"The Chokin' Kind," the lone hit off Waylon Jennings' 1968 album Hangin' On, became Jennings' highest-placing single to that point when it reached No. 8 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart. It was written by Harlan Howard, the wordsmith behind Patsy Cline's "I Fall to Pieces" and Ray Price's "Heartaches By the Number," just to name two.
It's one of the better hard-luck stories told by clean-shaven, pre-outlaw Jennings. As importantly, it upped Jennings' public profile right in time for the following year's No. 2 hit "Only Daddy That'll Walk the Line" to inch him toward the ornery yet endearing Hoss persona.
Just as Jennings went on to bigger and better things, so did Howard's song. The following year, Joe Simon, a gospel singer turned secular artist, took "The Chokin' Kind" to the top of the R&B chart and the top 20 of the all-genre Billboard Hot 100.
While Jennings pocketed enough silver dollars from "The Chokin' Kind" to keep pushing toward superstardom, Simon, then living in Nashville at the behest of local DJ John Richbourg, struck gold.
Simon went from a potential breakout star to a Grammy award winner (Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male) by introducing new ears to Howard's country-soul composition. In the process, Simon made what might've been a side note in popular music history into a launching pad for his own success, which included future hits "Baby, Don't Be Looking in My Mind" (1969), "Drowning in the Sea of Love" (1971), "Power of Love" (1972) and "Get Down, Get Down (Get on the Floor)" (1975).
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From there, the song became as much Simon's introductory hit as a country deep cut. Texas blues singer Z.Z. Hill cut a homage to Simon, as did Ella Fitzgerald for her Misty Blue album. More contemporary covers include Joss Stone's version for her 2003 album The Soul Sessions plus a recent single by jazz artist Leron Thomas for his Heavenly Sweetness label.
Also, Simon's album The Chokin' Kind, issued in 1969 by Sound Stage 7 Records, is a gold mine of cover songs, including his takes on "Sittin' on the Dock of the Bay," "Little Green Apples," "In the Still of the Night (I'll Remember)" and Glen Campbell's "Wichita Lineman."
In the grand scheme of things, "The Chokin' Kind" reminds us that truly great songs don't necessarily belong to specific, industry-created genres, much less particular artists.
"The Chokin' Kind" Lyrics
I only meant to love you don't you know it babe
Why couldn't you be contented with the love I gave
I've given you my heart and now you want my mind
Your love scares me to death girl it's the chokin' kind.
You can kill a man with bullets poison or a knife
But it hurts him more to take his pride and run his life
Whatever it is you want girl I hope you find
But that hat don't fit my head it's the chokin' kind.
When you fall in love again girl take a tip from me
If you don't like the peaches walk on by the tree
Find what you want and keep it treat it sweet and kind
But let it breathe don't make your love the chokin' kind...