Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Clay Walker, “What’s it to You”

“What’s it to You”

Clay Walker

Written by Robert Ellis Orrall and Curtis Wright


#1 (1 week)

October 16, 1993

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 8, 1993

Clay Walker launches his career with a No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

Texas native Clay Walker played guitar from the age of nine, and was entering local talent shows by his mid-teens.  By the end of his teens, he was a touring musician with some regional radio airplay under his belt, thanks to a well-made demo tape that he promoted himself.  While still in his early twenties, he was the house singer at Neon Armadillo, a very popular music venue that was regularly frequented by music industry professionals.  James Stroud discovered him there and signed him to the new Giant Records division in Nashville.

The No. 1

“What’s it to You” was the lead single from his excellent self-titled debut album, and Walker’s charms as a singer are present here.  As we’ll note frequently during this feature, part of his talent was an ability to elevate middling material.

“What’s it to You” is a generic song about falling in love, targeting the young audience now buying country records by the bucketload.  Walker twangs and growls his way through it, selling it to the best of his ability, and it makes for pleasant enough radio filler that would’ve been dead on arrival in lesser hands.  We’ll see a few of those, too, soon enough.

Anyway, he’s got better material on deck from his debut, and we’ll get to it soon enough.

The Road From No. 1

Walker’s next single will also top the charts, and it’s a cut above this one.  Stay tuned.

Grade: B

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. I blame the gang at “Country Music Magazine” for my struggling to hear, or even just see, Clay Walker as anything but the most obvious George Strait industry clone. I realize the same can be said for many of the “Hat Acts” of this era ( I just championed Tracy Byrd a few posts back). Walker certainly always sounds enthusiastic. I just don’t know if enthusiasm for middling music equates to elevation of that same music. Too often, Walker just sounds hyper and loud like he does here.

  2. I’ve always enjoyed this single. I just find the arrangement and performance infectious. I agree that it could easily have fallen flat if sung by a less charismatic performer.

  3. Not one of my top favorites of Clay’s singles, but it was a solid debut for him, and it made sense as the introduction to a young, energetic newcomer. As Ben already noted, I love the overall energy and enthusiasm of the record, as well as all of those growls he does (which would quickly become one of his signatures) and the nice steel playing from Sonny Garrish, especially throughout the second verse. This is actually another song I kind of regret not having heard during its original chart run, as I bet it sounded awesome on the radio in the Summer of ’93. The energy of this record just screams “windows rolled down” type of song to me.

    That being said, I agree with Kevin that the next single, “Live Until I Die,” is more where it’s at for me, when it comes to Clay’s music, and it’s much more indicative of the overall neo-traditional flavor of his solid debut album.

    Speaking of that debut album, that was one of the first ones I got back in 2000 when I first started becoming interested in collecting debut records from various country artists. My dad got me that one, along with Brad Paisley’s Who Needs Pictures for my 15th birthday. “What’s It To You” was actually one of my new favorite songs that year after having heard it on a countdown show featuring Clay. It’s another debut album from the 90’s that I still love listening to from time to time.

    Peter – Clay sure was quite the ball of energy on his earlier upbeat records. Most of my favorite songs of his tend to be his slower ones, though. Besides the singles off this album, I also love “The Things I Should Have Said” and “I Don’t Know How Love Starts,” both of which are as good as most any other neo-traditional ballad from the early 90’s, imo. Even some of his later slower songs like “You’re Beginning To Get To Me” and “The Chain Of Love” have a charming, laid back Don Williams like quality to them as his voice matured.

  4. Clay Walker’s debut album was the very first country album I purchased with my own money at age 14 and he quickly became my first favourite artist, so his early work has a lot of nostalgic value for me.

    I don’t listen to his music very often anymore, but I still enjoy his early albums when I do. I agree that there are better singles (Live Until I Die, Dreaming With My Eyes Open) and non-singles (Money Can’t Buy (The Love we Had)) on this album, but I do like this song a lot.

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