Popular Forgotten Country Music Stars From The ’90s: Where Are They Now?
Country music has transformed at a rapid pace since it has become much more mainstream in recent years, meaning it has pulled further and further away from the golden country of the ’90s. While many country stars have had some definite staying-power in the industry, others have had more trouble stay relevant, especially with “new country” dominating the air waves. The ’90s were a great time for country music, and while these stars were a huge part of it, they aren’t household names anymore. Check out these former popular country music stars of the ’90s and where they are now:
24. Suzy Boggus
Suzy Bogguss was living in the spotlight in the ’90s. During the decade she had six songs become top ten hits and three albums achieve gold status, and it all kicked off with the release of her third studio album Aces which went platinum in 1991. Her hit “Hey Cinderella” from her album Voices in the Wind became one of the ’90s biggest girl power anthems in country music, but in the mid-90s she already detracted herself from the whirlwind of fame to focus on her family. By the end of the ’90s, things were starting to fall apart for Bogguss after her seventh and eighth albums performed so poorly in sales that she was released from her record label, Capitol. In 2001, the singer founded her own label, Loyal Duchess Records, and has continued to make music, and in 2016 she honored the 25 year anniversary of the release of her biggest album, Aces with the release of a re-imagined and re-recorded version of the album called Aces Redux. As she has continued to make and release music, Bogguss hasn’t been able to recapture the mainstream success she found in the ’90s.
23. Rick Trevino
Rick Trevino blazed a new path in country music when his debut single “Just Enough Rope” featured separate English and Spanish versions. The ’90s saw major success for Trevino with his highest-charting single “Running Out of Reasons to Run” reaching No. 1 in 1996. By the late ’90s, Trevino had a dispute with his record label, Sony, and began focusing more on Spanish albums. Trevino’s last studio album was released in 2011 but failed to achieve his previous success; however, he still continues to make music and perform.
22. Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s success began in the late ’80s when after years of singing in bars she was finally signed to Columbia Records. Following her signing, her 1992 album Come On Come On became her most successful album to date as it went quadruple platinum. If that wasn’t big enough the ’90s proved to be Carpenter’s time when she won four consecutive Grammy awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance from 1992 to 1995! In 2001, after a five-year break from releasing new music, Carpenter released the album Time*Sex*Love and its departure from country marked her departure from country music stardom. Now, Carpenter still releases music but it is still much less country as she explores other genres and 2013, she announced she would be releasing her debut orchestral recording, and is touring in the U.K. Many might see the return of Carpenter this summer though, as she has announced a 2018 summer tour!
21. Patty Loveless
Patty Loveless first broke into the country music scene in 1986 with the release of her first self-titled album. From there she ruled the ’90s with her albums Honky Tonk Angel, On Down the Line, and more plus a greatest hits album! Despite her hits, Loveless began to worry about her career not taking off the same when compared to Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood and Wynonna Judd, and her manager worked to get her out of her contract with MCA records. Then, in 1992 Loveless had to undergo throat surgery, which left her with a different, deeper voice. By the early 2000s, her momentum had slowed and Loveless made the decision to cut herself out of traditional and mainstream country and made a completely bluegrass album. Now, Loveless no longer performs on a regular basis and has only made special appearances as she focuses on her family in Dallas, Georgia.
20. Iris DeMent
Iris DeMent was one of the biggest female artists of the decade with her 1996 single “Letter to Mom.” The song about sending power to victims of sexual abuse was way ahead of its time, and it became one of the genre’s most powerful anthems. Despite her success at the time, it failed to follow through her whole career and DeMent has fallen off the radar of many country music fans. In 2015, DeMent released her most recent album, The Trackless Woods, and her style has evolved from strictly country, so it isn’t surprising she isn’t remembered or known by many of today’s country music fans.
19. Mark Chesnutt
Singer Mark Chesnutt became a star quite easily in the country genre with his debut album Too Cold at Home, producing five straight top ten country hits. Thanks to the album’s success he had no problem having his second album Longnecks & Short Stories go platinum. Unfortunately, sales already began declining for the star in 1994 and he had sporadic hits for the next couple of years, but never returned to the success he encountered early in his career. Like many other faltering stars, Chesnutt took to forming his own label to put out his music and, as of 2012, put out his own live album and has only released mostly covers and greatest hits in the 2000s.
18. Kelly Willis
Kelly Willis really was a woman of the ’90s as her debut album with MCA Records was released in 1990. Her song “Little Honey” was featured in 1991’s Thelma and Louise, and things were looking up, but much like Patty Loveless, she felt that MCA wasn’t doing enough to promote her and her music. Now, what country fans do remember of Willis’ career is her 1999 song album “What I Deserve” which was heavily covered because it was about her tumultuous history with MCA. The 2000s brought a slow-down to her career, and now she is not often heard from. Willis has welcomed son Deral Otis, 17, Abigail and Benjamin, 15, and Joseph, 12, but it seems she is back to focusing on music as 2018 will bring her first solo record in 11 years after releasing two albums with her husband singer-songwriter Bruce Robison.
Shenandoah has released nine studio albums, has charted 26 singles and won a Grammy; however, past the ’90s, the band has been somewhat forgotten. Shenandoah’s biggest hit was 1990’s “Next to You, Next to Me.” The band’s sixth album in 1994 was its fastest-selling but, by 1995, band members started leaving and, by 1997, the remaining members disbanded and sold the naming rights. In 2000, four of the members came together along with two new members to form a reunion; however, they never returned to what they had in the ’90s. With a bunch of new members, Shenandoah is still performing but is not the band it once were.
16. Kathy Mattea
Although Kathy Mattea’s career began in the ’80s, her breakthrough didn’t come until late in the decade and the ’90s brought her greatest hits album and several more top ten hits including “Walking Away a Winner.” In the early 2000s Mattea took time off to care for her ailing father, and when she returned she changed her sound, moving more into a contemporary Celtic sound than country. Her most recent album release was in 2014 when she released a second album of mostly bluegrass and coal-mining themed songs called “Calling Me Home.”
15. Diamond Rio
After a rocky start with name changes and member changes, the band Diamond Rio rocketed to stardom in 1991 with their single “Meet in the Middle,” which made them the first country music group to send its debut single to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. They had continued success mixed with a bit of a slump with their third album but bounced right back with 1996’s IV album. Things began to falter in 2000 and although their album produced the hit “One More Day,” things fell afterwards including their vocalist Roe having a problem maintaining his pitch in concerts. Most recently the band members have taken to providing backing vocals for other artists as well as co-writing for others.
It took a long time for SHeDAISY to get their music out after starting as The Osborn Sisters and signing to RCA records in 1989. After their album with RCA got scrapped they signed to Lyric Street Records as SHeDAISY and in 1999 released their debut album The Whole SHeBang. They shot to stardom with singles such as “Little Good-Byes,” “This Woman Needs,” and “I Will…But;” however, they quickly slipped away. Although they continued to make music, they never reached the success of their first album again, and were quickly eclipsed by other country music stars. They have recorded five studio albums but their fifth has yet to be released after they announced in 2010 they had left Lyric Street Records, meaning their music career has now been in limbo for six years. Kristyn Robyn Osborn, Kelsi Marie Osborn and Kassidy Lorraine Osborne are all now in their mid-forties.
13. Collin Raye
Collin Raye was a longtime staple in the country music scene after performing in his early career as Bubba Wray in the band The Wrays. He started his solo career after signing with Epic Records in 1990 and started off with a bang with the number one single “Love, Me.” He had continued success with his second and third albums. His fourth album, I Think About You, was his fourth consecutive platinum-certified album and his fifth album The Walls Came Down produced his fourth and final number one single with “I Can Still Feel You.” Although he had a single from his 2000 album “Tracks” become a top five hit, it was the beginning of the end of his success. From there on out his songs failed to chart or charted with little success. He has continued to work on music, but has not done as well as he did in the ’90s,” and in 2011, he became a national spokesperson for the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.
12. Pam Tillis
Back in the early ’90s, Pam Tillis hit it huge with five singles off of her album Put Yourself in My Place; however, her only one to reach No.1 was 1995’s “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life).” Tillis rapidly fell from the spotlight and her last album with Arista Records in 2001 only charted one song which then only reached 22. In the early 2000s, she signed to Sony Music/Epic Records and one of her most recent releases was 2012’s Recollection which featured 14 of her songs from her Arista days re-recorded. Now, Tillis, at 58-years-old, is laying low in her Nashville home and is rarely heard from in the music circuit anymore.
11. Aaron Tippin
Aaron Tippin stood out in country music after signing with RCA Nashville in 1990 thanks to his music catered to the American working class. This approach to music made him an instant success with his first single “You’ve Got to Stand for Something” becoming an anthem for soldiers who were fighting in the Gulf War at the time. He had continued success with his second album and his third, which produced three top 40s hits in succession. In the early 2000s, however, things began to taper off for the star who saw his third and final single with the song “Kiss This” in 2000. After some label changes, he ended up forming his own record label, Nippit Records, in 2006 and, although he continued to release music, it failed to chart or charted poorly. He is now a certified airframe and power plant mechanic and in 2013 became a certified flight instructor and has been helping his sons with their careers as pilots.
10. Chely Wright
Chely Wright burst on to the music scene after her debut album in 1994 which garnered her the ACM Award for Top New Female Vocalist in 1995. She is best known for her tracks “Shut Up and Drive” and “Single White Female,” and although she was huge in the ’90s, her music career has fallen by the wayside now. She made headlines again when in May 2010 she became one of the first major country stars to publicly come out as a lesbian. In 2014 the now 45-year-old launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her eighth studio album and fans supported her so much it became the most successful campaign in country music. While it raised enough to record and promote a new album and to produce a music video which was to be released in 2015, there has been no word about it since. In 2011, a documentary filmed over three years about her coming out entitled Wish Me Away was also released.
9. Sammy Kershaw
The name Sammy Kershaw is very familiar to many country music fans, but as the year’s have gone on and the genre has changed, he has slipped from the minds of many. His debut album in 1991 “Don’t Go Near the Water” was certified platinum after producing four hits including “Cadillac Style,” but it was his second album “Haunted Heart” that produced his only number one single, “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful.” By the mid-90s, his albums were reaching less success and although he made music into the 2000s much of his work failed to chart at all. In recent years, Kershaw has become more involved in politics and went up for lieutenant governor of Louisiana, but never won the spot.
8. Jo Dee Messina
In 1996 Jo Dee Messina entered country music with her self-titled debut album which included the single “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” Her second album in 1998 also produced three No.1 singles; however, as she continued to release music through the early 2000s, and after only minor hits and singles that failed to chart, her career faltered which included a rehab stint in 2004. In 2012 she appeared on Real Housewives of Atlanta, working with the show’s cast member Kandi Burruss on writing a song as Burruss tried to start a country music career. In 2013 she also created a Kickstarter campaign and released the full album Me in 2014 and she began working on her EP “Masquerade” but her plans for release got derailed after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. She never specified the cancer, but after treatments she began touring again in 2018.
7. Tracy Byrd
Country singer Tracy Byrd burst on to the country scene in 1993 with the huge hit “Holdin’ Heaven.” As a result of the success, his next album, No Ordinary Man, became his highest selling, and his star power continued into the early 2000s with his album Ten Rounds containing his second number one, “Ten Rounds with Jose Cuervo.” After that he slowly fell off the radar and after releasing his 2007 album Different Things off of his own label, he has not recorded since. He is now focused on his family and, along with his wife, owns a houseware and appliance store in Texas, Kitchen Koncepts, and is committed to his son, coaching his Little League basketball and baseball teams.
6. Mindy McCready
Mindy McCready’s story is one of the most tragic in the country music industry as her troubled personal life soon eclipsed her professional success. Her first few albums created many high-charting singles; however, her 1999 album “I’m Not So Tough” was deemed a failure and she was dropped from her record label. She then signed to Capitol and after disappointing sales from her first album with them, but they also dropped her. Quickly her personal life was making the headlines which included her appearance on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2009 for her battle with substance addiction. After a serious domestic violence incident in 2005, McCready attempted suicide and after recovering and getting back together with her abusive boyfriend she attempted suicide again while pregnant with their child. After a couple more suicide attempts, her second son’s father, David Wilson, was found dead in January 2013 of suicide and one month later on February 17, 2013, at the age of 37, McCready was found dead on her front porch of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in the same place Wilson was found. Given her personal state, both of her sons had been in foster care for some time before her death.
5. David Lee Murphy
David Lee Murphy became an instant success back in 1994 thanks to the song “Just Once” which he recorded for the country rodeo film 8 Seconds starring Luke Perry. Thanks to the song’s success his dubut album in 1995 Out with a Bang did very well with four charted singles, including “Party Crowd,” which became 1995’s most played song and “Dust on the Bottle,” which shot to number one. Unfortunately, his fame faded as quickly as it arrived and his final two albums did not come near the success of Out with a Bang. Although he doesn’t record his own music anymore, he has been one of the writers behind some pretty big hits from some huge artists including Kenny Chesney’s “Living in Fast Forward” and Blake Shelton’s “The More I Drink,” as well as Jason Aldean’s “Big Green Tractor” and Thompson’s Square “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.” While solo fame didn’t stick, songwriting sure did and, aside from that, he continues to live with his wife Donna on a secluded farm outside of Nashville.
4. Lorrie Morgan
1990 saw Lorrie Morgan’s first No.1 single with “Five Minutes,” and her second album “Something in Red” was released in 1991 and went platinum. The 90s were huge for the country star with many singles, accolades and a high-profile romantic life, but her last number one single “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” was released in 1995, and although she continued making records and releasing singles, the same success did not follow. In 2008 she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and most recently released her 14th studio album “Letting Go…Slow.” Morgan has now been married six times at the age of 56, and her most recent wedding was in September 2010 to businessman Randy White.
3. Travis Tritt
Country fans would love to know what happened to Travis Tritt because, while he isn’t exactly forgotten, he has faded from the mainstream radar in a huge way with no explanation. Tritt’s accomplishments in country music from 1990-2000 is nothing short of amazing and include seven albums that are certified platinum or higher and five number one singles with 15 more top ten hits, and of course, two Grammys. Sadly, the mid-2000’s saw a drastic decline in his success which, including leaving Columbia records and small tours in 2008, 2012 and 2o13, was last heard with his album The Calm After, but one thing is for sure, his name has drastically fallen from the mention of mainstream country music.
2. Deana Carter
Deana Carter’s big break came in 1996 with her debut album Did I Shave My Legs For This? and her debut single “Strawberry Wine” is still a well known country classic. She gained further attention after singing on the soundtrack to the 1997 animated film Anastasia with the song “Once Upon a December.” When her second album Everything’s Gonna Be Alright didn’t do as well as her first, things started to slip a little which created several year gaps in which she didn’t release any new music. After releasing her 2007 album, Carter took time off from music in order to spend time with her son, and was recognized for co-writing Kenny Chesney’s 2010 single “You and Tequila.” In 2013 she formed her own record label dubbed Little Nugget Records, and in December of that year released her seventh studio album Southern Way of Life, but at 50, has not released any music since.
1. Joe Diffie
Joe Diffie was one of country’s biggest stars in the ’90s thanks to the release of several albums and hits in just one decade. His very first album was released in late 1990 and produced the mega hit “Home.” He had further singles from the album and by 1993 released his second album Regular Joe. After a few more albums, by the late ’90s his album Twice Upon a Time failed to produce any Top Ten hits and in 2001 Sony Nashville switched Diffie to Monument Records, where he received mixed reviews for his In Another World album released through the label. He ended up signing to Broken Bow records, but has not returned to the success the early ’90s gave him, and shortly after joining, left the label and took to playing small venues and fairs. His latest musical endeavour was the 2010 album Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album, but his time creating hits seems to be over, and many have now forgotten the one time major star.