Country music history is basically one big, convoluted family tree.
Seriously. You could start with today’s artists and trace your way back to the origins of country music in the 1920s without ever breaking from the family tree. Along the way, you might get lost in some of the twisting branches that include Larry McMurtry, Michael Jackson and Francis Ford Coppola.
Some of these relationships you might know. But some you might not. And there are certainly many parent-offspring and familial connections that aren’t listed here, such as the Nelsons, the Frizzells and the Seals. Here are 11 singers who followed in the footsteps of their famous parents.
11. Miley Cyrus – Billy Ray Cyrus
Everything that needs to be said here has pretty much already been said, right? “Achy Breaky Heart”…yada yada…Hannah Montana…yada yada…terrible life decisions. There, done.
10. Pam Tillis – Mel Tillis
Mel Tillis is perhaps one of country music’s most overlooked artists. He’s a member of the Songwriting Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Grand Ole Opry and has won just about every award under the sun–including six years as Comedian of the Year. Oh, did we mention he was also an actor? Anyway, his daughter, Pam Tillis, is a Grammy winner herself. You know her for “Mi Vida Loca.”
9. Arlo Guthrie – Woody Guthrie
There is perhaps no other artist who has left a greater cultural impact on America than Woody Guthrie. From penning “This Land if Your Land” to basically providing the impetus to get Bob Dylan out of Minnesota, Guthrie’s political and social protest songs changed the American landscape. His son, Arlo, followed right along and became a famous folk singer as well. His best-known work, the 18-minute “Alice’s Restaurant” is one of the most famous protest songs of all time.
8. Justin Townes Earle – Steve Earle
Everyone knows country outlaw Steve Earle. His boozing and carousing are the stuff of legend. Well, his son, Justin Townes Earle, has a bit of a problem with his father who left him and his mother when he was just two years old. Justin, who was named after songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt, has become a bit of a giant in the folk world, and he’s never been shy to call out his wayward father. His last two albums are Single Mothers and Absent Fathers.
7. Lucky Tubb – Ernest Tubb
The Texas Troubadour is another oft-overlooked legend of country music. If you’ve ever been to a dancehall in Texas, you’ll recognize his song “Waltz Across Texas.” While Tubb’s son and grandsons all became musicians, it was his nephew who surpassed them all. Glenn Douglas Tubb wrote over 50 hit songs for country and rock musicians, including Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. Finally, Ernest’s great nephew, Lucky Tubb, is the frontman for Lucky Tubb & the Modern Day Troubadours, a popular country band out of Austin.
6. Thomas Rhett – Rhett Akins
Rhett Akins just can’t seem to keep his fingers out of country music radio. After releasing a string of his own albums and charting a No. 1 single, he took to writing songs for other artists. If you like Blake Shelton, Justin Moore, Rodney Adkins or many others, you’ve heard Rhett’s songwriting. And now he’s gone and got him a son, Thomas Rhett, who’s charter three No. 1 singles. The Akins just won’t leave it alone.
5. Shooter Jennings – Waylon Jennings & Jessi Colter
When you grow up being babysat by the likes of Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson and Johnny Cash, how could you become anything but an outlaw country musician? And that’s before even mentioning Shooter’s famous parents. You know Waylon but his wife Jessi also was an important member of the outlaw country movement in the 1970s.
4. Lisa Marie Presley – Elvis Presley
Bet you didn’t know Elvis had a daughter that has released three critically acclaimed albums. Or that her latest, Storm & Grace was produced by the legendary T-Bone Burnett and has been hailed as a smoky masterpiece. Besides being a Presley, Lisa Marie has been married to both Michael Jackson and Nicolas Cage, thus uniting her with two more of this centuries most powerful families: the Jacksons and the Coppolas. Talk about a family tree.
3. Hank Williams III, Holly Williams – Hank Williams Jr. – Hank Williams
What really needs to be said? The great Hank died too young, but not before fathering a son who would go on to become a country star and make some very confusing political statements. But Bocephus has a couple children of his own; Hank and his half-sister Holly both are successful musicians.
2. Rosanne Cash – Johnny Cash
It can’t be easy following in the footstep of the Man in Black. But Rosanne held her own. The daughter of John and his first wife, Vivian, Roseanne recorded 11 No. 1 singles in the 80s. This family tree extends even further, however. Roseanne married a young musician named Rodney Crowell in 1979. Their daughter, Chelsea, has released an album of her own. But that’s not all! Another of Johnny’s daughters, Cindy, married a member of Cash’s backing band in the 80s. His name: Marty Stuart.
1. The Carter Family
Wow. Where to begin? You could trace the history of country music through the Carter Family, starting with A.P., his wife Sara and his sister-in-law Maybelle in 1927 for the famous Bristol Sessions. In 1939, A.P. and Sara’s two children joined the band along with Maybelle’s three children. Among them was an 11-year-old Valerie June Carter. You know the rest. Following the other side of the previously mentioned family tree, June and Johnny Cash’s son, John Carter Cash (half brother of Roseanne), has produced five Grammy Award-winning albums.