Who Are The Current King And Queen Of Country Music?
George Strait and Reba McEntire have rightfully earned the titles of ‘King’ and ‘Queen’ of country music. Here’s why.
George Strait, Reba McEntire; Photos Provided
Every artist who breaks out into their respective genres have influenced the industry in some shape or form, but there are a select few who stand out among the rest and are even considered to be musical royalty. For instance, Elvis Presley is generally considered the King of Rock ‘n Roll, and Madonna is widely known as the Queen of Pop, so who are the men and women that currently make up the esteemed lineage of country music? While there are still plenty of debates surrounding this topic and who deserves to be among this esteemed list, a few worthy names have officially claimed the titles.
George Strait and Reba McEntire have rightfully been named the most recent pair of “King” and “Queen” of country music for their dominating careers that have had a significant impact on the present-day era of the genre. However, there are several other men and women who came before them that make up the succession of country music’s royal family.
Country Music’s Royal Family
The first male artist to be named to this high honor declared himself “The King of Country Music” on his 1962 LP of the same name. Roy Acuff, a leading personality of the Grand Old Opry, sold 25 million records by 1962 and became the first living member to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He then co-founded Acuff-Rose Publishing Company in Nashville in 1942, which is best known for signing another iconic figure, Hank Williams. Eventually, the crown was passed down to Williams, who to this day is revered as one of the most successful touring acts in country music.
As for the leading females in the industry, Kitty Wells was the first to be named the Queen of country music. She was a pioneer of her time for breaking the gender barrier of country music and paving the path for generations of new female talent, including those who proceed her as queen – Patsy Cline, Dolly Parton, and now, Reba McEntire.
Other esteemed titles have evolved over the years, naming George Jones and Tammy Wynette as the President and First Lady of Country Music respectively, Jimmie Rodgers as the Father, and Maybelle Carter as the Mother of the genre. Loretta Lynn also held the title of first lady as a result of her esteemed career.
Keep reading to learn why George Strait and Reba McEntire are currently seated at the head of the thrones.
George Strait – The King Of Country Music
George Strait has spent the majority of his career dominating major country music award shows, seeing his name at the top of the charts and building out a whopping 30 career studio albums. To this day, his traditional Texas-bred music has kept an era of country music alive that continues to be challenged with new genre-bending sounds.
By no means has it been easy for the “Armadillo By Morning” singer to earn the title of “The King” of country music. Hard work has undoubtedly been a driving force throughout his more than 30 years in the industry. He’s responsible for 60 chart-topping singles – more than any other country artist and has racked up over 60 major entertainment industry awards as well as countless nominations. The list of feats doesn’t end there, because in addition, he has landed a spot in the Country Music Hall of Fame and remains the only artist in history to consecutively have a Top 10 hit each year over three decades.
Having sold more than 105 million albums so far, Strait achieved his record-extending 27th No. 1 Billboard Country album in 2019 with the best-selling Honky Tonk Time Machine. This project marked his 30th career studio album and spawned the single, “The Weight of the Badge,” which earned Strait his 100th entry on the Billboard Country Airplay chart.
Among his resume of full-length projects, 33 went Platinum or multi-platinum, contributing to his collection of 60 certifications. This ranks Strait third in the most certifications across all genres, falling behind The Beatles and Elvis Presley.
In 2014, George Strait bid farewell to his days of touring as a solo artist with his record-breaking Cowboy Rides Away Tour. He has continued with limited engagements since then, including his notable run at Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena for the “Strait to Vegas” series and a variety of headlining appearances at major festivals. The Texas native dipped his toes back into life on the road in 2023 when he joined Chris Stapleton on their series of stadium shows in six cities, during which they set concert attendance records at multiple venues. Now Strait and Stapleton are gearing up for the extended leg of their trek with nine additional stadiums in 2024.
Reba McEntire – The Queen Of Country Music
Sitting next to George Strait is his 2010 tourmate and wildly influential country star, Reba McEntire. Her crown hails from a successful career that includes just about everything from music to television, film, theater, retail, and hospitality.
The multi-media entertainer and Country Music Hall of Famer has won more than 50 awards, with honors from the ACM Awards, American Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards, CMA Awards, GRAMMY® Awards and GMA Dove Awards. These wins stemmed from her 35 career No.1 singles and over 58 million albums sold worldwide. Her chart-topping milestones include 60 Top 10 hits on the Billboard Country Airplay chart, which extends her record for the most Top 10 hits among female artists. Additionally, her Top 10 success spanning five straight decades places her in the coveted group of like artists including only George Jones, Willie Nelson, and Dolly Parton.
McEntire’s collection of major hits includes, “I’m a Survivor,” “Rumor Has It,” “Fancy,” “The Night the Lights Went Out In Georgia,” “Does He Love You” with Linda Davis, “If You See Him/If You See Her” with Brooks and Dunn, and more.
In 2017, the Oklahoma native stepped outside of her country music roots to release her first-ever gospel album, Sing it Now: Songs of Faith & Hope. The two-disc collection of 21 songs debuted at No. 1 on both the Billboard Country & Christian charts and earned her a Dove and GRAMMY® award.
Despite all she has achieved, McEntire is still as humble as her Oklahoma beginnings, as she revealed during an interview with Willie Geist on Sunday TODAY. Their conversation of her latest pursuits found her opening up about the honor of being called an “icon,” a “queen,” or any other esteemed title.
“Well, when I hear those words, I think Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette, Barbara Mandrell, Anne Murray, Minnie Pearl. All of those women are the pioneers, the icons, the legends that I got to learn from,” McEntire admitted.
She clearly takes her position as a role model for other acts very seriously, stating that in her mind, “it’s a huge responsibility.”
“It’s a cool feeling,” she continued. “I definitely want to — in my span that I get to do this — I want to find ways of doing it better so it will make it easier on them. Then it’s their responsibility to move forward, find a better way of doing something for the people coming up next behind them. So we’ve all got responsibilities. And it’s always to make it better.”
On top of all her musical success, McEntire has dedicated years to lending her talents to the art of TV, movies, and even Broadway, where she played a critically acclaimed lead role in Irving Berlin’s Annie Get Your Gun. The Golden Globe® nominated actress also starred in several television series including Reba, Young Sheldon and Big Sky. She then added restaurant owner to her resume in 2023 with the grand opening of Reba’s Place, a restaurant, bar, retail, and entertainment venue in Atoka, Oklahoma.
Along with all her various endeavors, Reba McEntire is currently preparing for her second run as a coach on NBC’s The Voice, following her debut on the singing competition in Season 24.
Madeleine O’Connell graduated from North Central College with a bachelors degree in Journalism and Broadcast Communications before deciding to pursue her studies further at DePaul University. There, she earned her masters degree in Digital Communication & Media Arts. O’Connell served as a freelance writer for over two years while also interning with the Academy of Country Music, SiriusXM and Circle Media and assisting with Amazon Music’s Country Heat Weekly podcast. In addition to Country Now, she has been published in American Songwriter, Music Mayhem, and Holler.Country. Madeleine O’Connell is a member of the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music.