Music

'Blue': A Bill Mack Song From the 1950s Jumpstarted 13-Year-Old LeAnn Rimes' Career

Country music singer LeAnn Rimes sings during a rehearsal for the American Music Awards at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Jan. 26, 1997. The awards will be announced on Monday evening. (AP Photo/Michael Caulfield)

"Blue" was far from new when LeAnn Rimes' version arrived on June 4, 1996 and started climbing the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 chart. Instead, it was first recorded way back in 1958 by 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' version 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.

Rimes had previously recorded "Blue" at age 11 for independent album All That.

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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 sound 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."

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'Blue': A Bill Mack Song From the 1950s Jumpstarted 13-Year-Old LeAnn Rimes' Career