A Compendium of Country Music Supergroups

photo: Jim McGuire

The only thing more cool than your favorite country music performers is when your favorite country music performers come together to collaborate in a supergroup. Some of these collaborations have gone on to become just as legendary as the individual performers themselves. However, when looking for a master list of such groups, the internet and every other resource comes up short. The one offered by Wikipedia is downright paltry (someone with Wiki editing authority, fix that please).

So in the effort to preserve and archive this important legacy in country music, here is a (mostly) complete compendium of country music supergroups from throughout the years. Similar to any list, this one will be rigorously scrutinized and severely questioned by individuals that will ignore whatever entries they might not be aware of, and instead expect omniscience and declare the entire exercise ludicrous because someone was not mentioned. But by all means, if you see a certain supergroup project you feel should be included, pipe up in the comments section below.

Some basic ground rules: This is supergroups, not superduos, so no Hold My Beer and Watch This or Pancho & Lefty. A supergroup needs to be established stars coming together for a project, not a project that ultimately gave birth to future solo careers, so no J.D. Crowe and The New South, no Rascal Flatts or Lonestar for example. And of course, everyone’s interpretation of “supergroup” and “star” is subjective, so let’s try to be understanding that someone’s “star” may be another’s “unknown,” and vice versa.


The Highwaymen

Members: Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings

When it comes to supergroups in country music and beyond, this is one of the greatest, most successful, and most legendary. Launched at a time when all of the members were well past their commercial prime, they combined forces, led it off with an excellent song, and it caught fire. At a time in country music when things were going off course, The Highwaymen acted like a bulwark and a rallying cry, and put all four men back at the top of the charts.

Formed in 1985 and lasting a decade, The Highwaymen released three successful albums, with Highwayman (1985) going #1, Highwayman 2 (1990) going #4, and both albums being Certified Platinum. They also earned a #1 for the “Highwayman” song written by Jimmy Webb. Johnny Cash flew a starship. Guy Clark’s “Desperados Waiting for a Train” marked a Top 15 song for the group as well.

In country music, every supergroup feels like it’s patterned after The Highwaymen in one respect or another. They were the Mount Rushmore of country music, live and in the flesh.


Trio

Members: Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, Linda Ronstadt

When talking about country music supergroups, right behind The Highwaymen better be mention of Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris, and Linda Ronstadt, whose 1987 record Trio is considered one of the crowning achievements in country music history. Just like The Highwaymen, it wasn’t only about the star power assembled, but the way these three iconic voices of country music combined together selflessly that made a sound sound greater than the sum of their parts, and hairs on the back of the neck stand on end.

The three had been friends and admirers of each other since the mid ’70s, and had appeared on Dolly Parton’s show in 1976 singing “Bury Me Beneath The Willow.” They also spent some time in the studio, but scheduling conflicts got in the way of completing an album, though some songs from the sessions ended up on their respective solo albums. Luckily though, in 1986 it all came together, and the results were momentous.

The Trio album won the ACM for Album of the Year in 1987, and the CMA’s Vocal Event of the Year in 1988. It also won the 1988 Grammy for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group, and was nominated for the Grammy’s all-genre Album of the Year. It was Certified Platinum by the RIAA, and was succeeded by the Gold-Certified Trio II in 1999. The Complete Trio Collection combining all of the supergroup’s work including rare takes was released in 2016.


Pistol Annies

Members: Miranda Lambert, Angaleena Presley, Ashley Monroe

Miranda Lambert has forged her career behind supporting important songwriters and her fellow female voices in country music. Nothing better illustrates this than her project with Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley that is the most commercially-successful, and probably the most well-recognized supergroup in the modern era of country music.

“Lonestar Annie” (Lambert), “Hippie Annie” (Monroe), and “Holler Annie” (Presley) made their debut on a ACM television special celebrating the women of country music in 2011. Ten years later, they were releasing a Christmas Album, which was their fourth album overall, showing the commitment and longevity of this group. Though never especially successful on the radio, they now have two #1 albums. 2013’s Annie Up debuted at #1, and their debut Hell On Heels has been Certified Gold.

Originally taking on the complexion of badass gold-digging women getting one-up on men, the Annies’ 2018 album Interstate Gospel took on a more critically-acclaimed air, and was considered one of the best albums of the year. Miranda Lambert has been one of the most successful women in country in modern history, and the Pistol Annies legacy helps cement that, while also undergirding the careers of Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley.


The Notorious Cherry Bombs

Members: Rodney Crowell, Vince Gill, Tony Brown, Hank DeVito, and others.

You can’t officially call the original Cherry Bombs a supergroup. Formed in the early 1980s by Rodney Crowell from former members of Emmylou Harris’s Hot Band and other parts, it was Rodney Crowell’s backing band that would go on to be a stepping stone for Vince Gill to become a Country Music Hall of Famer, and keys player Tony Brown to be one of the most important producers in country music history.

But you can’t declare a supergroup in arrears. However, in 2003, multiple members of The Cherry Bombs reunited with Rodney Crowell as The Notorious Cherry Bombs, including Vince Gill, Tony Brown, and others. They were eventually singed to Universal South, and released a self-titled album in 2004. Now they could be considered an official supergroup. The “Notorious” was added to the name for legal reasons. Other participants were 2022 Country Hall of Fame drummer Eddie Bayers, steel guitarist Hank DeVito, guitarist Richard Bennett, and bass player Michael Rhodes.


The Highwomen

Members: Natalie Hemby, Brandi Carlile, Maren Morris, Amanda Shires

Founded at a time when the representation of women in popular country music was at a historic low due to the prevalence of Bro-Country, Amanda Shires pitched the idea to Brandi Carlile, and soon Maren Morris and Natalie Hemby were on board too. The Highwomen (obviously, a play off the Highwaymen) debuted on April 1, 2019 as part of a Loretta Lynn 87th Birthday celebration at the Bridgestone Arena in Nashville.

The Highwomen went on to release their debut self-titled album in September of 2019 produced by Dave Cobb. It was Cobb who compelled Shires to reach out to Brandi Carlile after Shires vented her frustration about so few women on country radio. The Highwomen ended up winning the Grammy for Best Country Song in 2021 for “Crowded Table.” According to the principle members of the band, it’s not just about them, but about all of the women of country music.


Old Dogs

Members: Waylon Jennings, Mel Tillis, Bobby Bare, Jerry Reed

Everyone remembers The Highwaymen. But if you really want to test someone’s country music knowledge, ask them about Old Dogs. Formed in 1998, this supergroup released only one album—a live double disc of songs all written by songwriter Shel Silverstein, most of which were about growing old. There was also a single disc version of the album.

Just as much a celebration of Shel Silverstein (who sang some backup vocals) as a supergroup, there were never any big tours or anything, but it’s certainly one of the more cool projects in the annals of country music history. Bobby Bare Jr., Jessi Colter, and Hargus “Pig” Robbins are some other notables who appear on the recording.


Honky Tonk Angels

Members: Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette

More of a collaborative album than an actual supergroups who composed original music and toured, the star power of the Honky Tonk Angels nonetheless necessitates their inclusion in the conversation. This long-rumored collaboration finally came together in 1993, and resulted in a Gold Certified self-titled album for the trio.

The album included country standards, including the Queen of Country Music Kitty Wells’ breakout hit “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” “Wings of a Dove,” “Silver Thread and Golden Needles,” and “Lovesick Blues” made famous by Hank Williams.

The project was called “uninspired” by some critics at the time, but it helped put classic country band into the public mindset at a time when the “Class of ’89” had commandeered the genre.


The Flatlanders

Members: Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock

They weren’t a country music supergroup, until they were. During their original incarnation between 1972 and 1973, The Flatlanders received little recognition aside from winning the inaugural Kerrville Folk Festival New Folk Singer/Songwriter Competition. A debut single called “Dallas” failed to garner any attention, so a debut album was scrapped, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Joe Ely and Butch Hancock went their separate ways.

However, after all three found success as solo artists, they decided to rejoin as a supergroup, and have since become one of the most prolific and well-known supergroups in country music, and specifically influential in the alt-country realm. With 10 records under their belt including 2021’s Treasure of Love, The Flatlanders are considered nothing less than country music gods now.


The Panhandlers

Members: John Baumann, Josh Abbott, Cleto Cordero, William Clark Green

Comprised of Cleto Cordero of Flatland Cavalry, solo artist William Clark Green, Josh Abbott of The Josh Abbott Band, and songwriter John Baumann, The Panhandlers are an uncanny amount of talent in one place that was able to meld together through a mutual appreciation of West Texas and great songwriting. The results were a very quality, and very country self-titled debut album in 2020 that was favored by many, and a 2023 album called Tough Country.

Approached at first as a cover songs project embodying the spirit of the Panhandle region that gave rise to artists like Buddy Holly, Waylon Jennings, Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Terry Allen, and the Flatlanders supergroup that their name is a play off of, The Panhandlers morphed into an original recording and performing project during a songwriting session in Marfa, Texas.


Texas Tornadoes

Members: Flaco Jiménez, Augie Meyers, Doug Sahm, and Freddy Fender

Possibly one of the coolest and most unique country supergroups in history, the Texas Tornadoes took country music’s top Hispanic contributors, combined them with Texas music founders, and brought in a Tejano legend to round it all out. Though just as much conjunto, Tejano, and rock as country, you couldn’t talk about country supergroups without these guys.

Texas country legend Doug Sahm had been calling backing bands and collaborations the “Texas Tornadoes” ever since 1973 when he released an album and song of that name, including ones that featured Freddy Fender and Augie Myers. But in 1990 it was made official, with some saying the band was formed by record executives looking to cash in on the popularity of regional Latin music. The Texas Tornadoes were never especially commercially successful, but they went on to be considered legendary.

The Texas Tornadoes are still around, with Shawn Sahm filling in after his father passed away in 1999.


Chicks With Hits

Members: Terri Clark, Pam Tillis, Suzy Bogguss

Though not a recording project (yet), this touring outfit is just too cool to not highlight in this conversation. Just look at how badass these three women are in the picture above? Like so many of country music’s supergroups, there is safety and attention in numbers for artists no longer being played on radio, and the three women sing songs together, harmonizing on each others hits and obscure songs all the same. Pam Tillis also has toured and collaborated with Lorrie Morgan under a similar philosophy.


The Frontmen

Members: Tim Rushlow, Larry Stewart, Richie McDonald

The Frontmen is a supergroup of, well, frontmen from groups that were big in the ’90s. This includes Larry Stewart of Restless Heart, Tim Rushlow of Little Texas, and Richie McDonald of Lonestar. As a trio, they can put on an entire show of hits between their three respective previous projects.

But that’s not all. After recently forming in 2021, The Frontmen were signed with major label BBR to release new original music. So even though The Frontmen are riding off of nostalgia now, they’re betting for being a new original act in the future.


The Wilder Blue

Members: Zane Williams, Paul Eason, Lyndon Hughes, Sean Rodriguez, Andy Rogers

Consisting of solo artist and songwriter Zane Williams, songwriter and solo performer Paul Eason who’s also played guitar with Kevin Fowler and Bri Bagwell, drummer Lyndon Hughes, bassist Sean Rodriguez, and multi-instrumentalist Andy Rogers, Hill Country has the latitude to articulate just about whatever style of American music they choose, from classic rock to bluegrass, to country and folk. And they have taken full advantage of that on now two critically-acclaimed albums.

Originally called Hill Country before changing the name for legal reasons, they once received a big endorsement from Luke Combs after the country music superstar read about them here on Saving Country Music.


Texas Hill

Members: Craig Wayne Boyd (fmr), Adam Wakefield, Casey James

Comprised of three frontmen known for finishing high in reality show singing competitions, Texas Hill formed in 2020 with Craig Wayne Boyd (Season 7 Winner of The Voice), Casey James (Third place on Season 9 of American Idol) and Adam Wakefield (Season 10 Runner-up on The Voice). Wakefield also filled in briefly in The SteelDrivers in a position once held by Chris Stapleton.

This mostly country project has garnered some interest, but has also been somewhat snake bit from the beginning. Right after the project was announced, Adam Wakefield faced a rape allegation. He subsequently denied any wrongdoing and apologized. Then in January of 2023, Craig Wayne Boyd revealed he’d been voted out of the band he helped form. New members Bart Walker, Louis Winfield, and Clark Singleton were also announced.

Texas Hill released an album in 2022 called Heaven Down Here.


Black Tie

Members: Randy Meisner, Jimmy Griffin, and Billy Swan

Though it wasn’t hugely commercially successful, country rock group Black Tie was well-beloved by fans, and boasted some serious star power. Randy Meisner was a former member of Poco, Ricky Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band, and of course was a founding member of The Eagles as the high harmony singer on songs like “Take It To The Limit.” Jimmy Griffin was a member of the band Bread, and Billy Swan was a successful country solo artist with the #1 song “I Can Help.”

Black Tie formed in 1985 and released the debut album When The Night Falls. When Jimmy Griffin left the group to form The Remingtons, he was replaced by Charlie Rich Jr.—the son of country legend Charlie Rich. The group was active all the way up to 2007.


Brokedown in Bakersfield

Members: Nicki Bluhm, Tim Bluhm, Scott Law, Lebo, Steve Adams and Dave Brogan

Formed in 2011 at the High Sierra Music Festival, this high octane country supergroup of California revivalists was put on earth to rev up the appeal for The Bakersfield Sound and artists like Merle Haggard, Buck Owens, and Gram Parsons. Mostly a live performance project, they released a live album in 2014.

Nicki Blum comes from The Gramblers, Tim Bluhm is from The Mother Hips, Scott Law is a well-known West Coast guitar slinger in a host of projects, and Lebo, Steve Adams, and Dave Brogan all come from ALO. Just as much a collective as a supergroup, the respective members have also released country solo and side projects.


The Sky Kings

Members: John Cowan, Bill Lloyd, Patrick Simmons and Rusty Young

Patrick Simmons is a founding member of The Doobie Brothers. When he paired up with bass player John Cowan of New Grass Revival, Bill Lloyd of Foster & Lloyd (with Radney Foster), and Rusty Young of Poco, The Sky Kings were formed. Actually, they were originally formed in 1991 under the name Four Wheel Drive, but they had to change the name due to a lawsuit.

The supergroup signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1993. But after the band went on tour opening for The Doobie Brothers, Patrick Simmons decided he wanted his old gig back, and jumped ship. Nonetheless, the band moved forward as a trio, releasing singles in the ’90s, and albums in 2000 and 2014 of collected singles, demos, and unreleased recordings.


The Lost Highwaymen

Members: Hank Williams III, Ryan Adams, Willie Nelson, Keith Richards

Alright, it was more of a one-off super performance than an actual supergroup. But just the idea of this is enough to get your country music glands salivating. On April 14th, 2002 these four assembled to sing “Dead Flowers” by The Rolling Stones as part of a television special. Think if this group had actually officially formed and toured, it would have been quite epic in its day. And who knows, the Lost Highwaymen could ride again some time in the future.


Other Supergroups:

Unnamed: with Jason Isbell, Justin Townes Earle, Ryan Adams, Shooter Jennings. Even more hypothetical than actual than the Lost Highwaymen, this project was alluded to in a couple of interviews, but never got off the ground. Jason Isbell and Justin Townes Earle were good friends for a while, but had a falling out. Ryan Adams was supposed to produce Jason Isbell’s landmark album Southeastern, but due to a scheduling conflict, had to bow out. Dave Cobb who eventually produced Southeastern was good friends with Shooter Jennings and produced albums for him. Ultimately, it was a better idea on paper than in real life, but an interesting prospect for a supergroup nonetheless.

The Knitters: A play off of the folk band named The Weavers, this was a side project of the punk band ‘X’ that also incorporated Dave Alvin of The Blasters, and bassist Jonny Ray Bartel of The Red Devils. With Exene Cervenka, John Doe, and drummer DJ Bonebrake from ‘X’, it could be considered a supergroup. The Knitters were also super important for sparking the post punk move to roots music later embraced by Bloodshot Records and other insurgent country artists.

Our Native Daughters: Made up of founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops Rhiannon Giddens, solo artist and Birds of Chicago member Allison Russell, and solo performers Leyla McCalla and Amythyst Kiah, this collective of banjo-playing Black women worked to help retrace the African roots of American roots music.

Western Centuries: Made up of Cahalen Morrison who has quite a following all his own from his various country projects as both a frontman and collaborator, Ethan Lawton who is known for his earlier work in Zoe Muth and the Lost High Rollers, and Jim Miller who became known through his efforts with Donna the Buffalo, the band has released three critically-acclaimed albums. Jim Miller died in March of 2022, but Western Centuries has continued on.

The Local Memories:
Formed in 2015 by fiddle player Lucy B. Cochran, it included fellow graduates and attendees of the Berklee College of Music in Suzy Oleson, Maggie MacKay, Melissa Wright, as well as Jessica Lee (Wilkes, now divorced). Named after the Willie Nelson lyric, they released an EP on Bandcamp in 2014, but not much came of the project subsequently.


On The Bubble:

Some may consider The Outlaws of Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Jessi Colter, and Tompall Glaser a supergroup. But the 1976 album Wanted: The Outlaws was a compilation, and even though all the respective members performed with the other members at various times, they all never performed together under the “Outlaws” name.

Some may consider the Flying Burrito Brothers a supergroup when it was formed by Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons. But it’s probably better to consider as a splinter group of The Byrds as opposed to a bonafide supergroup, though that’s certainly open for interpretation.

Some consider the session musician The Million Dollar Band with Chet Atkins, Boots Randolph, Floyd Cramer, Charlie McCoy, Danny Davis, Jethro Burns, Roy Clark, and Johnny Gimble a supergroup. They performed on 27 Hee-Haw episodes, but never released an album, and never toured, so to some, they’re more indicative of a musician collective such as The Nashville A-Team or The Wrecking Crew as opposed to a supergroup.


Bluegrass:

There are so many bluegrass supergroups since the discipline lends so much to collaboration that it deserves its own deep dive at some point. But here are a few modern bluegrass supergroups worth checking out.

I’m With Her – Sara Watkins, Sarah Jarosz and Aoife O’Donovan
Sister Sadie –
Deanie Richardson and Gena Britt, with newer members
The Earls of Leicester –
Jerry Douglas-fronted supergroup
Strength in Numbers – Béla Fleck, Mark O’Connor, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas and Edgar Meyer
The Punch Brothers – Chris Thile, Gabe Witcher, Noam Pikelny, Chris Eldridge, and Paul Kowert
Run C&W –
Bernie Leadon, Vince Melamed, Jim Photoglo, Russell Smith

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