The final 20…
Top 100 Old Country Songs Part 5
These are the best of the best old country songs in history…
20. He’ll Have To Go – Jim Reeves
Nothing like starting things off with a little controversy. Sometimes when you’re in love things aren’t ideal from the get go. You run into someone. You meet them. You get to know them. You like them. You fall for them. And you realize she’s (or he’s) got someone else at home. That’s the story of this song from Jim Reeves. In the end we have Jim trying to get the woman of his dreams to tell her man to head out the door. He’s got to go and Jim is moving in. That’s a little racy, but that’s how things have always worked. Falling in love (or lust) is usually not a perfect situation, but sometimes you just have to go for it.
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19. Saginaw, Michigan – Lefty Frizzell
Lefty Frizzell came out with an interesting song when he released Saginaw, Michigan. The song was the story about a guy that left everything behind for the pull of the gold in Alaska. The guy left the love of his life behind hoping to strike it rich. Her father, unfortunately, did not like the young guy. In the end the young guy struck it rich in the Klondike and the old man was left up there searching for his own gold. It’s one of those “I told you so…” songs. And sometimes those are ok.
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18. King Of The Road – Roger Miller
Who would have guessed that a song about a traveling hobo would become the biggest hit of 1965? Roger Miller recorded his own penned song, King Of The Road, and it took off like a shot. What really was unique about the song was the campy melody. People can’t help, but sing along with the lyrics. They’re hopping right along enjoying their freedom with the hobo in the song. Roger Miller was always a little quirky, but he sure could write and sing some of the best songs ever. This was his top hit.
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17. Joshua – Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton had been kicking around for a few years in the ’60s trying her hand at a few singles on her own. It was in 1970 when she finally broke through in a big way with her first number one hit – Joshua. The song was a story about a young woman and burly big man. There is nothing anybody would do to say ‘hi’ to Joshua, but the gal in the song makes her way to his house. They get to know each other and pretty soon they’re settling down. Nobody could tell a story in the way Dolly could. She is unique. She has a great storytelling about her and this number one hit is proof.
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16. Golden Ring – George Jones & Tammy Wynette
George and Tammy are legends. Back in the ’70s these two teamed up for a marriage that made headlines and music that made history. George and Tammy seemed to have sparks flying back and forth at all times. When they were on they were really on. In the case of Golden Ring George and Tammy got things right. The song is about a couple in love and the ring that binds them. That’s how it worked for a while in the relationship of George and Tammy and even though the marriage didn’t last their music legacy always will.
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15. Luckenbach, TX (Back To The Basics of Love) – Waylon Jennings
Waylon makes an appearance in the top 20. It would be hard to put together a top old country song list without including Waylon. My favorite song of his was Luckenbach, Texas. There is something about the melody in the chorus that takes me to a place in the rural countryside where I can hang out with my friends and enjoy life. That’s what a good country song can to; it can take you somewhere and make you smile a bit. Even if the song is about something a little more on the somber side there is still something about a song that takes you somewhere else. It’s a three minute trip.
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14. Coal Miner’s Daughter – Loretta Lynn
If you’ve heard a few Loretta Lynn’s song you probably know all there is to know about her life. She wore her laundry out on her sleeve. Her songs were her way of coping with what was going on at home. And Loretta also used her songs to connect with her past. In the case of Coal Miner’s Daughter she was sharing the story of her childhood and how she became the person she was at the time. Loretta came from humble beginnings and was able to find success in country music. It was a hopeful song for so many. It gave them something to shoot for.
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13. Unwound – George Strait
I had to include George Strait’s first hit. This is certainly not George’s most well known song. I’m not even sure if most George Strait fans have heard this song before. I find it to be a classic, though. Unwound introduced the world to George Strait’s Texas swing style of country music. The song is fast-paced and really moves along through the lyrics. George didn’t become a star after this song. It was a little introduction for a guy that would become one of the biggest music stars of all time.
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12. Life Turned Her That Way – Mel Tillis
It’s already been mentioned that Mel Tillis is one of my favorite artists. Over the years I’ve learned to love Mel’s songs. He’s recorded many of his own songs and many have become huge hits. It wasn’t until I heard a song by Ricky Van Shelton that I learned about a song from Mel’s past. Life Turned Her That Way is one of my favorite country songs of all time. Life can break you down sometimes. It turns you inside and out and whips you around until you become a bit broken. I love this song. It lets you know you’re not alone. We’re all a little broken for some reason or another.
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11. For The Good Times – Ray Price
Breakups are always difficult. And the thing about breakups is we’ve all gone through them at some point. You, me, and everyone else reading this blog has gone through a breakup. And they’re never easy. That’s what For The Good Times is about – breaking up. Ray Price was one of the biggest country stars back in the ’60s. His music made an impact on the lives of country fans all over the world. His songs spoke to people and his biggest hit was this song. It’s a classic about the difficultly of love and how to get through it.
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10. Act Naturally – Buck Owens
In a country world where everybody sounded the same for a while there was Buck Owens. He came from the west coast and with him brought a totally unique style of playing and singing. After breaking through with a few hits Buck saw his career take off in 1963 with his first number one hit – Act Naturally. The song became a country classic and old Buck went on to have more success with radio and TV than just about anyone else in country music in the ’60s and ’70s. The man is a true legend and he always did things the way he thought they should be done. He was unique. He was different and people loved him for it.
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9. The Gambler – Kenny Rogers
So many people recognize this song. The Gambler has got to be a song just about everybody knows even if they don’t realize it. Every person worth their salt has said ‘you’ve got to know when to hold ’em’ at some point in their life. Kenny Rogers took on the persona of the gambler and even starred in a movie series based on the character in the famous song. Kenny was the ultimate superstar in country music and he’s probably responsible for expanding the country genre in the ’70s and ’80s. He crossed genres and brought scores of new listeners. And his biggest hit was about an old gambler. It doesn’t get more country than this song.
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8. Whiskey River – Willie Nelson
Willie Nelson was perhaps the biggest country star in the late ’70s and early ’80s. My folks had and perhaps even still have a box full of Willie Nelson LPs at their house. I remember looking through that box of actual records many times and seeing Willie’s face on numerous albums. The man was everywhere back in those days and since then he’s remained popular. One of Willie’s biggest hits from his golden era was the well-known Whiskey River. The song is one of Willie’s more fast-paced tracks as evidenced by his trusty guitar and the big hole that appears on the front of it. He always remarks how many times he’s had to play this song to get that nice hole there in the front of his guitar.
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7. Branded Man – Merle Haggard
Merle is famous for his wrong doing during his younger days. He spent time in jail for theft and a few various other infractions. To my knowledge he never killed anybody or anything like that, but when you’re in prison there is probably a good reason. For old Merle he brought his troubled past to song and often sang about his stays in prison including the track Branded Man. Merle knew he would be the target of much story for his past and he felt it best to just tell the official word as he saw fit. People reacted positively and Merle became a star.
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6. Thanks A Lot – Ernest Tubb
Ernest is well known for being the “Thanks” guy in country music. Thanks A Lot was one of his biggest hits. The song has this upbeat sound to it, but there is nothing really upbeat about the lyrics. A guy is a little annoyed by how he was treated with by his former lover. She left him to struggle in sorrow and all he can muster up is a little sarcasm. This song might not be where sarcasm started in the world, but the song certainly introduced quite a few people to the concept of being sarcastic. It’s a great piece of history and one of the best songs of all time.
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5. El Paso – Marty Robbins
My dad is a big fan of westerns. When I was a kid growing up I remember him watching the old time TV shows and movies. I’m sure some of that influence trickled down into my veins. I always had a spot in my likeness for western stories. So when I heard El Paso by Marty Robbins for the first time I was instantly hooked. Here is a western set to the tune of a great country music song. The song is about love and all the crazy things that happen to the gunfighter that thinks he can fall in love. It turns out his profession is a bit too dangerous and in the end they really can’t be together.
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4. I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash
This song has had a renaissance over the last decade. When the movie of the same name came out an entire new generation of folks were introduced to Johnny Cash and the famous song from his early days. I was in college at the time and I remember everybody my age talking about this movie. It seemed like everybody had seen it and for the next few months all I’d hear on the computer playlists was I Walk The Line and many of other Johnny classics. It was really interesting to see a song that was 50 years old become this favorite song again of 20-something year old kids. It was great and for someone that had been listening to old country songs my entire life I felt like my secret was out.
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3. She Thinks I Still Care – George Jones
If pressed to name my favorite country artist I always go with George Jones. There is something about how George approaches singing that gets my attention. He’s a true country original. There is no other artist that sounds like him or takes on songs like he does. He sings about good timing, sorrow, and all the emotions in between. With She Thinks I Still Care, George played the part of a guy going through a bit of denial. He’s trying to convince everyone, including his ex, that he’s over her for good. Just because he still thinks of her all the time she seems to have the crazy idea that he still cares about her. It’s a great country song from perhaps the greatest country artist of all time.
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2. Crazy – Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline was an artist I remember going way back. I don’t remember how I was introduced to her hit songs. I used to listen to the classic country station where I grew up. Every weekend the local country station would play classic songs for three hours. I’d sit in my room and listen to all the old classics. Patsy was a regular on the station of course with her best songs. One of those songs was Crazy. Later I’d come to find out Willie Nelson had actually written the song. Still to this day I love hearing Crazy on the classic radio station here where I live now. It’s an old country song, but it still has relevance some 50 years later.
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1. Hey Good Lookin’ – Hank Williams
When I had the idea to put together the top 100 old country songs there was no doubt what the top song would be. When I think of old, classic country music I think of one song – Hey Good Lookin’ by Hank Williams. There is no other choice for the top old country songs of all time. I can remember being a kid and hearing this song everywhere. My mom would sing a few lines to me. My grandma would sing a few lines to me. As I grew up I’d hear the song in movies, on TV shows, and certainly on country radio. This song is what country music is to a lot of people. For me, this is the song that started the modern day country music revolution. Hank brought the twang to mainstream and today things are going as strong as ever.
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