6 Male Country Singers with Timeless Voices

Country music has no shortage of great male singers: George Strait and Vince Gill. Conway Twitty and Dwight Yoakam. Charley Pride and Garth Brooks. The list goes on.

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Here’s a look at six male country singers with timeless voices. 

1. George Jones

A real ballad man, George Jones is thought by many to have the finest voice in country music’s rich history. A life of turmoil may have knocked Jones off his feet but it never took him from the top of the country charts. His turbulent life was a country song in itself. Jones had a honky-tonk baritone voice with the elasticity to also croon beautifully about heartbreak and loneliness. Jones was a man whose life and voice defined country music and he didn’t even wear a cowboy hat. Jones took the plaintive sound of Hank Williams and added range and grace. He sounded tragic and blue, connecting honky-tonk rebelliousness with the tortured yearnings of a great jazz singer. Jones, like Frank Sinatra, is a voice that time can’t hold.  

2. Willie Nelson

Willie Nelson has smoked – a lot. A lifetime of smoking leading to emphysema may not be a recipe for landing on a Timeless Voices list, but Nelson is one of the most important singers in the history of country music. He’s defined by a life on the road and an image as an outlaw troubadour that contrasts uniquely with the gentle sound of his voice. Nelson’s singing sounds are at once improvisatory, yet familiar. Whether he’s singing American standard jazz or outlaw country, Nelson just sounds like Nelson. In 2015, he was awarded the Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress. Nelson rebelled against the Nashville sound, and then a generation of Nashville singers and artists went on to model their own sound after his. 

3. Johnny Cash

In 1968, Johnny Cash arrived at Folsom Prison to perform a concert. According to biographer Robert Hilburn, Cash said, “I took more pills that morning than I ever had in my life.” But his voice never faltered. From “Folsom Prison Blues” to his interpretation of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” Cash’s deep voice was as famous as his penchant for black clothing. The throughline of those songs is the resonant emotion in Cash’s voice. He sold 90 million records and changed what was considered acceptable in country music. Cash was stubborn and groundbreaking and his booming voice continues to move people well into a new generation. 

4. Hank Williams

Even timeless voices have a beginning and the very foundation of contemporary country music is Hank Williams. His career lasted only four years before he died at age 29. But in those four years he became the standard for country music. The sound of his plainspoken voice on “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” set the path for singers like George Jones and Willie Nelson. He was the first country music superstar. Part of Williams’ timelessness was his impact beyond country music. Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, and The Beatles took inspiration from him. Williams is a tragic hero who is so important to the history of country music, he almost sounds like a myth. 

5. Kenny Rogers

Kenny Rogers had a dusty and easy voice that expanded the reach of country music. He’s one of the most successful singers in history and the warmth and sincerity in his singing had much to do with that success. Rogers set the standard and showed profound range with his narration in “The Gambler” and his duet with Dolly Parton, “Islands in the Stream.” His voice welcomed a new audience to country music. Rogers’ versatility was noticeable just after high school; he played upright bass in the jazz trio, the Bobby Doyle Three. The 1960s saw him exploring folk and psychedelic music. The experience of moving in and out of genres foreshadowed his ability to introduce country music to non-country fans. Rogers has sold over 100 million records. 

6. Waylon Jennings

Maybe the most “outlaw” of the outlaws in country music, Waylon Jennings rebelled against Nashville’s method of manufacturing slick records and began producing his own albums in the early 1970s. Jennings was more concerned with feel over technical ability and directed the studio musicians to avoid staring at chord charts while recording. The Country Music Association named Jennings its Male Vocalist of the Year in 1975. Jennings was honest and direct. Years of hard living never diminished the sincerity in his voice. He had 11 albums that went No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart and 16 No. 1 singles. 

Waylon Jennings Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images; George Jones Photo by David Redfern/Redferns; Johnny Cash Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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