Country Music Firsts

pamtillisOur readers have clearly responded well to our Back to the Nineties features this month. (Fret not, there are more on the way.) Part of the reason is that so many of you, like myself and Leeann, first discovered country music in that decade.

This isn’t too surprising, as the nineties helped establish country music as a genre with widespread appeal. The suburbanization of once-rural America reached its apex, and at the same time, CMT deeply penetrated the cable market. For you newbies, the channel was 24-hour videos back then, with remarkably democratic video rotation.

A clip in heavy rotation would only be seen two more times a day than one in light rotation.  This is the reason both Mutt Lange and Sean Penn discovered Shania Twain through her “What Made You Say That” clip, which was played extensively on the channel despite the song stalling at #55 at radio.

The New York country radio station back then would do a “Country Convert” feature every morning. A radio listener would call in and say what song converted them to country music. Newbies to country music back then had a religious zeal to them, and would work very hard trying to convince others to fall in love with the music.

In the spirit of that “Country Convert” feature, I’d like to ask all of you about your country music firsts. I imagine many of us will have answers concentrated in the nineties, but if yours are from another decade, share them anyway!

Here are the questions:

  • What was the first country song that you remember loving?
  • What was the first country album that you bought with your own money?
  • What was your first country concert?

My Answers:

What was the first country song that you remember loving?

I liked a lot of the older stuff that my parents listened to, like Johnny Horton and Conway Twitty, but it was always my parents’ music.  One night, we were watching a TV variety show called Hot Country Nights. I think we had it on because my mom’s favorite, Ricky Van Shelton, was performing that night. Out came Pam Tillis, singing “Maybe It Was Memphis.” I just had never heard anything like it before, and I was instantly smitten.  

What was the first country album that you bought with your own money?

I remember buying Pam Tillis’ Put Yourself in My Place and Lorrie Morgan’s Something in Red on the same day.  I bought both on cassette. If I recall correctly, I listened only to Side 1 of each tape for a very long time.

What was your first country concert?

Somewhere in New Jersey in 1992: Clint Black, Billy Dean and Aaron Tippin. It was Black’s tour to support The Hard Way. I remember that there was a complicated set for Black’s performance, something with falling rocks.

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40 Comments

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40 Responses to Country Music Firsts

  1. Tony CNo Gravatar

    First Song:
    My parents listened to country music when I was really young, so I remember loving quite a few songs in the mid-80s when I was only 4-5 years old. The one that stands out as the earliest for me was Charly McClain’s “Band Of Gold”. I was only 3 when the song came out, but my mom had the cassette version of the album The Woman In Me (take that Shania!) which also featured her #3 single “Sentimental Ol’ You”. So that album was the soundtrack to many a road trip of my youth. Obviously not aware of the original Freda Payne version of “Band Of Gold”, I latched onto Charly’s version and listened over and over. Listening now is very nostalgic, but I do have a bit of “what was I thinking?” thing going on.

    First Country Album:
    This is difficult to remember, probably Reba’s For My Broken Heart. Gotten as a bday gift when I was 11 years old. Loved it to death.

    First Country Concert:
    1993. Alabama with Diamond Rio and Michelle Wright. Remember walking away shocked that I liked Diamond Rio’s set even more than Alabama’s. And to this day Michelle Wright’s “Take It Like A Man” sounds as good as it did in 1992.

  2. DeniseNo Gravatar

    1. Love is Thin Ice by Barbara Mandrell
    2. Whatever Barbara Mandrell album the above song was on.
    3. I was a country fan long before the 90’s. I started going to country concerts in junior high. Don’t remember what the first one was, but it was probably Gene Watson or Don Williams.

  3. Steve from BostonNo Gravatar

    Great topic!

    First Country song I remember loving was Patty’s Chains…I wasn’t a big record buyer back then, (1990?) but I did enjoy watching TNN and CMT, and Patty became one of my favorites with her Chains video. I KNEW there was something special about that gal even back then ;)… But this was during my “casual” Country fandom period…like I said, I didn’t buy many records back then, and was still mostly into Southen Rock.

    First Country record I remember buying, Whatever Mary Chapin Carpenter album had “Down at the Twist and Shout” …not sure which, I parted with it years ago, having drifted away from MCC’s music. Still respect her as an artist, but my preference now is more hardcore Country and Bluegrass.

    First Country Concert was The Charlie Daniels Band, but I think he was considered more of a Rock artist back in the late Seventies. I was blown away at his dual virtuosity at both fiddle and lead guitar…

    But my first real Country concert was in the “modern” era, 2005, Sara Evans and Brad Paisley, their Mud and Suds tour…actually Brad dubbed it “Mud and Suds and Snow”, as there was a major blizzard that January day in southeastern New England…Govenor Romney had declared a state of emergency and closed the roads, but only AFTER most of us had begun our journey to the Tsongas Arena..The radio DJs couldn’t make it, so Brad came out to introduce Sara wearing a Red Sox (or was it a Patriots? ) jersey and the crowd went wild. Brad called us all crazy for driving in the blizzard, but promised us a great time, and they delivered.

    Sara opened with “Rocking Horse” did a great show, but I was a little dissapointed she did three non-country covers instead of three more of her own songs.

    Brad was a revelation…I didn’t realize until that time what a great guitarist he was, equal to or better than all my rock heroes. I basically went to see Sara and didn’t know much about Brad besides Whiskey Lullaby, but that was enough reason to brave the snow. I’m so glad I stayed around for Brad, even though I left after Whiskey Lullaby…(the snow was REALLY piling up) But before I left, I did buy my first Paisley album at his merchandise table that night. (Mud On the Tires).

    One very memorable and moving highlight was when Brad called Sara out, and they did the song they wrote together, “New Again” from the Passion of the Christ companion album. Then they attempted Tiger by the Tail together, and that was pretty funny because Brad kept messing up…great sport for trying though.

    Well, one of my firsts was from the 90s anyway, Patty’s Chains (or was that ’89?) Dang, I JUST realized that Patty was already a two year Opry member, even when I first discovered her way back then!

    Kevin, I never tire of hearing (or hearing about) Pam’s Maybe it Was Memphis, fantastic song!

  4. Greg MNo Gravatar

    First Country Song I remember loving: Clint Black’s Like the Rain

    First Country Album I bought with my own Money: Dixie Chicks “Fly” or Alan Jackson “Drive.” I think Fly came first

    The only Concert I’ve been to was a marathon that included many bands, but also Gillian Welch, and she’s country enough.

  5. LanibugNo Gravatar

    First Song – Alibis by Tracy Lawrence

    Album – Think it was the same album

    Concert – was either Tracy Lawrence or Little Texas at a place called Nashville North in Taylorville Illinois…was a great venue because if you went to the last show of the night, the artist stuck around and met with the fans and signed autographs, etc., and you did not have to be in the fan club, now I remember going and seeing Eddie Rabbit, etc when I was a kid with my parents, but that was by force because they wanted to go, and it was at the Illinois State Fair….

  6. ScottNo Gravatar

    1. My Dad had an old 8-track called “Stars of the Gran Ole Opry 1924-197(?)” One of the first songs I ever fell in love with was on that. “Blue” by Grandpa Jones..there were a bunch of others on the same collection too…”How Far is Heaven” by Kitty Wells, and “I’m my own Grandpa by Lonzo and Oscar to name a couple.
    2. “Killin’ Time” by Clint Black
    3. Savannah, Ga April 1990. Clint Black, Lorrie Morgan and Alabama

  7. BobNo Gravatar

    It depends on what’s considered to be country music. Would the Everly Brothers be considered country if their career started today? I bought the “Golden Hits of the Everly Brothers” in 1962. Before that I had Everly Brothers 45’s so the first country song I loved was either “Bye Bye Love” or “All I Have to Do Is Dream”. The first time I saw them in concert was in the 80’s at Westbury where I also saw Ronnie Milsap. I don’t remember which concert I saw first.

    I didn’t switch to country music full time til around 1991 after hearing Suzy Bogguss sing “Aces” and “Night Rider’s Lament” on some TV show with Jerry Reed. She’s still my favorite. Saw her for the first time in concert in ’92 at Westbury.

  8. First song: “Friends in Low Places” by Garth Brooks
    First album: Not sure, but I think it was Stampede by Chris LeDoux
    First Concert: Chris LeDoux and it was awesome

  9. cuttingthetreacleNo Gravatar

    What was the first country song that you remember loving? “Swingin'” by John Anderson
    What was the first country album that you bought with your own money? “Rumor Has It” by Reba
    What was your first country concert? Confederate Railroad

  10. highwayman3No Gravatar

    I will say Shania is what converted me with her Any Man of Mine video in the mid 90’s and the album which bore the song was the first I bought on cassette. Before her my understand of country was boring old voices coming from my grandmas AM radio, now ironically, I probably have those same songs downloaded and love them. My first concert was Brooks & Dunn in my hometown.

  11. MichaelNo Gravatar

    Tony, I love Charly McClain’s version of “Band Of Gold”.

    1. The first country song I can remember loving was Reba’s “Fancy”. I was in elementary school and had no idea what it was really about. Around that time I also discovered “Friends In Low Places” and “Achy Breaky Heart”. One of the first songs I actually remember was Reba’s “New Fool at an Old Game”. My mom wore that tape out.
    2. The first country album I can remember my mom playing was Tanya Tucker’s “Strong Enough To Bend”. The first tapes that I bought with my own money were Reba’s Rumor Has It (you weren’t the only one cuttingthetreacle) and Garth’s No Fences (of course).
    3. The first concert I went to was Reba in the early 90s. I was 12 or 13 and it was amazing! I went with my mom and she was playing at Six Flags over Texas.

  12. MichaelNo Gravatar

    Also, although I don’t really have any memory of it, the first songs I loved were Swingin’, On the Road Again and Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys. I guess I used to sing them all the time when I was three or four. :)

  13. PaulaNo Gravatar

    “Denise says:
    August 25, 2009 at 12:24 am
    1. Love is Thin Ice by Barbara Mandrell
    2. Whatever Barbara Mandrell album the above song was on.
    3. I was a country fan long before the 90’s. I started going to country concerts in junior high. Don’t remember what the first one was, but it was probably Gene Watson or Don Williams.”

    Denise, that album is called “This Is Barbara Mandrell” and it was MY first one, too!

    My answers:
    1. “Somebody Loves You” – Crystal Gayle
    2. “This Is Barbara Mandrell” – Barbara Mandrell
    3. Sonny James, Johnny Rodriguez, Crystal Gayle, and Joe Stampley – April 1976 in Charleston, SC

  14. Pingback: Mean Old Man Jerry Lee Lewis; New Releases; Asleep At the Wheel vs. Lyle Lovett and His Large Band | The 9513

  15. BLLNo Gravatar

    First song: He’ll Have to Go – Jim Reeves
    First Album: Pasty Cline’s Sweet Dreams
    First Concert: 1971 Ohio State Fair- Glen Campbell

    I drifted away from country and got more into folk and Celtic, and Garth Brooks brought me back to country with ‘Much Too Young’.

  16. ClaudiaNo Gravatar

    What was the first country song that you remember loving? “El Paso” by Marty Robbins. I knew every word. Didn’t really think of it as “Country”, I just loved it.

    What was the first country album that you bought with your own money? “Greatest Hits”, Brooks & Dunn. I had been a Rock fan for some time, and then I heard “If You See Him, If You See Her”, and I started going back to B&D’s & Reba’s catalogs. That was it.

    What was your first country concert? 1998. Reba & Brooks & Dunn, co-headlining. They alternated closing the show. Terri Clark & David Kersh were the opening acts, and Linda Davis did “Does He Love You” with Reba. I went home, logged on to CD Universe, and bought everything in sight!

  17. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    First Song:
    My Dad listened to country music when I was really young, and played guitar and sang so it would probably be “Walking the Floor Over”(Ernest Tubb), “Im Moving On” (Hank Snow) or “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” (Hank Williams), all of which dad sang

    First Country Album:
    I actually saved up my money and bought three albums at the same time: SKIP A ROPE by Henson Cargill, COUNTRY CHARLIE PRIDE, and ACCORDING TO MY HEART by Jim Reeves. Prior to that I had purchased a few 45s – since then, almost never

    First Country Concert:
    During the 1960s I saw various country acts at State Fairs, etc – usually several acts on one bill. The first time I actually set out to go see a concert, the act was Buck Owens and The Buckaroos in 1968 in Virginia. I would see them on several other occasions when Dad was transferred to London (England) at the end of his Viet Nam tour in December 1968.

  18. Music ManNo Gravatar

    What was the first country song that you remember loving?

    Jimmy Wakely’s 1949 hit “One Has My Name (The Other Has My Heart”

    What was the first country album that you bought with your own money?

    78RPM of Jim Reeves’ “Bimbo”

    What was your first country concert?

    The Maddox Brothers and Rose with Tennessee Ernie Ford

  19. DCNo Gravatar

    First Song: “Dear Me” by Lorrie Morgan. I was just about 5 or 6 years old when this came out, and for some reason I loved Lorrie Morgan. I don’t really listen to her music that much now, but this was the first country song that I ever really paid attention to and liked.

    First Album: It actually was a Christmas album by the Oak Ridge Boys: “An Inconvenient Christmas.” I didn’t really get into country music enough to bother collecting any of it until about 2000, and this was the time that Napster first came around…you can figure out what happened. Artists like the Oak Ridge Boys weren’t exactly popular on Napster, so I had to actually buy that Christmas album. I soon learned the error of my ways (and got more money!) and bought “Sweet Right Here” by SHeDAISY (go ahead an mock me, but I think they’re awesome!) as my first non-Christmas country album.

    First Concert: Toby Keith at the Asheville Civic Center in 1999. “How Do You Like Me Now?” (the single, not the album) had come out not long before this show, and I remember it got a great reaction from the crowd.

  20. JeffNo Gravatar

    Some triva about Charly McClain’s “Band of Gold” Louise Mandrell recorded this song in 1978, it was on the flip side of a disco release “Everlasting love”. Both versions were about the same. It went to #22 on the BB charts for Charly. Speaking of Louise, her last charted top 40 single was “Do I have to say goodbye” which was also recorded by Crystal Gayle. Barbara and Louise has only recorded one duet song “I’d rather be used than not needed at all”. never released as a single.

  21. JeffNo Gravatar

    First song ” Sleeping Single in a double bed” Barbara Mandrell
    First LP “moods” Barbara Mandrell
    First concert Dottie West

  22. DiamondNo Gravatar

    Song: “Gentle On My Mind” Glen Campbell

    Album: Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison (Live)

    Concert: The Statler Brothers (original quartet, with Lew)

  23. SheldonNo Gravatar

    FIRST SONG- “Nobody” by Sylvia. Man I loved that song. My folks had the tape and I played that one song over and over. We were going camping and my sister was nearly crazy due to the fact I forced her to listen to it so many times, so she grabbed the cassette out of my hands and tossed it out of the truck. I was furious for losing the picture of Sylvia, but I glared at my sister and with a look of victory in my eyes, I held up the cassette – still safe in my hot little hands – she had only thrown out the tape case – not the actual cassette. There was hell to pay on THAT camping trip by my dear sister.

    FIRST ALBUM BOUGHT WITH MY OWN MONEY-
    Dolly’s Greatest Hits. Just like with “Nobody”, I loved “9 to 5″. I was 13 and headed down to our local music shop and picked out “Greatest Hits”. I stared at Dolly in her tight red sweater with her hands behind her head and just knew that even if the album was crap I would have something good to look at! Turns out Dolly delivered the goods, and I am a die-hard fan. Over the years, I managed to get every single LP Dolly has released -been to 15 of her concerts all over the US and Canada, and finally got to meet her (still a raving beauty…) I can trace all this back to my threadbare cassette and scratched and broken case of “Greatest Hits”

    FIRST CONCERT(S)- Oak Ridge Boys in International Falls MN, then Randy Travis in Winnipeg Manitoba, then my beloved Dolly in Detroit Lakes Mn, then the Great Johnny Cash in Fort Frances, Ontario, Then George and Tammy in Winnipeg Manitoba…..

  24. CoreyNo Gravatar

    First Song: “Friends in Low Places” Garth Brooks
    I was born in nov. of ’86 and have pictures of me singing this song when it came out.

    First CD with own money: Garth Brooks ‘Fresh Horses’ album.

    First Concert: Garth Brooks in support of ‘Fresh Horses’

    I probably would have listened to country anyway, given that my dad grew up listening to it, but it is undeniable that Garth Brooks has had a major impact on my musical tastes. He receives lots of criticism, but as a 3-13 year old growing up in the decade, his music really does define what i heard and loved on country radio.

  25. plain_JoNo Gravatar

    First Song – Indian Outlaw, my Indian friends really turned me on to that song, unlike all the publicity it got for being offensive to Indians/ native Americans we lived close to a Chippewa res. and they were nuts about the song.
    First CD – Toby Keith Single How Do You Like Me Now, with three different versions radio, dance mix, rock. First full length CD was George Jones – Choices.
    First Concert – Joe Diffie, and it was amazing!

  26. SaraNo Gravatar

    Song: I remember LOVING Reba McEntire’s Fancy and Martina McBride’s Independence Day. I was a strange, overdramatic child.
    Album: Martina McBride’s Wild Angels, on cassette. I used to listen to the first two songs (the title track and Safe in the Arms of Love) over and over and over. The first country CD I ever bought was, I believe, either Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Stones in the Road. I still love that CD.
    Concert: The only person I’ve seen in concert is Lucinda Williams, twice. Don’t know if she’s country enough by the standards of this website.

  27. CynthiaNo Gravatar

    First Country Song: There’s Your Trouble by the Dixie Chicks
    First Country Album: Wide Open Spaces by the Dixie Chicks
    First Country Concert: Tim McGraw

  28. This is a neat discussion – I like hearing about people’s introduction to country music, though all 3 of my answers are going to be one-sided.

    The first country song I remember loving was Reba’s ‘Take It Back’. The first time I heard the song was when I saw the music video. I was 9 years old at the time and was completely taken with her attitude and the entire visual package of the music video. That got me started on country music, but it would be Trisha Yearwood’s recording of ‘Seven Year Ache’ that holds the title of ‘first country song I really loved’. That was the first song that grabbed me and held my attention and caused me to seek out more country music.

    The first country album I bought with my own money was Reba’s Rumor Has It. I had gotten It’s Your Call for Christmas that year, and with some of the Christmas card money, I bought that cassette and a nifty boom-box tape player.

    My first country concert was Brooks & Dunn and Reba in 1997 at Lexington, KY’s Rupp Arena. Great show.

  29. Leeann WardNo Gravatar

    First country song that I loved:
    It was probably “Friends in Low Places”; it’s what got me to purposely turn on a country station in the first place.

    First album bought with my own money:
    My memory is a little murky on this one. I remember that one of mys siters bought Garth’s self titled album and we’d listen to it all the time. I can’t separate the first country albums that I received as gifts and the first country album that I bought with my own money. That was many, many albums ago.:)

    First Country Concert:
    Believe it or not, Vince Gill not until 2006.

  30. Cutting The TreacleNo Gravatar

    Wow. A Sylvia reference. When I was a kid, my best friend had her record that had “Drifter” and “Matador” on it. We listened to that over and over and over. Now that I think about it, we listened to “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” all the time too – the version that said “son of a bitch”. We were bad ass because we were like 6 years old and didn’t care if someone heard us say “son of a bitch”. “The Gambler”, “Coward of the County”, “Angel of the Morning”, “Queen of Hearts” . . . all kinds of pre-Swingin’ songs now that I think about.

  31. JoeBNo Gravatar

    First Song: “Drivin’ My Life Away” — Eddie Rabbitt

    First Album: “Have I Got a Deal For You” — Reba

    First Concert: Michelle Wright, Rita MacNeil, Vern Gosdin, Dan Seals; Maple Leaf Gardens, Toronto, 1989.

  32. MichaelNo Gravatar

    first country song i feel in love with: Garth’s “wild horses”

    first album bought with my own money: No Fences on cassette by Garth Brooks

    unfortunately, it took a long time for me to actually go to my first country concert, i never got to see my man garth. The first one I saw was Kenny Chesney, Rascall Flatts, and Uncle Kracker.

  33. AmandaNo Gravatar

    1.) The first one I can remember is Randy Travis – Deeper Than A Holler….remember listening to it with my dad driving me to school when I was little.

    2.) First album I bought myself was Deana Carter – Did I Shave My Legs for This?

    3.) First Concert – Volunteer Jam with Hank Williams, Jr. and Charlie Daniels

  34. Mike KNo Gravatar

    1. Black Sheep – John Anderson. I have an uncle that can play thousands of country songs and he used to have my brother and me sing this one with him (or rather scream) when we were young. “My Daddy was a brakeman on a highball travelin’ train…”

    2. Ocean Front Property – George Strait. And on cassette no less. I have that album cover of George pointing out at the desert burned into my mind.

    3. Clint Black – Nothing But the Taillights. Seems like Clint was the first for a lot of people.

  35. 1. The first country song I can remember loving was “Rhinestone Cowboy” by Glen Campbell.

    2. The first album I bought with my own money was a cassette of The Best of Barbara Mandrell , which was followed shortly thereafter by greatest hits packages by Tanya Tucker and Kenny Rogers.

    3. First concert: The Oak Ridge Boys in New Jersey in 1984.

  36. MikeNo Gravatar

    #1- George Strait: Check Yes or No and Garth Brooks: Friends in Low Places

    #2-A Best of Country Music CD that had songs on it from Diamond Rio, Clint Black, Lorrie Morgan, Alabama and others

    #3- Lynyrd Skynyrd & Hank Williams Jr.

  37. James S.No Gravatar

    First song I loved : “A Better Man” by Clint Black. At only four or five years old, I remember getting excited every time this song came on the car radio.

    First album I bought myself : Joe Diffie – A Thousand Winding Roads

    First concert : George Strait in 2002. Loved every minute of it.

  38. Cory DeSteinNo Gravatar

    Great idea for a topic Kevin, i like it!

    What was the first country song that you remember loving?

    I was born in 1986, and my parents listened to alot of the country music back then, but my main link to country music was TNN, and one of the earliest memories I have of liking a song was “Out of Your Shoes” by Lorrie Morgan and “Come Next Monday” by K.T. Oslin

    What was the first country album that you bought with your own money?

    Well the first album i bought with MY OWN money was Trisha Yearwood’s album “Songbook: A Collection of Hits” I was 11 years old and did chores for weeks to earn that $10.99. But the first album my parents got for me was Trisha Yearwood’s debut album and “Love in A Small Town” K.T. Oslin on the same day, they got me all her(Yearwood) albums on the day they were released. I started buying them after songbook.

    What was your first country concert?
    Somewhere in 1994, it was Little Texas, Blackhawk, and this new guy Tim McGraw…I remember once Little Texas came on we left, it was too much noise for my dad with a 6 year old and 7 year old with him haha. A couple months later I got to go to Trisha Yearwood’s “Thinkin About You Tour” and got to meet her backstage

  39. i was born in 1988 and i live in lebanon, so my list is gonna be different from most:

    1. “Stay” – Sugarland. When it won best country song in the grammys i downloaded the song and fell in love with it, that’s really the moment i started loving country music.

    2. Shania Twain – Come On Over. But i didn’t know she was country. I think that in Lebanon we only get the pop version coz it doesn’t sound like country. But i love that album!!

    3. None so far (no country concerts here), but i wanna try to catch any miranda lambert concert if i can!

  40. ZackNo Gravatar

    1st song:
    “Suds In The Bucket” or “Don’t Worry Bout A Thing” by Sara Evans and SHeDAISY, respectively.

    1st album brought:
    Sweet Right Here by SHeDAISY

    1st concert:
    Reba McEntire