10 MOST INFLUENTIAL STARS PART TWO
Since Country Weekly began in 1994, these stars shaped, shook and steered the decade that followed
Like so many stars who've reached great heights in country music, Alan hails from small-town America. And the values he learned in little Newnan, Ga., have played a major role in a career that shows no signs of slowing down.
It began in 1985 when Alan moved from Newnan to Nashville with hopes of making it. "Randy Travis came along ... a young guy doin' real country music," recalls Alan. "I loved it. I came to town to do that."
Did he ever. Since the release of his debut album, Here in the Real World, Alan has sold 40 million albums and had more than 35 Billboard Top 5 hits (including 20 No. 1s). He wrote many of those hits, and most of them - from "Where I Come From" and "Little Man" to "Don't Rock the Jukebox" and his current "Remember When" - reflect his small-town roots.
Along the way, Alan has received so many awards that he genuinely seems embarrassed each time his name is called to receive yet another. His 16 CMA trophies - just two shy of Vince Gill's all-time record - include four Entertainer of the Year honors.
But no award can equal the response Alan received to his most heartfelt song, which touched a wounded nation - "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)."
It's hard to believe that the Dixie Chicks' influence on country music started only six years ago. In fact, 10 years ago few people outside of Texas had even heard of the Chicks.
That all changed when Natalie Maines became the group's new lead singer, joining original members Emily Robison and Martie Maguire. Their 1998, 12-million-selling debut album, Wide Open Spaces, kick-started a meteoric rise to fame for country's newest "it" girls. The trio's three-part harmonies, expert musicianship, eyebrow-raising song material and outrageous fashion sense were a breath of fresh air that took everyone by surprise. They even reintroduced the banjo to country radio!
The Chicks rolled to the end of the decade with a busload of awards, including Best Vocal Group honors and the Horizon Award from the CMA, and a Grammy for Best Country Album. They followed up with Fly in 1999, and in 2002 they released Home, a collection of acoustic-based songs.
And then last year came "the comment" - touring overseas, Natalie uttered 15 words that changed the course of the Chicks' country career. Her criticism of President Bush during the early stages of the Iraqi war caused an uproar among country fans and sparked a nationwide debate over freedom of speech vs. poor taste. As country radio dropped the Chicks' songs from its playlists, the audience booed the very mention of their name at the ACM Awards, and the 2003 CMA Awards in October overlooked them completely, the Chicks even hinted at leaving country music altogether. The trio ended the year, however, with a wildly successful tour and a hot-selling live concert CD/DVD package.
Fans as well as critics of the Dixie Chicks can agree on one thing: They're not wall-flowers, and it's not likely they'll ever be. You never know what these Chicks will be hatching next.
To read the rest of 10 Most Influential Stars of the Past 10 Years, pick up the latest issue of Country Weekly Magazine!