Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Garth Brooks, “Callin’ Baton Rouge”

“Callin’ Baton Rouge”

Garth Brooks

Written by Dennis Linde

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

October 14, 1994

The most exhilarating record of Garth’s entire career.

The Road to No. 1

After scoring five No. 1 singles in 1993, Garth slowed down a bit at country radio in 1994.  Continuing to release singles from In Pieces, he went top five with “Standing Outside the Fire” and top ten with “One Night a Day.”  He returned to the top with the album’s final country radio single, which was a cover of a New Grass Revival hit from the late eighties.

The No. 1

Garth Brooks has one big thing in common with Madonna.  You can’t fully understand the phenomenon if you haven’t seen him live.

“Callin’ Baton Rouge” is the record that best captures the sheer exhilaration of a Garth Books show.  It’s an explosion of joyous energy, and a pure adrenaline rush from start to finish.

Reuniting New Grass Revival to play on the track was a masterstroke, clearly inspiring Brooks to match their stellar musicianship with a powerhouse vocal performance.

I’m very well aware that the “best” Garth Brooks single of all time is “The Dance” or “Friends in Low Places” or “If Tomorrow Never Comes.”

But as far as my personal preferences go, this is the best damn record that he ever recorded.

The Road From No. 1

“The Red Strokes” was a minor international hit and received plenty of stateside video play, but “Callin’ Baton Rouge” was Garth’s last official single sent to country radio until the latter half of 1995.

“Callin’ Baton Rouge” gets an A. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. This one is my favourite of Garth’s as well. I love his music but this one is so exhilarating to listen to – an excellent way to describe it. I would put it top five in any list of his songs and if making it a personal list it’s #1 for me.

  2. I imagine this song was almost as responsible as “Friends in Low Places” for attracting non-country listeners to the Garth-party. It certainly showed up in places I wouldn’t have expected. People I would never have guessed could sing along with this one.

    It is exhilarating. It is adrenaline. It is joyous. It’s so propulsive.

    And it is so absolutely, inescapably by-way- of-Louisiana, country!

    Those not in the know, think Garth is the country guy who does Billy Joel and Kiss but not actual country music. He ruined the genre, right?

    You think of songs people expect to hear at a Garth show and this is near the top. There are personal favourites fans hope they might hear, but “Callin’ Baton Rouge” is the one you turn to your friend to with that knowing look in your eyes, and huge smile on your face, the second the banjo and fiddle hit you. Feeling that moment is exactly why you came to the show.

    Along with everybody else in the arena you explode into a euphoric Cajun-flavoured stomp and shriek for Samantha!

  3. Peter – You just perfectly described that feeling of joy and excitement I still get as soon as I hear the very start of this song! I still can’t help but have a huge grin on my face as soon as I hear that signature fiddle and banjo.

    I also consider this to be the most joyous, energetic, and exciting record Garth has ever put out. Seriously, I dare anyone to not move or crack a smile while listening to this. It’s damn near impossible, at least for me. There is just so much joy and passion in Garth’s performance that you truly believe it when he says he’s spent just about all his money at nearly every truck stop or diner, calling his dear Samantha until he can finally get back to her, and it feels like you’re along for the ride with him until he’s finally there. The top notch musicianship from the boys in New Grass Revival is also an essential ingredient to this fantastic record, and I especially love the killer fiddle and dobro licks. Needless to say, this is also a must for any road trip playlist!

    Funny thing is, I also remember hearing the New Grass Revival original version quite a few times as a little kid in the early 90’s. I especially remember hearing it at around the same time my dad got a new car when I was six. It was playing on the radio on a rainy day while my mom and I were in the house waiting for my dad to show up. When he did, it was in his brand new 1991 Geo Prism. Fast forward to the mid 90’s when I started listening to country radio regularly again, and now I’m hearing the Garth Brooks version a lot. The first few times hearing the Garth version, I remember thinking: “I remember this song, but I was sure it wasn’t Garth singing it…Right?” For the longest time, I never even knew who sang that mysterious earlier version of this song until much later when I could actually look up various songs and artists that I never heard from anymore on the internet. I was also surprised to learn that the NGR version wasn’t quite as big a hit, since it was still getting pretty decent recurrent play for us around 1991-1992.

    Kevin, with the exception of “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” I also personally like “Callin’ Baton Rouge” more than those other songs, as well. This is also, far and away, the best single and probably the best track on In Pieces, for me.

    Btw, always loved that cool flaming shirt Garth sported during this era!

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