Known for producing some of the greatest breakup songs of all time, the country music genre has often been the go-to for sad saps with broken hearts who want to wallow in their sorrow (or in a tall glass of their favorite beer).
But if you look closely into the world of country music, you will find that while most of its artists sing of heartache, many have been able to find long-lasting love (most times with another performer).
While Hollywood couples have the reputation for breaking up before the ink has dried on the marriage license (hello, Kim Kardashian), it turns out that Nashville has actually proved to be a great starting ground for a solid celebrity union. In honor of the upcoming 50th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in Arlington, after much research (and several visits to the CMT website), we present a list of some of our favorite country music duos — as well as the stories of how they fell in love.
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
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Years married: 35 years (until her death in 2003)
Their love story: Considered one of country music’s greatest love stories, Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash met backstage at the Grand Ole Opry in 1956. A fan of Carter and her family since he was a child, Cash was immediately besotted with his future wife. Despite the instant attraction between them, the pair wouldn’t make it down the aisle until more than a decade later when they wed in Franklin, Ky., in 1968.
The nuptials came just one week after Cash had proposed to Carter onstage in London, Ontario. In 1970, the couple welcomed a baby boy named John Carter Cash to their blended family (both had daughters from their previous marriages).
Over the years, the two were frequent collaborators and sang together on hits like It Ain’t Me Babe and Jackson. In 2003, they died just four months apart and were buried side by side in a plot in Hendersonville, Tenn. Despite their passing more than a decade ago, the couple’s love story (as well as their music) has continued to be shared with new generations through posthumous CD releases and films.
Words from the heart: This past Valentine’s Day, Rolling Stone magazine ran a story regarding a recent British poll that declared the letter Cash wrote to his wife on her 65th birthday as the greatest love letter of all time. “You still fascinate me. You influence me for the better,” Cash wrote. “You’re the object of my desire, the #1 Earthly reason for my existence.”
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw
Years married: 18 years
Their love story: In both their careers and their relationship, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw have long been viewed as one of most successful couples in country music history. The musical duo first met briefly at a new artists showcase in 1995 but didn’t become romantically involved until they went on tour together a year later. In an interview on Larry King Live in 2006, Hill described the chemistry as instant.
Like other couples on this list, the relationship moved fast and the pair were married on Oct. 6, 1996 in Rayville, La. Then in December, it was announced that Hill was expecting a child (the first of the couple’s three daughters).
While both have found fame individually, Hill and McGraw have become a musical force together, producing a string of hit duets that includes It’s Your Love, I Need You and Let’s Make Love. Capitalizing on their popularity as a couple, McGraw and Hill took their act on the road in 2000 for the Soul2Soul tour, then followed up in 2006 with the Soul2Soul II tour. Thanks to the major success of the tours, the couple were eventually given residency at The Venetian in Las Vegas. In 2015, McGraw and Hill continued their success as a duet powerhouse with two Grammy nominations for their latest collaboration, Meanwhile Back at Mama’s.
Words from the heart: In 2014, McGraw spoke with E! Online about how the country couple have managed to make their relationship work under the glare of the spotlight. “I think, for us, being as normal as possible and raising our family and being in a family situation as much as possible. ... Certainly it’s different because of what we both do, but we try to keep it as much of a family environment that we can,” McGraw said.
Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton
Years married: Almost four years
Their love story: Still in the honeymoon phase of their marriage, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton have quite a way to go before they reach the matrimonial status of some of the other couples on this list. However, fans of the fun-loving couple are confident they’ve got what it takes to go the distance.
In 2005, the country crooners were merely acquaintances when they teamed up to sing You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma for the CMT special 100 Greatest Duets. Six years later, Lambert and Shelton were crazy in love when they got hitched at the Don Strange Ranch in Boerne on May 14, 2011. With a reputation for being one of the most down-to-earth couples in show business, the avid hunters proudly served venison that they had harvested for the occasion.
In the three years since their Southern-style wedding, the couple has continued to dominate the country-music world (and the hearts of many) all while hand in hand.
Words from the heart: When you’re a Grammy Award winner like Lambert, it is hard to imagine that life could ever be bad. It turns out, however, that even country superstars have their down days. Luckily for Lambert, she has her life partner to lean on. “I’m not sunshine and roses. Blake’s the happiest person on the planet,” Lambert said in an interview with Marie Claire in January. “He pulls me out of my darkness. ... Everything is the best about being married.”
Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black
Years married: 23 years
Their love story: When Clint Black and Lisa Hartman Black first met, neither was looking for a potential partner. Black wasn’t sure that his hectic work schedule could accommodate the needs of someone else, while Hartman Black had become comfortable with the idea of living a life free of marriage and children.
That all changed when the two crossed paths backstage after Black’s New Year’s Eve concert in 1990. To their surprise, they had an immediate connection and were married a little less than 10 months later (on Oct. 20, 1991) at Black’s 180-acre farm outside of Houston.
Like most of the couples on our list, Black and Hartman Black put their union to good use by teaming up on a duet. Written by Black about their marriage, the song When I Said I Do was an instant hit and garnered the couple the award for Vocal Event of the Year at the Academy of Country Music Awards in 1999.
The good times continued to roll for the couple, as they welcomed a daughter, named Lily Pearl, in 2001. Since then, the multi-talented Blacks have continued to balance successful careers in both music and television.
Words from the heart: In August 1992, almost two years after the couple exchanged vows, People magazine caught up with the pair to see how they were managing to juggle the demand of their personal and professional lives. In the interview, Hartman Black shared the marital advice that cowboy legend Roy Rogers had shared with the couple before their wedding. “He told us to never go to bed angry,” she said. “As Roy Rogers, and as cowboy as it may seem, it really is important.”
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
Years married: Nine years
Their love story: While they’ve only been married for a little under a decade, Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood were friends long before they took to the plunge into matrimony. The talented couple first met in Nashville in the mid-’80s when they were both struggling to make it as demo singers. When Brooks found success with his self-titled album in 1989, he invited Yearwood to join him as the opening act on his tour.
In the years that followed, Brooks and Yearwood would find massive success both individually and together.
In May 2005, Brooks proposed to Yearwood in front of a crowd of 7,000 people in Bakersfield, Calif. They married later that year in a private ceremony at their home in Owasso, Okla.
Since exchanging vows almost a decade ago, Brooks has come out of musical retirement and Yearwood has expanded outside of music with ventures in food, home decor and fashion. This year, the busy couple has embarked on a worldwide tour and will be releasing a Christmas duets album.
Words from the heart: With such a hectic schedule that includes interviews, touring and studio time, you might wonder just how Brooks and Yearwood keep it together without falling apart. Turns out, the answer is each other. “I’m definitely the happiest I’ve ever been in my life,” Yearwood said in a recent interview with Entertainment Tonight. “You find what makes you happy and it’s usually being with the person you want to be with.”
Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock
Years married: 25 years
Their love story: Not all country music love stories are born between two performers. In the case of Reba McEntire and Narvel Blackstock, love can also blossom between singer and manager.
In 1980, Fort Worth native Blackstock was hired as a steel guitar player for McEntire’s band. As McEntire’s career soared, her relationship with Blackstock remained professional and he was promoted to tour manager in 1984.
Then in 1987, McEntire’s first marriage, to Charlies Battles, began to unravel. Battles, along with McEntire’s management, felt like the singer had peaked and that she should discontinue her career. McEntire, however, had different plans.
After her divorce, McEntire moved to Nashville, fired her management and then asked Blackstock to be her new manager. With a strong work relationship between them, things would soon turn to romance.
The musical duo married on June 3, 1989, on a boat on Lake Tahoe. With their union, McEntire gained three stepchildren (Brandon, Shawna and Chassidy), all from Blackstock’s first marriage. Shortly after being married, Blackstock and McEntire welcomed a little boy named Shelby. Since then, the Blackstock-McEntire clan has continued to grow, with the most recent addition being granddaughter River Rose Blackstock (the daughter of eldest son Brandon and singer Kelly Clarkson).
Words from the heart: While mixing personal life with work life can be tricky, McEntire and Blackstock have seemed to find just the right balance to making it all work. In a 2012 episode of Oprah’s Master Class, McEntire shared her thoughts on the secret to their long-lasting love. “The key to our relationship being so successful is that we both have respect for each other,” McEntire said. “We’ve both been married before. We know what not to do. We’ve learned from our mistakes.”
Country music week!
Monday: Movies for fans of C&W tunes
Today: Country power couples’ lasting love
Wednesday: Recipes from Trisha Yearwood’s latest cookbook
Thursday: DFW’s place in country music
Friday: Your guide to the ACMs in Arlington
Saturday: Deciphering the “denim and diamonds” dress code
Sunday: Celebrating the Stetson’s 150th anniversary
50th annual Academy of Country Music Awards
Live broadcast from AT&T Stadium, Arlington
▪ 7 p.m. Sunday
▪ CBS/Channel 11
▪ For information on tickets and events, visit www.acmcountry.com.