Country music is ever-changing and there are always new stars emerging, but one of its most appealing features to many fans is that careers are often not fleeting in the genre. In country music, stars are able to have decade-long careers and adapt to changes in the music and have fans remain loyal whereas in other genres it seems a lot of stars are only big for a year or so before being forgotten. The ’90s were a great time in country music, and a lot of women in country music made waves, and while some stuck around, for some reason or another there are many we have already forgotten about. Check out 13 of the biggest female country music stars from the ’90s and where they are now!
13. Suzy Boggus
Suzy Bogguss was living in the spotlight in the ’90s. During the decade she had six songs become top ten hits and three albums achieve gold status, and it all kicked off with the release of her third studio album Aces which went platinum in 1991. Her hit “Hey Cinderella” from her album Voices in the Wind became one of the ’90s biggest girl power anthems in country music, but in the mid-90s she already detracted herself from the whirlwind of fame to focus on her family. By the end of the ’90s, things were starting to fall apart for Bogguss after her seventh and eighth albums performed so poorly in sales that she was released from her record label, Capitol. In 2001, the singer founded her own label, Loyal Duchess Records, and has continued to make music, and in 2016 she honored the 25 year anniversary of the release of her biggest album, Aces with the release of a re-imagined and re-recorded version of the album called Aces Redux. As she has continued to make and release music, Bogguss hasn’t been able to recapture the mainstream success she found in the ’90s.
12. Mary Chapin Carpenter
Mary Chapin Carpenter’s success began in the late ’80s when after years of singing in bars she was finally signed to Columbia Records. Following her signing, her 1992 album Come On Come On became her most successful album to date as it went quadruple platinum. If that wasn’t big enough the ’90s proved to be Carpenter’s time when she won four consecutive Grammy awards for Best Female Country Vocal Performance from 1992 to 1995! In 2001, after a five-year break from releasing new music, Carpenter released the album Time*Sex*Love and its departure from country marked her departure from country music stardom. Now, Carpenter still releases music but it is still much less country as she explores other genres. In 2013, she announced she would be releasing her debut orchestral recording. She released an album in 2018 and another in 2020, titled The Dirt and the Stars.
11. Iris DeMent
Iris DeMent was one of the biggest female artists of the decade with her 1996 single “Letter to Mom.” The song about sending power to victims of sexual abuse was way ahead of its time, and it became one of the genre’s most powerful anthems. Despite her success at the time, it failed to follow through her whole career and DeMent has fallen off the radar of many country music fans. In 2015, DeMent released her most recent album, The Trackless Woods, and her style has evolved from strictly country, so it isn’t surprising she isn’t remembered or known by many of today’s country music fans.
10. Patty Loveless
Patty Loveless first broke into the country music scene in 1986 with the release of her first self-titled album. From there she ruled the ’90s with her albums Honky Tonk Angel, On Down the Line, and more plus a greatest hits album! Despite her hits, Loveless began to worry about her career not taking off the same when compared to Reba McEntire, Trisha Yearwood and Wynonna Judd, and her manager worked to get her out of her contract with MCA records. Then, in 1992 Loveless had to undergo throat surgery, which left her with a different, deeper voice. By the early 2000s, her momentum had slowed and Loveless made the decision to cut herself out of traditional and mainstream country and made a completely bluegrass album. Now, Loveless no longer performs on a regular basis and has only made special appearances as she focuses on her family in Dallas, Georgia and enjoys her retirement.
9. Kelly Willis
Kelly Willis really was a woman of the ’90s as her debut album with MCA Records was released in 1990. Her song “Little Honey” was featured in 1991’s Thelma and Louise, and things were looking up, but much like Patty Loveless, she felt that MCA wasn’t doing enough to promote her and her music. Now, what country fans do remember of Willis’ career is her 1999 song album “What I Deserve” which was heavily covered because it was about her tumultuous history with MCA. The 2000s brought a slow-down to her career, and now she is not often heard from. Willis has welcomed son Deral Otis, 17, Abigail and Benjamin, 15, and Joseph, 12, but it seems she is back to focusing on music as 2018 will bring her first solo record in 11 years after releasing two albums with her now ex-husband, singer-songwriter Bruce Robison.
8. Kathy Mattea
Although Kathy Mattea’s career began in the ’80s, her breakthrough didn’t come until late in the decade and the ’90s brought her greatest hits album and several more top ten hits including “Walking Away a Winner.” In the early 2000s Mattea took time off to care for her ailing father, and when she returned she changed her sound, moving more into a contemporary Celtic sound than country. She released an album in 2014 of mostly bluegrass and coal-mining themed songs called “Calling Me Home.” Her most recent album was in 2018 when she released another album called “Pretty Bird.”
It took a long time for SHeDAISY to get their music out after starting as The Osborn Sisters and signing to RCA records in 1989. After their album with RCA got scrapped they signed to Lyric Street Records as SHeDAISY and in 1999 released their debut album The Whole SHeBang. They shot to stardom with singles such as “Little Good-Byes,” “This Woman Needs,” and “I Will…But;” however, they quickly slipped away. Although they continued to make music, they never reached the success of their first album again, and were quickly eclipsed by other country music stars. They have released five studio albums, but seem to have gone dormant as of 2011. Kristyn Robyn Osborn, Kelsi Marie Osborn and Kassidy Lorraine Osborne are all now in their mid-fifties.
6. Pam Tillis
Back in the early ’90s, Pam Tillis hit it huge with five singles off of her album Put Yourself in My Place; however, her only one to reach No.1 was 1995’s “Mi Vida Loca (My Crazy Life).” Tillis rapidly fell from the spotlight and her last album with Arista Records in 2001 only charted one song which then only reached 22. In the early 2000s, she signed to Sony Music/Epic Records and one of her most recent releases was 2012’s Recollection which featured 14 of her songs from her Arista days re-recorded. For many years Tillis, now 65-years-old, laid low in her Nashville home, however she released her fourteeth studio album, Looking for a Feeling, in 2020.
5. Chely Wright
Chely Wright burst on to the music scene after her debut album in 1994 which garnered her the ACM Award for Top New Female Vocalist in 1995. She is best known for her tracks “Shut Up and Drive” and “Single White Female,” and although she was huge in the ’90s, her music career has fallen by the wayside now. She made headlines again when in May 2010 she became one of the first major country stars to publicly come out as a lesbian. In 2014 she launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund her eighth studio album and fans supported her so much it became the most successful campaign in country music. It raised enough to record and promote a new album and to produce a music video which were released in 2016 under the title I Am the Rain. In 2011, a documentary filmed over three years about her coming out entitled Wish Me Away was also released.
4. Jo Dee Messina
In 1996, Jo Dee Messina entered country music with her self-titled debut album which included the single “Heads Carolina, Tails California.” Her second album in 1998 also produced three No.1 singles; however, as she continued to release music through the early 2000s, and after only minor hits and singles that failed to chart, her career faltered which included a rehab stint in 2004. In 2012 she appeared on Real Housewives of Atlanta, working with the show’s cast member Kandi Burruss on writing a song as Burruss tried to start a country music career. In 2013 she also created a Kickstarter campaign and released the full album Me in 2014 and she began working on her EP “Masquerade” but her plans for release got derailed after she was diagnosed with cancer in 2017. She never specified the cancer, but after treatments she began touring again in 2018.
3. Mindy McCready
Mindy McCready’s story is one of the most tragic in the country music industry as her troubled personal life soon eclipsed her professional success. Her first few albums created many high-charting singles; however, her 1999 album “I’m Not So Tough” was deemed a failure and she was dropped from her record label. She then signed to Capitol and after disappointing sales from her first album with them, they also dropped her. Quickly her personal life was making the headlines which included her appearance on Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew in 2009 for her battle with substance addiction. After a serious domestic violence incident in 2005, McCready attempted suicide and after recovering and getting back together with her abusive boyfriend she attempted suicide again while pregnant with their child. After a couple more attempts, her second son’s father, David Wilson, was found dead in January 2013 of suicide and one month later on February 17, 2013, at the age of 37, McCready was found dead on her front porch of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, in the same place Wilson was found. Given her personal state, both of her sons had been in foster care for some time before her death.
2. Lorrie Morgan
1990 saw Lorrie Morgan’s first No.1 single with “Five Minutes,” and her second album “Something in Red” was released in 1991 and went platinum. The 90s were huge for the country star with many singles, accolades and a high-profile romantic life, but her last number one single “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength” was released in 1995. Although she continued making records and releasing singles, the same success did not follow. In 2008 she filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and released her 15th studio album Come See Me and Come Lonely in 2017 with Pam Tillis. Morgan has now been married six times at the age of 63, and her most recent wedding was in September 2010 to businessman Randy White.
1. Deana Carter
Deana Carter’s big break came in 1996 with her debut album Did I Shave My Legs For This? and her debut single “Strawberry Wine” is still a well known country classic. She gained further attention after singing on the soundtrack to the 1997 animated film Anastasia with the song “Once Upon a December.” When her second album Everything’s Gonna Be Alright didn’t do as well as her first, things started to slip a little which created several year gaps in which she didn’t release any new music. After releasing her 2007 album, Carter took time off from music in order to spend time with her son, and was recognized for co-writing Kenny Chesney’s 2010 single “You and Tequila.” In 2013 she formed her own record label dubbed Little Nugget Records, and in December of that year released her seventh studio album Southern Way of Life, but at 50, has not released any music since.