Written by Paul Craft
#1 (2 weeks)
February 9 – February 16, 1991
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
February 1, 1991
An essential new traditionalist earns his first No. 1 single.
The Road to No. 1
When we talk about all of the fully formed artists that broke through with their debut singles in the early nineties, it’s easy to overlook what distinguished most of them from the young stars that would do the same in the mid-to-late nineties. Part of the reason the early nineties artists were stronger is because they were older, having honed their skills playing clubs and writing songs for many years before their “overnight success.”
Mark Chesnutt had dropped out of high school in eleventh grade to be a full-time performer, and spent the eighties as a popular local singer in Beaumont, Texas. Although he released many independent singles and even a full-length independent album, Doin’ My Country Thing, he was stll received as a brand new artist when he signed with MCA Records. Like his peers, he had a fully formed sound and musical vision, which was evident in the hardcore country of his debut single, “Too Cold at Home,” which went top five in 1990. It served as the title track to his MCA debut album, and the label followed up its success with his second single, “Brother Jukebox.”
The No. 1
Am I being too generous with these early nineties singles?
I don’t think I am.
“Brother Jukebox” still sounds as good thirty years later as it did when it first hit the radio, balancing self-deprecating humor and lonely despair with its clever lyric and Chesnutt’s nuanced performance.
It has all those beer-sipping elements you find in great honky tonk songs, with the clean production that was becoming standard Music City practice as the boom years got underway. You could easily picture George Jones or Gene Watson having a big hit with it twenty years earlier, but it still sounds thoroughly modern and of its time.
The Road From No. 1
Mark Chesnutt became one of the nineties’ most consistent hitmakers, and there are two more No. 1 singles on deck from his debut album before 1991 is through.
“Brother Jukebox” gets an A.