Initially written off as a "one-hit wonder" after failing to revisit the oversaturated heights he reached with his cloying country hit "Achy Breaky Heart," Billy Ray Cyrus was in the right place at the right time with the right look, and his catchy hit helped usher in the era of New Country; however, he was soon eclipsed by lasting talents like Alan Jackson and Garth Brooks. When Cyrus turned his attention to acting, he proved an even bigger success as an appealing and competent actor in family entertainment like the PAX series "Doc" (2000-04). Daughter Miley's breakout as a Disney teen star ushered in a comeback for Cyrus, with his co-starring role as the country star father of Miley's pop star character in the lucrative "Hannah Montana" franchise, which included an Emmy-winning television series, feature film spin-off, live touring, and an unstoppable merchandising juggernaut. A father-daughter duet "Ready, Steady, Don't Go" landed Cyrus back on the music charts, even as he became a target for the increasingly sexualized image of the wholesome network's pole-dancing teen. Regardless, Cyrus had managed to put "one-hit" status behind him and rise from the ashes at the center of a multi-media family empire.
Cyrus was born Aug. 25, 1961, and grew up in the heart of Appalachia in the Eastern Kentucky town of Flatwoods. His father was well-known local politician Ron Cyrus, who served 11 consecutive terms in the Kentucky House of Representatives but also sang in a gospel quartet, which first inspired young Billy Ray to sing. In high school, Cyrus became a star athlete who played on a state champion football team. He went on to attend Georgetown College on a baseball scholarship. He eventually left school to pursue his love of music, spending several years eking out a living in bar bands with his brother prior to moving, first to L.A. and then to Nashville to develop as a songwriter/solo act. He struggled for years working odd jobs and suffering rejection, but during a particularly low point when he was living out of his car, he penned an album's worth of songs that would land him a deal with Mercury Records in 1990. Most of those songs became Cyrus' 1992 debut album, Some Gave All, which earned a place in the record books for holding the number one position on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for 17 weeks, in addition to becoming certified platinum nine times. And of course, the pop-crossover single "Achy Breaky Heart" was inescapable that year, earning the newcomer awards from the Country Music Association, The American Music Awards, and Grammy nominations.
The 1993 follow-up album It Won't Be the Last hit No. 1 on the Billboard Country Charts though its top single, "In the Heart of a Woman," only reached No. 3. When albums Storm in the Heartland (1994), Trail of Tears (1996), and Shot Full of Love (1998) sold even less, it was becoming clear that Cyrus' freshman hit had been a stroke of beginner's good luck; that he was not going to maintain a high profile career in the burgeoning world of New Country. Cyrus began dabbling in acting in 1999 with an appearance on the lamentable "Love Boat: The Next Wave" (UPN, 1998-99) and in the low-budget actioner, "Radical Jack" (2000). In the new millennium, he also trimmed his mullet considerably, opting for a country-rock crossover sound with Southern Rain, which made it to number 13 on the Country Album charts, but produced no significant singles. The singer's "achy breaky" career finally began to rebound with "Doc" (PAX, 2001-04), a fish-out-water drama in which Cyrus starred as a country doctor winning over patients and staff at a New York City hospital. Cyrus' aw-shucks charm was a perfect match with the compassionate character he portrayed and it helped to ensure the show's considerable ratings during its three-year run. Cyrus also turned up as his "Doc" character on the 2002 pilot for another PAX series, "Sue Thomas: F.B. Eye" (2002-05).
Outside of his popularity on the faith-based cable network, Cyrus made sporadic film appearances; the most unusual of these being a supporting role as a philandering pool cleaner in David Lynch's surreal psychological thriller, "Mulholland Drive" (2001). Following the release of Christian albums Time Flies and The Other Side, which - thanks to Cyrus' visibility on TV - reached No. 5 on the Christian Album charts, Cyrus had a supporting role in the little-seen comedies "Elvis Has Left the Building" (2004) and "Death and Texas" (2004), as well as a guest spot on the popular teen TV series, "Degrassi: The Next Generation" (2001-16). In 2006, Cyrus' unknown teen daughter, Miley, was cast in the leading role of a young pop singer living a dual life as an "average" high school teen on the Disney Channel series, "Hannah Montana." Real life dad Billy Ray was cast alongside her as her country-singing star father and manager. The series became an overnight sensation with the 'tween set, and for Cyrus' role on the high profile hit, his own flagging musical career got a boost. His 2007 album Home At Last hit No. 3 on the Top Country Album chart, and the father-daughter duet single "Ready, Set, Don't Go" reached the Top 5.
Cyrus went on to appear as a celebrity contestant on the immensely popular dance competition show, "Dancing with the Stars" (2005- ), and was tapped to host the reality talent search "Nashville Star" (USA, 2003-07; NBC, 2008). As part of the new Cyrus multi-media domination, he hit the big screen as himself in the live concert video, "Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: The Best of Both Worlds" (2008) and reprised his practical papa role in the blockbuster feature film spin-off "Hannah Montana The Movie" (2009). Cyrus family controversy began brewing in 2008, however, when Cyrus appeared alongside his blanket-clad teen daughter in a Vanity Fair photo shoot that brought the family's close-knit, conservative, Christian values into question. Disney further distanced itself from the teen star's increasingly un-Disney shenanigans when she performed a pole dance at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards, a performance that was defended as "artistic" by Daddy Cyrus.
Cast (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Music (Feature Film)
Music (TV Mini-Series)
Signed with PolyGram/Mercury Records
Released debut album <i>Some Gave All</i> that included the hit single "Achy Breaky Heart"
Released successful second album, <i>It Won't Be the Last</i>
First acting role was an appearance on "Love Boat: The Next Wave" (UPN)
Made film debut in the independent film, "Radical Jack"
Recorded <i>Southern Rain</i> for Monument Records
Played the lead role of a country doctor in the series, "Doc" (PAX)
Had a small role as a pool cleaner having an affair with Justin Theroux's wife in David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive"
Released two Christian albums, <i>Time Flies</i> and <i>The Other Side</i>
Guest-starred as a limo driver in an episode of the Canadian teen drama, "Degrassi: The Next Generation"
Featured in the Ed Zwick comedy, "Elvis Has Left the Building"
Made stage debut in a Toronto production of "Annie Get Your Gun"
Released first country album in six years, <i>Wanna Be Your Joe</i>
Co-starred with his daughter Miley Cyrus in the Disney Channel original series, "Hannah Montana"
Joined the fourth season of the ABC reality competition, "Dancing with the Stars"
Released the country album, <i>Home at Last</i>
Appeared as himself in the concert film, "Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert"
Nominated for the 2009 Teen Choice Award for Choice TV: Parental Unit
Reprised role as Miley's manager/father in "Hannah Montana: The Movie"