“Don’t Take the Girl”
Written by Larry W. Johnson and Craig Martin
#1 (2 weeks)
May 28 – June 4, 1994
Radio & Records
#1 (1 week)
May 27, 1994
A superstar’s first No. 1 single hasn’t aged as well as his future hits.
The Road to No. 1
Tim McGraw is a Louisiana native and the son of MLB legend Tug McGraw, a fact he learned late into his childhood. Although he inherited his father’s athletic skills and actively played sports throughout high school, a college knee injury led to him picking up the guitar. He eventually dropped out of college to pursue a music career full time in Nashville.
Curb Records signed him in 1990, and from 1991-1993, he sent four singles to radio from his self-titled debut album, which the label released in the spring of 1993. The album didn’t chart, but it did produce a minor hit single, “Welcome to the Club.” His second album started hot, thanks to its controversial lead single, “Indian Outlaw,” which went top ten at country radio and reached No. 15 on the pop chart based on singles sales alone.
With the album selling rapidly, Curb released the second single from Not a Moment Too Soon to radio, and it became the first of many No. 1 singles for Tim McGraw.
The No. 1
Someone who wrote for New Country magazine, quite possibly Brian Mansfield, reviewed The Essential Dottie West back in the mid-nineties. Referring to the maudlin divorce numbers “Mommy, Can I Still Call Him Daddy” and “Six Weeks Every Summer (Christmas Every Other Year),” the reviewer noted that nothing ages worse than yesterday’s sentimentality.
Back in the days when “Don’t Take the Girl” could legit make me cry, that line still stayed in the back of my mind. The writer was right. “Don’t Take the Girl” is very much yesterday’s sentimentality, and it has aged like milk.
I will go to bat for many Tim McGraw singles this decade, and would do the same for many of his later hits, too. I think he’s been as good at picking songs as any of the genre’s greatest song interpreters.
But this is a sappy, manipulative mess, and McGraw’s vocals make it whinier on record than it already was on paper. He’s going to get so much better as a singer and recording artist. There’s no need to go back to this one.
The Road From No. 1
After “Don’t Take the Girl” went gold, it received several award nominations for McGraw and its songwriters. His third single from Not a Moment Too Soon was “Down On the Farm,” and it went top five. The title track was next, and it returned him to the top. We’ll cover it in early 1995.
“Don’t Take the Girl” gets a D.
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