Do you remember the one-hit country singer from the 1990s who ruled the charts with “Achy Breaky Heart“? Whatever happened to him and his epic mullet? Well, all right, maybe you have a pretty good sense that Billy Ray Cyrus went on to change up his hair, father Miley Cyrus, become a reliable TV actor (Doc, Hannah Montana, Still the King) and collaborate with Lil Nas X on a country-trap remix of the rapper’s “Old Town Road.” But what about Chely Wright (“Single White Female”), Jo Dee Messina (“I”m Alright”), Grammy-winner Bob Carlisle (“Butterfly Kisses”), Jessica Andrews (“Who I Am”) and more? If you’re wondering where all of those folks are, you’ve come to the right saloon. They’re still around in some form or another.
We’ve rounded several country stars who conquered Nashville in the 1990s and 2000s, and even a few who hit the heights in the 1970s and 1980s. But as we’ll come to see, they found that the only thing harder than making it in Music City is to make it again and again.
We define a one-hit wonder as an artist who released only one single that was certified as a gold- or platinum-seller by the Recording Industry Association of America. An artist, like Lee Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.”) or John Michael Montgomery (“I Swear”), who has released gold- or platinum-selling albums, but only one certified single was included, as was Cyndi Thomson (My World), a singer who never scored a gold- or platinum-single, but who achieved the elusive hardware thanks to a lone album.
With this look back on these artists, we can see where they were and where they are today. Music is in their blood despite the lack of massive success. While their days of scooping up awards from the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music are out of the spotlight for now, almost all of these performers are in it for the long haul, and can be found making new music and playing new shows.
You’ll also be reminded that fame and success don’t inoculate country entertainers from illness or heartbreak: Messina’s battled cancer; Montgomery checked himself into rehab; and, less than a decade after her self-titled debut album went gold, Julie Roberts (“Break Down Here”) couldn’t get a judge to press their button for her during the blind-audition round on The Voice.
The thing about one-hit wonders, though, is they’re still wonders. Let’s look back — and catch up with them.