Every #1 Country Single of the Nineties: John Anderson, “Straight Tequila Night”

“Straight Tequila Night”

John Anderson

Written by Debbie Hupp and Kent Robbins


#1 (1 week)

March 14, 1992

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

February 28, 1992

The comeback of the decade.

The Road to No. 1

John Anderson was one of the most important neo-traditionalists of the early eighties.  Although his musical influences were rock artists and he was in a rock band in his early teens, he changed direction when he discovered Merle Haggard and George Jones.

He worked his way up through the Nashville club scene, eventually earning a deal with Warner Bros. in the late seventies.   His debut album was released in 1980, and included his breakthrough singles “Your Lying Blue Eyes” and “1959.”  He continued to grow in popularity with John Anderson 2, which included his classic top five hit, “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday).”  Three more top ten hits followed from that album and its follow-up, I Just Came Home to Count the Memories. 

He reached his first commercial peak with Wild & Blue, which featured the chart-topping title track and the gold-selling No. 1 single “Swingin’.”  Anderson won the CMA Horizon Award and the album also went gold.  Momentum continued with “Black Sheep,” which became his third No. 1 single, but after that, his career momentum slowed.

After one top five hit from his 1984 album, Eye of a Hurricane, all but one of Anderson’s eighties singles fell short of the top ten.  Two label changes failed to restore his popularity, and with the new wave of talent topping the charts in the early nineties, his deal with RCA spin-off BNA seemed like a longshot. Indeed, his first single for the label, “Who Got Our Love,” barely charted.

The No. 1

But Anderson had an ace up his sleeve with “Straight Tequila Night,” which went to radio in late 1991.

With a strong hook and a beautiful fiddle track perfectly intertwined with Anderson’s distinctive vocals, the record rejuvenated Anderson’s career, and rightfully so.

I’ve talked a lot about the meritocracy of the early nineties, and this is yet another example of radio playing a song because it was damned good, despite it being from an artist who was coming off twelve straight misses spread over multiple labels.

“Straight Tequila Night” is one of the best singles of the entire decade.  It’s relentlessly catchy and evokes empathy for the woman being romantically pursued, who feels like a real person and not just a plot device.

It kicked off the comeback of the decade, propelling one of the best eighties traditionalists into a new creative and commercial peak.

The Road From No. 1

Anderson scored another huge hit with “When it Comes to You,” a Mark Knopfler cover that went top five.  Next up was the title track from his comeback album, Seminole Wind.  We’ll see that later in 1992.

“Straight Tequila Night” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. I love it when artist you think are done have second careers (John Anderson, Tanya Tucker, etc) or older artist that keep having great careers after country radio left them behind (Dolly, Reba, Tanya, etc.) I normally don’t like all the new technology but I have to admit its slowly chipping away country radio’s power and that may be good.

  2. I always like John Anderson, a local lad from nearby Apopka – I saw him once before anyone had heard of him and thought he had a chance to succeed. I even purchased the stuff released during the lean years, so I was quite happy that he found his way back to the top. He recently released a video with the Bellamy Brothers


  3. I love nineties John Anderson! This is a great song and one of the songs that caught my ear when I first started paying attention to country music. I like some of his earlier music, but like Sawyer Brown, I think his big success came at the right time to match the quality of his music.

  4. Yet another true classic from this time period that still sounds just as good and still as catchy as when it first came out. Besides the great fiddle work and Anderson’s unique voice, I also always loved the catchy guitar parts and the dobro during the second verse, in particular. Just a great song all around, and there couldn’t have been a better one to launch one of the best comeback stories of the 90’s.

    The thing is, I wasn’t even aware of this being a huge comeback for John Anderson when I first heard it. Being only six, I was not yet familiar with much of his 80’s stuff, and my stations didn’t seem to have much of his older work in rotation (I did get “1959” on one of my tapes around late ’91, but I didn’t know yet who sung it). As usual, I was recording another tape from the radio in late 1991, and when this song came on, I remember it instantly catching my ear, and I really liked his unique voice. When the DJ said it was John Anderson, I honestly thought I had just heard a new song from a new artist. Unfortunately though, that tape was one of those older 80’s tapes that had already seen its better days, and it ended up having to be tossed not too long after that. That tape also included the first time I ever heard and recorded “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis (Sorry, Kevin! Don’t worry, I got it on another tape soon after. ;) ) and “Professional Fool” by Michael White. It was actually one of the last tapes I remember recording not long before we moved out of our old house. Of course, “Straight Tequila Night” would end on other tapes after that. I would also enjoy most all of John Anderson’s singles from that point on, as well, and he’d become another one of my many favorites.

    This song’s video is also another one I’ve always really enjoyed. I love the vintage jukebox featured, and the actress did a good job of portraying the woman you shouldn’t bother on a “Straight Tequila Night.” Always loved the cool outfit John was wearing here, too. It’s similar to the one he’s wearing in the picture here. Speaking of the pictures, the pics chosen for these entries have been really on point! I love seeing what the artists looked like when the song was originally a hit.

    John Anderson’s Seminole Wind album is also yet another one of my all time favorite early 90’s country albums. Like Tracy Lawrence’s first album, it’s full of great neo-traditional country and its all sung by one of the coolest unique voices in the genre. I’ve always loved “When It Comes To You,” as well, and I remember seeing the video with both my dad and step dad when were in my Dad’s house.

  5. With the passing of so many of the older generation of legends – Tom T. Hall sadly being the most recent example- artists like John Anderson get promoted to the next generation of living legend status. I never mistake a John Anderson song for anyone else. He is a singular, vocal stylist. An iconic singer with a twang that is more soft-pallet than nasal.

    This song introduced me to his stunning body of work. It was an epiphany. For me, before this hit John Anderson was only the singer of “Swingin'” and nothing more.

    Then he dropped this classic on us from out of the blue and reminded us what an essential talent he has always been.

    Now I understand that you can’t get from there to here in country music without John Anderson. I ran a laser through his two CD Greatest Hits collection when I bought it some years back.

    Having older stars like Anderson and Tanya Tucker rediscover their touch was so important to bridging tha past to the present in the 90’s. So much of that generational connective tissue is missing from country music today.

  6. John Anderson is one of my all-time favourites, so it’s nice to see him getting some love in the comments. I do tend to prefer 80s John Anderson to his 90s (and later work), but this is a fantastic song.

    @Peter Saros – I couldn’t agree more: “I never mistake a John Anderson song for anyone else. He is a singular, vocal stylist.”

  7. I loved this album as a kid, and it’s funny…I must have been too young, but I actually have more vivid memories of listening to “When It Comes to You” and “Seminole Wind” on the radio than this. But, this song clearly has had great staying power, and this was just such a great, feel-good moment for country music. It’s nice to go back to a time when you could make excellent music…and despite not having a hit for a while, and not being an A list superstar…still get rewarded for it.

    Additionally, I also highly recommend “Years”, the album he made with Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. It’s a really well-made, personal album, and I agree with Peter’s comment…it’s good to see people like John and Tanya Tucker still making good music, and to see people like Dan Aurebach and Brandi Carlisle having that high of a regard for their previous work to want to work with them and flourish their creativity. You wish there was more of that connection today between past and present (and not through the requisite name dropping).

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