Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Shenandoah, “Next to You, Next to Me”

“Next to You, Next to Me”

Shenandoah

Written by Robert Ellis Orrall and Curtis Wright

Billboard

#1 (3 weeks)

August 18 – September 1, 1990

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 17, 1990

Shenandoah’s biggest hit is also their best.

The Road to No. 1

Shenandoah got its start as a house band in Muscle Schoals, Alabama, with drummer Mark McGuire instrumental in getting the band on the radar of the Nashville music industry.  Their first studio album was released by Columbia in 1987, with the singles from that self-titled set making little impact.

However, the band broke through with their sophomore effort, The Road Not Taken, a gold-selling effort that produced the major hit singles “Mama Knows” and “See if I Care,” as well as their first three No. 1 hits: “The Church on Cumberland Road,” “Sunday in the South,” and “Two Dozen Roses.”

Columbia chose “Next to You, Next to Me” as the lead single of their third album, Extra Mile.

The No. 1

“Next to You, Next to Me” is one of the most charming records in country music history.  A lovely celebration of simple domestic bliss, the little details add up to a beautiful portrait of one specific relationship.

Radio playin’ our favorite song
I’ll change the station if the news comes on
When the signal ain’t comin’ in too strong
We’ll make our own music honey all night long
If the Good Lord’s willin’ when we’re old and gray
The kids are grown up and moved away
We’ll be rockin’ there side by side
With barbeque chicken and the TV Guide

It’s so country, and also so corny in the very best way that only country music can be. Diamond Rio would take this ball and run with it in the nineties on hits like “Norma Jean Riley,” but I don’t think that this particular variety of bluegrass-flavored country has ever sounded better on the radio than it does here.

The Road From No. 1
Extra Mile produced several more hits on its way to its gold certification, including “Ghost in This House,” “I Got You,” and “The Moon Over Georgia,” keeping the band’s profile high enough to earn them the 1991 ACM Award for Top Vocal Group. Unfortunately, legal issues surrounding their band name led to their termination from the Columbia label, as well as the band itself declaring bankruptcy.
Undeterred, Shenandoah resurfaced on RCA in 1992, scoring a big hit with “Rock My Baby,” though the album Long Time Comin’ didn’t reach the same commercial heights as its predecessors, and their next two singles missed the top ten. The band rebounded on the singles charts with their second and final RCA set, Under the Kudzu. We’ll see the band again with their final two No. 1 hits, both featured on that album, in 1994.
“Next to You, Next to Me” gets an A.

8 Comments

  1. I love this song too! It is so fun and charming. I’ve heard re-recordings of this song by them, but the original version is the perfect version and no covers of it have touched it either.

  2. A great song by the best of the 80s/90s vocal groups. I never really heard anything by Shenandoah, while Marty Raybon was the lead singer, that I didn’t like

  3. Love me some Shenandoah, especially anything with Marty Raybon singing lead and Robert Byrne producing. They were one of the very first country groups I remember really liking. I remember enjoying most of the songs I heard from them when I was little, including this one, “Two Dozen Roses,” “Ghost In This House,” “Sunday In The South,” “I Got You,” and others. My mom also got me a copy of their self-titled debut album on cassette.

    I actually remember hearing this song one night in the car with my parents back when it was new, and it’s always been a favorite. This has to be another one of the best feel good songs of the decade! I especially always loved the fiddle in this one. Also always loved those little popping sounds near the end. I don’t know what they’re called or the instrument used to make that sound, but it’s similar to what you hear in the beginning of Alabama’s “Dixieland Delight.” Always thought it sounded cool!

    Also agree that the re-recordings of the older songs they did later in the 90’s with Don Cook on Capital don’t come close to the originals by on Sony with Robert Byrne.

    Btw, it’s a bit surprising to learn that they didn’t have more number ones in the 90’s. I especially love the follow up album to this, Long Time Comin’, particularly the title track.

  4. I am so excited by this feature and all the comments because it is really providing an opportunity to have a conversation between #1 country singles and country music listeners. I love reading about the context in which these songs were first experienced as much as the actual musical merits of the single.

    All the comments connect our varied initial responses to these songs in the moment to country music today. It’s a live dialogue that matters, between the past and the present.

    That all these songs were number ones over thirty years ago is reason enough for us to reconsider their significance as it relates to their influence on what is happening in country music now.

    I think that’s very cool.

    I also think “Next To You, Next To Me” is very cool. It is just plain fun. Imminently relatable. A classic of ’90’s country.

  5. Among their best. But I always enjoyed “Sunday in the South” and “The Moon over Georgia” more

  6. I like at least a half dozen Marty Raybon Shenandoah songs better than the Next To song, including If Bubba Can Dance.

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