The Real Reason You Don't Hear About These '90s Country Stars Anymore

The rise and fall of celebrities is inevitable, and '90s country stars are no exception. Even if country music isn't really your thing, if you're of a certain age you know that the '90s was quite the heyday for country music. The '90s is the decade when country music really went mainstream, thanks in part to expanded FM radio stations that allowed country music outside the bounds of the typical rural listeners on AM stations. Country music in the '90s even crossed into pop territory on occasion, paving the way for hitmakers like Taylor Swift and even for country rap. Yes, that's a thing that exists, and it became more popular during and after the '90s. In the '90s, suddenly country music wasn't just for cowboys and the people who loved them — it was for everyone. 

But while there are some country music stars from the '90s we still know and love (we're looking at you Reba and The Chicks), there are a ton of stars you loved in the '90s who you probably haven't heard from since. Here's the real reason you don't hear about these '90s country stars anymore.

'90s country star LeAnn Rimes garnered tabloid attention

In 1996, 13-year-old LeAnn Rimes made country fans of all ages take notice with her debut album, Blue. But just four years later, Rimes was in the headlines when she filed a lawsuit against her former manager, Lyle Walker, and her father, Wilbur Rimes, claiming they'd cheated her out of millions, as reported by MTV News. According to Billboard, the lawsuit against Walker was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2001, and Rimes soon attempted a pop crossover. But she didn't find the same amount of success, with Rolling Stone's Christian Hoard lamenting, "Let's hope Nashville will take her back, and quick."

A mostly unsuccessful pivot to movies and television followed, including serving as host for Nashville Star and for Country Showdown. While filming the movie Northern Lights in 2009, as noted by ABC News, Rimes made headlines again when her extramarital affair and subsequent separation from her husband became public. A renewed focus on recording new music and touring followed, but it may have been too much too soon. As reported by People, Rimes checked herself into treatment for anxiety and stress in 2012. 

So, what really happened to LeAnn Rimes since then? Well, while Rimes has continued to release music, her tabloid appearances have overshadowed her musical career, making her one '90s country star people don't hear from much.

Aaron Tippin is one '90s country star who's been busy

You couldn't turn on a radio station in the '90s without a very good chance of hearing the baritone Southern twang of country star Aaron Tippin. From the moment his debut album was released, Tippin's style and relatable lyrics resonated with folks. After the September 11th attacks, his single "Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly" was a crossover hit, resonating with people who weren't typically interested in country music (via Airport Journals). 

Unfortunately, those new fans didn't stick around, and the former professional pilot's popularity started to fade. After record label changes, he created his own label, Nippit Records. But it was short-lived, and Tippin signed to a new label and released an album of cover songs. Two more albums followed, one on yet another new label and the other back at Nippit, but Tippin never found the same musical success he'd experienced early in his career. Still, he's kept busy, opening the hunting supply stores Aaron Tippin Firearms, pursuing his passion for bodybuilding, dabbling in winemaking, and — of course — flying. All those hobbies are great for keeping him busy, but not so great for his music career.

Country star Lila McCann stayed in school

Country star Lila McCann was just 15 when her debut single, "Down Came a Blackbird," made her a household name. She followed up with "I Wanna Fall in Love," and it was an even bigger hit, pushing her album to platinum status. But McCann had a choice to make. She told MTV News in 2000, "I had the opportunity four years ago to go out and tour with the first record or stay in school. I chose to stay in school and finish with my schooling."

Whether or not that was the right decision, McCann's second and third albums didn't perform as well as her first, with the third album only netting her a single Billboard hit. She dropped from the spotlight until Billboard reported her move to a new label in 2004. As noted on her website, she took a break from music in 2008 to focus on family, a photography business, and real estate. 

She made a return to music in 2016, when she launched a PledgeMusic campaign to release her first album in nearly a decade. But soon enough it'd seem her personal life was, understandably so, a bigger priority. In June 2019, McCann posted a public coming-out on Instagram, revealing her marriage to "a woman who loves me unconditionally and stands beside me as my partner and my equal."

Country star Clay Walker battled MS away from the spotlight

All throughout the '90s, country star Clay Walker produced hit after hit. But right in the midst of all this, Walker was dealing with terrifying health issues. 

In 1996, the "Rumor Has It" singer was playing basketball with a friend when he started experiencing difficulty standing and double vision. Doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis (MS) at a time when little was known about the disease. At the time, Walker wrote for HuffPost, it was a "death sentence." But instead of just accepting it, he started doing research into the disease.

Despite his diagnosis (he went into remission in 2008), Walker stayed busy. In 2003, he created Band Against MS to educate and provide resources to people diagnosed with MS, and in 2008, he received a humanitarian award for all of his charitable work related to MS (via CMT). He did all this while still making music and raising a house full of kids. While you haven't heard as much about him, you haven't heard the last of Clay Walker. In 2020, he signed with Show Dog Records, and, in August 2020, released his single "Need a Bar Sometimes" off his 12th studio album.

Pam Tillis is one '90s country star who has music in her veins

As the daughter of legendary country singer-songwriter Mel Tillis, Pam Tillis made her debut at the Grand Ole Opry when she was just 8 years old, but it wasn't until the '90s that she found her own mainstream success as a country singer. But singing wasn't Tillis' only interest.

In 1993, she played a singer on an episode of L.A. Law, according to Orlando Sentinel, and returned to television acting in the late '90s, appearing on crossover episodes of Promised Land and Diagnosis: Murder in 1998 (via Entertainment Weekly). She branched out yet again in 1999, and joined the cast of Smokey Joe's Cafe on Broadway, as noted by Playbill. But her interest in acting didn't mean an end to her music, even if it did mean we stopped hearing about the '90s country star for a long time. Tillis released her first solo album in more than a decade in April 2020.

Lee Ann Womack hasn't had the support she needs as a country star

After her debut, Lee Ann Womack quickly rose in the ranks of country music, winning Top New Female Vocalist from the Academy of Country Music Awards in 1997 and Favorite Country New Artist at the American Music Awards in 1998. Then, Womack's 2001 single "I Hope You Dance" had huge crossover success leading to a pop-heavy sound on her 2002 album Something Worth Leaving Behind, as noted by Wide Open Country. Unfortunately, the album was a disappointment

In 2005, Womack went back to her country roots, releasing There's More Where That Came From, winning the Country Music Association's Album of the Year award, and things seemed to be looking up. But to stay relevant in the music industry, you have to keep making music, no matter how great your last album was. Unfortunately, Womack's next several releases were years apart and across multiple record labels, causing the country star to lose relevance and fade into obscurity. In a Rolling Stone interview published in early 2020, Womack pointed out that it's harder for women to get the consistent support they need in the industry. "Things have changed in the past, but they're not changing fast enough right now, if you ask me," she said, adding, "You just don't see women being supported."

Country star Tracy Lawrence had legal and label woes

There's platinum selling country artists and then there's Tracy Lawrence, the country powerhouse of the '90s who had two songs reach double-platinum status. In a review for Lawrence's fourth album, 1996's Time Marches On, music critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine called Lawrence "one of the most popular singers in Nashville." So what happened to him? 

In 1997, Lawrence faced charges after allegedly hitting his estranged wife, according to the Las Vegas Sun. The '90s country star was convicted of battery in 1998, and, according to Billboard, Lawrence's record company, Atlantic, suspended him from making music until he underwent counseling. In 2001, Atlantic closed their Nashville division and Lawrence began bouncing around record labels, first to Warner Bros., then DreamWorks Records Nashville, and then Mercury Nashville, before starting his own label, Rocky Comfort Records (via Billboard). But that wasn't the end of Lawrence's label woes. Financial trouble led him to close Rocky Comfort Records and start a second label, Lawrence Music Group, in 2011, but his success has been limited.

Country star Terri Clark faced an uphill battle

It isn't easy finding success in another country, but Canadian Terri Clark was determined to make it happen. After playing honky tonks in Nashville for some time, Clark broke onto the country music scene in 1995. Her first three albums were all certified platinum in both the United States and Canada, but the 2000s weren't as kind to Clark as the '90s had been. 

After being charged with drunk driving in 2001, as Billboard reported, Clark pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of reckless driving and lost her license for a year. The '90s country star had a brief career resurgence with 2004's "Girls Lie Too," but things went south again in 2007, when Clark's mother was diagnosed with cancer (she ultimately passed away in 2010). 

Though Clark has continued to do well in her native Canada, she has faced an uphill battle as a woman in the U.S. She told The Boot in 2018, "It's tough for women — especially a woman who's not 22 anymore." 

'90s country star Jo Dee Messina experienced personal struggles

Jo Dee Messina probably never thought a song about flipping a coin would land her in the spotlight, but her 1996 debut single, "Heads Carolina, Tails California," did just that. From there, she had a series of huge hits topped off with her best-selling 1998 album, I'm Alright, which reached double platinum status. 

In 2000, when many artists were transitioning to a more country-pop sound, Messina followed suit with her album Burn, and one day before the September 11th attacks, the '90s country star released the single "Bring on the Rain." According to The Boot, the song resonated with what Americans were feeling after the attacks, leading to a jump in her record sales. But after her 2005 album, Delicious Surprise, didn't perform well, Messina revealed her record company refused to release any of her new music for years.

After that recording contract was completed, Messina launched a Kickstarter for a new album and seemed to be on her way to a comeback. Unfortunately in 2017, she was diagnosed with cancer and took a step back from her career. Unfortunately that battle was further compounded by financial struggles and a split from her husband, but Messina has turned to her faith for comfort, as noted by The Boot. As of 2018, she was back in the studio working on new music.

Deana Carter has had a bittersweet journey as a country star

Country fans can't hear the words "strawberry wine" without thinking of Deana Carter and her bittersweet first taste of love. Unfortunately, her career has been a similar mixed bag. Though Carter's first album was hugely successful (selling over 5 million copies and being certified four times platinum), it was her only album to have that kind of success. 

Her second album only reached gold status, and then continuous changes at the country star's record label Capitol resulted in delays for her third album. Not to mention, it was paired with a tumultuous personal life, as reported by Nashville Scene. In 2001, she officially left Capitol, as reported by MTV News, and kicked off what would become several label changes. After releasing her album The Chain in 2007, she took time away from music to spend time with her son and get back to her faith. 

In 2013, she formed her own label, Little Nugget Records, and released Southern Way of Life. She told Billboard at the time, "If it doesn't succeed, I will go down smiling because I know I gave it everything I had, and if it does, I will stand up smiling because I gave it everything I had." Bittersweet.

Wynonna Judd's family drama got in the way of her country star success

After rising to fame alongside her mother, Naomi, as The Judds, Wynonna Judd made the shift to a successful solo career in the '90s. After three very successful solo albums, Judd's 1997 album The Other Side didn't perform well, with the fourth single from the album not charting at all, a first in Judd's career. 

With her music career seemingly in trouble, Judd released the memoir Coming Home to Myself, in which the '90s country star revealed some of her personal struggles. In 2007, her problems continued when she filed for divorce from her husband after he was arrested on sexual battery charges involving a child under 13, according to Reuters. Though she was able to move on and pursued another outlet on Dancing with the Stars in 2013, family drama was never far behind her.

Judd's daughter Grace Pauline Kelley was arrested on drug charges in 2017, as reported by Radar Online, ultimately leading to jail time after she violated her probation. Kelley was released from prison early after serving two years of her eight-year sentence. Since her daughter's legal troubles, Judd has become an advocate for criminal justice reform, putting her music career on the back burner.

Country star Paul Brandt is a Canadian darling

In 1996, Paul Brandt, with his cowboy hat and deep voice, came onto the scene with the hit single "My Heart Has a History," which peaked at No. 5 in the U.S. and No. 1 in Canada. It was the first song to chart by a male Canadian country artist on the U.S. charts since the '70s. His debut album, Calm Before the Storm, included several more hits and was certified gold in the U.S., but his second and third albums never even achieved gold status in the U.S., despite going platinum and gold, respectively, in Canada

In 2000, Brandt released a greatest hits album, but only in Canada. He then decided to branch out and start his own music label, Brand-T Records. Every record released on Brand-T records has had huge success in Canada, earning some sort of Album of the Year award each time. So why haven't you heard of this '90s country star in years? As noted by Vice, Canadian stars have to "pay to play" in the U.S. and it gets expensive, so Brandt's success has been mostly limited to Canada.

Patty Loveless went through the ringer as a country star

Patty Loveless was no stranger to the music scene long before the '90s, but it was after her 1992 throat surgery and a new record deal with Epic Records that she found the most commercial success. 

When the country music scene started to pivot from traditional country ballads to flashy performances from the likes of Shania Twain and Faith Hill, Loveless pivoted too, releasing a bluegrass style album in 2001 called Mountain Soul. The album didn't fare as well commercially as her previous albums, never even reaching gold status, and in 2003 Loveless released On Your Way Home, a more traditional country album that fared a bit better and included a hit single of the same name. 

But when Epic Records shut down its Nashville division in 2005, she was released from the label, kickstarting a turbulent period in which her mother-in-law died, her brother had a stroke, and her mother passed away. In 2008, she told Country Universe that with everything happening with her family, she decided it was time for a break. Sadly, since returning from her break, she's never found the same commercial success she had as a '90s country star.

'90s country star John Michael Montgomery was waylaid by addiction and illness

Life's a dance, and '90s country star John Michael Montgomery knows that sometimes you lead and, well, sometimes you follow. Bursting onto the country scene in 1992 with his album Life's a Dance, Montgomery was a star from the beginning. His first three albums were all certified multi-platinum, selling millions of copies. But then something changed. 

His fourth album didn't produce a No. 1 hit, and his record sales started a steady decline over the next several years. In 2006, Montgomery was arrested on alcohol, drug, and weapons charges after police in Kentucky pulled him over. Then in 2008, CMT reported he checked himself into rehab. Later that year, he released the album, Time Flies, on his own record label, Stringtown Records, but it was his last album release to date

He's continued touring over the years, but has had limited success exacerbated by several illnesses and surgeries that led to live show cancellations.