Country music has long lent itself to harmonizing and verse-swapping duos, from family singing group Fiddlin' John Carson and Moonshine Kate to the super-polarizing yet super-successful pair Florida Georgia Line.
Some of the best pairings of the past 50 years teamed Nashville stars together to translate undeniable in-studio chemistry into even more hits. Others, such as Brooks & Dunn, allowed great talents with meager success as solo artists a piece of the spotlight.
Read on for 10 of the best duos that upped two stars' creative output and commercial success. With one exception, superstar team-ups got preference over more permanent arrangements from historic power couples such as Wilma Lee and Stoney Cooper and current pairings such as Dan + Shay.
Johnny Cash and June Carter
Take away the classic story of love and redemption at the heart of Johnny and June’s relationship and they’d still belong on this list, if only for one of country music’s most beloved hits, “Jackson.” Beyond that, their working and personal relationship may have started a trend of established names teaming up to better each other’s music.
Ernest Tubb and Loretta Lynn
Loretta Lynn wanted (and deserved) superstardom, not the limiting role of a “girl singer” that she filled as part of the Wilburn Brothers’ television show. Even if Ernest Tubb teamed with Lynn as a wise business decision, their three duet albums from the '60s lent a legend’s endorsement to a fast-rising and trailblazing career.
Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton
This classic duo might be better known now for its acrimonious split resulting from Dolly Parton outgrowing her supporting role on The Porter Wagoner Show. Before things got litigious, however, 10 of the award-winning pair’s 12 collaborative albums released between 1968 and 1975 cracked the Top 10.
George Jones and Tammy Wynette
George Jones’ duet partners, from Melba Montgomery and Margie Singleton to Alan Jackson and Patty Loveless, could be a list unto themselves. If ranked, though, those pairings would all take a backseat to Jones fan-turned-spouse and business partner Tammy Wynette. As with prior examples, the pair’s chart history speaks for itself: They cranked out hit singles between 1971 and 1980, and reunited for what ended up being Wynette’s final studio album, 1995’s One.
Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty
After both Lynn and Conway Twitty ended the '60s as critically praised and commercially successful solo artists, they hitched their metaphorical wagons to each other's for a lucrative and well-aged run as duet partners. Eight straight Top 10 albums between 1971 and 1978, featuring five consecutive no. 1 singles, solidified Lynn and Twitty as top-notch entertainers. Better yet, their pairing brought us one of country music's all-time great B-sides, the hilarious “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.”
Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings
Willie Nelson just might top George Jones when it comes to the quantity and quality of his duet partners. Nelson’s cross-genre list of collaborators has ranged over the years from Julio Iglesias to Kacey Musgraves, yet only the team of “Willie, Waylon and the boys” helps define an entire decade for country music fans.
Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers
Two crossover stars at their pop-accessible peak furthered their own legacies with the 1983 classic “Islands in the Stream.” It wasn’t a one-off pairing, however, as “You Can’t Make Old Friends” and other classics help solidify Parton and Kenny Rogers as country music’s platonic power couple of the '80s.
Although Brooks & Dunn operate as a permanent group and not an occasional pairing, they fit this list as a unit able to elevate two great talents. Unlike other examples here, neither was a Hall of Fame shoo-in before teaming up. Separately, Kix Brooks was a respected songwriter within industry circles, while Ronnie Dunn’s now-iconic voice only netted him a couple of minor hits as a solo artist. Together, though, they found themselves atop the heap within the fiscally successful and fiercely competitive landscape of '90s country.
Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood
This future married couple’s working relationship dates back over 30 years, to when Trisha Yearwood sang backup vocals on Garth Brooks’ self-titled debut album. Their status as all-time great duet partners, however, didn't came until 1997, when they released “In Another’s Eyes.” Yearwood and Brooks uplifted each other in-studio as recently as 2019 with yet another fine duet, “What Gave Me Away.”
Faith Hill and Tim McGraw
From a fan’s perspective, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw seem so right as marriage partners, parents and in-studio collaborators. The couple might’ve made this list if they stopped with their first duet, 1997’s “It’s Your Love,” but the palpable passion heard in that song carried over to quite a few others, including their first-ever collaborative album, 2017’s The Rest of Our Life.