188. Power Ranking Country Music’s Two-First-Namers

Never trust a man with two first names.  


What’s your country music stagename?

[Your favorite book of the Gospels]
[First name of a character John Wayne played]

That’s all it takes. Mine’s Matt Cole, and he’s coming at you with his new single “Chasin’,” about chasing shots, girls and his dog.

I set out to find the ultimate TFN in country music today. To do this, I set up a few parameters.

Primarily, they must be active and contemporary. I agonized over whether to include Garth, but I ultimately excluded him because of his extended irrelevance. He’d be in the top 5, though.

I also followed this rigorous and thoroughly testeda scoring system.

The scoring system

1 point = Scoring a No. 1 country hit

5 points = Using your original surname

Name Popularity Points = I judged each artist on the popularity of their surname as a given name. To do this, I looked at a name’s peak popularity on Baby Name Wizard.

They measure in terms of per million babies, and I divided that number by 100. This rewards the Luke Bryans more than the Keith Urbans.b

For instance, in the 1940s, “Allan” peaked at 600 per million babies, so Gary Allan got a 6-point boost. He didn’t, however, qualify for the real name bonus, since his original surname is Herzberg.

Here’s the chart. Below it are some thoughts.

The Country Music Two-First-Namer Power Rankings

Alan Jackson 25 Yes 31.5 61.5
Toby Keith 20 No (Covel) 29.2 49.2
Randy Travis 16 No (Traywick) 27.3 33.3
Luke Bryan 5 Yes 21.3 31.3
Chase Bryant 0 Yes 25.6 30.6
Jake Owen 2 Yes 21.9 28.9
Michael Ray 0 Yes 15.5 25.5
Keith Urban 14 Yes .44 19.44
Brantley Gilbert 3 Yes 8.3 16.3
Thomas Rhett 0 No (Akins) 13.2 13.2
Easton Corbin 2 Yes 4.3 11.3
Josh Turner 4 Yes .68 10.68
Gary Allan 4 No (Herzberg) 6.0 10
Lee Brice 1 Yes .83 6.83
Craig Morgan 1 No (Greer) 2.5 3.5


  • Alan Jackson, who shares my birthday, is far away the clear winner. His hit-making longevity and the fact that he doesn’t have a stage name put him over the top, and it wasn’t particularly close.
  • Michael Ray just needs 35 No. 1 hits to compete with Alan Jackson. He might get started soon — “Kiss You In The Morning” is storming up the charts as I write this.
  • Chase Bryant is far too high, and the clear beneficiary of a popular last name. He also reminds me that we could have similar success playing this game with NBA players — Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Michael Jordan, etc.

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