“Back in My Younger Days”
Written by Danny Flowers
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
November 9, 1990
Another Hall of Fame legend earns his final No. 1 hit.
The Road to No. 1
Don Williams had been a constant presence on the country charts for nearly twenty years as the nineties began, and his professional recording career dates back even earlier than that.
Born and raised in Texas, Williams first found success as a member of the folk trio the Pozo-Seco Singers, which recorded for Columbia records in the mid-to-late sixties. Williams transitioned into a solo country career in the early seventies, with his albums selling well even before radio came on board with his second studio set in 1974. By the mid-seventies, he was emerging as a major country star, regularly topping the singles charts and winning major industry awards, including the CMA for Male Vocalist of the Year in 1978.
Williams reached his commercial peak in the early eighties, with his studio album, I Believe in You, going platinum and winning the CMA Award for Album of the Year in 1981. He was a mainstay on country radio throughout the decade, with nearly every single he released reaching the top ten and many topping the charts. He maintained his popularity despite several label changes; a switch to RCA in the late eighties commenced with 1989’s One Good Well, which produced three top five hits.
Williams released his next album for the label, True Love, in 1990, choosing “Back in My Younger Days” as the lead single.
The No. 1
As a final No. 1 hit, “Back in My Younger Days” is fairly unassuming. Then again, that was true of many Don Williams hits. Known as “the Gentle Giant,” his records were known for their subtle delivery and his nuanced vocals. If anything, “Back in My Younger Days” has an aggressive sound when compared to most of his records, if not when compared to everything else on the radio at the time.
The title notwithstanding, “Back in My Younger Days” is slight on philosophy. It’s a heartfelt song about showing appreciation for a woman getting him on the right path, as well as for standing by him for so long. His skill as a singer helps him add greater depth and a layer of humor to the lyric.
I don’t know that it would be necessary for inclusion on even a generous best-of set, but it’s still an enjoyable listen, even if it pales in comparison to most of the chart toppers from 1990.
The Road From No. 1
Williams scored two more top ten hits from True Love – the title track, and “Lord Have Mercy On a Country Boy.” Despite this success, Williams chose to switch from longtime co-producer Garth Fundis to Allen Reynolds for his next RCA album. Currents, released in 1992, featured two singles that barely charted. After two decades of hits, Williams was no longer in rotation at country radio.
Williams primarily recorded for independent labels for the rest of his career, often to great critical acclaim. Wildly popular in England, he staged several successful tours of the United Kingdom. He did a farewell tour in 2010, the same year he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, but then he came out of retirement shortly thereafter. His 2012 album, And So it Goes, was well-received, and he toured succesfully until 2016, when he retired for good. Sadly, he passed away the following year.
“Back in My Younger Days” gets a B.