Sometimes, a potentially great song just needs the right singer.
As the following examples show, well-written compositions from the '70s and beyond appeared on mainstream albums and in some cases charted as singles before country stars made them famous.
We steered clear of obvious picks (most of you know that Reba McEntire's "Sweet Dreams," "Fancy" and "The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia" were covers) and stories we've told elsewhere about "The Gambler" and "Song of the South."
"Amarillo By Morning"
At least two different artists recorded "Amarillo By Morning" before it became one of George Strait's signature songs. Oklahoma-born Elvis sound-alike Terry Stafford transitioned from '60s pop-rock hit "Suspicion" to the original version of "Amarillo By Morning," a single off his 1973 album Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose. Stafford co-wrote the song after his band performed at a rodeo in Texas. In addition, Chris LeDoux added his personal touch to the song for 1975's Life as a Rodeo Man.
"Boot Scootin' Boogie"
Before Brooks & Dunn's 1991 album Brand New Man changed their fortunes forever, Kix Brooks and Ronnie Dunn were primarily known around Nashville as songwriters. One of Dunn's more promising compositions, "Boot Scootin' Boogie," appeared on Asleep at the Wheel's 1990 album Keepin' Me Up at Night. A year later, it became Brooks & Dunn's fourth straight No. 1 hit.
"I Don't Call Him Daddy"
Though it's the sort of sentimental tune that typically made Kenny Rogers a fortune, songwriter Reed Nielsen's "I Don't Call Him Daddy" only reached No. 86 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart after it appeared on Rogers' 1987 album I Prefer the Moonlight. Doug Supernaw faired much better in 1993, with his version becoming his lone No. 1 hit.
Alan Jackson has often made a point to release classic country covers as singles. This trend pointed new ears to Don Williams ("It Must Be Love"), Charly McClain ("Who's Cheatin' Who") and, in this case, songwriting great Tom T. Hall. Jackson's No. 1 recording came out just months after Hall debuted the song on his 1996 album Songs From Sopchoppy.
Two different legends recorded "Ol Red" before it appeared on Blake Shelton's 2001 debut album. George Jones sang it first for 1990's You Oughta Be Here With Me. Three years later, Kenny Rogers covered the James "Bo" Bohon, Don Goodman and Mark Sherrill co-write for his 1993 album If Only My Heart Had a Voice.
"On The Other Hand"
Two future legends cut this classic Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz co-write in 1985. Neither Keith Whitley nor Randy Travis found success with the song in '85, but Travis' version got a second wind after "1982" changed his fortunes.
Whitley recorded three other songs of note before they became someone else's hit: Mark Chesnutt's "Brother Jukebox" (a minor Don Everly hit from 1977), Travis Tritt's "Between an Old Memory and Me" and George Strait's "Nobody in His Right Mind Would've Left Her."
Most longtime country fans and old souls know that popular music genius Allen Toussiant wrote Glen Campbell's 1977 hit "Southern Nights." Touissant recorded it first, as well, with his 1975 version sounding like a lucid dream about Louisiana's swampland.
Another Campbell classic from the '70s, "Rhinestone Cowboy," was also previously recorded by its songwriter, Larry Weiss.
"Take Me Down" and "The Closer You Get"
Two hits from Alabama's run of 21-straight No. 1s were written by Exile members J.P. Pennington and Mark Gray. Both "Take Me Down" and "The Closer You Get" debuted as pop-rock selections from Exile's 1980 album Don't Leave Me This Way.
Motown producer and songwriter Johnny Bristol recorded an amazing R&B version of "Take Me Down" in 1982, the same year Alabama took it to the top of the country charts. "The Closer You Get" had a more eventful life before it reached top of the country music heap, with Rita Coolidge and Don King beating Alabama to the punch.
Robison also wrote and first recorded "Wrapped" (Kelly Willis, George Strait), "Desperately" (Strait) and "Angry All the Time" (Tim McGraw).