1. Tina Turner
Any list of the best Black country singers would not be complete without the legendary Tina Turner. The most famous Black country singers have always been known for being able to redefine their success and Turner’s country music is no exception to this.
She released her first solo album Tina Turns The Country On! in 1975 and was nominated for a Grammy. The album is Turner covering her favorite country hits, and it marked both the rebirth of her career and a reminder that the best country musicians are always ready to jump into the rich history of this musical genre.
2. Petrella Ann Bonner
“The First Lady Of Country Soul” Petrella Ann Bonner earned her country chops the old-fashioned way. She grew up in Arkansas before heading for Missouri where her career took off. She would go on to become a hit in Nashville and earn her reputation as one of the best career country singers out there.
What makes Bonner’s music so unique is the mix of her smoky vocals and for being live wire. It also combines everything people look for in great country music. It has an honest expression of the soul, deep connections with the country music community, and a lived sense of history you only get from genuine country music acts.
3. Darius Rucker
Black country music has always been closer to the roots of the genre, and Darius Rucker is considered to be the new flag bearer for the classic spirit of country music. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because it probably should. He was the frontman and songwriter for the popular soft rock band Hootie & the Blowfish. Contrary to popular belief, his nickname was never “Hootie,” and the band’s name came from other nicknames band members had throughout the years.
Rucker takes a country-inspired approach to his music. He’s written the 16th best-selling country album of all time, and his career continues to reinvigorate the classic spirit of country music.
4. Carl Ray
Carl Ray is another singer that you need to keep up with if you’re looking to get more into contemporary Black country music. He’s combining some of the core elements and historical influences of the genre to create compelling albums that keep gaining recognition.
Ray is considered a bluegrass prodigy. He mixes bluegrass, country, and a modern sensibility to create songs that are about one of the country’s most iconic topics, religion, and questions of faith. Like the great bluegrass artists that have come before him, his songs have a tinge of sorrow, but also a hopeful note.
5. Cleve Francis
Now we’re getting to one of the most interesting characters in contemporary Black country music. Cleve Francis didn’t start out to become a country music celebrity, but rather, began his career in a completely different field.
Francis is known as the country music physician. This is because he is a cardiologist in addition to being a country music star. He’s balanced both careers throughout his lifetime and has healed hearts through both his medical career as well as his billboard ranking hits.
6. Cowboy Troy
There’s a misconception that goes around country music that says it’s a genre that never changes. However, country music has always been about breaking ground in trying out new ways of expressing its music.
Cowboy Troy is infamous when it comes to Black country music. He reinvented the genre in 2001 by pioneering hick-hop. This is a combination of rap and country. Cowboy Troy was blazing these trails long before white artists decided to start adding hip-hop influence to their country songs. He isn’t the only person on this list that’s going to combine rap and country music, but he was one of the first individuals to make this combination popular.
7. Lil Nas X
The space between hip-hop and country has always been one of sharing. These genres have plenty of overlap and both have roots in Black American music. It’s no wonder that Lil Nas X shows up as one of the best Black country singers alive today. Even though he isn’t a career country musician, the fact that he teamed up with legendary country star Billy Ray Cyrus is all that we need to know.
Lil Nas X introduced a whole new generation to country music while also changing what people thought the genre was capable of. The song “Old Town Road” took country music by storm when it was released in 2019 and even won the Country Music Associations’ coveted Musical Event of the Year award.
8. Trini Triggs
Trini Triggs saw moderate success with mainstream country audiences with his self-titled album released in the late 90s. You may have heard some great swooning vocals of his on tracks such as “Straight Tequila” and “The Wreckin’ Crew” – most especially if you live in Canada!
Very multi-talented, Triggs also works as a radio personality and DJ. His entertaining style combined with his great vocals makes him one of the top black country artists of all time, in our opinion.
9. Lesley Riddle
Lesley Riddle is a name you might not have heard of, but if you’re a fan of country music, you absolutely need to get familiar with this blast from the past. He started his career as a country musician in the 1920s after a workplace injury cost him a leg. He toured Appalachia and picked up plenty of the classic folk songs that have come to define country music.
Riddle formally retired in the 1940s but was convinced to start playing again in the 1960s by folk music icon Mike Seeger. He would go on to have an impact on the forming of the Carter Family group, which brought plenty of this music to mainstream audiences.
10. Ray Charles
You might not think of Ray Charles as a country musician, but you will want to know how important the country genre was to both his music style as well as his personal beliefs. He got his start playing with a country music band known as the Florida Playboys. In 1962, he released the album Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music, which would have a huge impact on the genre as well as push his career to new heights.
Charles has played with country music classics like Willie Nelson as well as Buck Owens. In addition to playing piano with established country stars, he’s a country musician in his own right, and he uses his influence to stand up for what he believes in.
11. Mickey Guyton
Mickey Guyton released her debut single “Better Than You Left Me” in 2015, which hit number 56 on Billboard’s charts. She is a force when it comes to contemporary Black women in country music. She became the first Black woman to sing at the ACM Awards, which was a historical moment for both country music and her career.
Guyton has often spoken out about issues of race and racism in country music. She’s made a name for herself not only for her smooth approach to country vocals but also for her ability to stand up for a genre that has always been built on the success of black musicians.
She is also the only Black artist to ever receive a nomination for the best country album at the Grammy Awards. Guyton might not be one of the most famous musicians on this list, but she is one of the most historically important black country musicians alive and singing today.
12. Charley Pride
Charley Pride is perhaps the biggest name in black country music. He is second only to Elvis Presley when it comes to the best-selling artists on RCA records. So if you’re into country music, you should be familiar with Pride’s discography.
He had a classic country upbringing. Pride was born into a family with more than 10 children and was raised as a sharecropper until he started his first career. Before he became a country music icon, he was a star in several Negro American League Baseball teams. Before his death, Pride had won three Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. His musical success even made him a celebrity in Ireland.
13. DeFord Bailey
DeFord Bailey is one of the best Black country singers and is considered to be, perhaps, the most important country musician of all time. He is single-handedly responsible for some of the biggest wins in country music. He was the first Black country musician to be invited to take part in the Grand Ole Opry. In fact, he was the first performer in this prestigious show.
Bailey built his success as a skilled harmonica player as well as with his talents for singing and playing the banjo. He was a rising star up to the 1940s and had become a household name for anyone who loves country, blues, and folk music.
However, you might be wondering why you don’t know Bailey’s name today. In the 1940s, there was a legal battle over the rights to his music, which suddenly caused him to be unable to play his most popular songs live on air. It wouldn’t be until 23 years after his death, which was in 2005, that he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
14. Rhiannon Giddens
Rhiannon Giddens is the front-woman and singer of The Carolina Chocolate Drops. She has made a name for herself outside of the band. She strives to keep the history of Black American music alive including the musical traditions that came from enslaved peoples. She’s won multiple Grammys and a MacArthur Fellowship and is showing no signs of slowing down.
15. Dom Flemons
No list of the best Black country musicians will be complete without Dom Flemons. He plays neotraditional country music that keeps alive some of the best traditions of the genre. His music has appeared on Smithsonian Folkways in addition to countless music festivals and awards ceremonies. Flemons even works to revive traditional—but largely forgotten—country music instruments like the bones.
That was 15 of the best Black country singers throughout the history of country music! You have got to check out some of the songs of these singers at the forefront of country history and modern sensations who are making major waves in country music. So, which of these famous Black country singers is making your country music playlist?
As the Head Editor and Writer at Music Grotto, Liam helps write and edit content produced from professional music/media journalists and other contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.
Liam’s lifelong love for music makes his role at Music Grotto such a rewarding one. He loves researching, writing and editing music content for Music Grotto.