10 Artists Who Have Unexpectedly Gone Country
Country music fans were surprised when Lady Gaga released a country version of her hit ‘Born This Way,’ but she’s not the only artist who has unexpectedly made their way to country music. There’s also Aaron Lewis of Staind — and actress Gwyneth Paltrow! These diverse entertainers join a list of country converts that includes Uncle Kracker, Kid Rock and former Hootie and the Blowfish frontman Darius Rucker, all favorites on country radio playlists. Although it may surprise country listeners, artists from all genres of music have made their way to country radio through the years, as seen in our 10 Artists Who Have Unexpectedly Gone Country list.
Jerry Lee Lewis
In 1957, Jerry Lee Lewis rocked his way up the pop charts with 'Whole Lotta Shakin' Going On' and 'Great Balls of Fire.' Surprisingly, both of these songs hit No. 1 on the Billboard country charts. Then, after his rock 'n' roll success dwindled, he released a successful string of country hits throughout the '60s and '70s. In all, the thumpin' piano player racked up 49 Top 40 Billboard country hits, and even played the Grand Ole Opry.
Julio Iglesias was an established Latin crooner by the time Willie Nelson asked him to record a duet. While on tour overseas, Nelson discovered his amazingly smooth voice while listening to the radio. The Red-Headed Stranger then began the search for his unlikely singing partner to propose the idea of recording 'To All the Girls I've Loved Before.' In no time, Julio accepted the offer and traveled to the United States to record his vocals. The song rode up the country charts to No. 1 and peaked at No. 5 on the Billboard pop chart.
The storytelling snowman from 'Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer' started his career as a folk singer, which led to Broadway, TV and the movies. At first, Burl Ives was best known for his 1955 Broadway role "Big Daddy" in 'Cat On A Hot Tin Roof.' In 1958, he won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in the movie 'The Big Country.' Several projects followed, and in 1962, he was welcomed on country radio with three Top 5 hits.
As he was making a name for himself by mixing R&B, rock 'n' roll, gospel and Jazz, Charles took an unexpected turn in 1962 by releasing the groundbreaking album 'Modern Sounds in Country And Western Music.' The album gave country classics like 'You Win Again' and 'I Can't Sop Loving You' a new sound and introduced many new fans to the genre. In the early '80s, Ray released a country duets project that produced the top 10 hit 'We Didn't See a Thing' with George Jones and Chet Atkins and the No. 1 hit 'Seven Spanish Angels' with Willie Nelson.
A dynamic pop singer who made ladies scream at the swing of his hips, the 'What's New Pussycat?' singer also had a very successful country career. In 1967, he covered the Porter Wagoner hit 'Green, Green Grass Of Home.' In 1976, his debut country release 'Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow' hit No. 1 on the Billboard country music chart. In all, he put 10 songs on country's Top 40, including 'Darlin,' 'Touch Me (I'll Be Your Fool Once More),' 'A Woman's Touch' and 1981's 'Lady Lay Down,' originally a hit for John Conlee in 1978.
You could almost guarantee that any Bon Jovi fan who was rockin' out to 1986's 'You Give Love a Bad Name' and 'Livin' On A Prayer' was not listening to Randy Travis and the Judds, the hottest names in country radio at the time. However, as country music evolved and changed, so did the many rock 'n' roll fans, who suddenly became a part of country music's growing demographic. In 2006, Jon Bon Jovi and his band made an easy transition to country with the 'Who Says You Can't Go Home,' his duet with Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles.
The former Commodore started his amazing solo career with the platinum selling pop single 'Endless Love' with Diana Ross in 1981. Then, he dominated pop and adult contemporary radio with 'My Love,' 'All Night Long' and 'Hello' before pitching 'Stuck on You' to country radio. The song peaked at a modest No. 24, but his follow-up with Alabama on 'Deep River Woman' climbed to No. 10. Prior to his surprise appearance on the country chart, he wrote the huge country crossover hit 'Lady' for Kenny Rogers in 1980.
In 1978, Eastwood showcased his love of country music by helping pick the music for his movie 'Every Which Way But Loose.' He was instrumental in selecting the movie's hit 'Coca-Cola Cowboy' for Mel Tillis and its theme song, which was a No. 1 hit for Eddie Rabbitt. In 1980, he inspired another country themed soundtrack for 'Any Which Way You Can,' featuring the hit 'You're The Reason God Made Oklahoma,' recorded by David Frizzell and Shelley West. The biggest surprise came in 1980, when Eastwood actually sang a song with Merle Haggard titled 'Bar Room Buddies.'
After becoming a pop culture sensation by starring in her own reality series on MTV with then husband Nick Lachey, Simpson landed the role of Daisy Duke in the 2005 movie 'The Dukes Of Hazzard.' Simpson befriended co-star Willie Nelson in the movie, who encouraged her to pursue her passion of recording country music. In 2008, she released a country album called 'Do You Know' that debuted at No. 1 on Billboard's country chart. The first single, 'Come On Over,' was a Top 20 hit.
Billboard launched its country music charts in 1944, and the very first No. 1 single in history belonged to Bing Crosby. The legendary 'White Christmas' crooner made a surprise leap onto the country chart with the jukebox favorite 'Pistol Packin' Mama,' written by Al Dexter. According to the Western Music Hall of Fame, which inducted Crosby as a member in 2008, Crosby was responsible for "exposing a large and very receptive audience to Western music and laying the groundwork for its acceptance among fans beyond the country genre."