Every #1 Single of the Nineties: Tracy Byrd, “The Keeper of the Stars”

“The Keeper of the Stars”

Tracy Byrd

Written by Dickey Lee, Danny Mayo and Karen Staley

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 28, 1995

Tracy Byrd tops the chart with his signature hit.

The Road to No. 1

After “Holdin’ Heaven” became Byrd’s first No. 1 single, radio passed on the final single from Tracy Byrd, “Why Don’t That Telephone Ring.”  However, Byrd’s second album, No Ordinary Man, produced three top five singles out of the gate: “Lifestyles of the Not So Rich and Famous,” “Watermelon Crawl,” and “The First Step.”  The album’s final single was chosen due to fan response at concerts, and for radio, Byrd re-recorded it in a lower key than the album version, which is how he was performing it live.

The No. 1

So how can you make a country love ballad stand out among the glut of mid-nineties love ballads, especially when the song you’re singing isn’t anything special?

Sing it like Tracy Byrd.

He gives an outstanding performance here, utilizing his lower register to great effect.  It makes the higher notes that much more impactful when he strives for them.

I don’t know what was in the water in that part of Texas, but the singers we got from there in the nineties would’ve stood out in any era of country music.  Because they came out specifically during that time period, it was easier to take them for granted.

Byrd often worked with slight material, and rarely had access to the best songs Nashville songwriters were offering up.  But he could make a mediocre song sound good and a good song pretty great, as he demonstrates here.

The Road From No. 1

And just like that, we’ve seen Tracy Byrd for the last time in this feature.  He remained a steady hitmaker in the nineties. His third album, Love Lessons, produced a top ten hit with the title track.  His next album, Big Love, featured the top five hits “Big Love” and “Don’t Take Her She’s All I Got.”   His fifth and final studio album for MCA, I’m From the Country, included the top five title track and the top ten hit “I Wanna Feel That Way Again.”

Byrd switched to RCA at the turn of the century, and if we ever cover the following decade, we will feature his final No. 1 single to date, “Ten Rounds With Jose Cuervo.”

“The Keeper of the Stars” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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6 Comments

  1. I love this song. One of the first love ballads that really clicked for me. It’s very easy to go overboard and lose the audience in a string of cliches. This nails the sappy but sincere balance perfectly

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  2. It’s easy to see why this was a popular wedding song. Jay is spot on that the song is the right balance of sap and sentiment. Plus, Tracy sings the hell out of this song. This song and his cover of “She’s All I Got” are my two personal favorites of his, along with “Ten Rounds” being my guilty pleasure of his. With the right material, Byrd had a great voice, I just wish he sang more serious material in his career.

  3. I’m pretty much with the first two commenters on this song. I also think it’s sincere enough to keep it from being too sappy, and I absolutely love Byrd’s performance on it. I also think it has a very beautiful melody that makes it stand out from the more generic love songs that were coming out around this time. I especially love the soaring chorus, which was definitely a fine showcase for his vocal chops. Thank goodness he was allowed to re-record this one before releasing it as a single, because I personally think the radio version is miles better than the original recording that’s on No Ordinary Man. The lower key is much more in his wheelhouse, and as you mentioned, it allowed his voice to shine more on the chorus, whereas on the original, the whole thing just sounds too high for him. I personally also like the production a lot more on the single version, and it’s aged a lot better than the original, as well, imo.

    It’s hard to believe that he actually had to talk the label into releasing this as a single after already releasing three ditties in a row. It only supports Byrd’s claims in Country Music Magazine that MCA wanted to pigeonhole him as a singer of ditties/silly songs.

    Like CJ above, I also really like his cover of “She’s All I Got.” Of the other Tracy Byrd singles from the rest of the 90’s that didn’t make it to number one, I also love “Love Lessons” (co-written by one of my favorite lesser known neo-traditionalists, Jerry Kilgore), “Heaven In My Woman’s Eyes,” “Big Love,” “Good Ol’ Fashioned Love,” “I Wanna Feel That Way Again,” “When Mama Ain’t Happy,” and “Put Your Hand In Mine.” I especially always thought “Put Your Hand In Mine” was another great showcase of what he’s capable of vocally, plus the song itself always brings back great memories and the storyline still gives me chills. “A Little Love” from the 1999 It’s About Time album is another must listen for another excellent performance from him, and it’s also just a great song all around to boot, imo.

    From the 2001 Ten Rounds album, my favorite single is “Just Let Me Be In Love” (Also from that album, I love his cover of Michael Martin Murphey’s “Wildfire.”) I’m not too crazy about most of the other singles he released in the 2000’s though.

  4. My mother loved this song so it has a special
    place in my heart. My personal favorite of his would be “She’s All I Got”. Not much else of his is on my radar as it all seemed too novelty for my taste.

  5. Even since I first heard “Why Don’t That Telephone Ring” I was enchanted by the richness of his voice. That voice is front and centre here as well.

    Between Diffie, Byrd, Chesnutt, Herndon, and Berry, this back-end of the nineties certainly showcases the developing skills of some wildly gifted male vocalists.

    If you want to better understand those of us who hear more to Byrd than his novelties, you would do well to listen to 1996’s MCA album “Big Love,” 1999’s RCA album “It’s About Time” and 2006’s Blind Mule album “Different Things.”

    “Tucson Too Soon” and “I Love You, That’s All” are stand outs from “Big Love,” though the entire album is remarkably strong.

    I love “Ain’t it Just Like a Woman” from “It’s About Time.” ” A Little Love” is his best vocal moment, pleading and heart rending. If you listen to nothing else check out that performance.

    The title track from “Different Things” and “Cheapest Motel” stand out for me, but really, the entire album is strong start to finish. A beautiful balance of contemporary country fun, sincerity, and sweetness.

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    • I also really enjoy the Big Love album and think it’s one of his best. Besides the two cuts you mentioned, I also really love “If I Stay” and “Driving Me Out Of Your Mind.”

      Ditto to “Ain’t It Just Like A Woman” from It’s About Time. Also glad to see I’m not the only one who loves “A Little Love.”

      I also think 1998’s I’m From The Country has a lot of great unknown cuts, as well. I especially love “Back To Texas,” “For Me, It’s You,” “Getting Me Over The Mountains,” “I’ve Got What It Takes,” “On Again, Off Again,” “Old One Better,” and “I Still Love The Night Life” (Yeah it’s a novelty, but it’s a good one written by a then unknown Brad Paisley). In fact, the title cut is by far the weakest song on the album, and Tracy pretty much admitted in a magazine that it was “tacked on” to the album because the label needed a surefire hit.

      I still never got around to hearing the Different Things album, but based on different reviews I’ve seen on it and your comments, it sounds like another one I need to check out.

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