It’s hard to imagine your favorite country hits being sung by a different artist, but if the writers of these songs had their way, you would be singing a whole different tune. Sometimes an artist or their manager decides to pass on recording a song — and that song goes on to be a big success for another artist. Here are 13 hit country songs that were supposed to be sung by somebody else.
1. “Jesus Take The Wheel” — Sara Evans
Sara Evans missed the boat on this one. She reportedly called the tune “stupid” before Carrie Underwood made it her post-American Idol debut song. It ended up spending 10 weeks at No. 1 on the country charts and reaching No. 20 on the pop charts. Underwood went on to, you know, become a superstar.
2. “American Kids” — Little Big Town
The story is that writer Shane McAnally sent a demo of the song to Kenny Chesney, but Chesney reportedly never listened to it. So Little Big Town worked up the song. One day, Chesney and McAnally were on a flight when Chesney found the email with the demo. He listened and decided it would be his next single before even getting to the chorus. McAnally nervously asked Little Big Town to let Chesney have the song, and they happily obliged. Fun fact: the song’s lyrics are mostly comprised of other song title idea’s McAnally and his co-writers had.
3. “Take Me Home, Country Roads” — Johnny Cash
Arguably John Denver‘s biggest hit and probably the best thing about the entire state of West Virginia, “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was meant for Johnny Cash — until Denver heard it and pleaded to get the cut. Luckily, there’s golden footage of the two performing it as a duet in 1977.
4. “Drink A Beer” — Dierks Bentley
Dierks Bentley turned down Luke Bryan‘s mega hit “Drink A Beer.” Bryan made the song an ode to his late brother and sister. Bentley went on to have success with other tunes, but he has a bad habit of turning down big hits. He also declined Lee Brice‘s “I Drive Your Truck” and Gary Allan‘s “Watching Airplanes.”
5. “Independence Day” — Reba McEntire
Martina McBride actually caught a little flack for the music video of the song, which depicts a woman burning her abusive husband alive in a house while her daughter watches. Regardless, the song was heralded for confronting spousal abuse and was named to CMT’s “100 Greatest Country Songs of Country Music” list, landing at 50. Reba McEntire wasn’t hurting for hits at the time, but the song made Martina a household name in country.
6. “The Cheap Seats” — Oak Ridge Boys
The Oak Ridge Boys held on to “The Cheap Seats” for over a year without recording it. Meanwhile, Alabama was chomping at the bit to cut the song. The Boys eventually released their hold on the tune and Alabama turned it into a top 20 hit.
7. “Unbelievable” — George Jones
Now this one would have no doubt been totally different. Diamond Rio‘s fun, tongue-twisting hit was written for George Jones — all the way down to the low notes the tune starts out with. “Unbelievable” went to No. 2 on the country charts in 1998. Maybe The Possum could’ve gotten it one spot higher?
8. “American Honey” — Carrie Underwood
The song gods giveth, and the song gods taketh away. Carrie Underwood’s career took off when Sara Evans passed on what became her first big hit, but Carrie passed on what became Lady Antebellum‘s third consecutive No. 1, cementing the band as the real deal. “American Honey” helped the trio land the Grammy for Best Country Album.
9. “The House That Built Me” — Blake Shelton
After the couple’s recent split, this one is a little sad. Blake Shelton intended to sing “The House That Built Me,” but he saw how much Miranda Lambert was touched by the song when she first heard it — so he let her have it. The beautifully touching tune went No. 1 and won Song of the Year honors at both the CMA’s and ACM’s, as well as the Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
10. “Islands In The Stream” — Marvin Gaye
Written by the Gibb brothers of Bee Gee’s fame, Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton turned Islands In The Stream into a huge hit — but the Bee Gee’s had to change the song around first, since they originally wrote it in an R&B style for Marvin Gaye.
11. “Chicken Fried” — Alan Jackson
The story behind Zac Brown‘s “Chicken Fried” could probably be made into a novel. One very important chapter would be the part where Alan Jackson declined to record the song. Zac wrote the song himself, so it only makes sense that he would turn it into the tune that launched his career. The pair did eventually team up on another hit, “As She’s Walking Away.”
12. “A Little More Country Than That” — Blaine Larsen
Blaine Larsen had the chance to record “A Little More Country Than That,” but it sat on the shelf for years before Easton Corbin‘s producer heard the song and recommended it to him. Good call. Corbin released it as his debut single in 2010. It went to No. 1, making it the first debut single from a male artist to top the chart in seven years.
13. “Drunk On You” — Jason Aldean
Honestly, this song probably wouldn’t sound that much different if it were sung by Jason Aldean instead of Luke Bryan. Aldean didn’t think it was rockin’ enough for the album he was working on at the time, 2012’s Night Train. The two did perform it together acoustically once or twice, though.
Bonus: Irreplaceable — Faith Hill or Shania Twain
How different would Beyonce’s 2006 hit “Irreplaceable” have been if it were a country song? Songwriter Ne-Yo originally envisioned Faith Hill or Shania Twain singing the track until Beyonce snagged it. Good thing she did, because it became her biggest song. If you want to hear what could have been, check out Sugarland‘s collaboration on the tune with Beyonce at the American Music Awards.