Can you name 10 trios that have left a mark on country music? A decade ago, that might have posed quite a challenge, even to the most dedicated fan. If you look at the charts now, though, you'll see that three-piece bands are holding their own against the solo artists, duos and bigger bands. From the earliest days to the present, here are 10 of country music's most popular trios.
The Band Perry
This sibling band broke through with "If I Die Young," which led to a Grammy nod for best new artist. When that reflective song crossed over to pop radio, "You Lie" and "All Your Life" kept their career alive at country. Look for a new album in April featuring their current single, "Better Dig Two."
After years of middling success at country radio, these siblings thought they'd give it one more shot with "The Three Bells," formerly recorded by Edith Piaf. Their lush Nashville Sound arrangement was a game changer. The smash single spent 10 weeks at No. 1 in 1959.
The Carter Family
Indeed, the First Family of Country Music was a trio, at least until the family fold grew. Focused on appealing harmony and that famous guitar lick from Mother Maybelle, their 1920s sessions in Bristol, Tenn., are sometimes considered the blueprint for commercial country music.
These Texas ladies remain the only trio to win the CMA entertainer of the year. When two sisters schooled in bluegrass met with a feisty lead singer, country fans quickly paid attention. Between 1998 and 2003, they ruled the roost with 14 Top 10 hits and an international following.
Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers
Larry Gatlin won a 1976 Grammy for writing "Broken Lady," the group's breakout hit. For the next dozen years, Gatlin and his brothers harmonized their way to country stardom, thanks to classics like "All the Gold in California" and "Houston (Means I'm One Day Closer to You)."
In five short years, these likable musicians have sold millions of albums, collected seven Grammys and delivered the career-defining crossover hit, "Need You Now." They are prolific songwriters, too, stretching back to their catchy first single, "Love Don't Live Here."
Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters
In the early 1980s, these charming sisters captivated millions of viewers with their NBC variety show. It proved a perfect showcase for their singing and dancing skills, as well as their famous friends. Barbara's signature song speaks for itself: "I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool."
Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris
Although all three women have enjoyed brilliant solo careers, their sparkling vocal blend took on a life of its own. Their 1987 Trio album quickly reached platinum and earned a Grammy. Country radio embraced them, too, as "To Know Him Is to Love Him" ascended to No. 1.
In the year 2000, boy bands were all the rage, and country fans might have initially thought Rascal Flatts were just the country version. Instead, these crowd favorites forged their own dynamic identity with 28 Top 10 hits and 18 million albums sold. They joined the Grand Ole Opry in 2011.
For 40 years, Buck White and daughters Sharon and Cheryl have graced countless stages, playing bluegrass, gospel and old-time country. They were also a natural fit for the O Brother, Where Art Thou? phenomenon and remain a reliable act on the Grand Ole Opry.