What makes a hit country song? Sometimes songs are recorded by multiple artists before they find their way onto the country chart. It takes the right song, the right singer and the right time to spin country gold. From honky tonk tearjerkers to dance floor favorites, here are six country songs that got a second chance to become a hit.
6. “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her”
Original artist: Keith Whitley
Artist that made it famous: George Strait
Songwriting legend Dean Dillon is famously tied to George Strait. He’s written over 50 hits for the country superstar. But Dillon is an established recording artist himself and in 1980 he released his song “Nobody in His Right Mind Would’ve Left Her.” Dillon’s version reached No. 25 on the Billboard charts. But he knew the song had another life in it.
Keith Whitley recorded the song for his 1985 debut album, L.A. to Miami, but never released it as a single. The following year, Strait released the country classic as a single and took it to No. 1.
This wasn’t the only time Whitley recorded a song that would go on to be a huge hit for another artist. Whitley also recorded “On the Other Hand,” which became a No. 1 hit for Randy Travis. It’s great to hear some of country music’s greatest voices singing the same song.
5. “One Woman Man”
Original artist: Johnny Horton
Artist who made it famous: George Jones
“One Woman Man,” written by Johnny Horton and Tillman Franks, was recorded by Horton in 1956, reaching No. 7 on the country charts. But 28 years after Horton’s tragic death, the song had a second run as a single by George Jones.
Legend has it that shortly after Horton’s death, Franks heard the song blast through the CB radio in his car. He took it as a message from Horton from beyond the grave. Jones’ version of the song went to No. 5 in 1988.
4. “Safe in the Arms of Love”
Original artist: Wild Choir
Artist that made it famous: Martina McBride
“Safe in the Arms of Love” had a second, third and fourth chance at becoming a country hit. The song was originally recorded in 1986 by the band Wild Choir, fronted by Gail Davies. The band’s release never made it onto the country charts. Three years later, it was recorded by Bailey and the Boys. In 1994, Canadian country singer Michelle Wright released the song as a single. Shortly after, the song made its way to Martina McBride, who took it to No. 4 in 1995.
3. “Goodbye Earl”
Original artist: Songs of the Desert
Artists that made it famous: Dixie Chicks
“Goodbye Earl” is one of the Dixie Chicks signature songs but they weren’t the first group to record one of country’s most famous songs about vigilante justice. Written by Dennis Linde, the song originally went to the group Sons of the Desert in the late 90s. But the album was never released. The Dixie Chicks recorded the song for their smash hit album Fly in 1999 and Earl was finally laid to rest.
2. “Friends in Low Places”
Original recording: Mark Chesnutt
Artist that made it famous: Garth Brooks
“Friends in Low Places” is so synonymous with Garth Brooks it sounds strange to hear it recorded by anyone else. But back before Garth Brooks was a household name and selling out stadiums, he was just a guy trying to make it in Nashville.
Songwriters Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee asked Brooks to sing the demo for the song. When Garth was gearing up to record No Fences he approached Blackwell and Lee about recording the song. Although country newcomer Mark Chesnutt had already recorded the song for his album Too Cold At Home, the songwriters were more than happy to hand the song over to Brooks.
Though “Friends in Low Places” effectively got another chance to shine, the song was always destined to be Garth’s hit. Brooks released the song as a single in 1990 and the rest is country music history.
1. “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”
Original artist: Asleep At the Wheel
Artist that made it famous: Brooks and Dunn
It’s considered one of the standout songs of ’90s country, but “Boot Scootin’ Boogie” was originally a very different country song.
The song was originally recorded the band Asleep at the Wheel. And true to its name, it was a boogie. While the Brooks and Dunn version set off a line dancing craze across the U.S., Asleep at the Wheel had folks doing the two-step and western swing.
Both versions are irresistible country fun that taught us just what happens “out in the country past the city limit sign.”