DeFord Bailey/ Linda Martell/ Charley Pride
Photo by GAB Archive/Redferns/ Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images/ Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

35 Black Country Artists You Need to Know

Country music owes its most profound roots to Black musicians.

For all the beauty, honesty and emotion of country music, the country music industry has all too often failed listeners of the genre by not sharing, or by simply silencing, the stories and voices of the Black country artists who helped create the genre.

In reality, country music owes its most profound roots to Black musicians and artists — such as the ones who taught country pioneer Jimmie Rodgers everything he knew about music. Or the ones who wrote the groundbreaking music that was made mainstream by Elvis Presley. With any justice, country singers such as Mickey Guyton, who has been a favorite of both fans and critics since she stepped onto the scene, will be given the opportunity they deserve. 

The false narrative of country music's origins has shifted in recent years, thanks to folks such as Rissi Palmer, a singer-songwriter and host of the Apple Music Country radio show "Color Me Country," which spotlights Black, Indigenous and Latinx artists in country music.

"It's really important to me for everyone ... to feel ownership of this music," Palmer told Wide Open Country in 2022. "It's all of our music. It's the music of the people here in this country. It's the music of all of us. I feel like knowing more about who started it and who these people were and more of these behind-the-scenes, kind of hidden stories, it changes the way it looks and it changes the way you listen and it can expand your your musical palette. All of a sudden it's like, 'Well, let me find out more about Lesley Riddle or let me see if I can find some "Tee Tot" Payne music.'"

Though there are countless Black country singers who've made incredible contributions to country music (and this is by no means a complete list), here are 35 Black musicians who've shaped country music's history and future that every country fan should know. 





Editor's Note: This article was originally published in 2016. It was updated on Feb. 22, 2024. 

READ MORE: Rissi Palmer on Telling Country Music's Hidden Stories:'It's the Music of All of Us'