Alan Jackson has released a long string of hits to country radio in his more than 30-year career. Some of these hits have been written by Jackson and others were written by other songwriters, but if there's one song Jackson wishes he'd written, it's his 1994 hit, "Gone Country."
The song, released as the third single from Jackson's Who I Am album following "Summertime Blues" and "Livin' On Love," was written by legendary Nashville songwriter, Bob McDill. In the tune, Jackson sings about the growing popularity of country music around the world by citing three non-country musicians as examples. He sings of a Las Vegas lounge singer from Long Island, a folk-rock singer from New York City, and a California singer who is a "serious composer schooled in voice and composition." All these artists, after not finding success in their respective genres, decide to move to Nashville, Tennessee and "go country."
"She's gone country, look at them boots / She's gone country, back to her roots / She's gone country, a new kind of suit / She's gone country, here she comes," he sings in the first chorus.
The story of the song almost mirrors songwriter McDill's journey, who, according to CMT, was first interested in pursuing a career in pop and rock music. The songwriter, who studied literature in college, moved to Nashville after fellow songwriter Dickey Lee convinced him it would soon become a musical hotbed for pop and rock. When he got to Music City, however, country music soon pulled him in.
"I just had an epiphany," McDill said. "Then I began studying country music like a seminary student studies gospel."
Although McDill has never said "Gone Country" is about his own story, he did confirm that the song was inspired by real people he has met.
"The people in that song were a composite of real people that I have had lunch or drinks with in Nashville who said the kinds of things that are in the song: all these weak, thinly veiled excuses for moving to Nashville," McDill wrote in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Country Music.
Jackson eventually recorded the song and took it to the number one spot on the Billboard country chart, but it took a while for the song to find its home. According to McDill, "Gone Country" was turned down by several country artists because of the fear of making fun of the characters in the song.
"I think we're afraid in Nashville to make fun of folks," he said, according to The Bitter Southerner. ????"We are afraid as Southerners to make fun of New Yorkers and people from L.A., because everything in Nashville was owned by people from New York and L.A. I prefer to think it's just good manners."
Jackson wrote many of his own country songs throughout his career, including the sentimental "Remember When," but he also recorded outside songs written by other songwriters. Of all the outside songs he ever recorded, he says "Gone Country" is the one he wishes he would have written himself.
"When I first heard this song I fell in love with it," said the country singer in The Greatest Hits Collection. "I wish that I'd written it cause it says a lot of things that I'd like to say. I think it's just a fun song actually, celebrating how country music has become more widespread and accepted by all types of people all over the country."
"Gone Country" is right at home alongside some of Jackson's best country hits, including "Don't Rock The Juke Box," "Chattahoochee," "Little Bitty," "Where I Come From," "Drive (For Daddy Gene)," "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" (duet with Jimmy Buffett),"Small Town Southern Man," "Country Boy," and many more.