Nine songs that heroize the singer’s grandfather. And one that vilifies him.
Country musicians never miss an opportunity to pay their respects to their forbearers. In these ten songs, the singer paints a nostalgic picture of their grandfathers. Well, all except for one. Unsurprisingly, many of the artists are able to connect with the memories of their grandfathers through guns and fishing.
10. “Grandpa” – Justin Moore
Moore’s “Grandpa” is pretty standard grandpa song; he idolizes his grandfather while singing about what he taught him and the stories he told him. “Grandpa” is the first song on this list (though not the first chronologically) to mention the guns the singer inherited from his grandfather.
9. “He Walked on Water” – Randy Travis
A No. 2 hit for Randy Travis in 1990, “He Walked on Water” was a pop success, even if it wasn’t a critical success. The song manages to capture the innocent eyes with which a grandson sees his grandfather.
8. “Barbed Wire Halo” – Aaron Watson
Watson wrote this song about four different men in his life that played the role of his grandfather: Grandad, Paw-Paw, John Pop and Mr. Pete. With samples from “Amazing Grace” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” this song is deeply founded in its religious roots. Watson also may or may not owe a credit to Randy Travis’ “He Walked on Water.”
7. “Granddaddy’s Song” – Kyle Bennett Band
The Kyle Bennett Band digs even further back with this tribute to his moonshine-running, horse-breaking great-grandfather. The song also offers possibly the best piece of advice that a great-grandfather ever gave his great-grandson: “Go raise some hell.”
6. “The Captain and the Kid” – Jimmy Buffett
“The Captain and the Kid” is off Buffett’s 1970 debut album, Down to Earth, and is the first of his songs about his grandfather. Later he would record the more popular “Son of a Son of a Sailor.” It is this folksy song, however, that really shows Buffett at his most vulnerable, before his free-wheeling, Key West lifestyle became his musical persona.
5. “Love, Me” – Collin Raye
Raye’s heartbreaking story about being with his grandfather as his grandmother dies became a No. 1 single in 1992. Its power derives from the moment in which Raye witnesses his grandfather cry for the first time, a moment that reminds us that even our heroes are vulnerable.
4. “What’s Going On With Grandpa?” – The Possum Posse
The Possum Posse pulls no punches about their success: yea, they’re not that popular, but they are supported by the likes of Reckless Kelly’s Cody Braun and Eleven Hundred Springs. The self-described “sardonic, honky-tonk bluegrass” singers romp their way through this good timing track about their cheating (and possibly homosexual?) grandfather. Without doubt the most clever, funniest song on this list, and the only that doesn’t heroize its subject.
3. “Grandaddy’s Gun” – Rhett Akins & Dallas Davidson
The first of two songs on this list in which the singer holds on to his grandfather’s memory through his gun, “Grandaddy’s Gun” has since been covered by Blake Shelton and Aaron Lewis. The original version off country hit-maker’s Akins, Davidson, and Bobby Pinson’s lifestyle album, The Bone Collector, is the most genuine.
2. “I Got the Guns” – Roger Creager
Roger Creager has to create an image of his grandfather through the guns that were passed down to him. “I Got the Guns” is a moving ballad that never strays into the sentimental while Creager learns about responsibility and becoming a man as he inherits the guns when he is eight years old.
1. “In Color” – Jamey Johnson
Johnson’s crackling baritone is the perfect vehicle for this song’s retrospective. As they look at old photographs of his grandfather’s life, Johnson’s voice suggests his grandfather’s nostalgia without ever having to say it. “In Color” won song of the year in both 2008 and 2009, at the AMC Awards and the CMA Awards, respectively.