Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Kenny Chesney, “When I Close My eyes”

“When I Close My Eyes

Kenny Chesney

Written by Nettie Musick and Mark Alan Springer

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 11, 1997

Kenny Chesney channels 80’s Strait on his first No. 1 hit.

The Road to No. 1

Kenny Chesney’s road to superstardom took the long way around.   Like many of his contemporaries, he focused first on high schools sports, but by the time he was in college, he was primarily focused on music.  He released a self-produced independent album in 1989, and was signed to a publishing deal by 1992.  He signed to Capricorn Records and released In My Wildest Dreams in 1994.  It produced three singles that made minor impact at radio.

BNA realized his potential and signed him to their label.  Radio got on board quickly, with “Fall in Love” and “All I Need to Know” both going top ten, and “Grandpa Told Me So” going top thirty.  Chesney followed All I Need to Know with Me and You.  Its first single underperformed, but the title track was released next, and it became his first top five hit.  The album’s third and final single became Chesney’s first No. 1 hit.

The No. 1

Chesney’s previous ballad, “Me and You,”  followed the “love ballad” template that we’ve seen a few times already from young hat acts.  However, his expressive performance helped distinguish him from the hat pack, his voice being immediately identifiable and sounding wise beyond his years.

Chesney then channeled Bowen-era George Strait on “When I Close My Eyes,” a dreamy record that’s a tick or two better than its predecessor.  It’s a warm homage to that eighties neo-traditional sound that predated the new traditionalist work of Randy Travis and The Judds, where string sections lived comfortably alongside fiddle and steel guitar.

He makes a game effort at mimicking Strait’s unique phrasing, but he doesn’t quite pull it off, so the chorus doesn’t soar like it’s trying to.  But the verses showcase his talent as an interpretive singer, and he’s well on his way to finding his own voice, which will happen more fully on his next album.

The Road From No. 1

“Me and You” and  “When I Close My Eyes” helped Me and You become his first gold album.  We’ll see Chesney again later this year, with the lead single from his next album.

“When I Close My Eyes” gets a B. 

Editor’s Note: Due to a research error on my part, this post originally covered “Me and You” instead of “When I Close My Eyes.” My apologies for the mistake. – KJC

The Road From No. 1

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

Previous: Clay Walker, “Rumor Has It” |

Next: George Strait, “One Night at a Time”


  1. As a Skip Ewing fan I beleive a lot can be done with his compositions and I beleive Cheney’s first number one hit is evidence of that. From his first hit, Chesney has already put into motion the pendulum that swings between his more mature, sensitive tendencies and his college, frat country party anthems.

    On this hit, Chesney sounds relaxed and confident. There is an unexpected maturity to the performance, a measured restraint.

    It is easy to understand the excitement for his emerging career with just this release. It does hold a lot of promise and potential.

  2. I honestly think this and his 2002 hit “I’d Have Done A Lot Of Things Different” are Mr. Chesney at his best and most realistic, what even non-country listeners think is the country music genre at his best.

    I know his college frat anthems and his beach-party anthems are his major bread-and-butter, but they seem to make him come off as a Jimmy Buffett wanna-be (way too many male country artists have tried to copy Buffett for decades; and it still doesn’t work as well as when it is the real Mayor of Margaritaville). They would all, and not just Chesney, do better to leave the beach-party stuff to experts like Jimmy, and Brian Wilson (IMHO).

  3. Oddly enough I know this hit #2 on Billboard in Nov 1996. Odd that it didn’t hit #1 on Radio and Records around the same time but rather nearly six months later

    • Thank you for flagging this. I’ve gone back to my data and I somehow put “Me and You” on my spreadsheet when it should’ve been “When I Close My Eyes.”

      I’ll figure out how to fix this now!

      • I was actually starting to think I was going crazy with this one, because I could’ve sworn “Me And You” was a 1996 hit for the longest time. Glad to find out I’m not crazy after all, lol. This is actually great news for me, because I absolutely adore “When I Close My Eyes.” :)

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