Monday Open Thread: Country Convert Song

You know what's fun? Accidentally erasing your iPod!  I'm already hours into refilling it, and i still have more than 4,000 songs to go.

Anyway, looking at all of the songs reminds me of just how long I've been a country music fan.  There used to be a radio station in New York City with a daily feature called “Country Convert Song.”  Listeners would call the station and share the song that made them a country music fan.

Now, I've been surrounded by country music for as long as I can remember.  My parents were huge fans. Their song was Billie Jo Spears' “Blanket on the Ground.”   Long car trips were dominated by mix tapes of Marty Robbins, Tammy Wynette, Ronnie Milsap, Reba McEntire, Johnny Cash, John Conlee and Conway Twitty.

But even though I liked some of the songs, it was definitely mom and dad's music.  Then, when I was in six

th grade, a show called Hot Country Nights was on television.   My mom insisted we watch it, and this was back in the “no cable and only one tv and it's in the living room” days.   She was excited to see Ricky Van Shelton or Kenny Rogers or something.

Out came one of the new country stars of the early nineties, debuting her new single.   Readers won't be shocked by who it was.   I remember watching Pam Tillis sing “Maybe it Was Memphis” and it was like an epiphany.  Music can be this good? Really?

From that point on, whenever we spent our weekends in Pennsylvania, I would be glued to CMT day and night.  Seventeen years later, it's still the music I listen to the most.

Too late to be a long story short, but that's my country convert song: Pam Tillis, “Maybe it Was Memphis.” What was yours?



  1. My “country convert song” was “Little Rock” by Collin Raye. Y’know I liked Garth before (didn’t everybody) but it was Collin and that song that converted me.

  2. I believe “Friends In Low Places” was the beginning of my conversion. Because of that song, I turned the radio to a country station in hopes of hearing that song and heard a countdown instead. Back then, it was full of great songs:
    Mark Chesnutt, “I Just Wanted You To Know”
    George Strait, “I’d Like To Have That One Back
    Alan Jackson, “Who Says You Can’t Have It All”
    John Anderson, “I’ve Got It Made”
    Garth Brooks, “Standing Outside The Fire”
    Vince Gill, “Tryin To Get Over You”
    Tanya Tucker, “We Don’t Have To Do This”
    Travis Tritt, “Take It Easy”
    Randy Travis, “Before You Kill Us All”
    Clay Walker, “Live Until I Die”
    Mary Chapin Carpenter, “He Thinks He’ll Keep Her”
    Pam Tillis, “Spilled Perfume”
    Wynonna, “Rock Bottom”
    Neil McCoy, “No Doubt About It”
    Sammy Kershaw, “I Can’t Reach Her Anymore”

    Those, from what I can remember, were the songs that caught my attention that “fateful” day.

  3. I think my song was “Like the Rain” by Clint Black. I just liked the lyric and the melody and couldn’t wait until I could hear the song again. Then I watched the whole Garth Brooks in Central Park thing on HBO and started to really take a liking in Country Music.

  4. My convert song was “Love Me” by Collin Raye. It was a hot Texas summer night and I was jumping on my neighbor’s trampoline. She said she was going to put on some country music and I silently groaned. Then “Love Me” came on and I was taken by the story, the melody, and the simplicity of the delivery. I’ve been listening mostly to country music since.

  5. FiLP was obviously big for a lot of people converting in the early 90’s. Garth was probably the more memorable reason for me… which is funny in that I can’t really stand to listen to any of those songs any more.

    Soon after Garth’s initial catch it was surely Patty Loveless and Suzy Bogguss that got me properly hooked.

  6. Of course.. TNN.. back when it was a country channel…. had the line dancing show on after school where the camera guys were pervs looking up all the pleated country skirts…

    ..maybe it wasn’t a song after all. :)

  7. I don’t have one. I’ve been listening to country music since the day I was born, although my first memories are of my Dad playing Hank Jr. records, as well as Red Headed Stranger.

    The first tape I owned was Billy Ray Cyrus’ single “Could’ve Been Me,” and the first record I bought was Vince Gill’s “When Love Finds You.” But by that time I had already immersed myself in every country record I found in the attic, and spent a solid eight hours per weekend listening to a combination of “Country Gold” and the local Sunday morning classics show.

    I was also surrounded by my mom’s Smoky Robinson records, a lot of other motown hits, and, of course, Bob Seger.

  8. I can’t think of one song but do remember it was the late ’80’s when Randy Travis was bringing so much attention to the genre.
    Country radio was so different back then cuz you could still hear Vern Gosdin, Conway Twitty, Kathy Mattea, Dwight Yoakam, etc.
    It was still pre-Garth and still not so pop-influenced.

  9. There really wasn’t one, since country music was always apart of the environment for me. There was always music around the house. All kinds of music, basically everything except rock ‘n roll. The artists who really caught my attention as a teen, and started me into buying records were Jim Reeves, Buck Owens, Merle Haggard, Johnny Darrell and Charley Pride.

  10. The first song that converted me to Country Music was
    ” I was not good as I once Was” – Toby Keith
    Another one that made me a Country Music Convert was ” This One’s for All You Girls”

  11. Probably “Here’s a Quarter” by Travis Tritt… I liked Garth and Clint somewhat before that, but Travis’ song sealed the deal. For the most part, I was all hair metal all the time before that.

  12. While both my parents listened to country and I did not have a choice — the song that started me listening to country – Alibis by Tracy Lawrence –

  13. “Swingin'” by John Anderson. I was only 9 or 10, but that song hooked me even at that age.

  14. “Fancy” by Reba. My older sister was going through a country phase at the time, and I heard this song when I was in her room. She doesn’t listen to country any more, but I do.

  15. I too have been listening to country music since I’ve been born, but I like your comment about it changing from my parents music to my own. The tape (that’s what I had back then) and artist that changed it for me was Reba’s Whoever’s in New Englad. While I still love the title song, it was “If You Only Knew” that I played over and over and over.

    I also fell in love with the Judds about that time, but Reba was the first that I really started following on my own.

  16. I saw Garth Brooks singing “Standing Outside the Fire” on an awards show. There were probably some pyrotechnics involved (things I now hate), but it caught my young eye. I did some investigation to figure out who he was and here I am…a country fan (although not necessarily a huge Garth fan).

  17. Gotta be Reba. Hard to pinpoint exactly where she roped me in, but I think it was probably “Is There Life Out There”. I remember getting the For My Broken Heart album and playing it incessantly.

  18. I don’t think I can really pinpoint one song that converted me to country. I think I just gradually began to like it more and more because my sister always watched CMT. I suppose you could say that “I Want to Live” by Josh Gracin and “Hicktown” by Jason Aldean were important because they introduced me to two of my fav. artists. And later on “Every Mile a Memory” by Dierks Bentley solidified him as one of my favs.

  19. The very first song I ever remember hearing was George Strait singing ‘Baby’s Gotten Good At Goodbye’. I remember that song had a music video with a blonde woman and an old convertible. That’s really my first memory of music. Now, it was later when I first heard Ms. Reba singing on CMT and dancing around the courtroom in the video for ‘Take It Back’ that I really took notice of the music. And at first, I didn’t know there such a thing as genres. To me, Reba was the same as Whitney Houston, Wilson Phillips, Lauryn Hill, or Babyface. It wasn’t until later that I learned how the music is categorized. By then, all my favorite singers and artists were already decided, and decidedly country.

    The early to middle 90s was the best time to be a country fan in my opinion. But everybody has their own golden age of music I suppose, every generation. Songs like ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’, ‘Spilled Perfume’, ‘Every Now and Then’, ‘The Song Remembers When’, ‘Tonight I Climbed the Wall’, ‘I’ll Never Forgive My Heart’, ‘And Still’, and countless others were pouring out of the airwaves all encompassed by this gigantic cloud of Garth. God, I loved it.

  20. WoW…. ummm

    I started to get interested in country with SHeDAISY- “Don’t Worry Bout A Thing” but I remember listining to Martina McBride’s “I Love You” wayyyyyyyyyyyyyy before so that song was one of those country convert songs but it had to be “Suds In The Bucket” by Sara Evans…. And Then listening to Reba’s music later on really helped my interest of the country genre (it was “Somebody” that really made me fall in love with Reba’s music) and from Reba I learned about other awesome artists like LeAnn Rimes, Trisha Yeearwood, Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, Dolly Parton, etc…..

  21. I can’t point to one specific song, but more of a time frame…the mid and late 80’s. Randy, and Kathy, and RVS, and Keith Whitley (to name just a few)…can’t get much countrier than that..and from there it became a lifelong love

  22. I have to agree about the early to mid ’90’s — that is when country became my music of choice and interestingly enough – many of the artists that I was listening to back then are still the ones that I listen to now, and most of them are still around, not as many flash in the pans as there seem to be now — Tracy Lawrence, Martina McBride, Terri Clark, etc.

  23. I was a sporadic country fan thru my new-wave 80’s days, digging left-of-centre acts like Dwight Yoakam and kd. lang. By the early 90’s there were three or four songs that reinforced my tastes. Past The Point Of Rescue – Hal Ketchum; Everybody Knows – Prairie Oyster and Fancy from Reba would have to be at the top of that list. I still remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Fancy….

  24. I was always surrounded by country and bluegrass growing up and I’m pretty sure always liked it (supposedly, the first time I heard a bluegrass song as a toddler, I started clogging), but the first song that ever made me think of country as something that could be relevant to me and my generation was Keith Urban’s “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me.” I discovered the song accidentally while searching through radio stations on my way to my grandmother’s house in the Shenandoah Valley, and the country station was the only one with a good signal. So at first I “settled” for it. But after two minutes of the song, I was absolutely hooked. I couldn’t believe there was a song or a genre that so acutely summed up how I felt about myself and the world. In the five years since, I’ve gone back and developed a strong (and ever-growing) appreciation for the traditions of country music and for those who carry them on in their purest form, but nothing is more thrilling to me than when an artist is able to infuse those traditions with their own personalities to create something unique and arresting. “Who Wouldn’t Wanna Be Me” remains one of my favorite examples of a country-rock hybrid that truly honors both genres it draws from, and Keith Urban has gone on to become one of my favorite artists in any genre of music.

  25. Meant to say “where the country station was the only one with a good signal.” I feel bad leaving my syntax jacked up like that.

  26. Well, I’ve been listening to country from birth, but I did leave it sometime in the mid-ninteties (or country left me, I can’t tell which). If I could point to one song that brought me back into the new country fold it would probably be “Famous in a Small Town” by Miranda Lambert.

  27. If I left, Miranda would probably be the one to bring me back too.

    Dan, I agree with you about Keith Urban, though I didn’t love his last album as much. I wasn’t really into Keith until I heard “Somebody Like You.” Then, I started to pay attention to him.

  28. I go back and forth on the last album. The country influence is definitely weaker than on the previous releases, but it works great as a pop album, and it’s probably an artistic move he needed to make at some point. But I hope he gets back to his fringe-country for the next album, or tries something else new.

  29. Kevin,

    I’ve had to refill my iPod a couple of times but that was due to a computer hard drive crash. Fortunately I bought a program that allowed me to copy from my iPod to my computer but once it was on the computer, I had to ‘sync’ it and have it do that all over again… I’ve also done such things when switching computers. The worst thing in having hard drive failure is that I lost some cherished pictures. guess that’s why it’s good to back up (which I do/did). Matt

  30. Okay, as if actually remembering Montgomery Ward wasn’t enough (see Randy Travis thread)…. I’m getting more gray hairs after reading some of these posts. LOL!

    I remember when kd lang was country! (LOVE her work, btw)
    I also remember not only who Keith Whitley was but I remember the day he died. I was supposed to see him open a show for George Strait but he didn’t make it (pre-his passing).

    I also remember when TNN went on the air and “Nashville Now” with Ralph Emery was THE place to see country acts of the day… including some VERY young acts who are mainstays today.
    The best episode ever (IMO) was when Kathy Mattea hosted and had Vince Gill and Mary Chapin Carpenter on. TV Gold.

  31. Nashville Now! I remember seeing Sara Evans in late 1998 (when Gary Chapman was hosting), singing “Shame About That” – That was the night I became a SE fan

  32. I think it was called Prime Time Country when Gary Chapman was hosting. I really liked Music City Tonight with Crook & Chase. They were hillarious together and with the artists.

  33. I saw LeAnn Rimes on the AMAs back in ’97. She sang “Unchained Melody” and I credit her for bringing me into the country music world. Had I not seen that performance, I wouldn’t have had a reason to check out country music.

    Although the first country album I ever bought and liked was Deana Carter’s “Did I Shave My Legs for This?” I bought it even before LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue.”

  34. There have been many “golden ages” of country music, but remember Sturgeon’s Law: “90% of everything is crap!” We tend to remember the best of a particular period, and overlook the rest.

    That said – these are what I regard as Country’s Golden eras:

    1945-1955 (the pre-rock n’roll era)
    1965-1973 (injection of the “Bakersfield Sound”, “Country Cocktail”s when in the hands of the right producers)
    1986-1993 (Randy Travis arrives)

    I actually think that the Country Music of the last few years (2006-2008) has been a little better than the five or six years before then. Needless to say, however, there has been plenty of good music produced all along.

  35. Ben, I love the traditional sounds and outlaw movement, but they’re not what initially got me into country music, which was technically Kevin’s question. It’s what I learned to enjoy after I was already in.

  36. Mine was “Want To” by Sugarland. My parents had been listening to country for years, but I never cared until that song. My dad got me Enjoy the Ride the day it came out and I’ve been hooked ever since.

  37. I loved the late 50s-early 60s honky tonkers but they were not the dominant factor during the period 1956-1964 – that honor fell to the “Nashville Sound” productions which were okay in the hands of Chet Atkins and Owen Bradley, but in the hands of lesser producers resulted in some of the dullest country music ever recorded. By 1965 that stuff was either fading away, or being greatly improved (aka mutating into the Country Cocktail sound of Billy Sherrill and Glenn Sutton)

    I’m not as high on the “Outlaw Movement” as some folks. Since I basically have no real love for rock music, and a lot of it was more rock than country, there are large amounts of it that I don’t like. Waylon was a great artist, but he produced a lot of rubbish, too.

  38. I would like to second the mention of 1986-1993 as a great era in country music history, but to me, “Randy Travis arrives” was one of the least parts of it. I mean, Travis made some great music, but if you look at the influx of talent at that time (combined with the old timers like George Jones and Conway who were still releasing successful singles) it’s just staggering. The 1986-1993 period was all about experimenting with a format that would make folks listen to country again (1986-1990) and then celebrating when people did listen again (1991-1993).

    And anyway, if you want to point to the arrival of the new traditionalists, there was a certain singer who came out with a song called “Unwound” in 1981, predating Travis by a good four or five years.

    P.S. I’m sorta in a hurry so I hope that all makes sense :)

  39. Ricky Skaggs also arrived around 1981 as a chart presence. I think he kicked started the neo-traditionalist movement more than Strait, whose career took longer to get into high gear. As an all around performers, Skaggs,Gill, Stuart,Urban, Wariner and Paisley are the class of the last 30 years.

    I’m sort of ambivalent, about George Strait – he’s like Martha White flour – always good, never great. I can’t think of more than one or two George Strait songs that I regard as essential but I can’t think of more than one or two that I actively dislike either .

  40. Surprised (just kinda) that no one has mentioned Kenny Rogers to any extent cuz it seemed like he was all over the radio in the early ’80’s-ish. Personally not a fan, per se but I do recognize his place in country history.

    Personally, I love me some Dolly and she was one of the very first concerts I ever saw as a young ‘un back in the day. It was a show with various acts including: Dolly, Charlie Daniels Band, and Seals & Crofts.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to chase those durn kids out of my yard! ;-)

  41. I love Dolly too! Actually, I knew who Dolly was before I ever knew of Garth Brooks, but I didn’t know what genres were at that point. I just knew Disney’s Smokey Mountain Christmas.:)

  42. From birth I was brought up on country music but it was always just something the parents listened to, I was never really interested in who was singing. I remember thinking that all the male voices were the same person and all the female as well. It was at the age of 8 listening to Shania Twain that got me into music, but instead of going deeper into country I went into 70’s rock. I would listen to my dad’s old music and really enjoy it. I stayed like that until 2003 when we started catching CMT. I asked for a cd for christmas and I got Brad Paisley’s Mud On The Tires. Since then I’ve gone back and learned who all those voices were.

  43. Hey! According to my Papa I was conceived in a motel when he and my Mom made a sojourn to The Louisiana Hayride! But they weren’t all modern and stuff being married and in love at the time. Heh.

    I’m old old rocker. 60s through 70s. Jo Jo Gunne, Humble Pie, Led Zepplin, et al but I’ve always been a country fan. Jeannie C., Bobby Joe, Patsy, Loretta, Tammy, et al. Always had a leaning to the female side of country music although the males have always dominated the genre. I’ve drifted in and out. Loved the Outlaw Period. Hated the Urban Cowboy times. When we got a 14 day leave I’d always head back home to Louisiana and that would precipitate a pilgrimmage to Gilley’s to ride that #$&* bull! My whole life I’ve loved music. Of all kinds. The bar bands back then were guys like Skynyrd, ZZ Top, Marshall Tucker, Allman Brothers, Wet Willie ( I still wanna’ see Carrie do a cover of “Keep On Smilin’!), Bobby Bare, Waylon, Willie, & Jesse, Kristofferson, et al. I was mostly a Southern rocker but met and married a fine little Jersey girl and got turned onto young guys like Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes, Springsteen before the politics and preaching (Nuns run bald through Vatican halls – pregnant – pleading Immaculate Conception – Ha! now there’s some lyrics boy!) et al.

    I guess I’m still a rocker but to bring the ship around and back on course I’d have to say Reba and Dolly kept me interested in country. Carrie has kept me here to stay. I love alot of the new stuff (from folks that can actually sing) and still love the traditional artists as well. Carrie Underwood and Ashton Shepherd may seem like opposities but I love both of them for who they are and their real voices. I get a kick out of Paisley’s humor and have liked Vince since his folk/rock days. I’m not one of those that has to be against one to enjoy the other. I like it ALL! So there! :-o

    Reba’s “Fancy” brought me back – Carrie’s “Jesus Take The Wheel” kept me here. And oh my! aren’t y’all jusy happy about that! he-he!

  44. i always liked garth,alan jackson and some of the bigger hits like forever and ever amen, love without end amen, when you say nothing at all, should’ve been a cowboy etc. but in 1998 i was truly converted it was stuff like collin raye i can still feel you, clint black the shoes your wearing, billy dean real love, toby keith dream walkin, clay walker ordinary people, randy travis spirit of a boy wisdom of a man,kenny chesney thats why i’m here, gary allan it would be you, tim mcgraw where the green grass grows, dwight yoakam things change, those songs to me are still some of the best of all time. nowadays it is truly odd for me to find songs on country radio i like. too much pop, i partly blame it on some of those artists and songs. now i really enjoy some of the lesser known artists like drive by truckers,shooter jennings,bobby pinson,jamey johnson,trent willmon. some of these artists may be known as writers more than singers but that is what i enjoy these days. there is really no talent in being able to write trash like shiftwork, hell yeah,get my drink on or bob that head. but then again i’ve never made a dime from writing music.

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