Country music is a veritable petri dish for sprouting love affairs between performers. Some of these fizzle, some mature into long-term relationships and a few become exemplary marriages, bastions of mutual devotion and support.
For this Valentine Day, we cast approving glances on 12 celebrity couples who continue to bring fans and creativity to country music.
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood (married Dec. 10, 2005): These two met in Nashville as lowly and largely anonymous demo singers. After he became a record-and ticket-selling phenomenon, Brooks tapped Yearwood to open shows for him. From there, their friendship blossomed and, through the years, turned into romance. Big time.
Vince Gill and Amy Grant (married March 10, 2000): Gill and Grant admired each other’s music for years before they became acquainted. She, a gospel and pop star, had won armloads of Dove awards. He had scads of Grammys. Some wondered if they would have enough shelf space for all the hardware once they got together. Obviously, they’ve managed.
Tim McGraw and Faith Hill (married Oct. 6, 1996): They got to know each other on McGraw’s prophetically named Spontaneous Combustion tour with Hill as his opening act. Before the tour was over, McGraw popped the question, and by fall, there were wedding bells.
Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman (married June 25, 2006): Drawn together by a common language — Australian — this madly talented twosome fell for each other quick and hard. You can sometimes see them walking hand in hand through Nashville’s Whole Foods store or leaning across a table at Bread & Company. Is this domesticity or what?
Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams (married March 15, 2003): No one can say Paisley was dissembling in his pursuit of Williams, the actress he first spotted in the film, Father of the Bride. He hired her to play the enraged girlfriend in his 2002 music video, “I’m Gonna Miss Her (The Fishin’ Song),” thereby giving her fair warning he’d be spending more time baiting hooks than hanging curtains. And still she married him.
Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert (married May 14, 2011): The budding romance between Shelton and Lambert and the goings on at their Oklahoma hideaway were breathlessly chronicled from inception until the two converged at the marital altar. No wonder the media referred to it as a “royal wedding.”
Carrie Underwood and Nashville Predator Mike Fisher (married July 10, 2010): Their marriage is a masterpiece of career accommodation. She’s adjusted to the lyricism of professional hockey while he’s come to terms with the violence of country music.
LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian (married April 22, 2011): So you’re up in Canada shooting a movie. There’s nothing much to do, and it’s chilly as hell. Why not fall in love?
Ricky Skaggs and Sharon White (married Aug. 4, 1981): Skaggs was a musical prodigy who shared the stage with Bill Monroe and Flatt & Scruggs while still a kid. White was a sweet young voice emerging from the family band, the Whites. Their paths crossed constantly. Then the magic happened. Now they’ve created their own musical dynasty.
Connie Smith and Marty Stuart (married July 8, 1997): Stuart was around 12 years old when Smith, a gorgeous Grand Ole Opry star, came to his Mississippi hometown for a show. He vowed then and there he would one day marry her. OK, so it took him 27 years. It’s working.
Keifer and Shawna Thompson of Thompson Square (married May 15, 1999): Adding strength to their wedding vows is the fact that this couple now functions as a single artistic unit. He from Oklahoma, she from Alabama, they arrived in Nashville the same week. At first, they tried for solo careers but eventually saw the wisdom of fusing their talents. The first proof of that wisdom? Their platinum-popular “Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not.”
Jimi Westbrook and Karen Fairchild of Little Big Town (married May 31, 2006): When four attractive people are thrown together for as many years on the road as the members of Little Big Town were, it would be strange if that closeness didn’t result in at least one romance. And so it came to pass that Westbrook and Fairchild eventually made their way, figuratively speaking, to that “little white church” about which they sing so eloquently. In 2010, the Westbrooks welcomed baby Elijah Dylan into the family.
Had enough of these “now-we-two-are-one” tales? If not, press on.
In the realm of exemplary marriages, you could hardly find one more inspiring than that of Kitty Wells, the unrivalled Queen of Country Music, and Johnnie Wright, who gained fame in the duo, Johnnie & Jack. Their union held strong and steadfast for 74 years, ending only with Wright’s death in 2011.
King of the Cowboys Roy Rogers rode the matrimonial trail with singer and actress Dale Evans for 51 years.
Lulu Belle and Scotty Wiseman, stars of the fabled National Barn Dance, stayed hitched for 47 years. Doc and Chickie Williams of the Wheeling Jamboree were paired in connubial bliss for 72 years.
Kathie Baillie and Michael Bonagura of Baillie & the Boys are 31 years into their marriage and still performing. Clint Black and actress Lisa Hartman have been together more than 20 years.
Some star marriages were cut short by early deaths. The Grand Ole Opry’s Hawkshaw Hawkins was married to singer (and current Opry member) Jean Shepard less than three years when he died in the 1963 plane crash that also killed Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas.
Other high-profile marriages came and went for reasons too varied to touch on here, including those of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Buck and Bonnie Owens, Merle Haggard and Bonnie Owens (and afterward Leona Williams), Willie Nelson and former Liberty recording artist Shirley Collie.
Also, the Grand Ole Opry’s Skeeter Davis and rocker Joey Spaminato, Lyle Lovett and actress Julia Roberts, Johnny Lee and Dallas actress Charlene Tilton, Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell, Carlene Carter and rocker Nick Lowe and Kenny Chesney and actress Rene Zellweger.
Let us not forget ’80s country starlet Charly McClain, who’s been married to former soap thespian Wayne Massey for nearly 28 years, or ’90s heartthrob Bryan White, husband to actress Erika Page since 2000.
Chely Wright’s bride, Lauren Blitzer, isn’t in show business, but their marriage is worth noting here if only because Wright is country music’s only openly gay artist.
Love is a many-splendored thing.