Over the past 40 years, numerous self-contained bands have furthered the lineage of Alabama and Restless Heart by cutting their own hit singles. Likewise, a long line of duos have kept alive the blood harmonies integral to country music since the days of Opry legends the Delmore Brothers.
Many of these groups failed to make a long-term impact on the charts, yet they used their limited time in the spotlight to share the following well-aged hits. These selections range from two former Kentucky Headhunters members' top ten debut to contemporary songwriting duo the Warren Brothers' beginnings as recording artists.
"She'd Give Anything," Boy Howdy
The best group name on the list, aside from that of fellow Los Angeles-born act Sweethearts of the Rodeo, brought us this '90's country power ballad. A Curb Records EP of the same name featured the No. 4 hit plus the higher-charting "They Don't Make Them Like That Anymore."
Lead singer and bassist Jeffrey Steele became no stranger to the top 10 in the early aughts, not as a recording artist but as co-writer of Tim McGraw's "The Cowboy in Me" and Rascal Flatts' "These Days."
"Let Go," Brother Phelps
Brothers Doug and Ricky Lee Phelps left the Kentucky Headhunters in 1992 to form Brother Phelps. A year later, the brothers' tight harmonies made this song written by contemporary Christian singer-songwriter Dickie Brown into one of the decade's finest debut singles. Brother Phelps only lasted from 1993 to 1995, with Doug later taking over as the Kentucky Headhunters' lead singer and Ricky Lee pursuing a solo career.
"Waitin' For the Deal to Go Down," Dixiana
Brothers and bandmates Phil and Mark Lister got more milage out of the Dixiana name when they applied it to their Nashville studio, not their band with powerhouse vocalist Cindy Murphy. Yet during its short mainstream run, the group Dixiana pulled off quite the feat--they made "Waitin' For the Deal to Go Down," cut in 1990 by Reba McEntire, even better en route to the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart's top 40.
"Please," The Kinleys
Twin sisters Heather and Jennifer Kinley's debut single for Epic Records shot to the top 10. Its success began a relatively short yet very eventful run in the mainstream which included another definitive hit ("Just Between You and Me"), a coveted spot on a Clint Black tour and the 1997 ACM award for Top New Vocal Duo or Group.
"Can't Stop My Heart From Loving You," The O'Kanes
Jamie O'Hara, the songwriter responsible for The Judds' "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days)," combined forces with bluegrass picker turned solo country artist Kieran Kane from 1986 to 1990 as The O'Kanes. This chart-topper launched a run of five straight Top 10 singles.
Kane went on to collaborate frequently with another undervalued talent from the '80's and '90's, Kevin Welch.
"You Have the Right to Remain Silent," Perfect Stranger
Texas band turned Nashville hit-makers Perfect Stranger translated one of the biggest independent hits of its time, a cover of Vince Gill and Kostas co-write "Ridin' in the Rodeo," into a deal with Curb Records. A big-label reissue of the group's groundbreaking indie album It's Up to You was titled You Have the Right to Remain Silent, positioning its new title track to become one of the definitive hits of 1995.
"Feed Jake," Pirates of the Mississippi
Danny Mayo, the songwriter behind Tracy Lawrence's "The Keeper of the Stars," also wrote this heartbreaker that's about more than an old hound dog. It entered the top 15 thanks to Pirates of the Mississippi, an early '90's band featuring two prolific songwriters, Bill McCorvey and Rich Alvies. Mayo's lyrics about acceptance and loss pair with McCorvey's heart-worn vocal delivery to make this one of the most meaningful hits of its time.
"Midnight Girl/Sunset Town," The Sweethearts of the Rodeo
Siblings Janis Oliver (the first wife of Vince Gill) and Kristine Arnold (nee the Oliver sisters) had a solid six-year run on Columbia Records, including seven top 10 hits. The above selection and "Chains of Gold" both cracked the Top 5 as singles off the band's self-titled 1986 debut, as did One Time, One Night (1988) cuts "Satisfy You" and "Blue to the Bone."
The third of the duo's four albums on Columbia, Buffalo Zone (1990), lacked a hit but brought us one of the best album covers of its time. It honors Chris Hillman and other country-rock giants by paying homage to the Byrd's seminal Sweetheart of the Rodeo album.
Janis and Kristine later became strong traditionalist voices in an increasingly pop format with a pair of Sugar Hill Records albums, Rodeo Waltz (1993) and Beautiful Lies (1996).
"Move On," The Warren Brothers
The songwriting duo credited on Toby Keith's "Red Solo Cup" and other 21st century hits used to chase that neon rainbow. Along the way, brothers Brad and Brett Warren scored a handful of their own hits, with the highest charting being this No. 17 selection from 2000. Other keepers include the single before it, a Sara Evans collaboration titled "That's the Beat of a Heart."
"Has Anybody Seen Amy," John and Audrey Wiggins
Before John Wiggins made a name for himself as a songwriter (Joe Nichols' "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off," Randy Houser's "Anything Goes"), he sang with his sister Audrey in this Mercury Records act. The siblings' only Top 30 hit "Has Anybody Seen Amy" came from the co-writers of a much better-known slice of nostalgia: Don Henry and Jon Vezner also co-wrote Kathy Mattea's "Where've You Been."