Country music is a tough gig. Artists work their whole careers to get to the mountaintop as songwriters and performers. And when they do? Well, that's when the real work begins. Because the only thing harder than making it to the top is staying at the top. Whether you make it to the Grammy awards or the top of the Billboard Hot Country songs chart, sometimes these artist are only able to make one hit song during their career.
Many of these country artists just couldn't quite stay atop the heap amid all of that Nashville talent. Sometimes their labels got in the way, and other times, they got in the way of themselves. Sometimes they just moved away from the spotlight to be with family like Jessica Andrews following her biggest hit "Who I Am."
It's not an insult to be called a one hit wonder. Sometimes, that's just how the cookie crumbles. We've rounded up a complete list of some of the best country one hit wonders.
Honorable mention picks include Bob Carlisle of "Butterfly Kisses" fame, Ricochet (though their list of good songs goes well beyond "Daddy's Money"), Canadian country singer Aaron Lines ("You Can't Hide Beautiful") and supergroup The Wreckers ("Leave the Pieces"). And if artists with multiple big hits yet only one career-defining single count, we'd toss in Lynn Anderson and "Rose Garden."
1. "I Loved Her First" by Heartland
Man, you'd think a band called "Heartland" would kill it in the country world. But despite their 2006 hit "I Loved Her First," the group fizzled out on subsequent singles. It doesn't help that their label closed in 2009, pretty much squashing the possibility of future success. Four of the six members left, though the remaining two added a third and kept releasing music for a few years. They've been pretty much M.I.A. since 2013, though.
2. "Baby Likes To Rock It" by The Tractors
This one is just bizarre. The Tractors, who are really just one person with a rotating cast, had a very surprising hit on the debut album about a...train? Who knows. But the song was so popular it took the band's album all the way to No. 2 on the chart. The music video, which is equally weird, also managed to win Video Of The Year at the CMA Awards in 1995. We're as confused as that pizza guy at the end of the video.
3. "Break Down Here" by Julie Roberts
Julie Roberts never landed another top 40 hit after "Break Down Here," which originally appeared on a Trace Adkins album. Oddly enough, the album that followed the one with "Break Down Here" actually did better than the first. But in the early 2000s, the all important radio factor didn't follow. She left her label in 2010. In 2013, she auditioned for The Voice but nobody turned around, though Blake Shelton immediately recognized her. She released Good Wine & Bad Decisions in 2013 after signing with Sun Records. It was the first album the label put out in 40 years.
4. "One Voice" by Billy Gilman
The 11-year-old Gilman was the youngest singer ever to have a song the country charts. Talk about peaking early. He pretty much disappeared for the next 15 years, eventually reemerging as a contestant on NBC's singing show The Voice. Unlike Roberts, he did quite well. He went on to finish as the runner-up on Adam Levine's team.
5. "Yes!" by Chad Brock
Not necessarily his first successful country single, "Yes!" definitely was Chad Brock's only actually memorable song. Similar to a lot of these other artists, they released tons of singles to try and keep him going. But nothing just really picked up. Brock eventually retired and announced a run for United States Senate in 2014, which went much worse than his attempts at country radio. According to his Twitter, he's a very...opinionated guy.
6. "What I Really Meant To Say" by Cyndi Thomson
Another early 2000s hit, "What I Really Meant To Say" could've taken Thomson to the top. Instead, just over a year after its success, Thomson wrote a letter to her label and fans announcing that she was walking away from her career. She tried to return in 2006, but never actually released any original music (though she co-wrote some). She most recently self-released a project in 2009.
7. "I Don't Have To Be Me ('Til Monday)" by Steve Azar
Man, this tune was vintage 2002. "I Don't Have To Be Me ('Til Monday)" hit No. 2 on the charts on the back of a ridiculously catchy, head bopping vibe. Though he never saw much commercial success after, Azar continued playing and became one of country's more philanthropic artists. He's written and released songs for the American farmer as well as the military. He's also spent time in education, cooking, film and several other areas.
8. "Harper Valley P.T.A." by Jeannie C. Riley
This massive, international success in 1968 is one of the main reasons Jeannie C. Riley stays in country lore. Besides being a hilarious and well-written song, "Harper Valley P.T.A." inspired a film and a short-lived film series years later. For her part, Riley became a born-again Christian in the 1970s and transitioned to gospel music.
9. "Lipstick Promises" by George Ducas
George Ducas has written some darn fine country songs, including Randy Rogers Band's "Kiss Me In The Dark," Garth Brooks' "Beer Run," The Chicks' "Never Say Die" and Sara Evans' "A Real Fine Place To Start." But before that, he gave it a shot as an artist and landed the No. 9 single "Lipstick Promises" in 1995. Though his artist career didn't take off quite like you'd hope, Ducas maintained a very successful music career as a writer, and his Yellow Rose Motel album was one of our sleeper picks from 2019.
10. "Achy Breaky Heart" by Billy Ray Cyrus
If you want to know more about this tune, read our introspective on it. But, long story short, Billy Ray Cyrus never really recovered from the massive success and subsequent panning of this tune.
While "Achy Breaky Heart" technically remains Billy Ray's biggest hit on the country charts, the country star had the biggest hit of 2019 when he collaborated with Lil Nas X on "Old Town Road." While Billboard removed the song from its Hot Country Songs chart, it would go on to hit No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100. Critics may have panned "Achy Breaky" back in the day, but it looks like Billy Ray got the last laugh.
This article was originally published in 2017. It was updated on Sept. 9, 2020.
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