Country music is full of tradition. Story telling has long been the basis for many classic country songs. And when it comes to telling stories there is nothing better than sharing those stories with your friends and family.
So it makes sense that family is a big part of country music’s heritage.
While country music artists feel like they are all part of the family of country music, there are plenty of great actual families that have graced the radios and turntables over the years.
Fans have come to know the following family acts well over the years and will probably recognize them all.
Let’s get right into the list…
The Greatest Families of Country Music
10) The Kendalls
The Kendalls were a father-daughter country act that had a string of hits from the late ’70s to the mid ’80s. Three of those hits included the #1s Heaven’s Just A Sin Away, Sweet Desire, and Thank God For The Radio.
The duo began recording and performing live in 1970, but it wasn’t until years of struggling and touring that they broke through in 1997 with Heaven’s Just A Sin Away. The song was even a minor crossover pop hit that same year.
The group’s success faded as the 1980s wore on. However, the group continued touring until 1998 when father, Royce, died of a stroke. Daughter, Jeannie, continued performing and recording after her father’s passing and still performs today.
9) The Montgomery Family
John Michael Montgomery and Eddie Montgomery of the duo Montgomery Gentry got their start in music by performing together in a family band. The Montgomery family was a musical bunch that performed together until the parents divorce. Later the brothers teamed up with Troy Gentry – the other half of Montgomery Gentry – and honed their skills as performers.
By 1992, John Michael had landed a recording deal with Atlantic. His first single climbed into the top five on the charts. Later singles, especially ballads, turned John Michael into a superstar in the mid-’90s. He would sell millions of albums during the decade with some of the most memorable hits from the time.
Eddie Montgomery teamed with with Troy Gentry and the duo released their debut effort in 1999. The guys went on to have enormous success in the ’00s and continue releasing new music today.
The Montgomery family came from musical roots and the brothers beat the odds as both went on to have successful careers in country music.
8) The Tillis Family
Despite a speech impediment, Mel Tillis took his love of music all the way to the top of the country ranks. Mel got his start in Nashville as a songwriter in the mid and late 1950s. After signing to a record deal, Mel began having minor hits throughout the 1960s. He continued writing songs for other artists as he was having more success than he was on his own. However, by the 1970s, Mel began releasing top ten hits with regularity. His success on the charts continued into the 1980s and he became one of country’s biggest stars.
Mel’s daughter Pam Tillis began as a demo singer in her late teens and early 20s. By 1981, she had signed her first recording contract. A string of recorded singles didn’t pan out in the ’80s and Pam switched labels by 1990. That year she released Put Yourself In My Place. The album achieved gold status on the success of five hit singles. More albums followed and Pam charted numerous top ten and top five hits throughout the ’90s including the #1 Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life) in 1994.
7) The Seals
The Seals Family has musical talent throughout including multiple talents that have gone on to achieve success in multiple music genres.
Dan Seals rose to country stardom in the 1980s after having some success in in the ’70s in soft rock music as one half of the duo England Dan and John Ford Coley. Dan had multiple hits in the ’80s including a string of 9 straight from 1985 to 1988.
Dan’s older brother, Jim Seals, was in the popular group Seals & Crofts, which had multiple pop hits in the 1970s. Jim had earlier spent time in a band with Glen Campbell during the ’60s.
Dan and Jim’s brother Eddie Seals also had success in country music.
Cousin Troy Seals is a successful country songwriter. Troy also released a few minor hit singles during the ’70s. Troy is in the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He’s been recognized for his songs Seven Spanish Angels, Lost In The Fifties Tonight, and If You Ever Had Forever In Mind.
Cousin Johnny Duncan was a successful country artist that found his biggest success in the late 70s with hits including She Can Put Her Shoes Under My Bed (Anytime), and Thinkin’ of a Rendezvous, and It Couldn’t Have Been Any Better.
Youngest cousin and nephew of Troy, Brady Seals found his success in music as co-lead vocalist and keyboardist for the band Little Texas. Brady was a member of the band when he was only 18 and stayed with the group through their highest point of success through 1994. In 1996, Brady had a minor top forty hit on his own with Another You, Another Me. After more time in the ’90s as a solo artist, Brady formed the country band Hot Apple Pie. The group charted three singles including the top 30 hit Hillbillies. Since then Brady has gone back to working on his solo career.
6) The Frizzells
Lefty Frizzell is a country music pioneer and his younger brother David had a successful career of his own. By his early twenties, Lefty had signed a recording contract and was having a run of huge hits on the charts. Lefty is known as one of the pioneers of the honky tonk as well as being a standard artist on jukeboxes around the US even today.
David Frizzell was 13 years younger than his older brother and he shared the same passion for music. After touring with his brother for many years and after spending time in the navy during Vietnam, David started recording in the 1970s as well as appearing on television shows including Buck Owens’ All American TV Show. In 1981, David recorded a duet with Shelly West. You’re The Reason God Made Oklahomabecame a #1 country hit and a classic country song. David would go on to have more hits in the early ’90s.
Lefty died of a stroke- possibly caused by his known drinking – in 1975 at the age of 47. He missed much of his brother’s success. David continues touring as well as working on tributes to his legendary brother.
5) The Judds
Mother Naomi and daughter Wynonna Judd comprised the successful duo The Judds. The duo had a string of huge hits in the ’80s and ’90s. The family also included sister Ashley who has found success as a Hollywood movie actress.
The family came from humble beginnings to find success in their debut album and second single Mama He’s Crazy. The song started a streak of 8 #1s in a row for the duo. Slews of awards and millions of album sales followed and the group became country music stars.
By 1991, Naomi had contracted Hepatitis C. Wynonna would go out on her own as a solo country artist. She found instant success in her solo career and released many hits during the ’90s. Wynonna continued releasing new music while touring throughout the ’90s and ’00s.
In 2010, the duo is back together with plans for a new album and tour.
4) The Carter Family
The Carter Family is a legendary and pioneering band in country music. Different variations of The Carter Family performed beginning in the ’20s all the way up to through the ’50s. The group was known for tight vocals and mountain music influence.
As radio began to gain in popularity, The Carter Family became country superstars as many of their recordings saw national airplay.
June Carter would rise to stardom as a solo artist and as the husband of country singer Carl Smith and later Johnny Cash. June Carter Cash was portrayed by Reese Witherspoon in the movie Walk The Line for which Witherspoon won an Oscar for her performance as a female in a lead role.
June and Carl’s daughter Carlene also went on to see success as a solo country recording artist.
3) The McGraw-Hill Family
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw got started in country music around the same time in the early ’90s. Both released debut singles and albums in 1993. Tim’s singles and albums failed to garner much attention while Faith saw her first two singles go all the way to #1 on the charts.
Tim fared better with his second album and became a superstar. Faith followed her successful debut with a string of hit albums. The two met while touring together in the spring of 96. The two enjoyed their tour throughout the summer and by October of that year they were married.
The couple remains married today and each has become a superstar in country music in their own right. Tim continues to tour and release new music on a regular schedule while Faith’s career has slowed down as their kids have grown. Both have ventured into acting with Tim recently appearing in the hit football drama Blind Side, which earned over $200 million at the US box office.
2) The Jennings Family
After giving up his seat to The Big Bopper on a plane that crashed on February 3rd, 1959 killing The Big Bopper, Ritichie Valens, and Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings went on to have a hugely successful career in country music.
Jennings got his start as the bass player in Buddy Holly’s band. He toured with the teen idol in the late ’50s before the tragic plane crash. After the crash Waylon worked in radio before finding his way back to Nashville. Once there he decided he didn’t like the production methods preferring his own creative style.
By the early ’70s, Waylon and his manager were able to negotiate complete freedom for Waylon to record and tour what he felt was best. It was at this same time that Waylon was introduced to Willie Nelson.
Throughout the ’70s and ’80s, Waylon Jennings along with others like Willie Nelson created a new spin-off genre in country music known as the Outlaw movement. Jennings became a superstar and a hero to many. His powerful voice spoke to many guys going through tough times during the economic hardships of the ’70s.
In the late ’60s, both previously married country artists Jessi Colter and Waylon Jennings met and married. During Waylon’s period of superstar success he and Jessi recorded a duos that were hits. Jessi also had success as a solo artist including the #1 hit in 1975 I’m Not Lisa. More hits followed through the ’70s before her career slowed down in the ’80s. She would focus later on raising her family and helping Waylon overcome drug addiction.
Waylon and Jessi had a son in 1979 they nicknamed Shooter. Waylon Jr. grew up spending time on the tour bus with his famous parents. By the time he reached his teen years, Shooter was drawn to the rock and roll style of Guns ‘N Roses. Shooter spent time performing in the clubs around LA before making his way to Universal South records in 2005. His debut album for the label Put the O Back in Country was a success on the charts and included the hit 4th Of July. Shooter released more music on the label finding minor success along with a strong fanbase. Shooter continues releasing new music on his own today along with playing touring shows and hosting his own radio show just as his dad had done back in the ’50s and ’60s.
1) The Williams Family
Hank Williams became a country music pioneer and charted some of the most inspiring music ever to come out of Nashville. Williams was the first national country music superstar and all of his success came before his 30th birthday.
Williams got his start hosting radio shows in the early ’40s. It was at this point when his alcoholism started to become a problem as it interfered with his work.
From 1947 to 1953, Williams charted a string of successful singles including 11 #1 hits. That collection of songs is perhaps the most influential collection of country music in history. Williams had a style that was unique in its ability to appeal to a large audience.
On New Years Day 1953, Hank Williams died of heart failure as he rode in the backseat of a Cadillac on the way between shows. After his death there his final recordings were released and proved successful as singles.
Born in 1949, Randall Hank Williams was born. Hank Williams Jr. as he became known began touring and singing his father’s songs by the time he was in his early teens. Fans of his father still wanted to hear the classic songs sung in the same fashion.
By the time he was in this 20s, Hank came to resent the nature of his career. He wanted to find his own way in the world. He stilled loved music, but didn’t want to be his father. Hank Jr. began recording the material he wanted in the ’70s with some big successes and other moderate successes. In 1975 he fell while climbing a mountain and suffered severe injuries. He was able to make a full recovery.
Hank Jr. finally gained the recognition of a reluctant fanbase and country music establishment in 1979 with his breakthrough song Family Tradition. He became known as Rocking Randall and was one of country music’s biggest performing acts in the ’80s having multiple number one hits and top-selling albums.
To this day, Hank Jr. is active in country music and has influenced a generation with his musical accomplishments.
Hank Williams III was born in 1972 and with his own love of music faced the doubly difficult feat of overcoming not only his grandfather’s success, but the success of his father. With a punk-country approach, Hank III has been able to break away from his family and forge his own path in country music. He’s had successful albums while continually building a strong fanbase.
Bonus – The Wilkinsons
The Wilkinsons are a musical family from Canada. Dad Steve and his daughter Amanda and son Tyler formed the group in 1998 and took to Nashville. That same year the group released the single 26 Cents. The song was about a daughter leaving her family to move on with her adult life. Her folks gave her 26 cents – a penny for luck and a quarter for a phone call if she ever needed anything. The song was a hit going #1 on the Canada country charts and making the top five in the states. The group’s debut album also went gold in the US and in Canada on the strength of 2 more hit singles. The Wilkinsons had one top 40 hit from their sophomore album in the US before focusing mostly on their career in Canada.