Music

Story Behind The Song: Don Williams B-Side Turned Waylon Jennings Hit 'Amanda'

AP Photo/Mark Humphrey and AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File

Waylon Jennings' "Amanda" became one of definitive country songs of the '70s after its inclusion on Jennings' 1979 Greatest Hits album. Its sustained popularity since then makes it easy to forget that it took over five years for one of songwriter Bob McDill's greatest works to get its due as a single.

McDill's musical apology to his wife was first recorded by Don Williams as the B-side to another McDill composition, 1973's "Come Early Morning." Though Williams' version of "Amanda" reached No. 33 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart (and its A-side cracked the Top 15), it still needed the right storyteller. It happens: McDill's "Song of the South" would underperform as a single three times (for Johnny Russell, Bobby Bare and the duo of Earl Scruggs and Tom T. Hall) before Alabama made it immortal.

One year later, Jennings first recorded the song for his album The Ramblin' Man. "I'm a Ramblin' Man" and "Rainy Day Woman" got released as the album's two singles, positioning "Amanda" to once again be one of the best songs sitting outside of the Top 10.

The pairing of the right country singer with a can't-miss country love song finally paid off in 1979. An overdubbed version of Jennings' recording got issued as a single. It not only topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. It also reached a respectable No. 54 on the all-genre Hot 100 and No. 40 on the adult contemporary chart.

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Other talented singers to cover "Amanda" since then include Chris Stapleton, as heard on the 2017 compilation Gentle Giants: The Songs of Don Williams and from a duet version sung at the Opry with Stapleton's wife and musical partner, Morgane.

McDill's country music standard "Amanda" is not to be confused with the power ballad "Amanda," written by Tom Scholz for Boston's 1986 album Third Stage, or the Dennis Quaid song from the 1981 film The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia.

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Story Behind The Song: Don Williams B-Side Turned Waylon Jennings Hit 'Amanda'