The 1990s was a great decade for country music. As the ’80s came to a close there were a few country singers that were rising stars. Alan Jackson, Clint Black, Lorrie Morgan, Garth Brooks and others were becoming superstars. As the ’90s began, these and other artists – along with the validation from SoundScan – made country music the biggest music genre in the US.
Along with the great country artists of the ’90s, the songs they sang made the decade memorable in the eyes of the fans. The lyrics were fun, sad, familiar, but now cliche, and understandable. The production of the songs was perfect. The instrumental hooks were filled with screaming fiddles, waning steel guitars, and even simple acoustic sounds.
It’s been over ten years now since one of the greatest decades in country music came to a close.
Let’s take a look at the songs that affected so many…
100 Greatest Country Songs of the ’90s – 100 to 81
100) Queen of Memphis – Confederate Railroad
Confederate Railroad had a few big hits in the early ’90s. Arguably their best song was Queen of Memphis. The song is catchy and fun. The guys in the band put a great melody hook with a story of falling in love. The recipe was a success and the song climbed all the way to #2 on the charts – the biggest hit for the band. The guys are still going strong today and fans love hearing Queen of Memphis during every show.
99) Doctor Time – Rick Trevino
Rick Trevino brought a unique flavor to country music in the ’90s. His brand of country music was tinged with Tex-Mex influence. The songs he released were catchy and it led to a successful career for the young performer. One of his most successful songs was Doctor Time. The song climbed into the top five and helped his English debut album go gold. The hook is memorable and the song is still heard on country radio today.
98) Whatever Comes First – Sons of the Desert
The Sons of the Desert had an interesting run in country music. They’re first break came in ’96 when they sang the background vocals on Ty Herndon’s hit album Livin’ In a Moment. In ’97 the guys had their first and only country top ten hit with Whatever Comes First. The band later had success by singing background vocals on Herndon’s #1 hit It Must Be Love. The guys also received praise and recognition for singing background vocals on Lee Ann Womack’s signature song I Hope You Dance. The guys have since gone their separate ways, but their biggest hit remains a greatest song of the ’90s.
97) They’re Playin’ Our Song – Neal McCoy
Neal McCoy was always a dark horse in country music. It took him quite awhile to finally get a big hit on country radio. Once he broke out there was no stopping him. He racked up a bunch of top ten hits in the ’90s. A fan favorite was They’re Playin’ Our Song. The song was a big hit and one of McCoy’s most memorable. McCoy earned Entertainer of the Year recognition in ’98. He’s still entertaining fans all over the country and is a huge draw. He continues recording for various labels as well. And fans are still requesting his songs to be played on the radio today.
96) If The World Had a Front Porch – Tracy Lawrence
Tracy Lawrence was a major success in the ’90s. He consistently put songs and albums at the top of the charts. Of all the so called ‘Hat Acts’ to come out in the early ’90s, Tracy Lawrence was one to find tons of success. If The World Had a Front Porch was one of Lawrence’s best hits. The song is a great look at how down home roots play a major role in American culture. Millions connected with the message and melody in the song. If you listen to country radio today you’ll probably hear If The World Had a Front Porch every once in a while.
95) Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under – Shania Twain
The queen of country music in the ’90s was Shania Twain. Her two albums sold over 30 million albums in the US alone. A huge hit from her breakout album The Woman In Me was Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under. Shania knew how to sing a story that spoke to women and she knew how to craft a catchy hook. Even men would sing along to this song in their trucks – admit it, you did. It’s a classic song that is a huge part of the success Shania Twain has had in her career.
94) Little Good-Byes – SHeDaisy
In the late ’90s, country fans were lucky enough to hear the sister trio of SHeDaisy on the radio. The trio’s first big hit was Little Good-Byes. The girls sang the hell out of the song and women around the country took notice. The band became huge stars in the country music world. More hits followed and the girls have been releasing big hits ever since. Fans will always remember the song that made SHeDaisy stars. The song is still a favorite on radio today.
93) How Forever Feels – Kenny Chesney
By the late ’90s, Kenny Chesney was still working on a few big hits, but he hadn’t reached the superstar status he would go onto enjoy in the ’00s. In 1999, Chesney released How Forever Feels. Country fans got a little taste of what later came with Kenny’s love for the islands. The song had a slight Buffett feel and the video saw Kenny hanging out on the beach and in the ocean. How Forever Feels was Chesney’s biggest hit at the time. He’s since gone on to have much larger success, but fans first got a taste in ’99 with How Forever Feels.
92) Rockin’ Years – Dolly Parton and Ricky Van Shelton
By 1991, Ricky Van Shelton was a superstar in country music. He was on a roll of #1 hits and his albums were selling in the millions. In a few short years in the late ’80s, Shelton had taken the country music audience by storm. He was a distinctive sounding artist and fans were loving every song he released. In 1991, after a duet didn’t work out with George Jones, Dolly Parton got together with Shelton and they released Rockin’ Years. The song is a sweet love story told in a very clever way. The song is a country music classic. It came out in ’91, but the song could have been released in any decade. It’s a timeless country classic.
91) From Here To Eternity – Michael Peterson
It’s said that if you can get a song to become a classic event song you’ll have a hit for life. Whether it’s a classic sporting event song, a birthday song, an anniversary song or a wedding song, the saying seems to be true. In 1997, Michael Peterson released a classic wedding song with his #1 hit From Here To Eternity. The song was a huge hit for Peterson and became a regular at weddings in the late ’90s. The song is still a classic today. Peterson is still playing and releasing new music. He’s also writing for other artists. It seems that Peterson’s legacy will live with his timeless song. And that’s not so bad.
90) It Would Be You – Gary Allan
Gary Allan’s career really didn’t get going until the ’00s, but he still had a couple hits in the ’90s. Allan has a distinctive voice and he drew enough attention to have a top ten hit and one of the greatest songs of the ’90s with It Would Be You. Allan put his raspy and passionate vocal to the track that compares the love of his life and the heartbreak she caused with other recognizable things. The song was a hit with fans. Allan recently said that in his shows he’ll include the song when he’s touring with an artist that has an older fan base. Fans usually remember the hit and Allan seems to enjoy playing it for them.
89) Don’t Laugh At Me – Mark Wills
Mark Wills was just a kid when he started releasing hits in the mid-’90s. He covered some difficult material and brought it to the country masses with Don’t Laugh At Me. The song was about tolerance and acceptance. The song asks others to have a little respect and even a little care when it comes to the situations of others. The song was a major hit and had a few people thinking about the way they lived their life. It was a major breakthrough for Wills who at the age of 24 was still climbing his way to star status in the country world. He continues recording and touring today.
88) There’s Your Trouble – Dixie Chicks
It took nearly ten years, but in 1998 the Dixie Chicks changed things in country music. The group’s first #1 hit was There’s Your Trouble. The song kicked off a string of big hits for the Chicks. They went on to sell millions of records while touring the world and winning tons of awards. The song was unique when fans first heard it on the radio. The talented trio may have run into a bit of unwarranted controversy later in their career, but it’s hard to argue the quality of the songs they put out during their run at the top.
87) Bye, Bye – Jo Dee Messina
Jo Dee Messina’s career got off to a hot start in ’96 with her smash hit Heads Carolina, Tails California. You couldn’t go 45 minutes on country radio without hearing the song. A few less successful singles followed and many were thinking Messina would be a one hit country wonder. However, she covered the Phil Vassar-penned song Bye, Bye and in ’98 she had her breakthrough. The song was a #1 smash success and it paved the way for more huge hits from the feisty redhead.
86) Good As I Was To You – Lorrie Morgan
By the mid-90s, Lorrie Morgan had herself a huge career. She had a couple of #1 hits and plenty of top tens. Her albums were selling in the millions and she was coming off a successful Greatest Hits album. However, there was still room for a great song and in 1997 Morgan released Good As I Was To You. The song was a top five hit for Lorrie and it continued her reign as one of country’s greatest female stars.
85) All The Good Ones Are Gone – Pam Tillis
The daughter of a country legend, Pam Tillis had a huge career during the ’90s. By 1997 she was one of country’s biggest stars and certainly a huge female star. All The Good Ones Are Gone became a sad yet important song for women across the country. The song is sad and lonely, but part of what helps everyone get through each day is knowing there are others feeling the same way out there. The song was a major hit for Tillis and remains one of her biggest to date.
84) Ten Thousand Angels – Mindy McCready
Mindy McCready was young and fearless when she released her breakout album Ten Thousand Angels in 1996. The title song was a top ten smash for the girl with the true country voice. Other big hits followed and her album sold over two million copies. In subsequent years, McCready has struggled with her personal and professional life, but the big hits she had in the ’90s still stand as some of the best of the ’90s.
83) Dumas Walker – The Kentucky Headhunters
The Kentucky Headhunters were a true bar band that reached the heights of country music success. In 1990, the guys had their breakout hit with the appropriate ode to their favorite bar Dumas Walker. The song reached #15 on the charts, but its impact was felt throughout the ’90s. Each member of the band is credited with writing the song. Together they put together a simple yet favorite story with a great hook and sing along melody. It’s a true classic in country music.
82) The Fool – Lee Ann Womack
Lee Ann Womack is known as one of the traditional singers in country music. Her voice bleeds country down to her soul. The song she records speaks to the true fans of country music. Womack’s breakout hit was The Fool in 1997. The song climbed all the way to #2 that year and is still a favorite among the women in country music audiences. The song is a sad tale about how women find themselves in losing relationships. It’s a sad, but powerful song as it lets others know they’re not alone in their relationship struggles.
81) How Your Love Makes Me Feel – Diamond Rio
Diamond Rio had a huge career in the ’90s. The band reached the top of the charts with their debut single in 1991, but it wasn’t until six years and many other hits later that they reached the top again with How Your Love Makes Me Feel. It’s a crazy song about cows standing in the road and buying ice cream. The song is a classic. It’s fun to sing along with and everybody feels like dancing when it comes on the radio. A great hit from one the greatest decade in country music.