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Senior Year

Senior Year, 1986: Country's 'Great Credibility Scare'

by Cyndi Hoelzle

Senior Year, 1986: Country's 'Great Credibility Scare'

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In what Steve Earle later dubbed "The Great Credibility Scare," country radio opened its airwaves in 1986 to left-of-center debut artists like him, an impressive crew that also included Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Foster & Lloyd, k.d. lang and The O'Kanes.

Other debut acts that year were Randy Travis, Dwight Yoakam and Ricky Van Shelton, who took the genre solidly back to a more traditional sound. So if you were listening to a country station in 1986, you would hear Earle, Lovett and Yoakam, followed by Rosanne Cash, Kathy Mattea, George Jones, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Ricky Skaggs, John Anderson and The Judds.

It was a heady time. We were going to change the world. Or at least the stodgy world of country radio, which was still hanging on to the country pop sounds of the "urban cowboy" years. The new artists of '86 simultaneously paid tribute to the roots of country music while expanding its parameters. And while most of acts responsible for the Great Credibility Scare eventually had to leave the genre altogether to find success, those groundbreaking records lit the way, not only for the new traditionalists (like Alan Jackson and Clint Black) of 1989, but for the current crop of outlaw acts like Eric Church and Pistol Annies.

So let's take a trip back to 1986, when a bunch of young kids made the walls come tumblin' down.

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