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Starburst: 15 Country Stars Who Found Fame Fast

Tanya Tucker, Florida Georgia Line and more stars whose road to success was short and sweet

Jake Owen

Jake Owen attends the 2014 ACM Awards

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 There's more than one road to country glory, and it doesn't have to be one paved with hardship, empty bank accounts and nights spent shilling cover songs for measly tips. Sometimes, the path can be pretty cushy, or at least lined with reality TV and a post-collegiate record deal. From Tanya Tucker to Florida Georgia Line, we count down the stars who shot to the top of the charts without spending a decade singing "Song of the South" on Lower Broad. By Marissa R. Moss

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Billy Ray Cyrus

The father of country-turned-twerker gave himself a 10-month goal to become famous when he dropped out of college to pursue music, and he wasn't kidding: He went from obscurity to super-stardom so quickly that the adjustment was a rocky one, even with that big ol' party in the back to keep him going. He told Country Music Magazine at the time, "one day I was living out of my car, the next day I was nominated for five Grammy awards." This was all for the achingly cloying anthem "Achy Breaky Heart," which was causing a fury and spurring impromptu dances from the offices of Music Row to Sweet 16 parties. And, apparently, mullet beats bowl cut. The song held the Number One spot on the Billboard charts for 18 weeks, dethroning the Beatles, who previously held the title.

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Danielle Bradbery

Team Blake rules again – the 16-year-old Bradbery is more proof that landing a spot on the towering Okie's team is a surefire way to have a shot at the Voice crown. Shelton called her the "most important artist to ever walk across The Voice stage," and, sure enough, Bradbery took the title, as the show's youngest-ever champion – despite the near unbelievable fact that she had never performed live before the show began. Still, she sang with eerie confidence and perfect pitch that beguiled her 16 years, snagging her a contract with Big Machine Records and a spot on Hunter Hayes' summer tour. "I guess I'd like to be this generation's Carrie Underwood," she told Rolling Stone, making every other generation collectively feel extremely old.

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Brad Paisley

Though the accomplished guitarist had played and written music through most of his childhood and teenage years, it was a pretty swift road after graduating from Belmont University to impending stardom – a week to be exact. Before the stress of finals had even worn off, the West Virginia native signed a deal with EMI Publishing. Just a few years later, after co-writing hits for other singers, he released his Arista debut, Who Needs Pictures, had a Number One hit with "He Didn't Have to Be" and took the Grand Ole Opry Stage all in 1999 (he'd be inducted as an Opry member only two years later, the youngest member ever to join at the time). Now, Paisley's one of the most respected country artists in the game, leading one of the highest-grossing tours and banking countless chart-topping debuts. So maybe not everyone suffers a post-collegiate existential crisis.

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Kellie Pickler

Another reality-show success story who went on to prove her worth beyond the television, Pickler, a former beauty pageant queen from North Carolina, was only 19 when she surged into the pop culture lexicon by mispronouncing "salmon" on the stage of American Idol. Pickler blamed the flub on nerves – a credible excuse, being that aside from strutting around in an evening gown as a contender for Miss North Carolina, she'd barely ever sang publicly. Initially pegged as a ditzy country answer to Jessica Simpson, Pickler made a name for herself with her strong debut, Small Town Girl, that sent three singles to the Top 20. One of them was the spunky "Red High Heels," a cheeky barnburner that paid sonic tribute to her personal American idol, Dolly Parton.