Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Lee Roy Parnell, “Tender Moment”

“Tender Moment”

Lee Roy Parnell

Written by Rory Bourke, Cris Moore, and Lee Roy Parnell

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

May 7, 1993

Another unlikely nineties country star tops the chart for the first time.

The Road to No. 1

Lee Roy Parnell’s Texas musical roots run deep.  His father toured medicine shows with Bob Wills when the legend was still a teenager, and Lee Roy’s first public performance would be on Wills’ radio show when he was only six years old.   Before he was out of his teens, Lee Roy was playing with Kinky Friedman, and he became a regular on the Texas honky-tonk and roadhouse circuits.

His local success spurred a move to Nashville, where he quickly landed a publishing deal.  That soon led to a recording contract with Arista’s new Nashville division.  They released his self-titled debut album in 1990, which reviewed well but was considered too left of center for country radio.

Parnell struck a stronger balance between country and blues on his sophomore set, Love Without Mercy.  After its lead single, “The Rock,” peaked outside the top forty, the album produced two top ten hits: “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am,” which just missed the top, and then the title track.  For the fourth and final single, Arista chose the upbeat “Tender Moment.”

The No. 1

“Tender Moment” is a great example of how country radio in the nineties was willing to accept idiosyncratic and unique artists, provided they were willing to smooth out their rough edges for their singles.

Parnell’s blues-inspired vocals cut through the cut-by-numbers production, as was typical for his run of hits.  No matter how standard the rest of track was, you could always count on Parnell’s voice and slide guitar to cut through and stand out.

Parnell’s heartfelt delivery of the lyric helps to counteract the somewhat condescending lyric, but his heart’s in the right place and the remedy is a good one.  A “tender moment,” like “a loving word or the touch of your hand,” will cure what ails her.

Or take her bowling, I guess.  Nineties videos didn’t always make sense.

The Road From No.1

Parnell’s next album, On the Road, got off to a good start with its top ten title track.  The second single went to No. 1.  We’ll cover it in 1994.

“Tender Moment” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: John Michael Montgomery, “I Love the Way You Love Me”


  1. This one is a pleasant surprise for me, and one I didn’t realize went to number one! I’ve always really liked this song, along with most other of Lee Roy Parnell’s singles. As you said, I love the unique edge he brought to the typical 90’s country sound, with his signature slide guitar and that cool growl he usually did. For me, he’s one of the more underrated artists to come from this decade. I’ve always especially loved the solid guitar work featured throughout this song, along with some nice steel playing, and an extremely catchy melody. Lyrically, as a female, I never found the lyrics to be condescending, and for the most part, they pretty much ring true to me.

    By this time I was starting to listen more to the oldies station that my mom was listening to at the time (which back then oldies still meant 50 and 60’s Rock & Roll, Doo Wop, British Rock/Pop, etc.) but I was occasionally still listening to a country station now and then, and my step dad had discovered this new station in our area that mostly played upbeat/uptempo country songs (most likely inspired the dance craze that was sweeping the nation then). I first heard this song while I happened to be recording a tape off of that station one night. Other songs on that tape include “Whatcha Gonna Do With A Cowboy” by Chris LeDoux and Garth Brooks, “You Say You Will” by Trisha Yearwood “Get In Line” by Larry Boone, “Drive South” by Suzy Bogguss, “If I Had A Cheatin’ Heart” by Ricky Lynn Gregg, “Heard It In A Love Song” by Marshall Tucker Band, “Midnight In Montgomery” by Alan Jackson, “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett, “Queen Of Memphis” by Confederate Railroad, “Meet In The Middle” by Diamond Rio, “T-R-O-U-B-L-E” by Travis Tritt, and a little bit of “She Don’t Know She’s Beautiful” by Sammy Kershaw at the end. I remember one day I was playing this tape on the stereo while my dad was over at our house, and when the Lee Roy Parnell song came on, he mentioned that it was one of his current favorites.

    Lee Roy’s Love Without Mercy album is also another one of my favorite albums that I was lucky enough to find a used copy of around 2004ish. This is the album that made me appreciate him even more as an artist that I already did. I’ve always loved all the rest of the singles, especially the title track, and some of my other favorite cuts on it are “Night After Night,” “Back In My Arms Again,” and “Roller Coaster,” which features some really cool slide guitar playing from Parnell. “What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am” is the one song from him I remember getting the most recurrent airplay throughout the rest of the decade. I also really love “On The Road” from later in 1993, and I consider that to be the ultimate road trip song.

    Btw, as someone who’s always loved to go bowling (I was even in a league as a preteen and teenager), this music video has always been so fun to watch and right up my alley! (No pun intended) I always loved seeing it on GAC Classic in the early 00’s. :)

  2. I have always felt that this song sounded too much like “When My Ship Comes In.” As a HUGE fan of Clint Black, I still feel this way, yet, good to see Lee Roy represented here.

  3. Parnell and Lyle Lovett were probably the most well known mainstream artists to shine a light on what had been going on in the Texas scene for years. Parnell is such a talented songwriter and guitar player. The man has a Gibson guitar named after him for God’s sake!

    Throw Parnell into that wonderful camp of left of centre artists (Hal Ketchum, Mary Chapin Carpenter, et al). Nashville welcomed, and more importantly celebrated, in this wonderful window in country music history.

    I think this song is charming and a whole lot of fun.

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