Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Collin Raye, “Little Rock”

“Little Rock”

Collin Raye

Written by Tom Douglas

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

June 24, 1994

Collin Raye takes one of the decade’s best songs to No. 1.

The Road to No. 1

Collin Raye hadn’t enjoyed a No. 1 single since “In This Life” in 1992, but since then, he’d remained a consistent hitmaker.  In This Life produced an additional three top ten singles: “I Want You Bad (and That Ain’t Good),” “Somebody Else’s Moon,” and “That Was a River.”  He teamed up with new producers for his third album, extremes, after being dissatisfied with the overall quality of his first two albums.  The Lee Roy Parnell-penned “That’s My Story” was the lead single, and it went top ten.  He followed it with what is arguably the best single of his career.

The No. 1

“Little Rock” is an astonishing piece of songwriting.

It’s essentially one side of a phone conversation between a recovering alcoholic and his estranged wife, and it captures a storm of emotions, as he struggles with his guilt and shame, while also trying to convince her that he’s changed.

The second verse is particularly devastating:

I don’t know why I held it all inside

You must’ve thought I never even tried

You know your Daddy told me when I left

“Jesus would forgive, but a daddy don’t forget”

“Little Rock” was released in 1994, as understanding of alcoholism as a crippling disease was slowly increasing.  This empathetic record did some of the heavy lifting.  It refused to look away from the choices made and the damage done, yet still lifted up the humanity of the man who caused the wreckage.

Raye’s elevation into an A-list artist regularly nominated for Male Vocalist of the Year alongside the genre’s titans begins here.

The Road From No. 1

Raye didn’t have to wait as long for his next No. 1 single.  We’ll cover the follow up to “Little Rock” later in 1994.

“Little Rock” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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Next: Mary Chapin Carpenter, “I Take My Chances”


  1. …if you replaced the vcrs that he was selling in arkansas at a walmart by phones, you’d still have a song that would be an absolute gem today – by any standards. not to mention “a bible and a bus ticket home” on the same album. still haven’t managed to listen through that one without blowing my nose at the end since 90 something.

  2. I forgot how much I really liked Collin Raye. He could sing the heck out of anything and even when the production on his songs strayed from the more traditional style that I prefer, the lyricism made up for it. This is probably one of, if not the best number one (and probably single) of 1994.

  3. If the “sticky-ness” of a song’s lyrics are any indication of its craftsmanship, I certainly consider” Jesus would forgive, but a daddy don’t forget” and “Without you, baby, I’m not me” as the super-glue of memorable lines from the nineties. Neither line is even the hook, nor is the song even built around them. They are just brilliant, exceedingly memorable and colorful details from a compelling and complex love story.

    Raye was never better than he is here as a vocalist. His voice aches with the tension of wondering if he is, in fact, on a roll. He knows his past. I can hear the doubt, fear, and regret lurking just beneath his fragile hope when he sings. The narrator wants this new start to work.

    What a song!

  4. Yes, this is definitely one of Collin’s best singles. I’ve always liked it when hearing it in the mid 90’s as a kid, but around the late 90’s, once I truly understood what the song was about, I really grew to love it and fully appreciated Collin’s performance. Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with any alcoholics in my family, but nonetheless, this song still gives me chills to this day whenever I hear it. Same thing whenever I happen to catch the song’s video. I’ve especially always loved the way Collin delivered the final chorus where he is really trying his best to sound confident that he is on a roll, yet there is still that small hint of fear and uncertainty in his vocals at the same time. The “Daddy don’t forget” line always really stuck with me, as well.

    On a side note, I’m a bit bummed to learn that Collin wasn’t happy with his first two albums, as those are two of my favorite records of his. I personally like them better than Extremes, though I also like quite a few album cuts off this record, as well. Besides “Little Rock,” “Man Of My Word” and “If I Were You” are my other favorite singles from Extremes.

    Btw, can anyone imagine a ballad like this with such heavy subject matter being successful on the radio at the start of Summer today? As much as I often rag on 1994 for being a downgrade from the earlier years of the decade, this is another reminder of why it’s still better than the more recent years.

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