Well, it’s time to face it: country music is looking like a soft place to land for a lot of aging rockers. If Steven Tyler and Bret Michaels are any indication, we can expect more country projects from former classic rockers any day now. But despite grumblings here and there, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here are a few classic rockers who might actually make good country records, if they ever felt so inclined.
1. Steve Miller (Steve Miller Band)
Yes, The Joker himself. Steve Miller is one of those artists who when you say, “I really like the Steve Miller Band,” your friend says, “Who is that?” And then you list off 10 songs, all of which your friend totally knows. Miller has proven to be one of the most versatile and resilient rockers around. He spent his childhood in Texas and even took a stint at the University of Texas at Austin before forming his band. Look no further than “Going To The Country” from 1970’s Number 5 to hear the potential in a countrified Steve Miller.
2. Glenn Frey (The Eagles)
We’ve all heard about the new Don Henley country record coming out, but what about his famous partner in crime, Glenn Frey? Eagles were the original country/rock crossover band. Glenn was the smooth-voiced tenor who graced most of the group’s country-leaning tunes, like “Take It Easy”. It just makes sense! Glenn has spent the past years mostly making piano music. Maybe it’s time he reminds us all of his country roots.
3. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac)
We all know what The Dixie Chicks were able to do with Stevie Nicks’ song “Landslide.” But Landslide was a huge hit before the Chicks too. Stevie has always written songs tinged with personal angst yet undeniable optimism and delivered them in a raw, heartfelt way. And isn’t being raw and heartfelt what great country is about? Her episode of CMT Crossroads with Lady Antebellum is a good gauge of what she could do with a country record.
4. James Hetfield (Metallica)
James Hetfield may be one of the best metal frontmen for one of the greatest metal bands of all time, but that doesn’t mean he can’t go country. In fact, Hetfield was close friends with Waylon Jennings and even recorded “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out Of Hand” for the Jennings tribute album I’ve Always Been Crazy. Hatfield penned the music and lyrics to Metallica’s only country-inspired song, “Mama Said.” It was written about his struggle with his mom, who died of cancer when he was 16. Sure, the video is a bit “90s ridiculous,” but the pieces are there.
5. Steve Perry (Journey)
Why could Steve Perry make a good country album? Because Steve Perry can do anything. The ex-frontman for Journey penned some of the biggest hits of the 80s and he can still belt it out with the best of them. Plus, I kind of know what a countrified Steve Perry may sound like — just listen to Colin Raye’s cover of his hit, “Open Arms.” Released in 1997, it reached 70 on the Hot Country Songs chart without ever being officially promoted.
6. Bob Seger
Most people know Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page” — it’s heavily covered by rockers and country artists alike. Often considered a roots rocker and the father of “heartland rock,” Seger practically invented that raspy-voiced, chugging guitar style so many country hitmakers are imitating today. So he probably wouldn’t have to stretch too far for a record that would land in country section! His episode of CMT Crossroads with Jason Aldean is the perfect example.
7. Pat Benatar
Pat Benatar belongs on the Mount Rushmore of badass female musicians. She’s a fire-starting rocker, but don’t forget about the time she and Martina McBride teamed up for one of the cooler CMT Crossroads episodes. She holds her own on the ballads. And let’s be honest, Benatar led the movement that paved the way for strong solo female acts like Miranda Lambert. But mostly, just imagine how beautiful “Love Is A Battlefield” would be with some resonator guitars and banjos!
A few extras who would make the list but are just a little too close to country already (or have already done successful country projects): John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Gregg Allman and Tom Johnston (Doobie Brothers).
Can you think of more? Let us know your pick in the comments section.