December 31 – This Day in Country Music

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Born on this day in Roswell, New Mexico, was John Denver (Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.), singer, songwriter, activist, and humanitarian. Denver recorded and released over 300 songs, earning him 12 gold and 4 platinum albums with his signature songs “Sunshine on My Shoulders”, “Take Me Home, Country Roads”, “Leaving on a Jet Plane”, “Rocky Mountain High”, “Annie’s Song” and “Calypso”. Denver was killed on October 12, 1997 at the age of 53 when his experimental Rutan Long-EZ plane, crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Pacific Grove, California.

1952
Hank Williams was scheduled to perform at the Municipal Auditorium in Charleston, West Virginia but due to an ice storm in the Nashville area, Williams could not fly, so he hired Charles Carr, to drive him to the concert. When they arrived at the Andrew Johnson Hotel in Knoxville, Tennessee, Williams complained of feeling unwell and saw a doctor. Carr and Williams checked out of the hotel, and at around midnight in Bristol, Virginia, Carr stopped at a small all-night restaurant and asked Williams if he wanted to eat. Williams said he did not, and those are believed to be his last words. Carr later stopped for fuel at a gas station in Oak Hill, West Virginia, where he realized that Williams was dead.

1977
Dolly Parton’s “Here You Come Again” spent its fifth week at #1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. It would be the last song to spend that long atop the chart until 1990’s “Love Without End, Amen” by George Strait.

1995
The Great American Country TV channel was launched with Garth Brooks’ video “The Thunder Rolls” as the first video.

2002
Shania Twain was at #1 on the US Country chart with her fourth studio album Up! The album debuted at #1 on both the Top Country Albums chart and the Billboard 200, after selling 874,000 copies in its first full week of release, it then stayed in the Top 100 of the Billboard chart for more than 60 weeks.

2017
Luke Bryan was at #1 on the Country Charts with What Makes You Country his sixth studio album. The album includes the singles “Light It Up”, “Most People Are Good”, “Sunrise, Sunburn, Sunset”. and the title track.