Whatever Happened to Them? Country Music Stars of the ’70s

Music produces a plethora of feelings and emotions in us all. When you hear a particular song, you often remember a time in your life you associate with that particular song. Not only do you remember these events, such as a first date or getting your first car, but you remember the artist too. The country music genre is memorable by many people and has produced plenty of unforgettable and catchy songs, especially in the ’70s. But whatever happened to these memorable stars?

Kenny Rogers – Then and Now

The man that made gambling seem like the best thing since sliced bread, Kenny Rogers is a country music legend. The Houston native began his career alongside a country music singing group known as The First Edition for almost ten years before going solo in 1975.

Breaking out can be a make-or-break decision for performers, but going solo helped catapult Rogers career, thanks in part to his single Lucille. He went on to be a chart topper, with memorable hits like Morning Desire, She Believes In Me, and The Gambler, one of the biggest country music songs of all time. After more than five decades of entertaining, Rogers is currently in the middle of his farewell tour.

Juice Newton – Then and Now

Who says New Jersey women don’t know anything about country music? Juice Newton certainly does. Newton began playing guitar in high school and started her musical career with the band Juice Newton & Silver Spur. As with many musicians, Newton broke away from Silver Spur and pursued her career as a solo artist.

Newton released her first solo albums, It’s a Heartache and Take Heart in the late ’70s but both failed to top the charts. But her following album, Juice,sold more than 1 million copies and contained three consecutive Top-10 songs. Today, she continues to tour and trades horses in her free time.

Waylon Jennings – Then and Now

One of the most memorable things about the ’70s was television. Sitcoms and television series played a huge role in society. Various catchphrases were repeated over and over and running gags in television shows were prevalent. One show that stood out in the ’70s was a show known as The Dukes of Hazzard.

Many people may not know that Waylon Jennings sang the theme song to the series. He won CMA Male Vocalist of the Year in 1975 and is known for such hits as I’ve Always Been Crazy and Mama Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys. Jennings faced several hardships throughout his life including a battle with drug use and diabetes. Jennings died in 2002 from complications stemming from diabetes.

Merle Haggard – Then and Now

The ’70s had some of the most memorable theme songs. The reason may be due in part to the music climate and the pre-digital society that people lived in at the time. Prior to iPods and laptops, cassettes and records were the primary way to listen to music back then.

One series in particular with a memorable theme song was Movin’ On, sung by Merle Haggard. He is known for performing hits such as Always Wanting You, Grandma Harp, and The Roots of My Raising. He would perform into the ’80s and ’90s but his health began to decline in the early 2000s. He died on April 6, 2016, from double pneumonia.

Barbara Mandrell – Then and Now

For those of you that are familiar with the Grand Ole Opry, Barbara Mandrell should be no stranger to you. Known for being a performer at The Grand Ole Opry, Mandrell made her first appearance at the nightclub in 1969. She received multiple contract offers and eventually signed with Columbia Records.

Her ode to the lovesick, Sleeping Single in a Double Bed, along with a series of other Top-10 hits catapulted her into country music stardom in the ’70s and ’80s. Her rise to fame, however, was cut short in the ’80s when she was injured in a car crash. It took many years for her to recover and she finally retired from the music business in 1997.

Jimmy Dean – Then and Now

While many know the famous breakfast sausage company, Jimmy Dean, few know that Dean himself was a talented country musician. Dean launched his country music career in the late ’50s with his first hit, Bummin’ Around. and became best known for Slowly, his duet with country music legend, Dottie West.

While working as a musician and entertainer, Dean founded the Jimmy Dean Sausage Company alongside his brother. He was featured in all types of commercials throughout the past few decades promoting his famed sausage brand. He passed away in 2010 at age 81.

June Cash – Then and Now

One of the most well-known husband-and-wife duos in the country music scene was Johnny and June Cash. June Cash was born into country music and performed with her family from age 10. She performed a cover of It Ain’t Me Babe with Johnny Cash in 1964 and the two married in 1968.

In addition to singing and songwriting, June Cash was also an actress, dancer, and author. While she only released one solo album, she was constantly performing with her husband. June continued to perform until she passed away in 2003.

Glen Campbell – Then and Now

Perhaps best known for his television show, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, Glen Campbell was already a celebrity before he went back to recording tracks and becoming a superstar in the country music genre. After The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour was canceled, he returned to recording songs, which turned out to work in his favor.

Campbell saw success in the ’60s and had hits including I Wanna Live, and Gentle on My Mind. He continued his climb to the top in the ’70s with the hit Southern Nights and Rhinestone Cowboy. Glen Campbell received a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease in 2010. Sadly, he passed away in 2017.

Willie Nelson – Then and Now

You may recognize the bandana, the beard, and the pigtails of the man who truly has a style of his own. Willie Nelson is one of the most recognizable country music stars and it seems like he has been around forever.

He has been performing for decades and has numerous chart-topping hits. Nelson is credited with creating a sub-genre of country music known as “outlaw country.” In the ’70s he was best known for the song On the Road Again and for his successful album The Sound in Your Mind which was released in 1976. Willie Nelson has been arrested numerous times for possession of marijuana, most recently in 2010. He now lives in Maui and continues to tour today.

Johnny Cash – Then and Now

Another icon in the country music industry, Johnny Cash combined the sounds of rockabilly, blues, folk, and gospel music in his memorable music. He and his wife June performed together and had the distinction of being friends with former presidents Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter.

Johnny Cash had his own music show, and he had a humanitarian heart. He wore black to show compassion towards the poor and downtrodden and was originally known as “The Man in Black.” This became one of his trademarks. Johnny suffered from drug abuse for years and his health deteriorated in the ’90s. he died of diabetes in 2003 just four months after his wife June passed away.

Bonnie Raitt – Then and Now

Bonnie Raitt was discovered while trying to make her way to the top in the music business. She performed at the Gaslight Café in New York and was discovered by a reporter from Newsweek. The reporter spread the word about Raitt’s musical talents and almost instantly she began receiving calls from various record companies.

Raitt became a star in the ’70s and is known for the hit Runaway. She continued her career into the ’80s but fell into drugs and alcohol, believing that it enhanced her performance. After seeing that Stevie Ray Vaughn performed better without drugs and alcohol, she was inspired her to kick the habit and she continues to perform today.

Linda Ronstadt – Then and Now

Linda Ronstadt is one of the biggest women in rock and country music history. She has a long career in the music industry and is known for winning two Grammys in the ’70s because of her talents. She won a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performer for the song I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You).

Ronstadt appeared in nearly every magazine in the ’70s. She was even the highest paid female musician in 1978. She has performed with musicians such as Johnny Cash and the Eagles. She retired from music in 2011 after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

The Allman Brothers – Then and Now

The Allman Brothers blended the rock genre with a bit of country music to produce one of the most memorable sounds of the ’70s. A fixture in the ’70s music scene, The Allman Brothers’ music captured the delight of millions of fans worldwide. Although they didn’t become popular until the ’70s, the band started performing in the ’60s under various names, such as The Allman Joys before choosing the name The Allman Brothers.

The Allman Brothers are best known for the release of the album Brothers and Sisters and also known for their hit song Ramblin Man. The band temporarily broke up in the ’80s due to producers wanting to modernize their sound. They eventually got back together and continued to perform until 2014.

Bob Dylan – Then and Now

One of the most recognized musicians of the twentieth century, Bob Dylan was a fixture of the ’60s and ’70s. He is known for numerous rock hits and for his unique singing voice. Many people might not know that he was once associated with a roots-rock music singing group, The Band.

Before Dylan wrote some of the most iconic counterculture tunes of the last century, he got his start in folk music. He performed such musical hits such as The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down and The Weight before starting his solo career. He continues to perform his music and is currently on tour right now.

Crystal Gayle – Then and Now

For those of you who happened to be around in the ’70s and ’80s, you have likely heard the name Crystal Gale. Gale comes from a family who has music flowing through their veins. One of her siblings is none other than country music legend Loretta Lynn. In addition to being a super sensation, she was also cited as one of People Magazine’s most beautiful women of 1983.

Crystal Gayle has the honor of becoming the first country music singer to have an album go platinum – an award she won in 1977. She is known for her hit song We Must Believe in Magic and is currently working on an album called Am I Easy to Forget.

The Oak Ridge Boys – Then and Now

I remember a certain lyrical verse whenever the name “The Oak Ridge Boys” is mentioned. Those lyrics are, “Giddy up oom poppa omm poppa mow mow, Giddy up oom poppa omm poppa mow mow, High-ho silver, away!” I just had to put that in there.

The Oak Ridge Boys started as a gospel quartet in the ’40s. They would eventually blossom into a country singing group in 1961. The Oak Ridge Boys had a hit in the 70s called I’ll Be True to You which came out in 1978. They have been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame back in 2015.

Reba McEntire – Then and Now

Reba McEntire blazed onto the country music scene in the ’70s. She actually began her singing career while she was in high school. Shortly after she graduated she began singing locally while she attended college. Red Steagall heard her sing the national anthem in Oklahoma at a rodeo event and through his connections sent her to Nashville to start her music career.

Reba McEntire released her first hit single I Don’t Want to Be a One Night Stand. While the song did okay, it helped pave the way for her successful career into the ’80s and beyond. She continues to perform and even appeared as a judge on America’s Got Talent.

Hank Williams Jr. – Then and Now

The apple did not fall far from the tree when it came to passing on the musical talent of the Williams family. Hank Williams Jr. is the son of country music legend Hank Williams. As with some father and son performers, it seemed like Hank Williams Jr. got a slow start when he initially started in the country music business.

Hank Williams Jr. would begin to find success in the late ’70s. He is perhaps most well known for his NFL Monday Night Football intro song Are You Ready for Some Football? Hank Williams Jr. got himself into some hot water in 2011 when he made statements about a golf game in which President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were in. He continues to produce and create music today.

Dolly Parton – Then and Now

Dolly Parton is known for her country music and also for something that is located below her neck. Bombshell looks aside, Parton came onto the music scene in the latter part of the ’60s but truly catapulted her career in the ’70s when she released her 1973 hit, Jolene.

She went on to “crossover” into the pop music genre in the ’80s, known as “country pop.” She has seen some dark times as well, as she almost committed suicide because of an ex-lover, which she revealed in her book Dolly on Dolly. She also admitted that she and her first husband were in an open relationship in the mid ’60s.

Olivia Newton-John – Then and Now

You may remember Olivia Newton-John for her late ’70s song that inspired a fitness craze and had everyone wearing headbands, ragtops, and of course, leotards. While many know Newton-John for her role in the musical film Grease, what many people may not know is that she was a successful country music singer in the ’70s too.

Newton –John released country music songs such as Let Me Be There and Country Girl. She went on to win a Grammy for Best Country Female in 1974. She, of course, went on to have a successful career in both acting and pop music. She is currently battling cancer as of 2017 and is an advocate for health awareness.