ves' career. In 1959, Reeves recorded his all-time greatest hit, "He'll Have to Go." The theme was familiar enough. Some years earlier it might have been called a honky-tonk song.

But the treatment, with Reeves' dark, intimate, velvet tones gliding over a muted backing, was something different again.The result brought him instant stardom. During the early 1960s, he also continued to dominate the US country charts, with hits including Guilty (1963), and "Welcome to My World" (1964). Tragically, on a flight back to Nashville from Arkansas on July 31, 1964, Jim and his manager ran into heavy rain just a few miles from Nashville's Beery Field and crashed, killing both men. Voted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967, Reeves continued to log hits posthumously as recently as the 1970s and '80s.

Patsy Cline Patsy Cline (real name Virginia Patterson Hensley) was born in Winchester, Virginia, on September 8, 1932.Winner of an amateur tap-dancing contest at the age of four, she began learning piano at eight and in her early teens became a singer at local clubs. In 1948, an audition won her a trip to Nashville, where she appeared in a few clubs before returning home -- but her big break came in 1957 when she won an Arthur Godfrey Talent Scout Show, singing "Walking After Midnight." Here is a video clip of her appearance. Her Decca single of the contest-winning song then entered the charts, both pop and country.

In 1961 came "I Fall to Pieces," on of her biggest hits. That chart-topper was followed in quick succession by "Crazy,", "Who Can I Count On?," "She's Got You," "Strange," and "When I Get Through With You," most of them being massive sellers.During the same period she became a featured singer on the Opry, soon attaining the rank of top female country singer. Such hits as "Release Me," "Imagine That," "So Wrong," and "Leavin' On Your Mind," continued to proliferate until, on March 5, 1963, Patsy died in an air disaster at Camden, Tennessee. She had been returning home from a Kansas City benefit concert with Hawkshaw Hawkins and Cowboy Copas, both of whom were also killed in the crash. But even after her death, Patsy's records continued to sell, "Sweet Dreams (Of You).

" and "Faded Love," being top hits during '63. Patsy has continued to be a major influence on singers like Loretta Lynn, who recorded a tribute album in 1977, Reba McEntire and Sylvia.In 1973, she was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame and her recordings and those of Jim Reeves were spliced together to produce a duet effect resulting in hits with "Have You Ever Been Lonely," and "I Fall to Pieces." Renewed interest in Cline has also produced the second highest selling greatest hits release, with over 4 million copies sold to date. Eddy Arnold A country crooner with a smooth, very commercial voice, Arnold has probably sold more records than any other C&W artist, with few exceptions. Born in Henderson, Tennessee, in 1918, Arnold first learned guitar from his father -- an old time fiddler -- teaching him guitar at the age of ten.

Arnold left high school during the early '30s to help his family run their farm, occasionally playing local barn dances. After his radio debut in Jackson, Tennessee during 1936, his big break came as singer/guitarist with Pee Wee King's Golden West Cowboys providing exposure on the Grand Ole Opry. As a solo act he signed for RCA in 1944, sparking off an amazing tally of hit records with "It's a Sin," and "I'll Hold You In My Heart" in 1947, the latter becoming a million-seller. This achievement was matched by later Arnold recordings, including one of his trademark "stories in song" -- The Streets of Laredo, as well as "Bouquet of Roses," "Anytime," "Just a Little Lovin' Will Go a Long, Long Way" (1948), "I Wanna Play House With You" (1951), and "Cattle Call" (1955), while many others sold nearly as many.Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966, Arnold's records sold to people who normally bought straight pop, so his TV appearance were not confined to just the Opry and other country shows; he guested on programs hosted by Perry Como, Milton Berle, Arthur Godfrey, Dinah Shore, Bob Hope, Spike Jones, and other personalities.

Arnold also had his own syndicated TV series, Eddy Arnold Time, plus other shows on NBC and ABC networks. HTML1DocumentEncodingutf-8The late 1960s and 1970s saw the resurgence of a more traditional country sound. The Nashville sound, by 1970, was well-worn, and had merged into the pre-British Revolution pop culture in many areas. Aside from the "outlaws" profiled below, new artists such as Charley Pride ("Kiss an Angel Good Morning") and Conway Twitty ("Hello Darlin' ") emerged to break the mold of the Nashville Sound. Southern Country Rockers such as The Outlaws, The Marshall Tucker Band, David Allan Coe, The Charlie Daniels Band, and others took country to a new, higher level.

Without a doubt, though, it was the outlaws who defined this era in country music.Willie Nelson Born in Abbot, Texas, on April 30, 1933, Willie Nelson was raised by his grandparents after his own parents had separated. His grandparents taught him some chords and by his teens he was becoming proficient on guitar. After his discharge from the Air Force in the early '50s, Wilson took a job hosting country shows on a Fort Worth station, doubling at night as a musician in some rough local honky-tonks and, whenever he could, he was jotting down songs.

When he finally made his way to Nashville and found a job in Ray Price's band as a bass player, he found that he was finally placing his songs. Price, a huge name of that era, made Nelson's "Night Life" his theme song (more than 70 artists have since recorded "Night Life"). Faron Young cut "Hello Walls," and Patsy Cline "Crazy," both in 1961, and Willie himself recorded "The Party's Over." After poaching most of Ray Price's band from him, Nelson went on the road, and got remarried, settling in Fort Worth, Los Angeles, and Nashville.Besides recording 18 albums in three years, he also helped the career of Charley Pride, featuring him on his show in the deepest South during the racially sensitive years of civil rights. During the '60s, the smooth Nashville Sound was in its ascendancy and Willie found himself becoming increasingly disillusioned with big business methods, hankering to make his mark as a singer rather than as a songwriter and preferably on his own terms.

Nelson's music in the early and middle 1960's is credited with sparking the "outlaw" or progressive country music movement. His biggest hits, however, came later, in the 1970s. After leaving RCA (with the help of Neil Reshen, who later became his manager), Nelson signed with Atlantic, an established label new in country music.Willie reconciled hip and redneck musical interests and helped lead a new explosion of interest in country music, teaming up with Waylon Jennings to top the country charts with "Good Hearted Woman" in 1976, and to be featured on country's first certified platinum album, the "Wanted: The Outlaws" compilation. Nelson recorded his most popular (and arguably his best) album in 1978 with Jennings, Leon Russell, and Ray Price entitled "Stardust," a collection of Tin Pan Alley standards. Strangely enough, Nelson can also be credited with starting the cross-over movement, with his 1975 pop hit "Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain.

" Two of Nelson's other pop/country hits, "Always On My Mind," and "On the Road Again," also fueled the Urban Cowboy movement. Included here is a classic Willie Nelson track, "Nothing's Changed, Nothing's New." Refusing to be tied down to commercial considerations, Nelson has recorded such diverse album projects as "Stardust," "The Troublemaker" (a gospel set), "To Lefty From Willie" (a tribute to Lefty Frizzell), "Angel Eyes" (featuring jazz guitarist Jackie King), and his acclaimed return to mainstream audiences in 1993, "Across the Borderline" (produced by Don Was, and featuring Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, and others). Johnny Cash Winner of six CMA awards in 1969, John R.Cash was born in Kingsland, Arkansas, February 26, 1932, son of a poverty-stricken cotton farmer.

In 1935, the Cash family moved to the government resettlement Dyess Colony, surviving the Mississippi river flood of 1937, an event documented in a 1959 Cash song, "Five Feet High and Rising." After graduating from high school, Cash spent some time in the Air Force, taught himself how to play guitar and wrote his first songs. After his discharge in July 1954, Cash married and moved to Memphis where he became an electric appliance salesman. In Memphis he met guitarist Luther Perkins and bassist Marshall Grant and began performing with them -- for free -- on station KWEM. Eventually, he caught the ear of Sam Phillips and signed his first recording contract with Sun Records.

Their first single, "Hey Porter/Cry, Cry, Cry" -- listed as by Johnny Cash and The Tennessee Two -- became a hit, selling more than 100,000 copies. The follow-up, "Folsom Prison Blues," another Cash original, was also a success and led to Cash joining KWKH's Louisiana Hayride in December 1955. He also began touring extensively, and after "I Walk the Line," a cross-over hit that sold a million copies, and "There You Go," another 1956 winner, he joined the Grand Ole Opry. Personal tragedy marked the career of Johnny Cash during the '60s. Cash and his enlarged band (having added drummer W.S.

Holland, and becoming The Tennessee Three) being much in demand, played nearly 300 gigs a year, with Cash popping pills to provide enough energy. Cash first began working with June Carter in December 1961. The following year saw a heavier work schedule that included a 30-hour tour of Korea and a disastrous Carnegie Hall date. But the pill-popping worsened and, in October 1965, Cash was arrested by the narcotics squad in El Paso and received a 30-day suspended sentence and a $1,000 fine. The following year he was jailed once more -- for embarking on a 2am flower-picking spree. Cash overcame those obstacles, and the resulting poor health from his drug addiction, to turn out a string of hits to contribute to the outlaw sound of the late '60s and early '70s.

Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980, his career, spanning from the 1950's through today, has earned him 8 Grammy awards, and put more than 130 songs on the country charts.After a quiet decade with Columbia and Mercury Records, Cash moved to American Recordings and burst back on the scene with "American Recordings," an album featuring Cash and his guitar and all-new material. Waylon Jennings "We need a change," Waylon Jennings sings in "Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way," the piercing kickoff track to his greatest album, Dreaming My Dreams. Waylon is singing about the country-music industry in this song, but the sentiment could apply to any element of this ramblin' man's life or career. Jennings, more than any of the outlaws, epitomized this era of battling the now oft-abused Nashville Sound. Waylon became a spokesman for the iconoclastic outlaw movement, and, incidentally, has a near encyclopedic knowledge of country music history.

Waylon was born in Littlefield, Texas, and influenced heavily by the sound of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry, with Ernest Tubb, Gene Autry, and Jimmie Rodgers. After quitting high school to pursue music, Waylon found himself in Lubbock at radio station KLLL as a popular DJ.known for his side-splitting ad-libs. It was here where Jennings cemented his friendship with Buddy Holly.

When Holly put together his new band in 1958, he took Jennings along as his bass player. Though Waylon rarely plays bass anymore, it is no accident that his popular sound of the '70s and early '80s was built around steady, swirling bass rhythms. Waylon's early success came with producer Chet Atkins beginning in 1965 at RCA Records. Despite the tension between Jennings and Atkins, Waylon turned out several hits, including "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" (1968), and "Just to Satisfy You" (1968).Waylon's Outlaw persona, and the mixture of thrills and grief that it brought him, had become his major lyrical subject, on songs like "Amanda" (1974), "Rainy Day Woman" (1974), and "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)" (1977).

A live album recorded in Texas yielded a wild Jimmie Rodgers re-interpretation, "T for Texas," (with a Memphis beat but no yodel), and a deceptively complex new tune, "Bob Wills is Still the King." Also included here is a rare Waylon original "The Taker." Merle Haggard Country's most charismatic living legend, Merle Haggard is proof that you do not have to forsake your musical roots to achieve fame. The Haggard family had been driven from their farm in dustbowl East Oklahoma and were living in a converted boxcar in Bakersfield, California, when Merle was born on April 6, 1937. Merle was nine when his father, a competent fiddle player, died, and without his father's influence he began to run wild. He embarked on a series of petty thefts and frauds and was in and out of local prisons.

Then, in 1957, he was charged with attempted burglary and sentenced to six to fifteen years in San Quentin. While in prison, Merle did some picking and songwriting, and was in San Quentin when Johnny Cash performed one of his prison concerts in 1958. When he left jail in 1960, he was determined to try and make a go of performing. He moved to Bakersfield, then a growing country music center. Helped initially by Buck Owens, and his former wife Bonnie (whom Haggard eventually married), he started playing the local club scene.

Merle also ran into Fuzzy Owen, an Arkansas musician who was also playing the Bakersfield clubs.Fuzzy, who is Merle's manager to this day, encouraged him and helped get Merle work locally. In 1962, Fuzzy organized some recording sessions in a converted 'garage' studio and produced some singles, which were released on Tally, a label Owens had purchased from his cousin Lewis Tally. The next year Merle made his debut on the country charts with "Sing a Sad Song," which reached No.19. In 1965, they released "(My Friends are Gonna Be) Strangers," giving them a Top 10 hit.

This success led to Capitol acquiring Merle's contract, plus all the recordings made for Tally. Merle's second Capitol single, the self penned classic honky-tonker, "Swinging Doors," spent six months on the charts, reaching the Top 5. Equally as impressive was "The Bottle Let Me Down," which made No.3. This was followed by Haggard's first No.

1, "I'm a Lonesome Fugitive," which made 1966 a highly successful year from him. Two other apparently innocent songs were committed to record in 1969: "Okie from Muskogee," and "The Fightin' Side of Me." "Okie" re-stated redneck values in disturbance and Vietnam marches, yet Merle had written it as a joke, picking up a remark one of his band members had made about the conservative habits of Oklahoma natives as they rolled through Muskogee."Fightin' Side of Me" was another apparent put-down of those who were so bold as to disparage America's image. When Haggard premiered "Okie" for a crowd of NCOs at Fort Bragg, N.

C., they went wilder than he had expected, and from then on the song became a silent majority legend. Haggards success continued through the early '80s with new label Epic Records. Although the stream of hits has slowed, Haggard was opening shows for Clint Black by 1991, and several artists (including Diamond Rio, Lee Roy Parnell, and others) collaborated on "Mama's Hungry Eyes," a 1994 tribute album to Haggard and his music.

Merle still maintains considerable following in mainstream country music today. The most infamous era in country music was in the early '80s.The Urban Cowboy movement led country music away from its roots. Country's move toward pop culture was popularized by John Travolta's "Urban Cowboy," and spurred on by Dolly Parton's movie 9 to 5 and the title song, which you can find here.

In the early '80s, country attempted to cross-over to the easy-listening pop audience. The result was a lot of shallow and tacky music that was neither good country, nor good pop. In many cases, Urban Cowboy country was nothing but regurgitated '60s and '70s pop music.The outlaw heroes of the 1970s -- Willie, Waylon, Johnny, and Merle -- faded into obscurity on the country scene. Aside from Parton, the biggest hits of the time were crossover tunes, including the Oak Ridge Boys "Elvira" and others. John Conlee Although most of the songs and artists coming from Nashville were forgettable, some artists did produce excellent music.

One of country biggest cross-over stars was John Conlee, undoubtedly the singer with the saddest voice in country music. Born and raised on a Kentucky tobacco farm, Conlee worked as a mortician after graduating from high school, but finally landed a job as a DJ at a Fort Knox station. Moving to Nashville in 1971, and playing rock music, Conlee established important music contacts, leading to his singing with ABC records.His initial records failed to make much impression but his fourth release, "Rose Colored Glasses," a song he co-wrote with a newsreader at the radio station, made the country Top 5 in May 1978.

That same year ABC Records was absorbed by MCA, for whom John scored more than a dozen Top 10 hits, including "She Can't Say That Anymore," "I'm Only In It For The Love," "Backside of Thirty," and "Miss Emily's Picture." John signed with Columbia Records in 1986, scoring several more Top 10 hits. This contract lasted only three years, after which he joined 16th Avenue Records, but failed to make an impact. Throughout his career, Conlee has championed the ordinary wor king man, typified in songs such as "Busted," "Common Man," "Working Man," and "American Faces." Inducted as the first new member of the Opry in five years in 1979, he still tours regularly, and is active with charities.

Alabama This American country-rock group has been one of the most successful country acts of recent years, with the majority of their singles hitting No.1 on the country charts, and all albums having reached gold or platinum status. They created the group sou nd rather than a singer accompanied by a group, and set things in motion for other outfits such as Atlanta, Exile and Bandana, and, later, Restless Heart, Confederate Railroad, Desert Rose Band, and the Kentucky HeadHunters.Initially formed in 1969 at F ort Payne, Alabama, as Wildcountry, the group was a semi-professional outfit with the nucleus of cousins Jeff Cook and Randy Owen, plus Teddy Gentry. After signing to GRT Records at the beginning of 1977, making their first mark on the country charts with "I Want to be With You.

" In 1976, original drummer John Vartanian decided to quit, and the group spent several months as a three-piece until they found Mark Herndon, the fourth member of Alabama. Larry McBride, a Dallas businessman, took an interest in the group and signed them to a management deal. he set up MDJ Records and the group's first record, I Wanna Come Over, made the country charts in the autumn of 1979. Under the production of Harold Shedd they came up with another hit, "My Home's In Alabama" (a rare live version is included here).

In the early 1980s, Alabama signed with RCA Records and hit the top of the charts as one of the only country acts to stay away from the Urban Cowboy movement. Though they could have turned their back on country music, Alabama are keen to retain their country connection, and succeeds with a contagious country sound with hits such as "Mountain Music," "Take Me Down,", and "Roll On," among others. After limited success i n the middle '80s, Alabama has rolled on to the tune of over 30 number 1 songs, easily the most successful group in country music history. Reba McEntire Discovered singing the national anthem at the 1974 National Finals Rodeo, Reba's early country career revealed a different singer altogether from the polished professional Reba of 1997.

Greatly influenced by her small town upbringing, and by the music of Patsy Cline, McEntire's early work is true honky-tonk country with a twist. Although her musical legacy during her early years at Mercury Records pales in comparison to today, McEntire did cut several songs that helped to build the solid foundation t o the career of one of the most acclaimed women in the history of country music. Her first single is classic Mercury Reba, "I Don't Want to be a One Night Stand." Although her early style is patterned after Patsy Cline, her own sass and emotion come through as Cline's never did, especially in her rendition of "Old Man River (I've Come to Talk Again).".Although she never released the third and final track included here, "A Cowboy Like You," is so honest, and early Rebaesque, it was a natural inclusion.

After the dismal failure of the Urban Cowboy era, a generation of "new traditionalists" -- George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, the Judds, Randy Travis, and Ricky Van Shelton -- brought country out of its post-Urban Cowboy doldrums by reminding young audiences what made the music great in the first place. Building on the astounding success of Garth Brooks, Randy Travis, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson and many others, Country has become the most popular radio format in America, reaching 77.3 million adults--almost 40 percent of the adult population--every week. Since 1989, country record sales have nearly doubled from $921 million to over $1.758 billion.

Garth alone has sold more than 60 million albums since the release of his self-titled album in April 1989.Country Music is embarking on a new era in 1997. Some artists think that country is headed back into the early '80s and the urban cowboy, pop-country sound. And while the whole world may have gone country, let's hope the world doesn't wake up one day to find real country gone. Garth Brooks The Country Music Superstar of the '90s, Troyal Garth Brooks was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on February 7, 1962, and was raised in Yukon, about 100 miles away from Tulsa. Country music played a role in the Brooks' household, but not a dominant one.

His father, Ray, worked as a draughtman for an oil company. Colleen Carroll, his mother, was a country singer in the 1950s and had regularly appeared on Red Foley's Ozark Jubilee radio and TV shows, as well as recordings for Capitol Records. By the time Garth was born, she had retired from a professional career and the Brooks' house reverberated with as much rock and pop music as country. After graduating from Oklahoma State University as a marketing major (where he attended on a track scholarship for javelin), Brooks had been performing in bars and honky-tonks around Stillwater, most often at Wet Willie's, for several months. Garth played six nights a week, with a different set for each bar. His sister, Betsy Smittle (who incidentally was Ronnie Dunn's bass player in the house band at Duke's night club in Tulsa during the same period), went to see him one time, and commented that he'd written some great songs.

So, in the summer of 1985 he left for Nashville and a career in country music, only to return home four days later, dejected by rejection. He signed a writer's contract in November 1987 and soon after met Bob Doyle in Nashville, who later became his manager. It was Doyle who paid the $32.50 entry fee to a Bluebird Cafe, a performance that earned him his first record deal with Capitol Records. Garth did sign to Capitol, releasing Garth Brooks in April 1989 with studio producer Allen Reynolds.

The rest, as they say, is history.Garth Brooks is undeniably the most popular country music artist of all time, in terms of worldwide following, albums sold, and awards won. The first single from his self-titled debut, "Much to Young (to Feel This Damn Old) made it to #10. But it was Brooks' fourth single that cemented his popularity.

His biggest hit, one he considers his career song, "The Dance," and its accompanying video vaulted up the country and pop charts, and from then on, there was no stopping Garth Brooks. Two clips from "The Dance" are included below.Garth's second album, "No Fences," is the top selling country album ever, with over 13 million copies sold to date. Garth has released 5 more albums since then, adding numerous chart toppers to his resume, including "The Thunder Rolls" (from No Fences), "The River" (from Ropin' the Wind), "That Summer" (from The Chase), "Ain't Going Down ('Til the Sun Comes Up)" (from In Pieces), and an unreleased album cut from "No Fences" is also here to prove that Garth can sing the classics, too -- "Mr.

Blue." George Strait George Strait, born May 18, 1952, in Pearsall, Texas, emerged in the early '80s as one of the best exponents of unvarnished, clean-cut country music. He told Billboard Magazine in 1981 that he "wanted to get to the point where people hear [his] name and immediately think of real country music." 19 albums and 15 years later, there is no doubt that he did just that. Raised on a Texas ranch, George left college after a short spell, eloped with his high school sweetheart, and then joined the US Army.

While stationed in Hawaii, George started singing with a country band, using the songs of Merle Haggard, Bob Wills, George Jones, and Hank Williams. After his discharge in 1975, George returned to Texas and attended Southwest Texas State University to complete his degree in agriculture. By this time, he had been bitten by the music bug and, assembling his Ace In The Hole Band, was soon living a double life, attending classes by day and playing the clubs at night. George and his band had built up a strong following on the southwest Texas honky-tonk circuit when, through the efforts of Erv Woolsey, a one-time MCA promotions man, he landed an MCA recording contract in early 1981. His first single, "Unwound," reached the Top 10 in the country charts.

Strait spent more time at the top of the country singles charts than any other performer in the '80s, with more than two dozen records reaching No.1, including: "Fool Hearted Memory" (1982), "A Fire I Can't Put Out" (1983), "You Look So Good In Love," "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" (1984), "The Chair" (1985), and Top 10s " A Morning,"and "All My Ex's Live in Texas." The 1990's were just as kind to Strait, yielding hits such as "You Know Me Better Than That" (1991), and "So Much Like My Dad" (1992). Strait reached a new plateau in his career when he took his first serious steps into the movies to star as country singer Dusty Wyatt Chandler in Pure Country, a 1992 film specially written for him. It became a major box office success and the soundtrack album, the first of his recordings to be produced by Tony Brown, became his biggest seller, and yielded a No.1 track with "Heartland.

" Strait's success continues today, with 1995 Single of the Year "Check Yes or No" (from his Strait Out of the Box 4-CD set). In that same set, George, with the help of Asleep at the Wheel, covers an old Bob Wills tune, "Big Ball's In Cowtown," showing his country roots.