Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: Billy Dean, “Billy the Kid”

“Billy the Kid”

Billy Dean

Written by Billy Dean and Paul Nelson

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

July 24, 1992

An autobiographical tune brings Billy Dean back to the top.

The Road to No. 1

After topping the charts with “Somewhere in My Broken Heart,” Dean released his second album, Billy Dean.  It produced two top five singles with “You Don’t Count the Cost” and “Only the Wind,” followed by two chart-topping singles from the project.

The No. 1

“Billy the Kid” tells the story of country music’s journey to suburbia as well as any record from the era.

Once called “Country & Western” music, even the eighties still had a handful of chart-toppers in that vein, like “Pancho & Lefty” and “Highwayman.”

Now, the western theme returns, but in the most suburban way possible: a grown man recollecting playing cowboy games in his neighborhood as a child, when “being late for supper was my only fear.”

Now, he’s missing “Billy the Kid,” as the day-to-day struggles of adulthood leaves him wondering where he went:  “I guess he must have got caught, his innocence lost, I wonder where he is.”

It’s not an incredibly deep train of thought, but it makes up for it with the sincerity of its nostalgia.

The Road From No. 1

Billy Dean has one more solo No. 1 hit in his quiver, and we’ll cover it later this year.

“Billy the Kid” gets a B. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Brooks & Dunn, “Boot Scootin’ Boogie”

4 Comments

  1. Love this song more than as a child because its so damn relatable now. Remember this one getting the most recurrent plays for Billy as I was growing up. Id give it an A!

  2. Loved this song.

    It wasn’t normally the style of song I cared for but I would hear it on the radio and I couldn’t stop singing it. Very catchy.

  3. I’ve also always liked this song, and like Trouble_With_The_Truth, I like it even more now than I did as a kid because I can totally relate to it these days. I always thought the western theme was used in a clever way for this song, as well. For me, this is one of the first songs that comes to mind whenever I think of songs about nostalgia and missing your childhood.

    I remember this also being one of my dad’s favorite songs while we were still living in his house in 1992, and I remember him always saying he liked this song whenever the video would come on CMT. In early 1993, after we had moved into a new house, my step dad surprised me when he came back home and I saw two brand new cd’s sitting in the back seat of the car. One of them was Billy Dean’s self titled 1991 album, which was totally exciting for me because he had become another one of my favorite artists at that time. Anyway, I remember instantly recognizing and enjoying this song all over again when we first played that cd and recorded it on to a cassette tape. Little did I know that one day I would connect with this song on a whole new level. I really do miss Jamie the kid, though I’m still very much a child at heart in a lot of ways. :)

    Btw, the video for this song is adorable, and I always thought it was pretty neat how they made it a sequel to the “Only The Wind” video. Both videos bring back good memories for me. :)

  4. I appreciate that songs like this could be welcomed on the radio and embraced enough to hit the top. I think Dean made meaningful contributions to the era with his subdued, thoughtful songs and vocals.

    Kevin makes an important observation about the suburban aspects of the songs and the how the western half of the genre would get reinterpreted by this new generation of stars.

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