Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Doug Stone, “I Never Knew Love”

“I Never Knew Love”

Doug Stone

Written by Larry Boone and Will Robinson

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 7, 1994

Doug Stone charts his final No. 1 single to date.

The Road to No. 1

Doug Stone was a frequent visitor to the penthouse over the course of his first three albums.  His fourth release, More Love, was led off with another heartfelt ballad, and it is his most recent visit to the top of the charts.

The No. 1

I have clear memories of finding Doug Stone’s work too sappy, and that More Love felt like the moment it got overbearing.

Revisiting “I Never Knew Love,” I think I can better diagnosis what went wrong.  The song itself is pretty good.  It’s the arrangement and the performance that make it all too much like a Hallmark Card put to song.

Stone never taps the lower register of his voice or uses very much of its power.  There’s a forcefulness to his earlier performances that’s absent here. The production doesn’t help, as it’s maudlin AC radio ballad in style.  If this had a traditional country arrangement, it would’ve added some heft and perhaps coaxed a more compelling vocal from a singer who was far more capable than this.

As is, “I Never Knew Love” sounds like a Michael Bolton record sung by Tiny Tim.

The Road From No. 1

Doug Stone went top ten with the next two singles from More Love, and repeated that success with “Little Houses,” the sole single from his optimistically titled Greatest Hits Volume 1.   A string of bad luck followed, as his promotion of the quite strong album Faith in Me, Faith in You was interrupted by near fatal health issues in 1995.  He resurfaced on Atlantic Records for one project in the late nineties, and then recorded several independent projects.  Stone has remained a popular draw on nineties package tours, including one with Bryan White and Shenandoah.

“I Never Knew Love” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Shenandoah, “I Want to Be Loved Like That”

4 Comments

  1. Doug Stone gives Jim Reeves a real run for his money for the least cool country singer ever. The difference being, Gentleman Jim was a stylist and an amazingly gifted and nuanced vocalist. He defined an era and a sound. He was internationally adored.

    Stone? His vocals consistently hold him back and they find him routinely under-serving, or misinterpreting, song material that deserves better. He just continued to drift further and further away from the promise of his amazing hard country debut single until he landed on this mucky, soft sound. It is without shape, character, or form. It is limp and lame music.

    Imagine if George Strait added “I Never Knew Love” to the list of Boone penned compositions he has covered in the past. It’s an entirely different song just as a thought experiment.

    Here, Stone effectively neuters an otherwise solid Larry Boone number.

  2. I don’t think the song is all that great on its own, but the production and Stone’s whiny performance don’t elevate it any. His first album was great, the second was pretty good, and the third is really hit and miss. The single that follows this – “Addicted to a Dollar” – is total dreck, and nothing he released after is really worth listening to.

  3. I can be a sucker for a sappy country song and I’ve always loved this one, including Stone’s performance and the production. I had a lot more tolerance for country pop music back in the nineties, so a lot of the pop country stuff from back then that I used to love hasn’t stuck with me now, but I still happen to hold onto this as one that I love.

  4. It’s been said before and I’ll say it again: Doug Stone probably wins the prize for the best debut single that preceded an underwhelming career. It’s sad, but I’m glad this was his last number 1.

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