Trace Adkins and Vince Gill have more than a dozen No. 1 hits between them, regularly sell out their live shows, and are respected members of the Grand Ole Opry.
But good luck finding any recent music by them on the radio.
I started thinking about that last month when I talked to Adkins in advance of his show at the Centennial Terrace.
I’ve interviewed Trace several times over the past 10 years, and he always surprises me with his honesty, but he floored me this time when he told me he wasn’t releasing any more singles from his new album, “Love Will…,” because radio wasn’t playing his music.
“It’s like Toby [Keith] said to me, ‘One day radio is going to get tired of playing our stuff.’ And I’m probably there. I’ve probably been there for the last three or four years,” he said.
And he’s right, he hasn’t had a hit since “You’re Gonna Miss This” in 2008.
That conversation echoed another one I had with Vince Gill a couple of years ago.
“I know I’m doing my best work now. I can’t fathom that my ears would lie to me — they haven’t yet,” he said. “Young people have taken up the radio slot I possessed for a long time. It’s the same thing that happened to the generation before me. I showed up and they started playing my records and maybe didn’t play theirs as much. I wish that didn’t happen, but it does.”
He said this shortly after winning a Grammy Award for “These Days,” an album that People Magazine named to its Top 10 Albums of the Century. The highest charting single off that project? “The Reason Why,” which hit No. 28.
Few people around the Toledo area know more about country music than morning personality Craig Snyder of 107.7 The Wolf. He has been playing country tunes for more than 25 years. In fairness to his station, The Wolf plays a lot of my older favorites, including songs by Gill, Keith, and Adkins.
“Toby and Trace came along, and they replaced somebody, so it’s bound to happen to them,” Snyder said. “I liked the way George Jones fought to keep in the spotlight. Some artists just give up. I don't think radio is done with Trace or Toby, but both are finding new competition against artists like Hunter Hayes, The Band Perry, and Florida Georgia Line, and it’s not as easy as it used to be for guys like Trace and Toby.”
A quick look at this week’s Billboard chart shows what a tough business it is for former big stars. Of the top 25 artists on the radio, only Keith Urban, Tim McGraw, and Blake Shelton could be considered veterans of the genre.
I get it. Musical tastes change. The next generation of radio listeners comes along and wants something that sounds different. The guys from Florida Georgia Line rapping with Nelly is cool and fresh. But Gill and Adkins and Keith didn’t forget how to cut a great song. These were guys who were part of country music’s explosion in popularity.
Let’s not forget about them.
Brian Dugger’s column on country music appears in The Blade the last Saturday of every month. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DuggerCountry.