Remember when being a man in country music meant something more than muscle shirts and drinking Bud Light? Luckily there are still a few country music artists of out there carrying on the proud tradition of being a man.
You could do worse than having any of the following men as your role model. They all know what it means to grow chest hair and refuse to be defeated by adversity. Most of these men have served in the armed forces. Many have grown up on a ranch or farm. But they are all 100% grit and gristle men.
Here are the manliest men of country music history.
17. Ryan Bingham
Ryan Bingham grew up in Hobbs, NM, riding bulls and hopping from one rodeo to the next. He never achieved bull-riding fame like Chris Ledoux, but Bingham hasn't quite left his manly roots behind either. Even though he now lives just outside L.A., he still ropes in his backyard.
16. Craig Morgan
Morgan served on active duty in the US Army for over nine years and in the reserves for another half decade. He is an avid hunter and fisherman and currently hosts Craig Morgan's All Access Outdoorsa. Throw in motocross racer on top of all that, and you've got one manly man.
15. Kix Brooks
Brooks & Dunn once sang, "I can ride, rope, hammer and paint, do things with my hands that most men can't." Well, those weren't just words to Kix Brooks. Brooks grew up on a ranch and is the proud owner of a successful stable that breeds award-winning cutting horses. Not that he has to hammer anything anymore (he can pay someone to do it for him), but Kix Brooks is a man that knows how to get the job done.
14. Lyle Lovett
It takes an absolute man to rock the hair Lovett has rocked in his life. But more to the point, Lovett once broke his legs saving his uncle from a rampaging bull. What'd he do after? Kept right on playing his scheduled tour. What's that you say? Man? Absolutely.
13. Josh Turner
For no other reason than that voice. That voice is the manliest voice this side of Randy Travis and that guy who does voice-overs for movie trailers. Actually, come to think of it, that's probably John Turner's side job.
12. Guy Clark
When you listen to Guy Clark's music, it suddenly hits you: this man lived every moment of what he sang about. Whether it was delighting in the pleasure of a home-grown tomato, memorializing the dusty streets of west Texas, or singing about heartbreak, Clark lived it all. It doesn't hurt that he built his own guitars.
11. Jamey Johnson
If there were a hall of fame for beards, Jamey Johnson would be in it. And since a beard equates to manliness, ipso facto, Jamey Johnson = man. Well, that and anyone who has ever listened to a Jamey Johnson song (we're not counting Honky Tonk Badonkadonk) can recognize that here is a deeply emotional man who understands that life isn't always roses. And that's what being a man is about.
10. Chris Stapleton
Also a member of the beard hall of fame, Chris Stapleton set out to make a country music album for grownups with his latest album, Traveller, after penning pop-county hit after hit for years on end. Just the fact that he recognizes the need for music for a mature audience--something that delves a little deeper than songs like "Come Back Song" or "Crash and Burn" (both of which he wrote)--makes him one of modern country's manliest men.
9. Jerry Reed
Reed pulled himself up by his bootstraps from being tossed between foster homes to becoming one of country's biggest stars and most talented guitarists, citing with inventing entirely new ways to play the instrument. Probably the funniest man on this list, Reed was more Cledus Snow, the good-natured character he immortalized in Smokey and the Bandit, than he was a wild child. And 100% man.
8. Aaron Tippin
He owns two hunting stores and has a collection of firearms that has been featured on The History Channel. He is a certified airframe and power plant mechanic and has a license to fly both planes and helicopters. Tippin goes all-out to support the military and has performed for troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then there's that mustache... Aaron Tippin: all man.
7. Trace Adkins
It takes a lot of manliness to live through everything Trace has lived through. The roughneck has had his nose chopped off, nearly lost his legs, and been shot in the heart. And he has walked away from it all with a smile on his face. Undoubtedly one of country's manliest men.
6. George Strait
He's George Strait. What else do you need to know?
5. Willie Nelson
Shotgun Willie sits around in his underwear. He started doing his own thing pretty much at birth, over eight decades ago and hasn't slowed down since. This is a man who not afraid to get into a shootout with you if you abuse his daughter.
4. Waylon Jennings
If anyone ever embodied the outlaw movement, it was Waylon. Not that a $1,500/day cocaine habit is particularly manly, but we can overlook that and see the greater man that he was.
3. Merle Haggard
It takes a man to transform his life the way that Merle Haggard did. Haggard first got into trouble with the law when he was barely a teen and spent the next decade in and out of prison. But Haggard found the strength to remake himself and has since become one of country music's enduring icons, a symbol of manliness.
2. Kris Kristofferson
Kristofferson landed a helicopter on Johnny Cash's front lawn to hand him a demo tape. How much manlier can you get?
1. Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash's inclusion on this list needs no explanation. Cash is the standard all other men in country music hold themselves to. From the moment you first hear, "Hello, I'm Johnny Cash," you know you're in the presence of a man.
This post was originally published on July 21, 2016.