These artists never lived up to their potential.
Music is littered with flash-in-the-pans, could-have-beens, and never-weres. It seems like for every Kenny Chesney there are a hundred Catherine Britts. You don’t know who Catherine Britt is? That’s because despite her obvious talent, she never placed a song on the country charts higher than No. 36. That’s not quite high enough to make her a one-hit-wonder, but it is enough to make her a should-have-been.
Something stood in the way of these 10 artists rise to popularity and fame. Record deals, bad karma, apathy – whatever it was these artists had the talent to be more.
Jaron and the Long Road to Love
Maybe it was the name—it’s just too much of a mouthful to get out in polite conversation. Whatever the reason, Jaron and the Long Road to Love wasn’t (weren’t?) around long. Jaron had previously found minor success with the pop group Evan and Jaron in the early 2000s. Jaron hit the country charts with his song “Pray for You” in 2009. The song, which was co-written, is a clever, humorous song about a bitter breakup. If the rest of Jaron’s writing equaled the quality of “Pray for You,” he should have had a long career. Instead he parted with his label and really hasn’t been heard from again.
Should you be ashamed you haven’t heard of Sherrié Austin. No, probably not. Should you be ashamed you aren’t as ambitious as she is. Yeah, maybe. Austin’s music career began by opening for Johnny Cash when she was 14. Then she acted in sitcoms The Facts of Life and Fresh Prince of Bel Air. In 2005, she made the move to Broadway and drew rave reviews as an actress. In between she released five country music albums. Love in the Real World was the only one to break into the Top 20. She has released 15 singles, gaining minor success with “Never Been Kissed” and “Streets of Heaven.” Meanwhile, she worked on writing songs for other artists. She co-wrote Tim McGraw’s “Shotgun Rider.” Amidst all of this, she was named one of Nashville Lifestyles Magazine’s Most Beautiful People in 2011. Oh, and she’s Australian. It seems Austin can do anything but reach the top 10 for herself.
Johnny Darrell just couldn’t catch any breaks. He dedicated himself to country music, recording eight albums in his lifetime, half of which would land on the Country charts, but none of which would climb any higher than No. 23. He chose all the right songs, often prophetically. Like “With Pen in Hand.” And “Song of the Hickory Holler’s Tramp.” Oh, and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town.” All three of those songs would become major hits for other artists. Johnny Darrell became a footnote.
In 2005, pop star Michelle Branch brought her talent to country music, recruiting friend and backup vocalist Jessica Harp to form the group The Wreckers. They had it all: talent, looks, and experience. Things went extremely well for the group. They charted a #1 with “Leave the Pieces” and a #9 with “My, Oh My.” They won a Grammy. Then they disappeared. Well, they broke up, but either way, what should have been a long run of a successful album turned into one.
Where have you gone, Cyndi Thomson? In 2001, Cyndi’s debut song “What I really Meant to Say” went straight to No. 1. And stayed there for three weeks. Her next two singles? No better than No. 21. Then she retired. The industry became too much for her and she walked away. She would later come out of retirement in 2006 to try recording a new album, but would never finish. Eventually, in 2009, she got around to releasing some new music. You didn’t know? Well, that’s because it didn’t even chart. And achingly-gorgeous Cyndi Thomson became a should-have-been.
Scotty Emerick never even got to be a one-hit wonder. His highest charting single only reached No. 24, and that was using the strength of Toby Keith’s guest vocals. You know who he is though, because he has written multiple No. 1 hits and hits for Sawyer Brown, George Strait, and Billy Currington. Not to mention about half of Toby Keith’s songs. “I’m Just Talking ‘Bout Tonight?” — Scotty Emerick. “I Love this Bar?” — Scotty Emerick. “Beer for my Horses?” – Scotty Emerick. The list goes on. Whether he chose to back out of the spotlight or just couldn’t quite make it, Scotty Emerick is an artist that should have had a better solo career.
Like Emerick, Shane McAnally is a songwriter whose solo career peaked early. McAnally released one record and three singles, none of which made it past #31 on the charts. Uninspiring, you say? Who is this failure and why is he relevant? Well, have you listened to Kacey Musgraves lately? How about Little Big Town, Sam Hunt, Carrie Underwood, Miranda Lambert, Dierks, Kenny, Lady Antebellum…there are simply too many to list. If you have listened to them, you’ve almost certainly heard a song that McNally has written or co-written. He was the 2014 ACMs Songwriter of the Year. Which makes you wonder, what happened with his solo career?
The time was ripe for country-rock acts in the mid-1990s. Paving the way were the likes of Little Texas and Wynonna Judd. A butt-kicking good time from bands that could also slow it down and croon was what fans seemed to be looking for. Enter Ricochet. “Daddy’s Money” rode the charts all the way to No. 1. Their self-titled debut album produced two more top-ten hits. The band seemed poised for a Little Texas-like takeover of country music. Then they released their ironically-titled follow up album Blink of an Eye and single “He Left a Lot to be Desired.” It would be too easy to make a pun here.
Let’s talk about the Pistol Annies. Made up of Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley, this group has more than enough talent. They just seem not to care what anyone thinks of them. The Pistol Annies project seems to be a fun, creative collaboration for the three women, who are more focused on their solo careers. As a group they have only released two singles; somehow “Hell on Heels” didn’t chart at all in country but made it to the Hot 100. “Hush Hush” didn’t make it past No. 41. The Pistol Annies still get together and perform, and you get the feeling they will be recording another album or two before they are done, but this is undoubtedly a group that should be so much more.
Tim Rushlow has been all over the place since Little Texas disbanded, but he hasn’t been able to recapture that magic. The former co-lead singer went solo, placing a top ten hit with “She Misses Him.” Then the label that he was recording for closed. Rushlow responded by forming a new band, named, appropriately, Rushlow. This band charted a top twenty with “I Can’t Be Your Friend.” But then their label dropped them due to restructuring. Rushlow, undeterred, tried a third time, creating a new project called Rushlow Harris. The group never released an album, but they did release two singles. “Bagpipes Cryin’ “ made it to No. 42 before the group split. Tim Rushlow went back to his solo career, releasing “Rain Down on Me” is 2011, but it failed to chart.