“One Night at a Time“
Written by Roger Cook, Eddie Kilgallon, and Earl Bud Lee
#1 (5 weeks)
April 26 – May 24, 1997
Radio & Records
#1 (3 weeks)
April 18 – May 2, 1997
George Strait fully enters his imperial era of radio dominance.
The Road to No. 1
After three No. 1 singles from Blue Clear Sky, Strait fared even better at radio with his next album, Carrying Your Love With Me. All four singles from this set went to No. 1, a career first for Strait.
The No. 1
“One Night at a Time” is lighter than air, with a laid back arrangement and a vocal from Strait that practically floats above it.
Strait’s too great of a singer for it to truly be radio filler, but in the hands of a lesser vocalist, it certainly would’ve been that. The song lacks substance and is needlessly repetitive, yet it’s easy to miss both of those things because Strait is so in command of his gift.
This frothy hit is the least distinctive of the four No. 1 singles from Carrying Your Love With Me, an album that is home to one of his best No. 1 singles and two other solid entries to the Strait canon. Stay tuned. It will get better from here.
The Road From No. 1
And we’ll get there soon, with two more No. 1 singles on deck before we reach the end of 1997.
“One Night at a Time” gets a B.
Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties
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Whereas new acts like Kenny Chesney and Trace Adkins were all promise and potential, George Strait was a fully realized country superstar by now. He was a legend and inspiration to an entire generation of emerging stars, male and female. He could do no wrong. Even slight material like this was elevated to transcendent breeziness because of his uncommon abilities as a vocal stylist. Strait gave wings to songs that likely woul never have taken flight otherwise.
This is what confidence sounds like.
The late 90’s are one of my most favorite periods in Strait’s career, and I’ve especially always loved all singles from the Carrying Your Love With Me era.
Even as a fifth grader at the time when this song came out, I got the sense that George was a veteran artist on top of his game, and he was more popular than ever. You could rarely go a day without hearing this song at least once on the radio for the first half of 1997. Like previous songs covered here like “Lonely Too Long,” “Living In A Moment,” “No Thinkin’ Thing,” “We Danced Anyway,” etc., this song was another that was such a huge part of the soundtrack to my life in the earlier parts of 1997.
When my dad and I first heard “One Night At A Time” on one of our many Saturday nights together while in line at the KFC drive thru, we both pretty much loved it from the start after the DJ announced it as George Strait’s new song. I thought it was one of his coolest and catchiest songs yet, and to me, this was also the most modern sounding song from George I’d heard up to that point, despite it featuring the trademark fiddle and steel. My dad was pretty much hooked on it and was happily humming along while hardly saying a word as we inched along the drive thru. Like, “Thinkin’ Thing,” I had a feeling this would be another song we would be hearing a lot more of from that point on. And of course, we did. It became one of the main soundtracks to many of our Saturdays together throughout early 1997 and also for the rest of my fifth grade year. It especially reminds me of the times we’d go to Best Buy where I usually played Mario Kart 64, and it was even still getting a lot of airplay going into the Summer of ’97 around the time we saw the movie, Men In Black. It even reminds me of when Romano’s Macaroni Grill first opened in our area in the Spring of ’97, which my mom, step dad, and I had dinner at a lot during that time. “One Night At A Time” also continued to be one of dad’s favorites, as well, and it was another one he always loved singing along to. :)
And like I also mentioned in the “Thinkin’ Thing” entry, I was also lucky to get this song on to one of the main tapes I listened to endlessly throughout the first half of 1997. Unfortunately, as you may already know from reading my comment on Trace’s song, this was one of those infamous “sticky” Memorex tapes in which the first wheel would sometimes stick after a certain amount of tape was rolled on it, which then caused the tape to go into the machine if you didn’t stop it fast enough. Because “One Night At A Time” was on a later spot on the tape, it was one of the songs that the tape would sometimes stick on, and I’d have to stop it right away before the machine chewed it. The times it didn’t stick on that song was always considered a blessing, though sometimes it would then start to stick on the following song, Patty’s “She Drew A Broken Heart.” On the times I got to enjoy “One Night At A Time” on the tape without it sticking, I thought it was so cool that I got George’s latest hot song to listen to whenever I wanted. It was almost like a full circle moment for me. I had been recording Strait’s songs off the radio since my earliest times as a country fan at age five in late 1990, and here I was, nearly seven years later, once again recording his songs on to tapes as a bigger country music fan than ever.
I also got to catch Strait himself performing “One Night At A Time” when my step dad and I were watching the 1997 ACM awards downstairs. It was probably the first live performance from George I’d seen in a long time, and I was mostly surprised at how different he sounded to me live than he did on the version I always heard on the radio and on my tape. This was something I noticed with some of the other performances, as well, and it was the first time I realized how some artists sound different live vs. on the studio recordings. But anyway back to Strait, despite him sounding a bit different to me, it was also really cool just getting to see the man himself singing his latest smash hit for us on TV that night after hearing it on the radio countless times. :)
As for the song itself, it’s still one of my personal all time favorites of his. This is George Strait at his smoothest yet, and I just love the elegance of this record. It is so smooth and happily sung that I actually never realized until many years later that it is a song about cheating. Somehow that just went over my head despite hearing it on my tape and on the radio so many times, and having it pretty much spelled out for us in the opening line: “I’m not yours, and baby you’re not mine.” Regardless, Strait croons his way through it with so much charm and class, and as Peter mentions, this is also him at his most confident, yet. Tony Brown and Strait’s production is also clean, smooth, and light at a feather here. It’s just flawless, and it still sounds timeless today. I especially enjoy the lovely Spanish guitar throughout, and the always excellent steel guitar playing from Paul Franklin. Even Stuart Duncan’s fiddling here has a classy charm about it. Sigh…I just really miss the times when songs that sounded like this were actually considered modern mainstream country AND they were popular, as well.
BTW, here’s a clip of that ACM performance I got to see back in ’97: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gbfzfCnRuMc He actually doesn’t sound quite as different as I remember him sounding, though I still notice his voice is usually deeper on the studio recordings than live. Pretty cool to be able to see it again after all these years! :)
On a final note, to this say, whenever I hear someone say “Practice makes perfect,” this song always comes to mind right away, lol. :)
And as I keep forgetting to add in my original post, I’ve always really loved this picture of King George!