The talented hunks of country music


So what is it with male country music stars these days?

It's as though there's a requirement that they be drop-dead gorgeous.

Even if you aren't into country music, there's no escaping these lean, lanky hunks whose handsome faces can be found on television, magazines and newspapers everywhere.

"They are fabulous entertainers and great singers," insists Sheila Silverstein, who works in the promotions department for WPOC, Baltimore's country radio station.

But, she admits, great looks do help to sell records. This is, after all, the age of the video. "I bet a lot of ladies buy the records because they like what they see."

This is a new breed of country star, who look as good as they sound.

"People like Merle Haggard had a kind of rough look," says Ms. Silverstein comparing the old-timers with the new guys on the block. "They sure didn't look like this!"

She's not above a little gushing over the good looking guys, herself. "Have you seen that new one?" she asks. "Doesn't he look like George Michael?"

That new one is Billy Ray Cyrus. He hit the big time with his first single "Achy Breaky Heart" from his "Some Gave All" album -- currently No. 1 on Billboard's "Hot 200" chart.

To be sure, Mr. Cyrus' followers aren't limited to country music fans. For example, at Tully's -- a restaurant and club on Bel Air Road that features country music on Wednesday nights only -- "Achy Breaky Heart plays about 100 times a night," jokes manager and co-owner Sandy Lang.

Just in case you've been holed up in Siberia, here's an unofficial and completely irreverent sampling of the country music hunks whose songs are filling the airwaves -- and whom everyone is talking about.

Hunk No. 1: Billy Ray Cyrus. A 30-year-old former car salesman turned country music phenomenon. Earlier this summer, the Kentucky native inspired the Achy Breaky Heart dance craze (a 32-step line dance). His fans have called this man everything from a "stud muffin" to "another Elvis" to "a Mel Gibson look-alike."

And rumors -- which he denies -- abound that he was formerly a Chippendale dancer.

Let's face it, no one ever accused George Jones of that.

Hunk No. 2: Clint Black. The 30-year-old Houston native, who's married to actress Lisa Hartman, is known for twinkling eyes, skin-tight jeans and cowboy hat.

The singer, who will play a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion tomorrow night, wears those jeans a lot more easily than he wears the hunk label.

"It's hard to explain," he says. "How do you really address that seriously, and not demean the people who are saying it, you know? It is flattering. It's good for my ego but it's not the way I look at myself."

Hunk No.3: Alan Jackson. Is this man popular or what? Recently his "Don't Rock the Jukebox" album won the Country Music Awards "Album of the Year" and "Single of the Year."

In 1991, he walked off with the "Best New Male Artist" award. And, says a fan of country music, "women like his looks." Yeah.

Those looks include a face that is finely-chiseled, hair that is blond, eyes that are blue. Born in Newman, Ga., 33 years ago, Mr. Jackson has had seven No. 1 country singles since his 1989 debut album "Here in the Real World."

Besides those three certified (just ask their fans) hunks, who qualifies for hunkdom and who doesn't is strictly subjective.

For many people, the immensely popular Garth Brooks is on the list. And don't forget Dwight Yoakam, Ricky Van Shelton, Marty Stuart and Billy Dean.

The list, no doubt, will grow.

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