When people try to break musical genres into race, you’ll rarely see them pair Black people with country music.
This isn’t true.
Black musicians have roots in country music that date back to the 1950s.
Just because we might not know the artists doesn’t mean their talents and legacies don’t exist.
From the Pointer Sisters to Rhiannon Giddens, here are 17 Black females in country music.
Mickey Guyton is a country girl at heart.
Just on the cusp of being a millennial, this Southern girl hails from Arlington, Texas.
Like many other country crooners, she got her start at a young age.
Her inspiration came in the form of “How Do I Live” singer LeAnn Rimes after a rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at a Texas Rangers game.
Guyton would then begin working on her career.
After signing with Capitol Nashville to record an EP, she even tried out for American Idol before being cut from the Top 24.
While she didn’t make it to the show, she’s continued to make waves in the country community.
Her debut single, “Better Than You Left Me,” made it to the Billboard Country charts and led to her New Female Vocalist of the Year nomination at the ACM awards.
One of the growing names in country music, she’s been known to discuss her experiences as a Black woman in country music.
When you think of country singers, most don’t think of Black women – or Black people in general.
You almost never think of Black English females.
Yola hails from across the pond.
Born in Bristol, England, her love of country music is clear in her sound.
While her family wasn’t fond of music during her childhood, she would soon outgrow England and make her way to the country scene in the States.
Her career really took off in 2016 when she released her first solo Extended Play.
Even so, she has continued to push her career to new heights, earning her a nomination for Best New Artist at the 2020 Grammy Awards.
If you’ve heard of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Rhiannon Giddens is one of the masterminds behind the group.
Not only does this artist have the talents of her vocals to back her up, but she also plays the fiddle and banjo.
While she attended the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, she would go on to study opera at Oberlin Conservatory which helped mold her music career.
Giddens has worked on a number of group and solo projects, and you might not even be aware that she’s a Grammy-award winning singer.
She has been nominated numerous times, but it was the Carolina Chocolate Drop’s 2010 album that secured them Best Traditional Folk Album.
Recently, Giddens sought out three other singers on this list (Kiah, McCalla, Russell) to record an album titled Songs of Our Native Daughters.
Everyone knows that Nashville is the country music capital of the world, but Valerie June hails from a few miles over in Memphis, Tennessee.
Her early inspiration actually comes from listening to gospel music at church and R&B music from her father.
She started putting her foot through the music industry at a young age where she worked as a part-time promoter for artists like Prince and K-Ci & JoJo.
After forming the music duo, Bella Sun, with her then-husband, she would go on to record a number of songs and work with numerous other acts.
Since then, she has recorded four albums, her last two albums breaking through the Billboard 200.
You might not expect country music singers, like Kaia Kater, to hail from Montreal, Canada.
She lived in a number of cities throughout Canada before ending up at Davis & Elkins College in West Virginia on a banjo scholarship.
Prior to this time, her inspiration came from traveling to folk festivals, camps, and conferences while she was a teenager.
The singer has won Canadian Folk Music awards and has toured around the United States, Canada, and Europe.
She was even chosen to perform at the Kennedy Center in a tribute to old folk singer, Pete Seeger.
Even though her style of music is different to theirs, Kater gets her inspiration from singers like Lauryn Hill, Nina Simone, and Erykah Badu.
Some might be familiar with Allison Russell in a group, but she’s a powerhouse on her own.
The singer originally started in the Canadian group Po’ Girl.
While her vocals normally lead the way, you’ll hear the sounds of banjos, clarinets, harmonicas, and accordions in their music.
Russell has also been praised for her work alongside her husband in the band Birds of Chicago.
She also recently collaborated with Giddens, Kiah, and McCalla on the album Songs of Our Native Daughters.
Amythyst Kiah is another country artist whose influence came from her life in the South.
While she first started off my working solo, it was her 2019 collaboration on Our Native Daughters that helped launch her career even further.
The opening track to the album, “Black Myself,” was written by Kiah and would earn her a number of accolades.
While the song was nominated for Best American Roots Song at the Grammy Awards, it would win Song of the Year at the International Folk Music Awards.
While Rhiannon Giddens is still the face of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the group was also highly successful due to the talents of Leyla McCalla.
Born in Queens, New York City, McCalla was raised in Maplewood, New Jersey.
She traveled all over the world, living in Ghana for two years before ending up in Massachusetts and finally relanding in New York City to study cello and chamber music at New York University.
McCalla later moved to New Orleans and has since focused on her craft of playing the strings.
Although McCalla earlier parted ways with Giddens and the Carolina Chocolate Drops, she was asked to join the Songs of Our Native Daughters project in 2019.
Miss Tammi Savoy, A Top Black Female Country Singer
Take the best of the ‘40s, ‘50s, and ‘60s, and you have Miss Tammi Savoy wrapped in a package.
The singer was born in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she first learned her love of music.
At the young age of 3, she started singing in her church choir before starting professional lessons in 2014.
Since her pursuit of a full-time music career began in 2018, she has since toured with numerous bands and even performed her own tribute to Diana Ross.
In her short career, she was presented with the 2019 Ameripolitan Music Award for Rockabilly Female of the Year.
Now, we’re talking about someone from the country music capital.
Sunny War was born in Nashville, but spent most of her childhood traveling around the country with her single mother.
Throughout her travels, she began to cultivate her love of music which led to her choosing the guitar as her instrument at age 13.
She would eventually land in Venice Beach, California, with an interest in blues and folk music.
This would lead to her 2014 debut album Worthless followed by her latest album, With the Sun, that was released in 2018.
While many of the names on this list are new, Mavis Staples is a staple.
Most might know her for her R&B and soul music, but if you listen closely to her discography, you’ll see that the country overtones are definitely there.
Her career began at the age of 11 when she formed a group with her family – the Staple Singers.
She might’ve been known in the 20th century, but her career began to experience a revival in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
This was also helped by the fact that a number of artists were choosing to sample her voice.
She has been nominated nine times for Grammy Awards, finally receiving a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2005 for her work with the Staples Singers.
Priscilla Renea is one artist on this list who used the internet to help launch her career.
Initially, she was uncomfortable with performing in front of others, so she took to YouTube to post her videos.
Unfortunately, Priscilla’s debut album didn’t have the turnout that she wanted, but she would come to thrive as a songwriter.
Not only did she co-write “Worth It” by Fifth Harmony, but she also helped pen the Rihanna single “California King Bed.”
She has since worked on albums for Chris Brown and Little Mix while appearing on songs with B.o.B. and Train.
Her latest album, Coloured, was released in June 2018.
Tina Turner, A Famous Black Country Singer
There’s a ton of things we know about Tina Turner.
We know about her tumultuous relationship with her husband Ike.
We know about her wonderful talents and musical careers.
But did you know that she actually released a country music album?
While it might be extremely hard to find now, there’s no denying its existence.
This Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll might be known for songs like “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got to Do With It,” but her country album features covers of “Stand by Your Man” and “We Had It All.”
Definitely the most celebrated on this list, Tina Turner has been breaking barriers for Black women her entire career.
The Pointer Sisters
Most know the Pointer Sisters as an R&B and soul group, but you might not have known that they once took over the country music charts as well.
The group has won three Grammy Awards, one of which is for Best Country Vocal performance for their single “Fairytale” in 1974.
The song earned them an invitation to the Grand Ole Opry, making them the first Black female group to do so.
Later, in 1976, they would also earn another Best Country Vocal Performance nomination for their song “Live Your Life Before You Die.”
Candi Staton was born in Alabama before her talents for singing were discovered while she was attending school in Nashville.
LIke many other country singers, her start began in a choir before she would begin her solo career.
Staton has released over 30 albums in the 48 years of her career, but nothing would gain her the amount of recognition she earned from her cover of the country classic “Stand by Your Man” by Tammy Wynette.
Not only is Staton a Christian Music Hall of Famer, but she has been nominated for four Grammy Awards.
Miko Marks is a country singer that hails from Flint, Michigan.
The singer attended Grambling State University before moving to San Francisco to pursue her music career.
Marks would release her debut album, “Freeway Bound,” in 2005.
Although her album didn’t chart on any Billboard list, the praise she received would lead to her winning Best New Country Artist at the 2006 New Music Weekly Awards.
Her skills and talents have been compared to that of the popular country singing group, The Dixie Chicks, so we can only imagine that Marks still has amazing music in her future.
Vicki Van grew up in music.
Born in Los Angeles, she was exposed to music through her father who was in the Grammy Award winning Gospel group, Mighty Clouds of Joy.
Vann’s influences of music are vast including the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, and a pioneer in country music, Dolly Parton.
She garnered the attention of Country Music Television with her first two albums, released in 1999 and 2002.
Her discography now includes five albums, her last of which was released in 2011.
Black Female Country Singers Conclusion
You might be thinking that thirteen Black women in country music isn’t a lot, and you’re right, it’s not.
Even so, that doesn’t account for the Black female artists who might currently be trying to break their way into the industry.
As it is often seen, country music is not tied to any particular race, and the women on this list are proof of that.
And if you’re still looking for new artists or music to try, check out ThatSister’s recent post on the 50 Best R&B Albums of All Time.