Rockers You Never Expected To Go Country

Sara | March 6, 2020 10:51 am

Many musicians don’t like to be limited by genre. Several pop stars and rockers have taken a break from their respective musical styles to delve into country music. A few iconic singers even went country when releasing their first solo albums. And there’s a certain folk icon whose most successful songs have a hint of country in them.

Check out some of the rock, rap, pop, and R&B stars who shocked fans when they decided to write and perform country music.

Bret Michaels Put Glam Metal Aside For Country Tunes

Bret Michaels Put Glam Metal Aside For Country Tunes
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Bret Michaels was the lead singer of the glam hair metal band Poison in the ’80s and a bonafide heartthrob. The band sold over 40 million records worldwide and had six top 10 singles, including, “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” When they dropped in popularity in the ’90s, Michaels decided to make some changes in his life.

At one point, he remade several Poison songs into country-style music. In 2005, he was a judge on Nashville Star. Then he released a 100-percent country album, Freedom of Sound, with the hit single, “All I Ever Needed” with Jessica Andrews.

Cyndi Lauper’s 2016 Album Detour Featured Willie Nelson & Emmylou Harris

Cyndi Lauper's 2016 Album Detour Featured Willie Nelson & Emmylou Harris
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Cyndi Lauper’s music career has spanned four decades. Some of her biggest ’80s singles were “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” “Time After Time,” “She Bop,” and “All Through the Night.” She’s sold over 50 million records and is a Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Award winner.

But before launching her pop career, Lauper was a member of the rockabilly band Blue Angel. Her 2016 album Detour featured her take on early country classics by Patsy Cline and Ray Price, among others, and had guest appearances by Willie Nelson and Emmylou Harris.

Nelly’s First Album Title Should Have Been An Indicator

Nelly's First Album Title Should Have Been An Indicator
Johnny Louis/Getty Images
Johnny Louis/Getty Images

Nelly is a Grammy-winning rapper and singer/songwriter from the Midwest. While his debut album was called Country Grammar, it was still a little odd when in 2004 he teamed up with Tim McGraw on the country tune “Over and Over.” It landed at number three on the Billboard charts.

In 2012, Nelly made a remix of the Florida Georgia Line hit “Cruise,” which the country band continues to use in concerts today. Four years later, Nelly did a cover of Thomas Rhett’s “Die a Happy Man,” so it’s clear that he has some country running through his blood.

Tina Turner Turned The Country On Early In Her Career

Tina Turner Turned The Country On Early In Her Career
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images
Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Tina Turner was part of the Ike & Tina Turner Revue before she launched her iconic solo career. She’s often been called the Queen of Rock ‘n Roll and has sold over 200 million records.

She’s won 12 Grammy Awards as well as a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Roll and Hall of Fame. She’s also a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors. However, her first solo album was named Tina Turns the Country On! She covered songs by Dolly Parton, Hank Snow, Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, and others.

Sheryl Crow Teamed Up With Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert & More

Sheryl Crow Teamed Up With Loretta Lynn, Miranda Lambert & More
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia
Kevin Winter/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

Sheryl Crow is known for hit pop songs such as “All I Wanna Do,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “My Favorite Mistake,” and “Everyday Is a Winding Road.” She’s been nominated for 32 Grammy Awards and won nine of those. She’s sold 50 million albums worldwide.

The 2002 country song “Picture” featuring Crow and Kid Rock was her biggest hit since 1993’s “All I Wanna Do.” Crow went on to remake Loretta Lynn’s classic “Coal Miner’s Daughter” with Lynn and Miranda Lambert in 2010. She and Kid Rock collaborated again in 2012 on the country single “Collide.”

Steven Tyler’s Debut Solo Album Was Country Inspired

Steven Tyler's Debut Solo Album Was Country Inspired
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic
Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

Steven Tyler is the lead singer of the rock band Aerosmith, which launched in the ’70s and is known for huge hits such as “Dream On,” “Sweet Emotion,” and “Walk This Way.” He is one of the genre’s most enduring rock stars, but that doesn’t mean he limited himself to just rock music.

In 2013 he traveled to Nashville and started dabbling with country music. He released the country single “Love Is Your Name” in 2015 and later the full-length album We’re All Somebody from Somewhere. It debuted at number one on the Top Country Albums chart.

Soul Singer Ray Charles’ Country Album Was A Crossover Hit

Soul Singer Ray Charles' Country Album Was A Crossover Hit
Michael Putland/Getty Images
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Soul singer Ray Charles got his start in the 1950s by mixing blues, rhythm and blues, and gospel into his music. One of his most famous hits is “Georgia on My Mind,” and he is considered one of the greatest musical artists of all time. In 1961, Charles announced that he was going to record a country album.

His record label and fans were against the idea, but he went on and made Modern Sounds in County and Western Music the following year. Guess what? It was a crossover hit, and fans of country, pop, and R&B ate it up.

Michelle Branch Took A Break From Pop, Released A Country Album, And Moved To Nashville

Michelle Branch Took A Break From Pop, Released A Country Album, And Moved To Nashville
Rick Kern/WireImage
Rick Kern/WireImage

Singer, songwriter, and actress Michelle Branch is known for hit songs such as “Everywhere,” “All You Wanted,” and “Goodbye to You.” In 2002, she won a Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals with Santana. While her pop albums were quite successful, she tried her hand at country music in 2005.

She and friend/backup vocalist Jessica Harp formed the Wreckers and made one album: Stand Still, Look Pretty. The single “Leave the Pieces” topped the country charts. She then moved to Nashville but ended up returning to her pop roots in 2010.

Darius Rucker Took A Break From Hootie & The Blowfish And Made Country Music History

Darius Rucker
Rich Fury/Getty Images for Hootie & the Blowfish
Rich Fury/Getty Images for Hootie & the Blowfish

Darius Rucker broke through with the rock band Hootie & the Blowfish in the late ’80s. The band released five studio albums when he was the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist. In 2008, he joined Capitol Nashville and hit number one with “Don’t Think I Don’t Think About It” on the Hot Country Songs charts. He was the first black artist to do so.

He was the first African American to win the New Artist Award from the Country Music Association. He released his fifth country music album in 2017.

Jerry Lee Lewis Wrote Several Country Songs Early In His Career

Jerry Lee Lewis at the piano
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images
Scott Dudelson/Getty Images

Jerry Lee Lewis is one of history’s most famous rock and roll stars. His 1957 single “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” was a breakthrough hit. You also know him for “Great Balls of Fire.” He has received four Grammy awards, including a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and two Grammy Hall of Fame Awards.

In the late 1960s, Lewis recorded the country hit “Another Place, Another Time.” It wasn’t the first time he made country music, but it was the first country song he wrote that made it to the top 10 and stayed on the charts for 17 weeks. Over the next decade, he wrote nearly two dozen top 10 country songs.

Bon Jovi Was The First Rock Band To Hit Number One On The Country Charts

Bon Jovi Was The First Rock Band To Hit Number One On The Country Charts
MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images
MAURO PIMENTEL/AFP via Getty Images

Bon Jovi was a hugely popular rock band in the ’80s with hits such as “Runaway,” “You Give Love a Bad Name,” “Livin’ on a Prayer” and “Bad Medicine.” The band kept writing music and touring through the ’90s and 2000s. The band has sold more than 100 million records and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

In 2005, Bon Jovi dabbled with country on the song “Who Says You Can’t Go Home” with Sugarland star Jennifer Nettles. The group became the first rock band to have a number-one single on the country charts. In 2010, the Lost Highway album also hit number one and featured Big & Rich and LeAnn Rimes.

Jessica Simpson’s Country Debut Hit Number One

Jessica Simpson
Jonathan Willey/MLB via Getty Images
Jonathan Willey/MLB via Getty Images

Actress, singer, and entrepreneur Jessica Simpson released her debut album in 1999. Her first five albums centered on pop music, and in 2006 she appeared at the Kennedy Center Honors with a tribute to Dolly Parton. However, she kept screwing up the iconic song “9 to 5.”

Simpson decided to go country in 2008 with the album Do You Know. It debuted at number one. These days she’s more known for her fashion than her music or acting careers. The Jessica Simpson Collection is one of the most profitable celebrity-founded brands in the world.

Lionel Richie’s Country Album Nailed It

Lionel Richie
David Livingston/Getty Images
David Livingston/Getty Images

Lionel Richie got his start as a member of the funk and soul band the Commodores. Some of the most popular songs from his solo career include “Hello” and “All Night Long (All Night).” He was hugely popular in the ’80s and has sold over 90 million records. He’s a Grammy Award winner and won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1986 for “Say You, Say Me” from the film White Nights.

In 2012, he made the album Tuskegee, which featured country heavyweights such as Blake Shelton, Shania Twain, Willie Nelson, Jason Aldean, Kenny Chesney, and Jimmy Buffett. It was the biggest-selling country album of the year.

Kid Rock Gave Up Rap For Country Music

Kid Rock Gave Up Rap for Country
Gary Miller/Getty Images
Gary Miller/Getty Images

Today, Kid Rock is known for being a singer/songwriter, rapper, rocker, and country music star. He doesn’t rap much these days. In 2001, he released the album Cocky, which featured a country duet with Sheryl Crow called “Picture.” This crossover made him a multi-platinum star.

This success propelled him to put aside much of the hip-hop and metal constructs of his previous songs. He turned to a more southern rock and country style of music. Ever since the 2010 album Born Free, he has focused on country music.

’80s Pop Star Tiffany’s Country Music Was Featured in the Film Mega Python vs. Gatoroid

Tiffany singing
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Concert For Love And Acceptance
Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Concert For Love And Acceptance

Eighties teen icon Tiffany is known for her 1987 cover of the song “I Think We’re Alone Now” and for her original mall tour. She also sang “Could’ve Been” and a cover of The Beatles’ “I Saw Him Standing There.” She decided to try country music in 2011 with the release of the tune “Rose Tattoo.”

The song was featured on soundtrack of the movie Mega Python vs. Gatoroid, in which Tiffany also appeared. Her album Rose Tattoo was her first foray into country music.

Van Morrison’s Country Album Was Well Received

Van Morrison's Country Album Was Well Received
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Ronnie Scotts
David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images for Ronnie Scotts

Irish singer-songwriter, instrumentalist and record producer Van Morrison has been playing music since the 1950s. One of his most well-known songs is “Brown Eyed Girl.” He’s explored a variety of music genres, including soul, jazz, and rock. In 2006 he released the country album Pay the Devil.

Morrison did covers of “There Stands the Glass” as well as “‘Till I Can Gain Control Again”. It also featured some original songs that blended in well with the other country tunes. It peaked at number seven on the country album chart.

Elvis Costello’s Country Music Album Received Mixed Reviews

Elvis Costello's Country Music Album Received Mixed Reviews
Richard Martin-Roberts/Redferns
Richard Martin-Roberts/Redferns

English post-punk singer-songwriter Elvis Costello was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2003 and won Grammy Awards in 1999 and 2020. He took a break from new wave music in 1981 by recording Almost Blue in Nashville. It featured classic country songs produced by Billy Sherrill.

The album had tunes such as Merle Haggard’s “Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down” and Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To.” Critics gave it mixed reviews, but a version of George Jones’ “Good Year for the Roses” hit number six in the UK.

Bob Dylan Eschewed His Trademark Style In 1969’s Nashville Skyline

Bob Dylan Eschewed His Trademark Style In 1969's Nashville Skyline
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for ABA
Dave J Hogan/Getty Images for ABA

Folk singer Bob Dylan’s most famous songs originated in the 1960s, such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin.'” He was a counterculture figure, and he often inserted political and social commentary in his lyrics. In 1969, he released the all-country album Nashville Skyline.

Dylan used a steel guitar and even had a duet with Johnny Cash. His voice was a lot softer and less nasally than his earlier work. It was notable because it was very different from his trademark style. This album included the classic tune, “Lay Lady Lay.” Dylan has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, 10 Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and an Academy Award.

Country Icon Conway Twitty Started Out Writing Pop And Rock Music

Country Icon Conway Twitty Started Out Writing Pop And Rock Music
GAB Archive/Redferns
GAB Archive/Redferns

Yes, we realize that Conway Twitty is one of country’s most successful stars, but did you know that he started out in rock and roll and pop music? He wrote Roy Orbison’s hit song “Rock House” and in 1958 released “It’s Only Make Believe.” He’s also responsible for the rockabilly hits “Danny Boy” and “Lonely Blue Boy.”

His rock career faltered in the ’60s, so he switched to country music. Eventually, he produced more number-one country songs than anyone else (until George Strait beat his record).

Ween Wasn’t Afraid to Add Country To Its Eclectic Repertoire

Gene Ween and Dean Ween of Ween
Chris McKay/WireImage
Chris McKay/WireImage

This alternative rock band formed in the ’80s in New Hope, Pennsylvania. Their most well- known hit single is “Push th’ Little Daisies.” The band hasn’t had a lot of mainstream recognition, but they do have a large and devoted following who love their eclectic type of songs that mix a little bit of funk, soul, R&B, heavy metal, and more (including country).

In 1995, the band released 12 Golden Country Greats, which featured several Nashville stars, such as Charlie McCoy, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Pete Drake, and the Jordanaires.