Yesterday’s Songs: October 6, 1990

An old feature returns today, as we look back at the top twenty singles on this date in 1990.

The top twenty singles of October 6, 1990 capture a genre in transition. The stars that will power country music to its greatest level of popularity in history are starting to surface, but they’re alongside the heavy hitters that are about to be unceremoniously dumped from the radio playlists, along with a couple of younger artists who simply wouldn’t be able to compete with the level of talent about to take over. But perhaps most interesting to see are the artists who would be able to compete because they were able to raise their game.

Here’s a look back at top twenty country singles from 26 years ago today.

Top Twenty Country Singles
October 6, 1990


“I Could Be Persuaded”

The Bellamy Brothers

Peak: #7

There was a laid back charm to the hit records of the Bellamy Brothers that couldn’t keep up with the energy and vitality of nineties country music. This was their last top ten hit, and it’s a forgettable one.  Grade: C

Alan Jackson Here in the Real World


Alan Jackson

Peak: #3

Jackson is still finding his voice on this single from his debut album, but it’s already clear that he has a distinctive point of view as a songwriter and a beautifully emotive singing voice that even has power when applied to spoken word.  Grade: B+


“A Few Ole Country Boys”

Randy Travis featuring George Jones

Peak: #8

A sentimental duet about the power of country music that is especially poignant today, given that both legends have now been silenced – one by death, and one by illness.  Grade: B+

Clint Black Killin' Time

“Nothing’s News”

Clint Black

Peak: #3

Even the weakest single from Killin’ Time is pretty strong, as Clint Black does a country spin on Bruce Springsteen’s “Glory Days” that trades in the bravado for pure melancholy. Grade: A-


“My Heart is Set On You”

Lionel Cartwright

Peak: #7

A perfect example of what was good enough in 1990 but wasn’t going to cut it as the decade progressed. This anemic entry from Cartwright managed to go top ten, and he would score a #1 hit with “Leap of Faith” one year later. But he simply wasn’t up to par with the new artists emerging at this time – seriously, look at the rest of list – and he soon faded away. Grade: D




Joe Diffie

Peak: #1

A powerful debut single from a man who would later be knows as “Joe Ditty,” but was introduced as a pure country singer able to deliver weepers for the ages. This song was such a huge hit that Alan Jackson had to delay his own “Home” from being a single until years later.  Grade: A


“‘Til a Tear Becomes a Rose”

Keith Whitley and Lorrie Morgan

Peak: #13

This duet from beyond the grave won a CMA award, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward or creepy. Morgan became a great artist in her own right, but here she’s banished to the shadow of her late husband. Sentimentality aside, it just doesn’t work. Grade: C


“Story of Love”

The Desert Rose Band

Peak: #10

Yes, Virginia, there were rock and roll exiles in country music before Hootie. The Desert Rose Band was one of the better ones, as Chris Hillman’s rock music always incorporated country instruments. This was one of their last hits, as they were also among the rising stars washed away by the flood of new talent. It’s a decent record.  Grade: B


“Fourteen Minutes Old”

Doug Stone

Peak: #6

After a stunning debut single, Stone’s second hit was something of a letdown. Sure, it isn’t easy to follow up “I’d Be Better Off (in a Pine Box)”, but this would’ve been a boring listen even if it wasn’t coming right after that instant classic.  Grade: C

Kathy Mattea A Collection of Hits

“The Battle Hymn of Love”

Kathy Mattea & Tim O’Brien

Peak: #9

A gorgeous melding of country and Celtic, Mattea’s wedding anthem collaboration with Tim O’Brien foreshadowed the wonderful work she would do in the nineties and 2000’s, once she’d stopped recording music with one eye on country radio.  Grade: A


“Born to be Blue”

The Judds

Peak: #5

You can already hear the bluesy growl that would dominate Wynonna’s solo sound on this winning single from the Judds. The radio version cut out the lengthy ballad intro from the album version. Seek out the full track to hear this song at its best.  Grade: A


“I Meant Every Word He Said”

Ricky Van Shelton

Peak: #2

A simple country heartbreak song. Shelton was at the top of his game in 1990, and you can’t help but root for the girl at the altar – marrying someone else, of course – to turn around and notice the guy who loved her all along but never found the words to tell her.  Grade: A


“Precious Thing”

Steve Wariner

Peak: #8

The last of 22 top ten singles that Wariner recorded for RCA and then MCA, “Precious Thing” is a cute little love song, if a bit on the slight side. Wariner managed to avoid being swept off the charts in the nineties by resurfacing with Arista and then Capitol, scoring three gold albums – a feat he never accomplished on his first two labels.  Grade: B

Reba McEntire Rumor Has It

“You Lie”

Reba McEntire

Peak: #1

Reba McEntire teams up with Tony Brown for the first time, and kicks off a string of ten outstanding singles that make her a multi-platinum superstar. This was the best she’d sounded on record up until that point, and the song remains one of the strongest she’s ever recorded.  Grade: A

George Strait Livin' it Up

“Drinking Champagne”

George Strait

Peak: #4

A perfectly serviceable cover of a country classic, understandably overshadowed by the massive hits that came before and after it: “Love Without End, Amen,” and “I’ve Come to Expect it From You.”  Grade: B-

Mark Chesnutt Too Cold At Home

“Too Cold at Home”

Mark Chesnutt

Peak: #3

A stunning debut single that introduced one of the finest traditional country singers of the nineties. He’d go on to record many more fantastic hit singles, but a case could be made that his first was still his best. Grade: A


“Jukebox in My Mind”


Peak: #1

Alabama did radio-friendly filler better than just about anyone, which helped them stay afloat in the nineties, even as their relevance faded away.  This song spent four weeks at #1, amazingly enough.  Grade: B

Carlene Carter I Fell in Love

“I Fell in Love”

Carlene Carter

Peak: #3

The daughter of June Carter and Carl Smith, Carlene Carter suddenly resurfaced as a country singer in 1990.  She rolled in like the second coming of Wanda Jackson, effortlessly fusing rockabilly and hillbilly to form a sound that was both refreshing and timeless. Grade: A


“Holdin’ a Good Hand”

Lee Greenwood

Peak: #2

Something of a comeback single for Greenwood, this was his first top ten hit in a couple of years, but it also ended up his last. Few artists exemplified the excess of the eighties like Greenwood did, and despite a game effort here, he just couldn’t update his sound enough to remain a serious contender.  Grade: B-

Garth Brooks No Fences

“Friends in Low Places”

Garth Brooks

Peak: #1

What song could better exemplify that the times were changing than this one? At its core, it’s a classic country drinking song, but Brooks turned it into a stadium anthem without compromising its ability to play just as well in a rundown bar.  Play it for ten or play it for ten thousand.  Either way, all of them will be singing along. Grade: A


  1. Not all great songs but all at least decent. I would consider “Battle Hymn of Love” to be the worst song on this list, but I’d give it a C. I’d give “Precious Thing” an A-. Other than these two songs, I pretty much agree with the author’s assessments

  2. There are 14 songs on this list that I never heard before. It is about 2 years before I started following country music on a regular basis. My favorite of the few I know is Chesnutt’s “Too Cold at Home”. I like his new single “Oughta Miss Me by Now”. Other favorite MC songs are “When You Love Her Like Crazy” and “Things to Do in Wichita”. Back to this 90’s list I also like the songs by Alabama and Garth.

  3. For those of you who are interested in country nostalgia, I can recommend a great book that covers the number one country songs from January 1968 thru December 1989. It’s titled The Billboard Book of Number One Country Hits. It lists every #1 country song in chronological order with about five paragraphs written about each one. It covers how the songwriters came to write the song or how the song ending up being recorded. You get anecdotes from the writers, artists, and producers as well.

    Some of the fun facts you’ll discover: what did a handgun have to do with the Jones/Wynette hit Golden Ring; what ‘live’ country hit wasn’t really live at all; what superstar affected the way Anne Murray sang Could I Have This Dance; why did Reba turn down Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind; and what singer didn’t realize she had recorded a song her own father had written until after the fact.

    If you’re a fan of this era of country music, I guarantee you will love this book. I’ve read it cover to cover about eight times now. Here’s a link:

  4. Caj – you’re right – it is a great book, I think it is about time for a sequel but since so many songs today are co-written by teams of writers (and hence sound ‘manufactured’), I suspect the sequel would not be nearly as interesting

  5. First off, let me just say…I love this feature, and I’m glad you brought it back, even if it’s just on a one-time basis. I imagine it’s a lot of work for you, Kevin, but it’s cool to get opinions on songs/charts of the past. This is a particularly good one, as I find only the Doug Stone and Lionel Cartwright songs to be sub-par.

    I’ve posted this before, but I always make it a habit to listen to the old Bob Kingsley Country Countdowns when they are posted on his website. Interestingly enough, this particularly chart (10/6/1990) was chosen for this week. Here is the link if anyone is interested:

    They usually play the top 30 songs, and songs 30-21 kinda fit the same theme as the top 20: there are some incredibly memorable, successful songs that are still played on radio to this day (Shenandoah: “Next To You, Next To Me”, Travis Tritt: “I’m Gonna Be Somebody”, Vince Gill: “When I Call Your Name”) being played next to songs from artists that were successful in the 1980s, and were having some of their last hits (T Graham Brown, Anne Murray, Baillee and the Boys, Exile, Don Williams, etc). It’s kind of cool to listen to the changing of the guard on radio, (Although I wish there was always a spot on radio for Don Williams).

    Also…there’s a Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton cover of the 1957 hit “Love Is Strange” that I never knew existed. I’m not sure why it exists, or what to make of it…but as bizarre as it is, I’ve come to the conclusion that Dolly Parton can make anything entertaining…lol.

  6. I listen to the Bob Kinsley ACC Rewind every week too, PSU Guy. Listening to the intro for the #1 song, I discovered that “Friends in Low Places” was originally intended for George Strait. I wonder how that would have turned out and how the Mark Chesnutt version fits into the story.

    Speaking of Chesnutt, while “Too Cold at Home” is very good indeed, I’d argue that his best song is “I’ll Think of Something”.

    Happy to see this feature back, whether it becomes more regular or the occasional surprise. Thanks!

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