The Shady Side Of Country Music's Biggest Stars

Rock and roll usually has the reputation for being the bad boy of the music genres, but country music has their share of celebrities who have walked on the dark side, too. These big names have found out the hard way there's no one that's 100 percent good, and sometimes, those in their paths have paid for it.

Randy Travis's divorce and DWI woes

Randy Travis has taken home six Grammy awards, but in 2010, things started falling apart a bit for the country star. E! News took a look at a timeline that shows nothing short of the unraveling of a personal and professional life, and it's some sad, shady stuff.

It started in October 2010, when Travis filed for divorce from his wife and manager of 19 years, Elizabeth. According to ABC News, the divorce was followed by lawsuit after lawsuit, with Elizabeth claiming wrongful termination of her manager's contract, with her now ex-husband claiming she had plotted to both ruin his career and cheat him out of money. The rumor mill seemed to suggest this was just one more step in the saga, as the divorce was reportedly kick-started by Elizabeth's discovery that her then-husband was cheating on her with the wife of their dentist (via D Magazine).

The entire thing seemed to take a toll on him, and E! News said the next sign there was something wrong came in September 2011, when he fainted while performing at a Texas benefit concert. Only a few months later in the following February, he was arrested for public intoxication, all while lawsuits were flying fast. More alcohol-related incidents followed, including an August 2012 incident where he was arrested under suspicion of another DWI that led to an accident and, strangely, some nudity. Only two weeks later he was in the middle of another drunken brawl, presumably trying to break up a fight between a husband and wife.

The entire thing came to a head in July of 2013, when Travis ended up in the hospital. He dropped off the face of the earth a bit until 2017, when Fox News talked to him about what had been a serious health scare. They revealed that after complaining of difficulty breathing he was diagnosed with walking pneumonia, but was put on life support after flat-lining for four minutes. Two days later, doctors found he'd had a stroke, and years later, he still relies on a wheelchair. When asked about his condition, he replied, "Damaged."

Billy Currington's anger issues

In 2013, Billy Currington's assault of a 70-year-old tour boat captain made headlines. According to the country singer, a passing boat had approached the dock at his Georgia home, drawing close enough to almost knock someone off the dock and into the water. It wasn't long after that the tour boat captain, Charles Ferrelle, found himself the target of the star's anger. Currington is said to have first shouted at him from the shore as he cruised past, then hopped into his own boat and chased the captain while continuing to shout threats. In addition to Currington's side of the story, the Associated Press (via Fox News) also said Ferrelle had no idea why Currington had gotten upset or what the motivation had been. Later, Taste of Country said when the entire episode went to court, that no one in the boat even knew who Currington was, and probably wasn't stalking him.

They also said that it's not the first anger-related incident that Currington's had, and in 2007, he checked into treatment for dealing with those issues. They were all leftover from his childhood, he said, where he was the target of an abusive stepfather. He opened up to People about the decade-long situation that saw him trapped at the mercy of an abusive father figure, and he acknowledged that he's working through his issues. "When you are taught to hate, you carry that with you. Even today, I call myself 98 percent laid back, but 2 percent is Little Billy — my inner child that's hurt, sad, and furious because he was never taken care of. My challenge in life is my anger. I'd be Little Billy for two seconds, yelling and blowing up. And in those instances, that rage can destroy relationships [...]" (via The Boot).

Kenny Chesney and fraud

Everyone was surprised when Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger tied the knot in 2005 and then had the marriage annulled just as quickly. Even stranger was the reported cause for the annulment: fraud. That got the rumor mill started, and there were all kinds of outlets reporting that the marriage likely ended because he was gay.

Two years later, Chesney spoke with Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes (via E! News), and said, "It's not true. Period. Maybe I should have come out and said, 'No, I'm not [gay]', but I didn't want to draw any more attention to it. I didn't have to prove to anybody that I wasn't. I didn't feel like I really did." The pair did issue an official statement that tried to clarify that it was just legalese and wasn't code for anything, stating the reason for the annulment was ultimately a "miscommunication of the objective of their marriage".

Not surprisingly, that super vague explanation just wasn't cutting it when it came to the Hollywood gossip mill, and more than a decade later, there's still questions about just what happened. While interviewing Zellweger for Bridget Jones's Baby in 2016, Advocate asked her about the rumors again. She denied that they had ever meant for fraud to mean that he was gay, and she went on to say, "I'm an old-fashioned gal who doesn't feel it's appropriate to hang out your laundry on the lawn. [...] Once you've said your piece, shouldn't that be enough?" Given the time that's passed, it's safe to say that they're never going to say what really happened.

LeAnn Rimes's cheating scandal in retrospect

When People talked to LeAnn Rimes in February 2017 for the release of her 16th album, she was more than happy to talk about her happy marriage to Eddie Cibrian and their secret for keeping it happy. "We respect each other; respect is a big deal, and once you lose that, you've kind of lost everything," she told them.

That conversation wasn't too long after ET got a scoop of a different kind when they talked to her first husband, Dean Sheremet. The pair originally married in 2002, but split in 2009 after she jumped ship for the arms of the man she's now married to. (He was also married at the time their affair started, to reality TV star Brandi Glanville.) Sheremet wasn't shy about his feelings on the whole thing, still bitter in 2015.

"I felt like I was never having my needs met so there was fighting," he said. "And I was so intertwined in managing her career that I didn't know how to make the distinction between husband and boss, husband and partner, husband and manager... I was husband, father, friend, lover, manager. There were so many hats and I didn't know what hat to wear when." He even shared the moment he knew he was being cheated on, and says the realization came when they were all in a bar together and she was shooting pool with Cibrian. "I felt totally foolish. I felt like the pathetic husband hanging around. I was very aware of how others were looking at me... I was like, 'Why am I here?'"

Johnny Cash's first wife

Everyone knows the story of Johnny Cash and June Carter — it's one of the greatest love stories of country music. But less well known is what happened before they became a thing, and in 2007, Johnny Cash's first wife, Vivian, published a tell-all book that set the record straight. I Walked The Line: My Life with Johnny was published two years after she died, and it shed some light on a pretty dark tale.

The Ventura County Star took a peek inside the book, and its pages were filled with heartbreak. According to her, June had not only been the one to step in and break apart the marriage — in sharp contrast to the story that's often told — but she even confronted Vivian backstage with an ominous, "Vivian, he will be mine." The book says Vivian never stopped lamenting how it might have played out differently if she had gone on the road with him, rather than staying home to raise their four children. She accuses June of supplying drugs and feeding the addictions of both of them, while she was left to pick up the pieces of a divorce that was granted in 1967.

Reuters reported that a book by Johnny and June Cash's son, John Carter Cash, completely supported the idea that their relationship wasn't always the love story it's often portrayed as. Anchored in Love: The Life and Legacy of June Carter Cash tells the story of hours-long arguments and addictions. "My father, he wouldn't be belligerent or violent," their son said. "It was never that way. He just would simply sort of slip out of the picture. It happened the same way with my mother, later." Those stories are a far cry from the fairy tale told by Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix.

Josh Abbot's vices

In February 2014, Taste of Country reported Josh Abbot Band front man, Josh Abbot, took to Twitter to air his dirty laundry and come clean to fans that possibly thought he was something that he wasn't. He summed it up with a final explanation, tweeting, "I didn't post this to get my wife back. I posted because we agreed I need to be accountable to fans who think I was better than I really was".

His Twitter confession included a lot, admitting he had cheated on his wife and had problems with alcohol abuse. Citing the temptations that artists and celebrities are confronted with all the time that were "[...] unreal to many of you," he also said that he wanted to clear up any misconceptions about him being a decent husband, and that he wanted to take the right road to being a better person.

When Maxim interviewed him in October of the same year, they found that he had apparently moved on very quickly. "[...] it sure doesn't hurt when a lot of pretty girls go to your show," he said when asked about his largely female fan base. "It makes life a lot more easy and fun when you're on that stage and you're not looking at 40- or 50-year-old dudes. [...] I mean you can definitely have your fun. And now that I'm single, I do."

While there's nothing wrong with having fun with a newfound single status, it's the footnote of the article that's a little weird. Maxim writer Alexa Lyons noted that after they finished their interview and hung up, he called back a few minutes later to say she should have told him she was a "pretty blonde girl"... and then he invited her to go on tour with them.

Zac Brown's self-professed poor judgement

In April 2014, TMZ went public with a juicy bit of news: country music's Zac Brown had been on the scene of a South Florida drug bust that saw several people arrested for possession of cocaine and marijuana. The official police report said authorities were called to the Four Seasons in Palm Beach to investigate a suspicious vehicle. When they got there, they arrested the first man for cocaine possession, then went to the room the man had come from to bust up the party that was still going on. According to that first report, Brown was questioned by police and asked about the prescription drugs he was carrying.

According to Fox News, his name was listed on the official incident report, and Brown took to social media to address the event, saying it was his own poor judgement that had led him to be at the party in the first place. TMZ, however, issued another story claiming that they had sources — and documents — that proved that not only had Brown's name been left out of reports that would have connected him to the bust, but also said that responding authorities asked him for his autograph and proceeded to ridicule some of the strippers hired for the party for not knowing who he was. Whether or not there was a cover-up is only alleged, but Brown's presence at the party put a bit of a tarnish on his reputation.

Keith Urban's drug abuse and reported affair

Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman were married in 2006, and only a few months into the marriage, she staged an intervention that saw him checking into the Betty Ford Clinic while she cancelled the remainder of a press tour to be by his side. E! News quoted him as saying, "It was like, 'If I don't choose this moment to do the right thing and do something that's going to give me life, all of the things I'm scared of losing, I'm going to lose anyway."

He spoke candidly with Rolling Stone in 2016, and he certainly didn't pull any punches when it came to just what kind of life he'd led... save for, reportedly, one punch. While he talked about his upbringing in Australia, dropping out of school, and his introduction to cocaine, he didn't mention the accusations that seemed poised to destroy a new marriage that was already being tested.

Only a day before Christmas in 2006, a woman named Amanda Wyatt came forward and claimed she'd been involved with the country star since 2004. The story was picked up by a handful of papers, and in her conversation with Daily Mail, she claimed to have at least some sort of proof in her knowledge of the security codes to get into his estate. According to her, the relationship lasted well into his involvement with Kidman, but she said she didn't know he was involved with the actress because everything was done out of the public eye — and he wasn't telling anyone otherwise. Urban's publicist called the story lies, and Wyatt seems to have been pushed off to become a footnote in his otherwise drug-fueled story.

Meghan Linsey's sexual assault accusations

In this case, it's not Meghan Linsey herself that's walking on the shady side of life, it's the unnamed executive who she says assaulted her in 2010.

In 2016, the former Steel Magnolia singer and contestant on The Voice came forward with an accusation that was uncomfortable for the entire industry. Yahoo Music got permission to re-post her accusation, which originally came from her personal Facebook account and told of a "very powerful man in the music business" who not only groped her, but told her that if she were to tell anyone what happened, "[...] I have boats bigger than you could ever imagine, and I could put you in the middle of the ocean where no one would ever hear from you again." She added, "Men have done far worse things to me in the past, but this was the first time I was told I couldn't say anything because of how it would affect my career."

Linsey refused to name names, but her story was corroborated by her Steel Magnolias partner, Joshua Scott Jones, who also added that they were both encouraged to keep quiet about what had happened. Taste of Country reported that Big Machine Label Group president Scott Borchetta said there was no record of any complaint being made, saying, "Had it come to our attention, we would have certainly acted quickly and decisively on her behalf."

Everything about Billy Joe Shaver

When country music legend Billy Joe Shaver released the studio album Long in the Tooth in 2014, it was a huge thing. That's not just because he's written songs for everyone from the Allman Brothers to Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Waylon Jennings, but Noisey said it's because that album came out only a few years after Shaver did perhaps the most country outlaw thing in the world: he shot a man.

While exactly what happened on March 31, 2007 at Papa Joe's Texas Saloon outside of Waco, Texas, isn't 100 percent clear, Texas Monthly has some details. According to them, Shaver was at the bar with his ex-wife Wanda, when they ran into a man whose cousin had also been married to Wanda. That cousin had committed suicide, and things went sideways. Rolling Stone reported on the trial, saying Shaver had claimed Billy Bryant Coker had threatened him, asking him to step outside after stirring his drink with a knife and then wiping it on Shaver's shirt. "I felt he was gonna kill me," they quoted Shaver as saying. "He was a big bully, the worst I ever seen — a big bad one. And I been all around the world."

Shaver then shot him in the mouth. Coker somehow survived, and the bullet lodged in the back of his neck. The country music legend was acquitted, and outside the courtroom he was quoted as saying, "Hopefully things will work out where we become friends enough so that he gives me back my bullet."

That makes everyone else in country music look like a bit of a pushover, and it's not the only time things have gone in that direction with Shaver. According to another bit of testimony, one of the bar's other patrons heard him talking to Wanda in the middle of the altercation, when he remarked, " I'm tired of this crap happening every time we go somewhere."