"Blue" was far from new when LeAnn Rimes' single arrived on June 4, 1996 and started climbing the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. Instead, a demo Rimes fished from the trash at home was of a song first recorded way back in 1958 by its songwriter, Bill Mack.
Billboard described Mack's recording for Starday Records as "a slow-tempo, relaxed item, with Mack's vocal backed by instrumentation featuring a honky tonk type piano. A flavorsome side."
"Blue" was recorded a handful of times (Kenny Roberts in 1966, Polly Stephens Exley in the late 1980s and Kathryn Pitt in 1993) before 13-year-old Rimes' debut single secured its place in country music history. Rimes' life-changing single wasn't her first version of the song, with a previous recording appearing on All That, an independent album released when she was 11 years old.
Rimes' 1996 single earned two coveted prizes: a Grammy Award for Best Female Country Vocal Performance and a ACM Award for Song of the Year. The official music video for "Blue" also won Rimes a pair of Billboard Music Awards.
Neither version of "Blue" would've happened if Rimes' dad had gotten his way. Upon hearing the first subpar demo sent to his daughter, Wilbur Rimes tossed the tape in a garbage can. Lucky for us, LeAnn was too stubborn to accept a hard "no."
"I was a very defiant child and sometimes that served me well," Rimes told Apple Music Hits' Kelleigh Bannen in July 2021. "In this situation, it did. When my dad left one time after he threw [the demo] in the trash, he was leaving to go somewhere. I went and dug it out of the trash and I listened to it. Obviously I understand why my dad threw it away because the demo was awful. It didn't sound anything like the song that you hear now, but because of my defiance, I'm like, 'I'm going to show my dad that this song's great.' By the time he got back, I'd put that little yodel thing in there. Then he was like, 'Oh, it's like a different song.' That's really how that song came about, was this little girl who was just like, 'I'm going to show my dad that I can make the song cool.'"
Mack denies rumors that he wrote the slow-tempo song with Patsy Cline in mind. Instead, he tells a much more straightforward story that makes the future hit seem like a happy accident.
"I wrote 'Blue' while picking my new guitar in my home in Wichita Falls, Texas," he wrote for Trucker's Connection in 2013. "I was creating some note changes on the guitar when the song entered my mind. Although I wasn't watching the clock, the melody and lyrics came to me in a completed form within 15 minutes. My wife at the time said, 'That's the best song I've ever heard! You need to record it as soon as you can!'"
Another successful song by Mack, "Drinking Champagne," was popularized by Cal Smith and George Strait.
Rimes' debut album Blue (Curb Records) followed in July 1996 and brought us the No. 1 hit "One Way Ticket (Because I Can)," Top 5 entry "The Light in Your Eyes," a cover of "Unchained Melody," minor hit "Hurt Me" and Eddy Arnold duets "Fade to Blue" and "Cattle Call."