Tim McGraw performs during the George Strait Music Festival at Oakland Coliseum on April 26, 1998 in Oakland, California.
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'Something Like That': The Story Behind Tim McGraw's Nostalgic Ode to Summer Love


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When thinking of Tim McGraw's greatest hits, it's impossible to forget 1999's "Something Like That." McGraw inched toward the new millennium with this single from A Place in the Sun that's often called the "BBQ Stain Song." It marked McGraw's 10th No. 1 hit since 1994: a list that began with "Don't Take the Girl" and included such '90s country staples as "I Like It, I Love It."

"Something Like That" is a nostalgic tune about the unforgettable moments one has with their first love. This particular hit finds McGraw reminiscing on his 17-year-old self, who saw his love interest for the first time in the ticket line at the county fair on Labor Day weekend. After describing the setting of their meeting in the first verse, McGraw launches into the famous chorus, which describes their whirlwind romance with relatable visuals.

An official music video debuted on CMT in July 1999 and compiles footage from one of McGraw's tours.

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"I had a barbecue stain on my white t-shirt / She was killing me in that miniskirt / Skippin' rocks on the river by the railroad tracks / She had a suntan line and red lipstick / I worked so hard for that first kiss, and a heart don't forget something like that," he sings in a preview of how much John Mellencamp's brand of small-town nostalgia would shape 21st century country music.

In the second verse, the song fast forwards five years when McGraw runs into his old love interest at Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The woman comes up to him and says, "I bet you don't remember me," to which McGraw responds, "Only every other memory." He then launches into the chorus again, remembering those precious but fleeting moments with her. In the bridge, he sings about how memories of one's first love stay forever.

"Like an old photograph time can make a feeling fade / But the memory of a first love never fades away," he sings.

This nostalgic, bittersweet theme certainly resonated with country fans, as the tune shot to the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and stayed there for five weeks. It also landed at No. 28 on the Billboard Hot 100, and according to Nielsen BDS, the song was the most-played radio single of any genre during the first decade of the 2000s.

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As it turns out, the song was almost entirely skipped over as a single. The tune was written by Rick Ferrell and Keith Follesé, and according to Ferrell, McGraw had to convince his record label at the time, Curb Records, to have the song released to radio.

"Tim kind of forced their hand on it," said Ferrell in an interview on his YouTube channel. "I don't know, in the record label's mind at the time, if it was even going to be a single. Tim went on an awards show, I can't remember which one it was, and I remember Faith [Hill] coming out and saying, 'Tim has a surprise for everybody.' And Tim comes out and plays the song."

Ferrell also revealed that he came up with the song idea two years before he wrote it with Follesé, and the tune was inspired by his real-life experiences of going to county fairs while growing up in rural Ohio.

"Where I grew up, our biggest thing was the county fair," he said. "That's the only concerts I'd ever been to before I came to Nashville. I saw everybody at our fair."

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When Ferrell started writing the song, he says it took on a few different forms before he got together with Follesé and they created what fans hear today.

"I just kept fooling with the 'barbecue stain' and 'suntan lines' and all that. I was going every which way," he says. "And then I got with Keith Follesé and we pounded it out on this little piano melody that I had, and he took it and made it sound good, and the rest is history from there."

"Something Like That" kicked off a successful decade of music for McGraw, which included hits like "My Best Friend," "My Next Thirty Years," "The Cowboy In Me," "Live Like You Were Dying" and many more hits that ensured his longevity as a hit-making and ticket-selling superstar.

This story was first published on May 16, 2021.

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