Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Lee Roy Parnell, “I’m Holding My Own”

“I’m Holding My Own”

Lee Roy Parnell

Written by Tony Arata

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 8, 1994

Lee Roy Parnell’s best single goes the distance.

The Road to No. 1

Lee Roy Parnell earned his first No. 1 hit with the cleanup single from his breakthrough album, Love Without Mercy.  After “Tender Moment” topped the chart, Parnell previewed his third studio set, On the Road, with the top ten title track.   He then returned to the top with his very best single.

The No. 1

Tony Arata is such an incredible songwriter that a masterpiece like “The Dance” still only ranks third among my favorite No. 1 singles from him in the nineties.

Lee Roy Parnell never recorded a better song than “I’m Holding My Own,” and I don’t think another artist could’ve done it quite as well as him.  He’s masterful at playing with the tense emotions on display here, as he keeps things chill on the surface with his old lover, as he seethes with anger directly underneath.

Parnell’s slide guitar allows him to let some of that anger loose, all while singing with enough restraint to keep from giving the game away.  He makes his point while maintaining his dignity, playing along with the cloying sympathy being expressed by his former flame, and coolly rejecting her stunning attempt to rekindle the affair as soon as her current beau is out of earshot.

And it’s still not the best Tony Arata No. 1 hit.  We’ll get to that one in 1995.

The Road From No. 1

Parnell teamed up with Ronnie Dunn on a cover of the Hank Williams standard “Take These Chains From My Heart,” which went top twenty. The final single from On the Road was “The Power of Love,” which fell short of the top forty.  Parnell then launched his fourth album, We All Get Lucky Sometimes.   Its lead single became his third No. 1 hit.  We’ll also get to that one in 1995.

“I’m Holding My Own” gets an A.


Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Little Texas, “My Love” |

Next: Sammy Kershaw, “I Can’t Reach Her Anymore”



  1. Parnell always sound like a man among boys on the radio. He brought a maturity and battle-seasoned gravitas to his music. It stood out in the best of ways, from his slide guitar, blues-influenced Texas sound to the adult subject matter he often covered. Combined,these things made him sound utterly convincing to me ears.

    It was such a wonderful things to have songs like still hit the top of the charts.

  2. I remember hearing this song on the radio for the first time and falling in love with it around early 1997. One night, my dad and I were on the way back to my house after visiting my grandparents when he stopped at a KFC to use the restroom. I was just staying in the car with the radio on when this song came on. I just really loved the melody and Lee Roy’s vocals (he and Neal McCoy sort of reminded me of one another vocally back then), and even back then something about it just really stood out to me. Throughout 1996, 1997, and onward, I remember having more that a few of those moments when I’d hear a certain song on the radio that would just make me think “I’m so glad I’m a country music fan!” This was definitely one of those moments. Sadly, this is just one of many songs I can think of from the 90’s that I can’t imagine being a hit today.

    Besides Lee Roy’s vocal performance, I also really love his slide guitar solo at the end. His guitar playing was often as much of a pleasure to hear as his singing, and I love how it gave him a unique identity on the radio.

    Peter – Your comment on Lee Roy sounding like a man among boys reminds me again of how much I miss the times when many artists could still successfully break through on the radio well past the age of 30 (Lee Roy was around 35-36 when he got his first big hit in ’92).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.