What magic lies in Merle’s bristles? Does Willie draw his strength from his whiskers? Examine these mysteries in this look at country music’s furriest follicles.
As Jase Robertson of Duck Dynasty put it, “There are two kinds of people without beards: boys and women. I am neither.” The second-in-command from the family of famous hunters would know all about it, since he has no shortage of facial hair. Beards may have recently experienced a surge in popularity, but country music artists don’t follow trends they set them. There’s just something intriguing about a man with a beard and a guitar, so here’s a list of 10 of the best beards in country music, past and present:
10. Thomas Rhett
The 24-year-old son of country singer/songwriter Rhett Akins, country music legacy Thomas Rhett has one thing his daddy didn’t: a beard. Could his dimple-covering facial hair be the secret to his success with his hit singles like “Make Me Wanna” and “Get Me Some of That”? He’d have to shave for the world to know for sure, and that in itself, would be a tragedy.
9. Willie Nelson
The redheaded stranger, Willie Nelson, is no stranger to facial hair. The lasting image of this country music icon will have three important elements: a bandana, braids, and a beard. He does periodically shave it, presumably for the gratification of growing it back.
8. Ronnie Dunn
Most folks don’t realize the classic country duo of Brooks & Dunn is actually a trio. Ronnie Dunn’s beard surely deserves star billing, as it has been with him from the very beginning. Legend has it, like the biblical figure Samson, if it is ever shaved, Ronnie loses his vocal strength and then who will sustain the excessively long high note in “My Maria”?
7. Toby Keith
With his thick, luscious facial locks, Toby Keith should’ve been a cowboy. Those sensational bristles make it hard to believe the “Made in America” singer wasn’t born with a five o’clock shadow. Maybe if he’d had that manly beard in high school, the snobby valedictorian from “How Do You Like Me Now” would have given him the time of day.
6. Zac Brown
As the front man of his band, Zac Brown has to look good. He is achieving that goal with an impressive set of whiskers. That sweet, sweet beard is so awe-inspiring the lyrics to his hit collaboration with Jimmy Buffett “Knee Deep” should have been “got the blue sky breeze blowing wind through my facial hair”.
5. Hank Williams Jr.
The namesake and son of the famous country music superstar, old Bocephus had a lot to live up to. There’s a good deal of family tradition in the Williams clan, but the bodacious beard is uniquely Hank Williams Jr. He started his career trying too hard to be like his dad, but once he found his own sound and grew his own beard he obtained his own success. The two aren’t necessarily interconnected, but they might be.
4. Waylon Jennings
Could it be the robust and striking beard that gave the ramblin’ man’s voice its dulcet, baritone resonance? Probably not, but it did lend Waylon Jennings a healthy dose of fetching masculinity, and God rest his outlaw soul, he wore his whiskers until the day that he died.
3. Merle Haggard
Though chin bristles are not a prerequisite for country music legend status, it’s certain many country music legends have them. Merle Haggard may not have been letting his hair get long and shaggy back in ’69, but the original Okie from Muskogee has been sporting a dapper, trimmed beard for decades now.
2. Jamey Johnson
Word is still out as to whether or not having an enormous hillbilly beard offsets the high cost of living, though there’s no doubt it gives the Alabama native some country flare. What is clear is that, glorious beard notwithstanding nothing can absolve Jamey Johnson for having written “Honkey Tonk Badonkadonk”.
1. David Allan Coe
Although he has always been blessed with an abundance of tresses, in recent years the outlaw country musician has grown a beautiful beaded and braided beard. If David Allan Coe ever shaves his magnificent chin braids, it’ll be all that I can do to keep from crying.