Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Joe Diffie, “Pickup Man”

“Pickup Man”

Joe Diffie

Written by Howard Perdew and Kerry Kurt Phillips

Billboard

#1 (4 weeks)

December 17, 1994 – January 7, 1995

Joe Diffie rings in the new year with his biggest hit of all time.

The Road to No. 1

After topping both charts with the title track from Third Rock From the Sun, Diffie returned to the top of the Billboard chart with the longest-running No. 1 single of his career.

The No. 1

“I met all my wives in traffic jams” is a fantastic line, made doubly amusing at the time by Diffie’s own well-publicized love life.

The musicianship is textbook nineties country, showcasing the remarkable talent within Nashville’s pool of studio musicians.

Diffie’s vocals, as always, are beyond reproach.

There. I’ve said three nice things about “Pickup Man,” which is as ridiculous a novelty song now as it was 28 years ago.

Next, please.

The Road From No. 1

“So Help Me Girl” followed “Pickup Man,” and it just missed the top spot.   The fourth single from Third Rock was “I’m in Love With a Capital ‘U’,” which justly missed the top twenty.  The fifth and final single, the gorgeous “That Road Not Taken,” then unjustly barely cracked the top forty.  Diffie returns to No. 1 in 1996 with the lead single from his fifth studio album.

“Pickup Man” gets a C.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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8 Comments

  1. I never heard Joe Diffie’s “That Road Not Taken” before, but really enjoyed that. Bruce Hornsby and Shenandoah each have songs with a similar narrative that I’ve always loved, and those songs remain in my playlists as a result of it. It’s just a theme that is perfect for country music, and it’s surprising it’s not mined more.

    As far as “Pickup Man”, I’d probably go B- for it. It’s pleasant radio filler that I never minded, but I am surprised it went on to basically be Joe Diffie’s signature song.

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    • Agreed Mike; for someone who had so many heavy-hitting songs especially early on in his career, I was surprised this was his biggest hit. However, it’s a fun song, even if it is a novelty song.

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  2. I seriously never get tired of listening to this song. It makes me smile every time. The self-deprecating self-awareness of the narrator is perfectly captured by Diffie’s “aw-shucks” performance. I love that the window into this guy’s life is his truck; he can’t believe his own luck.

    I endlessly quote the pair of “You Know” philosophical reflections on the wonder of a trucks: “If it weren’t for trucks we wouldn’t have tailgates” and “A cargo light gives of a romantic glow.”

    I love the juxtaposition of hyperbole and working class pride in the lyrics. It’s pretty clear the pick-up man is actually less interested in the women he wants to believe love him for his truck than than he is truly enamoured with the truck itself.

    You never forget your first, and this guy’s first car was a pick-up truck.

    I think this is wickedly smart stupidity.

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  3. Silly but somehow endearing. As is the even sillier In Love With A Capital U.

    I love The Road Not Taken though.

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  4. For what it is, “Pickup Man” is a pretty decent song. I’ve owned a lot of vehicles over the years, but my favorite was a Ford Pickup that I had for about 14 years

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  5. This overall seems like much harsher criticism than a couple years ago when it was “Too High” (but implicitly worthy of being somewhere on the list) for the Sirius Top 1000. Unless looked at simply through the Joe Ditty lens.

    I can’t say I disagree with the rating, I just wasn’t expecting it after the other feature.

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  6. Personally, this is one of Diffie’s novelty songs that hasn’t aged quite as well for me, and it did suffer from being overplayed a lot over the years. Still, there’s a charm in Joe’s playful performance, and it at least seems aware of how silly it is, which still makes it a fun listen every now and then. I always did like the “I met all my wives in traffic jams” line, as well. Still, if I had my druthers, “Prop Me Up Beside The Jukebox” would’ve been Diffie’s other novelty to go number one, instead of this one. I also can’t help but wonder if it might’ve had a hand in influencing the countless truck songs we’d get more that a decade later.

    I must echo y’all on “That Road Not Taken.” I fell in love with that song after finding a used copy of the Third Rock From The Sun album in a music store at the Rockvale Outlets in Lancaster, PA somewhere in the mid 00’s. I still get chills and stop everything I’m doing every time I hear it, and I absolutely love Diffie’s performance on it (one of his best performances, actually, imo). It’s an absolute crime that it wasn’t a hit. “So Help Me Girl” is my other favorite single off that album, and it’s another one that brings back great memories of times we spent in Pennsylvania.

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