In a recent post inspired by the passing of the fine country singer Mel McDaniel I made the dubious claim that Keith Whitley was country music in the 1980s to which critic / writer Adam Sheets countered with Bocephus. Both of us can’t be right; this world ain’t about hug-o-wars. So to “the book” we turn. Since 1970 Joel Whitburn has been collecting, cataloging, categorizing, listing, sorting, compiling, and charting music singles and the hit makers. This is science folks, right up there with discovering ancient civilizations and mixing things that ought not be mixed. Where there is chaos Joel brings order. So here is the actual country music artist of the 1980s using Whitburn’s point system which includes the artists charting position, how long a single stayed on the charts, record sales, and total singles charted.
The number one country artist of the 1980s was Willie Nelson.
In case you’re curious, and you are if you’re still reading this, here’s a few more from the list. Conway Twitty slipped from his number one position of the 1970s to take number two. Merle Haggard was three, Kenny Rogers was four and Alabama comes in at number five. Where do our boys come in? Bocephus at a sad number eight. And my pick Keith Whitley? Well, let’s see there’s Ol’ Waylon at nine and Dolly at eleven, and hmm, Whitley’s friend Mr. Ricky Skaggs is here at twenty-one. Ok, Mickey Gilley is here and Lee Greenwood at twenty-five and there’s Moe Bandy, Anne Murray, and The Judds just past Roseanne Cash at thirty-eight. Mel McDaniel at forty-four, Tanya Tucker’s here and Vern Gosdin and last at number fifty was Exile. Exile? Really?
My fifteen month old son sitting next to me and helping on the project looked up with giant watery eyes and said “what does this mean Daddy?” “Well son, it appears that Keith Whitley, the man your father claimed as the artist of the 1980s didn’t even make the top fifty.” “Are they going to take you away?” “Yes son, that is a distinct possibility. Now, let’s go over the double indemnity clause. Want to go look at trains today?”