Thursday, 15 July 2021 01:35


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I have mentioned the Class Of 1989 here many times.  You may know about it, or you may be hearing about it for the first time.  That year was huge for country, but it also set the stage for the next two or three years that followed, that then became a decade, and in turn became way more.  It made it possible for a whole lot of new artists to be introduced and make the 1990's a decade like this format has never seen. We are still enjoying he success of 1989.

1989 - Happened Because Of What A Few Started Early In The 80's


It actually was a year of about 1,500 days, or so it seemed, above the normal 365.  I was doing mornings at KLIK in Jefferson City, Missouri, solidly number one in 1989, and spent the 1990's doing mornings at WPCV in Lakeland, Florida where we were the 5th highest rated radio station in America for a lot of it. And the music was a big part of it, so new and exciting at the time.  What a time!

Travis Tritt Was Instantly Loved With This Gem


1989 brought us these artists.  Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Alan Jackson, and Travis Tritt at its nucleus.  Countless number ones between them, and they brought a whole new image to country.  But as magical as this class and year was and is, what happened before them set the stage for them, and what happened after their arrival was a result of them.   They took what had been started and gave it a new and real image, plus a shot of adrenaline and made us all take notice. We now had stars who were the total package.  Country music is a series of doors that a group of artists opens  - that leads to other doors being opened, and so on. That's part of its evolution and history.

Garth - Took All That Had Been Started And Made It Bigger


I have always felt how 1989 happened, actually started in 1981 when a seismic music shift was just beginning.  Country was older, and in a pop country phase that was not overly friendly -  or really liked by "real country" listeners. Alabama was accepted by all kinds of fans, George Strait was loved as was Hank Jr. , John Anderson, Ricky Skaggs and Reba.  Earl Thomas Conley was quietly influencing many future stars with his new brand of country.  The Judds too around 1983 were very popular.  These artists opened a new door to a new sound that listeners were starting to respond to.  But there was still a big presence of Urban Cowboy style, and pop in the format that I felt was really holding us back.

Alabama -  Helped Start A Big Shift In Country Early 80's


Then came the class of 1986. I have always felt this class deserves a whole lot more credit than they get and for the class of 1989. Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakum, Keith Whitley, Patty Loveless, and Holly Dunn became stars. They were all traditionalists and joined Strait, The Judds, Reba, Conley and Alabama and now the stage was set.  We were now selling millions of albums, not thousands, and the door was about to be kicked in.  Mainly because the "real country" fans were now becoming energized, especially with the youth of Travis and Yoakum, and we started to say good bye to many older country icons and pop country artists from the charts as their doors started to close, the Neo-Traditionalists were opening newer doors. The shift was on.

Randy Travis Was Still Riding High In 1989 With This


Then, 1989, a boom that no format had really ever seen. Garth, Clint, Alan and Travis.  Newer and more exciting and powerful stage shows, record album sales, millions of new fans, great videos, more TV than ever and a popularity boom that was as fast as a rocket.  It was all started off with Clint Black's first single, Better Man from his Killin' Time album in February, and Garths, self titled album in April.  Alan and Travis followed very late in the year into 1990.  Clint Black was highly instrumental in the rapid forward motion of the genre.  Killin' Time is a very important album in our history.  Not only did it sell a ton, it is flat out great, it really was an accelerator for country.   Every country fan should own it.  Garths debut album too.

Killin' Time - An Important Song And Album In Our History


The gift these artists gave us was a door kicked open so wide that a flood of new artists stampeded through at an unbelievable pace. This class was so influential on new acts, on the Nashville brass, and on long time and newer listeners, we had never had this before.  The early albums by these icons of 1989, are among the best country albums ever recorded. They expanded the groundwork that had been laid for them and took it all to the next level. This was the moment we had all been waiting for, but it was going to be even better than we could have hoped.

Alan Jackson - This Song And Album Made Him A Star In The Blink Of An Eye!


Think about the 90's for a second  - and who followed the incredible 1989 class in the early to mid 1990's.  Brooks And Dunn, Tim McGraw, Shania, Joe Diffie, Tracy Lawrence, Terri Clark, Pam Tillis, Billy Ray Cyrus, Faith Hill, Mark Chesnutt, Doug Stone, Martina McBride, Lonestar, Trisha Yearwood, Blackhawk, JoDee Messina, Billy Dean, Deana Carter, Tracy Byrd, and countless others that gave us a remarkable and much loved decade.  Artists with great careers that had tons of really big songs for a long time.  They joined the class of '89 and some from '86, and some still from '81, and now we were THE force in music.  And we still are.

Shania - The 1990's!


The class of 1989 forever changed the image of country and were a pivotal puzzle piece finally found and made us popular and accessible to all music lovers.  The gift they gave all of us was the further unleashing a remarkable musical evolution that had been a long time in the making.  The door they opened is still open and our popularity has never looked back.

It was the most magical of musical years.

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