Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Doug Stone, “A Jukebox With a Country Song”

“A Jukebox With a Country Song”

Doug Stone

Written by Gene Nelson and Ronnie Samoset

Billboard

#1 (2 weeks)

February 1 – February 8, 1992

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 17, 1992

A catchy melody helps along an implausible storyline.

The Road to No. 1

After two No. 1 ballads, Doug Stone topped the charts for the first time with an uptempo number.

The No. 1

And this uptempo number has been driving me crazy for the past 24 hours.

This song is deliriously catchy.  Every time I start thinking about the gaping plotholes I want to write about here, it gets stuck in my head again.

Stone sings it so damn well, getting me to buy into his righteous indignation over how his rundown watering hole has become an upscale restaurant.

But the song makes no sense!

He heads to the “rundown one room tavern” and “it all still looks the same” as he pulls into the drive.

Then he goes inside, and there’s a maître d at the door.  Everyone’s in suits and ties.  There are even some ferns hanging everywhere.

Now I ask you.

Why the hell would someone take over a rundown, one room tavern, target a completely different clientele, and remake and remodel the place from top to bottom, but leave the outside looking the same?  You don’t even put up a new sign?

It’s the first nineties No. 1 that hints at the storm clouds gathering on the horizon.  There isn’t going to be enough solid material to sustain all of the talented artists that have broken through between 1989 and 1991, and there are still many new artists on the way that will be competing with them for songs.

So the material is going to get thin, and talented artists will have to lean heavily on style and performance to compensate for the weaker songs that they’re stuck singing.

Doug Stone isn’t there yet.  But with this record, he’s now facing in that direction.

The Road From No. 1

This is Doug Stone’s only No. 1 hit in 1992, but he had two more singles reach the fop five: “Come in Out of the Pain,” the third and final single from I Thought it Was You, and “Warning Labels,” the lead single from his next set, From the Heart.  We’ll see him again in 1993 with a pair of chart-toppers from that album.

“A Jukebox With a Country Song” gets a B-.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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10 Comments

  1. I really disagree with the B- rating, I would give it an A-. Yes the premise is a bit of a stretch but there was a country music bar here in Central Florida that underwent the exact transformation described in the song – massive remodeling inside and nothing done to exterior except to repave the parking lot.

    Moreover Doug’s vocal on this fun number is compelling. Another great song, “Warning Labels” reached #1 on several local stations weekly countdowns and is a great companion to this song.

  2. The song taken literally makes little sense. That’s true. But its meant to be just a fun look at how things changes and how we make fun of those changes. it succeeds on that, and so i give it an A

  3. I might up it to a “B”, but I more or less agree with the review. I love Stone’s voice and the production on it, but the song always seemed a bit too much on the hokey side for me. Still, I wish more singles would’ve been released from him in this vein. The aforementioned “Warning Labels” (which I wish would’ve gone to number one) is a great example of what could’ve been, rather than the route he would end up taking.

  4. Always loved this one! This was definitely one of the most fun songs to come from that great late ’91/early ’92 time frame. It may be a bit silly lyrically, but I always just took it as a fun and humorous spin on the old “guy goes to the bar after fighting with his significant other” story. I also love Doug’s performance, and there’s a bit of a playfulness to it that allows you to laugh along to the story of his unbelievably bad luck of losing both his significant other and his favorite honky tonk on the same day. Also, I’ve always loved the overall sound of it, with lots of fiddle, steel, and dobro featured throughout. It also has one of the most unique sounding electric guitars I’ve heard, especially during the second verse and at the very end. As much as I love a lot of Doug Stone’s ballads, I definitely would’ve liked hearing him do more stuff like this, as well.

    This was also a song that both my dad and step dad always liked. They’d always especially love singing out loud “Whatcha do with those swingin’ doors?!!” at the start of the chorus, lol. It’s also one in which my dad would mention the video whenever we heard it, since it was one he remembered seeing a lot on CMT around this time. And of course, this song wound up on at least a couple of my tapes from around this time, as well.

    Even though it was mostly a fun song, there have been times I’ve felt similar frustration and disappointment Doug’s character felt whenever one of my favorite country themed restaurants went out of business and was replaced by something completely different in both food and atmosphere. Heck, I can hardly find anywhere that has a jukebox with a country song in my neck of the woods, lately. That includes the Texas Roadhouse whose jukebox is mostly filled with Bro-Country sludge now, lol.

  5. I’ve always liked this song and never even considered the plotholes, but it’s still an enjoyable listen. I also wish Warning Labels had gone #1 and I preferred that style for Doug Stone to his ballads.

  6. …this song reflects country radio at the time to a tee. if you put a ton of country songs of that period in a blender, not unlikely you would end up with “a jukebox with a country song” as a result – sort of rather tasty mainstream country smoothy. doug stone was a dam fine singer, who really knew how to pull of this kind of songs. i still enjoy that album – nice little gem.

  7. I just wish Stone didn’t sound so slick in singing nonsense. This will be my ongoing complaint with Stone going forward. I just don’t beleive him when he sings. He is the only artist of these early nineties stars to fail the sincerity contract with me.

    I love the sound of the record but I struggle to accept him as the character in the song. I can’t buy him as a regular at his former dive tavern. I think he would actually do just fine as the featured act in the new fern bar.

    I can hear Joe Diffie or Tracy Lawrence handling this “thin” song so much better in my mind’s ear.

  8. Man, I love this song. A+ And yeah, it is a bit slick, and I’ll agree with Peter that JD or TL might have done better with it. And I’ll put in a plug for Travis Tritt, as a B side to Country Club.

  9. Doug Stone has always sounded sincere to me and I even think he has a nice voice, but I have to agree that this song probably would’ve been really great if Travis Tritt had done it.

  10. I tend to agree that I don’t think Doug Stone’s problem was ever sincerity…it was more choice of material. I think when he had a great song, like “Pine Box” or “Warning Labels”, or even a good one, like “In a Different Light” or “I Never Knew Love”…he sounded great. But, he just never was a great chooser of material, and a lot of his later singles choices reflected that. I also think Kevin makes a great point in the review when he talks about the shear number of artists coming up with great songs out of the gate, and then having to fight to choose the best material afterwards. I think it shows how important it was in the country music genre at the time to either be able to write a lot of quality songs (AKA the Alan Jackson route), or be a really patient selector of material (AKA the George Strait route). Given how country music was becoming more into the money aspect of things through this time period, the latter option wasn’t as common, and I”m sure record labels pushed young artists to “strike while the iron was hot”. I think that’s partly why quality dropped a little as you moved into the later part of the decade.

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