The Country Music Assn. likes to call its annual CMA Awards "country music's biggest night," and, for once, the hype is justified. The show, now in its 45th year, is consistently one of the best awards shows on television. This year's edition airs Wednesday. Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood are set to co-host for the fourth straight year.
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Paisley will seek to defend his 2010 title as Entertainer of the Year. He's squaring off against Taylor Swift, who won in that category two years ago; Keith Urban, who took it in 2005; Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton. If Swift regains the crown, she'll become the first female artist to win Entertainer of the Year twice since Barbara Mandrell way backin 1980-1981.
Here's a quiz that will test your knowledge of country music. It's based on a new book, Joel Whitburn's Top 10 Country Hits 1944-2010, which lists every top 10 hit on the country chart in that 67-year span.
The quiz is in two parts. Here's my first set of questions.
* What artist has had the most top 10 hits on the country chart?
* What female artist has had the most top 10 hits?
* What group has had the most top 10 hits?
* What duo has the most top 10 hits?
* What collaboration of two artists who usually record separately has had the most top 10 hits?
* What all-female group or duo has had the most top 10 hits?
* What African American artist has had the most top 10 hits?
* What rock artist has had the most top 10 hits?
While you work on your answers, let me give you a brief history of Billboard's country chart. The chart originated in January 1944 as "Most Played Juke Box Folk Records." The first #1 was "Pistol Packin'Mama" by pop superstars Bing Crosby & the Andrews Sisters. A month later, it was dislodged by a rival country version of the song by Al Dexter and his Troopers.
For two months in 1947, the chart was called, rather condescendingly, "Most-Played Juke Box Hillbilly Records." The terminology reverted to "Folk" and then changed again to "Country & Western" in 1949. In 1956, it was shortened to "C&W." In 1962, the term changed to just "country," which it is called to this day. That's a long time for a genre to go by the same name. But stability is part of the country DNA.
Time's up. Here are the answers to today's quiz.
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* Eddy Arnold had the most top 10 country hits. "The Tennessee Plowboy" had 92 top 10 hits, from "Each Minute Seems A Million Years" in 1945 to "That's What I Get For Loving You" in 1980. Arnold died in 2008. In second place: George Strait, with 83 top 10 hits (including the current "Here For A Good Time").
* Reba McEntire has had more top 10 country hits than any other female artist. The multi-media star has had 59 top 10 hits, from 1980's "(You Lift Me) Up To Heaven" to this year's "Turn On The Radio." In second place: Dolly Parton, with 55 top 10 hits.
* Alabama has had more top 10 country hits than any other group. The four-man group has had 52 top 10 hits, from 1980's "Tennessee River" to this year's Brad Paisley hit "Old Alabama" (on which it was featured). In second place: the Oak Ridge Boys, with 34 top 10 hits.
* Brooks & Dunn have had more top 10 country hits than any other duo. The recently-retired team of Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn had 41 top 10 hits, from 1991's "Brand New Man" to 2009's "Cowgirls Don't Cry" (which featured Reba McEntire). In second place: The Bellamy Brothers, with 26.
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* Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton had more top 10 country hits than any other collaboration. The pair had 14 top 10 hits, from their version of Tom Paxton's "The Last Thing On My Mind" in 1968 to 1980's "Making Plans." In second place: Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, with 12. (In each case, the woman went on to greater fame than the man who had top billing. Wagoner, about whom Parton wrote "I Will Always Love You," died in 2007. Twitty died in 1993.)
* The Judds have had more top 10 country hits than any other all-female group or duo. Wynonna and Naomi had 20 top 10 country hits, from 1984's "Mama He's Crazy" to 1991's "One Hundred And Two." In second place (surprisingly): the Forester Sisters, with 15 top 10 hits.
* Charley Pride has had more top 10 country hits than any other African American artist. The pioneer had 52 top 10 hits, from 1967's "Just Between You And Me" to 1988's "Shouldn't It Be Easier Than This." In second place: Darius Rucker, with six top 10 hits (so far).
* Elvis Presley had more top 10 country hits than any other rock artist. The King of Rock and Roll had 32 top 10 hits, from "Baby Let's Play House" in 1955 to his version of Tom Jans' "Lovin' Arms" in 1981. Presley died in 1977. In second place: Jerry Lee Lewis, with 28 top 10 hits.
Here's Part 2 of today's quiz. Whitburn features a list of the 50 artists with the most top 10 country hits. The list includes two artists who are siblings, two who are parent and child, and two who are or were once married. Name these three pairs of artists. Answers below.
While you work on your answers, I have some notes on the material in the first section. In addition to being the top two female hit-makers in country history, Reba McEntire and Dolly Parton each have a sibling who had one top 10 hit. Pake McEntire, who is two years older than his sister Reba, reached #3 in August 1986 with "Savin' My Love For You." Stella Parton, who is three years younger than Dolly, hit #9 in August 1975 with "I Want To Hold You In My Dreams Tonight." It's not easy having a superstar for a sibling, especially when you're trying to make a career in the same field. At least they had a taste of the big-time.
In addition to her 20 top 10 country hits in the Judds, Wynonna has amassed 11 top 10 hits on her own, from 1992 to 1996.
Charley Pride was billed as "Country Charley Pride" on his first three top 10 hits, probably to reassure skeptical country radio programmers that Pride was really a country artist, and that this wasn't an R&B hit sent to the wrong radio station.
Time's up. Here are the answers to the second part of today's quiz.
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Loretta Lynn (51 top 10 hits) and Crystal Gayle (34 top 10 hits) are the only siblings who each rank among the 50 artists with the most top 10 hits. Lynn is nearly 16 years older than Gayle.
Hank Williams Jr. (42 top 10 hits) and his father, Hank Williams (37 top 10 hits), are only the parent-and-child who each made the list. Hank Jr. was just 19 months old when his father died of alcohol and drug poisoning on New Year's Day 1953. Hank was featured on Hank Jr.'s 1989 remake of Hank's song "There's A Tear In My Beer." The duet recording hit #7 in 1989.
George Jones (78 top 10 hits) and Tammy Wynette (39 top 10 hits) are the only married, or once-married, couple on the list. The country legends were married from 1969 to 1975. The pair amassed eight top 10 country hits from 1972 to 1980. Wynette died in 1998.
This highly recommended book will make you a country music expert by the time the 45th Country Music Awards roll around next fall.
If you enjoyed today's quiz, you should try your hand at a quiz I posted in August, "So You Think You Know R&B." That was based on another new Whitburn book, Top 10 R&B Hits 1942-2010. If you missed that quiz, here's a link.