with five different partners (or sets of partners). Rogers also reached #1 with Dottie West (three times), Sheena Easton (1983's "We've Got Tonight"), Ronnie Milsap (1987's "Make No Mistake, She's Mine") and Alison Krauss & Billy Dean (2000's "Buy Me A Rose").

Parton also reached #1 with Porter Wagoner (1974's "Please Don't Stop Loving Me"), Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris (1987's "To Know Him Is To Love Him"), Ricky Van Shelton (1991's "Rockin' Years") and Brad Paisley (2006's "When I Get Where I'm Going"). (Parton has hit #1 with more different partners than any other female artist.)

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Paisley and Merle Haggard have each scored with four different partners. Paisley has reached #1 with Parton, Keith Urban (2009's "Start A Band"), Alabama (2011's "Old Alabama") and Carrie Underwood (2011's "Remind Me").

Haggard has reached #1 with Nelson, Clint Eastwood (1980's "Bar Room Buddies"), George Jones (1982's "Yesterday's Wine") and Janie Fricke (1985's "A Place To Fall Apart").

Reba McEntire, Kenny Chesney and Red Foley have each reached #1 with three different partners.

"This Is How We Roll" is also becoming a major crossover hit. The song jumps from #29 to #26 in its seventh week on the Hot 100. "This Is How We Roll" is already in the top 10 on Hot Digital Songs, where it jumps to #10. The song sold 78K copies this week, bringing its 17-week total to 615K.

Want to know which collaboration landed the most #1 hits on Hot Country Songs? That's Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, with five #1 hits between 1971 and 1975: "After The Fire Is Gone," "Lead Me On," "Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man," "As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone" and "Feelins'."

Remarkably, Twitty and Lynn reached #1 with their first five collaboration singles. They released seven more collaboration A sides (through 1981). All made the top 10. Twitty died in 1993.

Three collaborations are tied for second place, with three #1 hits each: George Jones & Tammy Wynette, Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson and Kenny Rogers & Dottie West.

Rogers & Parton round out the top five, with two #1 hits.