UNUSUAL HITMAKERS

If you think coutnry music has always belonged only to country singers, think again. From ball players to politicians and actors, you'll be amazed at who's made the country charts over the years!

Burt Reynolds ... Tiny Tim ... Terry Bradshaw ... the Bee Gees - they're just some of the unexpected stars who've made their mark on the country charts over the years. The list is long and distinguished, including movie and TV stars, rockers, politicians and even a Playboy playmate!

For instance:

* Pro-football Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw was scoring touchdowns as the superstar quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers when he got all the way to No. 17 on the Billboard Country Singles Chart with a 1976 version of the Hank Williams classic "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."

* Rocker Bob Seger's version of the Rodney Crowell tune "Shame on the Moon," a No. 2 pop hit, hit No. 15 on the country chart in 1983.

* Australian pop trio the Bee Gees took their own "Rest Your Love on Me" to No. 39 in 1979, two years before Conway Twitty's version went all the way to No. 1.

* Ukulele-playing pop novelty act Tiny Tim squeaked onto the charts at No. 70 in 1988 with "Leave Me Satisfied."

* Movie star Reynolds made it to No. 51 in 1980 with "Let's Do Something Cheap and Superficial" from the movie Smokey & The Bandit II.

* Smooth sax player Kenny G got to No. 49 just four years ago with "Auld Lang Syne: The Millennium Mix."

Some of country's "special guests" have gone all the way to No. 1. Many did so by teaming up with established artists - as when legendary actor Clint Eastwood joined Merle Haggard for a chart-topping smash called "Bar Room Buddies" in 1980, or when PBS icon Lawrence Welk and Red Foley topped the charts together with "Shame on You" in 1945. Rocker Sheena Easton reached the pinnacle in a duet with Kenny Rogers on the Bob Seger-penned "We've Got Tonight" in 1983, as did Leon Russell, joining Willie Nelson in 1979 for a No. 1 remake of the Elvis Presley classic "Heartbreak Hotel."

Just as often, though, noncountry performers reached the top of the charts by themselves. Among those were Vegas superstar Tom Jones with "Say You'll Stay Until Tomorrow" in 1977, the multi-format darling Linda Ronstadt with a remake of the Everly Brothers "When Will I Be Loved" in 1975 and pop crooner Nat "King" Cole with "Straighten Up and Fly Right," a six-week No. 1 in 1944.

Other genres of music have provided plenty of crossover talent on the country charts. They included legendary pop singers like The Mills Brothers, who reached No. 64 in 1970 with "It Ain't No Big Thing," and big band leaders like Vaughn Monroe, who got all the way to No. 2 with "Riders in the Sky" in 1949. And numerous pop and rock stars scored country. Ricky Nelson reached No. 3 in 1958 with "Poor Little Fool." Creedence Clearwater Revival made it to No. 50 in 1982 with "Cotton Fields," which was actually recorded 13 years earlier. Southern rockers The Marshall Tucker Band went to No. 51 on the country charts with "Heard It in a Love Song" in 1977. Others making their mark ranged from the queen of scatting, jazz great Ella Fitzgerald, who had a No. 2 country hit in 1944 with "When My Sugar Walks Down the Street," to the kings of country/rock, The Eagles, who hit No. 8 with "Lyin' Eyes" in 1975.

TV and the movies have provided other country hitmakers. Walter Brennan was a 67-year-old character actor then playing "Grandpa" on the long-running TV series "The Real McCoys" when his recitation "Old Rivers" began its run to No. 3 in 1962. Recitations also did the trick for longtime TV game show host Wink Martindale, who hit No. 11 in 1959 with "Deck of Cards," and for Lorne Greene, head of the Cartwright clan on the TV classic Bonanza, who reached No. 21 with "Ringo" in 1964. Robert Mitchum, known for tough-guy movie classics like Cape Fear, hit No. 9 in 1967 with "Little Old Wine Drinker Me."

Hall of Fame DJ/TV host Ralph Emery hit No. 4 in 1961 with "Hello Fool," an answer song to Faron Young's "Hello Walls," and longtime Grand Ole Opry announcer Grant Turner reached No. 48 in 1964 with "The Bible in Her Hand." Barbi Benton, a Playboy playmate and Hugh Hefner's then-girlfriend, reached No. 5 in 1975 with "Brass Buckles," and Illinois Sen. Everett Dirksen made it to No. 58 in 1967 with "Gallant Men."

And the phenomenon is still happening. Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow, mainstays of the rock world, teamed up for a country hit with "Picture" that made it to No. 21 in 2003. Pop star Jewel slipped onto the chart through a duet with Merle Haggard on "That's the Way Love Goes," peaking at No. 56 in 1999, and Jimmy Buffett of "Margaritaville" fame and Alan Jackson reached No. 1 with "It's Five O'clock Somewhere" just last year. Just recently the rocker Uncle Kracker teamed up with country superstar Kenny Chesney for the chart-topper "When the Sun Goes Down."

Bottom line: You never know who you might hear on the country charts.

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