Music

10 Pop and Rock Outsiders with Crossover Country Hits

AP Photo, Jess Baumung/Invision/AP and AP Photo/Reed Saxon

It irks many fans of classic country music when pop star team-ups with current country acts result in No. 1 hits. Examples of this include Bebe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line rewriting Billboard chart history with 2017's "Meant to Be" or, more recently, longtime internet punching bag Justin Bieber's award-nominated Dan + Shay collaboration, "10,000 Hours."

Country crossover hits are hardly a new fad, so you can't cast the blame on Garth Brooks, Shania Twain, Taylor Swift or anyone else who's music sounds different than the country songs of your childhood. Instead, examples of outsiders scoring hit country songs date back to a least 1944, when Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters' version of "Pistol Packin' Mama" became the first No. 1 on what's now called the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.

Read on for a list of artists associated with rock, jazz, big band or pop music with a No. 1 country hit to their credit. Most songs on our playlist pair a popular country act with a duet partner or band in search of crossover success.

This list focuses on artists from outside of country music with just one No. 1 hit. This disqualifies multi-time chart-toppers Jimmy Buffett and John Denver. And unfortunately, those parameters limit us from once again praising Billy Ray Cyrus' decision to join forces with rapper Lil Nas X for a song shunned by country radio. Even sadder, our guidelines disqualify the story of why Hank Williams Jr. shares No. 1 credit for 1986's "Mind Your Own Business" with a popular televangelist at the time, Reverend Ike.

"Straighten Up and Fly Right," The King Cole Trio (1944)

Charley Pride's first No. 1 hit, 1969's "All I Have to Offer You (Is Me)," was actually the third country chart-topper sung by a Black man. Twenty-five years prior, swing-era band leader Louis Jordan's "Ration Blues" broke new ground in the country genre. A little under four months after Jordan made history, an even bigger name in pop music lore followed suit when this Nat King Cole-fronted trio reached No. 1.

"Shame on You," Red Foley and the Lawrence Welk Orchestra (1945)

Lawrence Welk's not that weird of a fit here. After all, his popular television show offered an invaluable platform in the '60s to future country star Lynn Anderson and later on to Ava Barber. Still, he suits this list of outsiders with a No. 1 country song thanks to this rendition of a prior Spade Cooley hit.

"Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow," Tom Jones (1977)

When it comes to artists more associated with pop or rock than country, only Elvis Presley and Olivia Newton-John can match Tom Jones' musical equivalent of cowboy cosplay. His ventures into country music paid off with this, his lone No. 1 within the genre.

"Are You on the Road to Lovin' Me Again," Debbie Boone (1980)

The daughter of pop crooner and short-term metalhead Pat Boone chased Nashville stardom in between her pop and Christian music careers. Her first and only No. 1 hit as a country singer came in the '80s, a fertile time for country-pop crossover moments.

There's a couple of interesting side notes about Boone. Her 1977 recording of global super-hit "You Light Up My Life" unsurprisingly topped the all-genre Billboard Hot 100, and it also cracked the country charts' Top 5. In addition, when "Are You on the Road to Lovin' Me Again" was climbing the charts, there was a moment when something frustratingly unimaginable now happened. Women ruled the Top 5, with the April 19, 1980 chart looking like this: 1. "It's Like We Never Said Goodbye" by Crystal Gayle, 2. "A Lesson in Leavin'" by Dottie West, 3. "Are You Still on the Road to Lovin' Me Again" by Boone, 4. "Beneath Still Waters" by Emmylou Harris and 5. "Two Story House" by Tammy Wynette and George Jones.

"We've Got Tonight," Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton (1983)

At a time when Kenny Rogers' popularity transcended country music, he worked with more than one duet partner with a hit titled "9 to 5" (though Sheena Easton's song was called "Morning Train (Nine to Five)" in the States and Canada to cut down on confusion). Rogers and Easton covered future Martina McBride collaborator Bob Seger with this popular rendition of "We've Got Tonight."

While we're teasing "Islands in the Stream," we might as well point out that Rogers and Dolly Parton's best-known collaboration was a crossover hit penned by the Bee Gees.

"Seven Spanish Angels," Ray Charles and Willie Nelson (1985)

Over 20 years after proving to be a credit to country music with both Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music albums, Ray Charles finally got his well-earned No. 1 country hit with the best-known song on this list.

It came from Charles' studio album Friendship, which includes duets with Hank Williams Jr., Mickey Gilley and Johnny Cash.

Other Nelson collaborations on our honorable mentions list netted country No. 1s for Leon Russell and Julio Iglesias.

"Who Says You Can't Go Home," Bon Jovi and Jennifer Nettles (2006)

Bon Jovi plotted what became an irresistible earworm with Keith Urban in mind as guest vocalist. After the band decided that Urban sounded way too much like Jon Bon Jovi, they asked Mercury Records for suggestions. This opened the door for Jennifer Nettles of Sugarland to become involved in one of the catchiest country songs on this list. As for Urban, he stuck around to play banjo on the song.

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"Don't You Wanna Stay," Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson (2010)

Kelly Clarkson's run of pop chart dominance began soon after she won the inaugural American Idol season in 2002. Yet it took a few years for the Texas-born singer and lifelong country music fan to reach the top of the Nashville heap.

"Setting the World on Fire," Kenny Chesney and Pink (2016)

Kenny Chesney's big tent approach to collaborations has earned country No. 1s for everyone from Uncle Kracker to The Wailers. His best crossover duet came more recently when he teamed with powerhouse vocalist and Chris Stapleton running buddy Pink.

"One Thing Right," Kane Brown and Marshmello (2019)

Clearly, Kane Brown doesn't want to be pigeonholed as country. One of the best platforms for him to share his array of talents with the rest of the music industry came through this weird amalgam of EDM, country and pop-punk, featuring a world-renown and food-themed DJ.

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10 Pop and Rock Outsiders with Crossover Country Hits