Billy Ray Cyrus will forever be known for the catchy, lightweight single "Achy Breaky Heart," which became a line-dancing anthem upon its release in 1992. "Achy Breaky Heart" made Cyrus famous, but it also proved to be his undoing as he failed to replicate its success with future releases. Cyrus' music was never particularly innovative -- it owed as much to the country-rock of the Eagles as it did to the new traditionalism of George Strait and the new country of Clint Black and Garth Brooks -- but his musical worth became irrelevant in the wake of the success of "Achy Breaky Heart" and its accompanying album, Some Gave All. The album became a crossover success on the strength of its chief single, shining a spotlight on Cyrus, whose handsome, hunky good looks only furthered his appeal. However, both his good looks and the single were soon forgotten, and just two years after Some Gave All ruled the airwaves, Cyrus virtually disappeared from both the pop and country charts. He spent a decade as part of the long history of one-hit wonders, only to return to chart success in the wake of his daughter Miley's popular TV show, Hannah Montana, in 2007. Enamored of baseball, Cyrus intended to become another Johnny Bench as he grew up in Flatwoods, Kentucky. While attending Georgetown College on a baseball scholarship, he bought a guitar and began to question his intended career path. Switching gears, he formed a band called Sly Dog with his brother and gave himself a ten-month deadline for finding a place to play. One week prior to that cut-off date, Sly Dog secured work as the house band for a club in Ironton, Ohio, where they remained for two years. When a 1984 fire destroyed the bar -- along with Cyrus' equipment -- the burgeoning musician moved to Los Angeles to pursue his career. Eventually, he decided to return to Kentucky and commuted regularly from there to Nashville in search of a record deal. Grand Ole Opry star Del Reeves convinced Mercury Records to take a look, and division head Harold Shedd signed him in the summer of 1990. When his first album arrived mid-1992, Cyrus -- with his good looks, sculpted body, and the infectious "Achy Breaky Heart" -- became an instant groundbreaking sensation. Spending five weeks at the top of the country charts, "Achy Breaky Heart" helped make its accompanying debut album, Some Gave All, a blockbuster success. By the time it fell off the charts, it had sold over nine million copies and spent 17 weeks on the top of the pop charts. Despite his attempts, Cyrus wasn't able to replicate the success of Some Gave All. He quickly followed the album with It Won't Be the Last in the summer of 1993. The album initially sold well and entered the pop charts at number three, but it fell far short of expectations by only reaching platinum status. Storm in the Heartland, delivered in the fall of 1994, managed to go gold, but it was largely ignored by country radio and only contributed to the decline of Cyrus' profile. When he returned in 1996 with the harder-edged, introspective Trail of Tears, his audience had virtually disappeared: the album only spent four weeks on the charts and didn't even go gold. Nevertheless, Cyrus continued to release records, issuing Shot Full of Love in 1998 and Southern Rain in 2000. In March 2001, Cyrus made his first foray into television by playing a country doctor in the sitcom Doc. He then returned to music world with 2003's Time Flies and the gospel-inspired Other Side. Wanna Be Your Joe arrived in 2006, the same year that Cyrus appeared on the Disney Channel's Hannah Montana, a popular show starring his real-life daughter Miley. While the album failed to spawn a successful single, it nevertheless went gold -- Cyrus' first album in eight years to do so -- and demonstrated the commercial power of his status as Miley's father. Riding on the wave of Hannah Montana's popularity, Cyrus released his tenth studio album, Home at Last, in 2007 on the Disney label. The album debuted at number 20 on the U.S. Billboard charts, both reestablishing Cyrus as a presence in country music and highlighting the popularity (not to mention influence) of his daughter's show. Love Songs, a collection drawn from his peak years with Mercury, was released early in 2008, followed in 2009 by a new studio project, Back to Tennessee, on Hollywood Records. He partnered with a new label, Walt Disney Records, for 2011's I’m American, which found the singer crooning his way through a number of patriotic songs (including a reworked version of "Some Gave All," the title track from his 1992 debut). ~ Tom Roland & Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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