Ricky Van Shelton
Written by Charlie Major
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
May 22, 1992
Ricky Van Shelton tops the chart for the last time.
The Road to No. 1
Since breaking through at radio in 1987, Shelton had been one of the genre’s most consistent hitmakers, reaching the top ten with fourteen consecutive singles. Following his most recent No. 1, “Keep it Between the Lines,” Columbia released “After the Lights Go Out,” which was Shelton’s first single to miss the top ten since his debut release, “Wild-Eyed Dream.” Shelton rebounded with the title track and fourth single from Backroads.
The No. 1
“Backroads” is an unassuming single, despite its distinction as Shelton’s final chart topping hit. A fun and enthusiastic driving anthem, it doesn’t break any new lyrical ground, but has a loose rockabilly feel that compensates for the barely there songwriting.
It’s an early example of what will become very common as the decade progresses, with tempo and backbeat becoming more important than lyrics and melody. Shelton sings “Backroads” well, but it’s just album filler that happened to become radio filler.
The Road From No. 1
Ricky Van Shelton’s audience stuck around a lot longer than radio did. After a one-off Elvis cover for the Honeymoon in Vegas soundtrack, he previewed Greatest Hits Plus with “Wild Man,” which became his final top five hit. The album still went platinum, and it did so on the heels of another gold album, Don’t Overlook Salvation, a gospel collection that sold well despite no radio airplay at all.
In 1993, he released another studio album, A Bridge I Didn’t Burn. Despite the lead single missing the top forty and the second single barely scraping the top twenty, it also went gold. His final studio set for Columbia, Love and Honor, followed in 1994. It produced no hits and remains his only major label release to not be certified gold or higher. A budget compilation, Super Hits, rounded out his work for the label, and it also became a gold seller.
After a hiatus to focus on his health and wellness, Shelton re-emerged in 1998 with Making Plans, a studio album that was sold exclusively at Wal-Mart. He followed with Fried Green Tomatoes and Blue Christmas in 2000.
In 2006, Shelton announced his retirement from the music industry, choosing to focus on his family and his hobbies of antiquing and restoration of classic cars.
“Backroads” gets a B.
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