Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Brooks & Dunn, “Husbands and Wives”

“Husband and Wives”

Brooks & Dunn

Written by Roger Miller


#1 (1 week)

December 19, 1998

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

December 11, 1998

Brooks & Dunn’s final No. 1 single of the nineties.

The Road to No. 1

If You See Her produced three No. 1 hits, starting with the title track and continuing with “How Long Gone.”  A Roger Miller cover became the final chart-topper of the nineties for the Hall of Fame duo.

The No. 1

This shouldn’t work at all.

You can’t get much further apart in singing styles than Roger Miller’s idiosyncratic wordplay and Ronnie Dunn’s long, lonesome wail.

For all his classic vocal performances over the years, this one might be Dunn’s most technically impressive.  He preserves the odd cadence of the Miller original, but still manages to bend and stretch the melody to accommodate his signature vocal licks.

The result is a cover that respects the original classic while also elevating it, revealing some of the ache in the lyric that Miller wrote so poignantly.

The Road From No. 1

If You See Her produce one more big hit: the top five “I Can’t Get Over You.”  The album’s final single, “South of Santa Fe,” missed the top forty.  The struggles at radio continued with their next project, Tight Rope, which launched with the top twenty singles “Missing You” and “Beer Thirty.”  The album still went gold, and produced a top five hit with its third single, “You’ll Always Be Loved By Me.”  We will see Brooks & Dunn a few more times when we get to the 2000s.

“Husbands and Wives” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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  1. Such a wonderful, respectful performance of a wonderful classic country song. And really, so unexpected. I was always grateful when the stars of the nineties covered older songs by artists radio had fully moved on from. Roger Miller was a singular personality and talent. That someone unfamiliar with him may have been turned on to his music by this performance makes this an essential song of the late nineties. This song aches with regret and loneliness.

  2. That intro with the acoustic guitar and fiddle takes me back to the Fall of 1998 every time! This is another one of my personal favorite 90’s B&D singles, and like the excellent late 90’s singles of many other artists, I feel like this one tends to get overlooked more often compared to their earlier hits. Looking back, it’s just simply amazing that a Roger Miller cover and classic country remakes, in general, were still able to top the charts this far into the 90’s and this close to the millennium.

    Of course, growing up in the 90’s, B&D’s cover was my first exposure to “Husbands And Wives.” The first few times hearing it, I just thought it was such a gorgeous waltz, featuring some beautiful traditional country instrumentation, cleverly and unusually written lyrics that were a bit different for B&D, and Ronnie’s as always excellent aching vocals. It just overall felt different for B&D, not only for the lyrics, but it was also the first time I heard them do such a classic country sounding waltz. Shortly afterwards, it was through some of the DJ’s that I learned it was a remake of a Roger Miller classic. Coincidentally, my dad also got me a CD of Roger Miller’s Golden Hits later on for Christmas in 1998. Because the Golden Hits compilation originally came out in 1965, it doesn’t include Miller’s original “Husbands And Wives,” though. He mainly got it for me because we would always enjoy his well known novelty songs together in the car during one of our station’s classic country program, particularly “Chug-A-Lug” and “Dang Me.” :)

    The success of this version of “Husbands And Wives” is once again proof that the genre’s move towards a sophisticated style and sound in the late 90’s seemed to allow some songs with influences from sophisticated styles of the past to become successful, as well (Ex: Strait’s “I Just Want To Dance With You,” and Gill’s “If You Ever Have Forever In Mind”). This version has all the class and charm of the original, but as noted by Kevin, Ronnie’s performance brings out a lot more of sadness in the lyrics thanks to his lonesome wail, and it ends up fitting him like a glove despite the vastly different styles of both artists. Ronnie makes it sound as if he was part of one of those doomed couples that fell victim to both parties having too much pride inside. When he sings “It’s my belief pride is the chief cause in the decline in the number of husbands and wives,” it sounds like he’s come to that conclusion not only from witnessing other people, but also from his own experiences in his failed relationship. The song’s beautiful melody also just suits him so well. He’s hardly ever sounded better than he has on this record, imho. Kix also provides nice sounding harmonies throughout, especially near the end.

    And once again, I’m amazed at how smooth and classy Don Cook’s production could be in the late 90’s. I love how the arrangement stays true to the original while adding the usual fiddle and steel that had been a stable on most all B&D songs throughout the decade, plus some very nice gentle electric guitar playing. The little instrumental solo featuring some lovely fiddle and mandolin is also simply gorgeous. Not only can I picture couples slow dancing to this at a honky tonk, but I can also see folks at an elegant evening ball waltzing to it, as well. :)

    During one of the first few times I heard B&D’s “Husbands And Wives,” it was actually while I had the stereo on just before I started recording one of the sides to the first of the two tapes I recorded during my 7th grade year. It was still fairly early into Fall and my school year. And man, I can still feel the regret I felt back then of not having been recording yet while the song was playing! I was really loving it at that moment, and it sounded so great coming from the big stereo, but it was also bittersweet because I knew I had missed my chance to record it for that time. I believe that’s also when I heard the DJ mention afterwards that it was originally done by Roger Miller. It was followed by Ricochet’s “Daddy’s Money,” which I don’t regret as much not recording (No hard feelings towards Ricochet, though, I love most of their other 90’s stuff).

    I also remember hearing “Husbands And Wives” during the weekend trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania that my mom, step dad, and I went on during the Fall of ’98, which is also when we checked out the King Of Prussia mall for the first time. We also still heard “How Long Gone” quite often during the trip, as well. In fact during the early Fall of that year, it almost seemed that both songs were out at the same time because “How Long Gone” was still getting tons of recurrent play, as well.

    Also during the first few times of hearing “Husbands And Wives,” I always loved how unique the beginning of the second verse sounded with Ronnie singing “A woman and man, a man and a woman…” I just loved how differently that one lyric flowed, plus the backing harmony by Kix Brooks during that part sounded great with Ronnie’s lead vocal.

    Their performance of it on the 1998 CMA’s is also one of my personal favorites of their award show performances: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsNEcYKd_To What strikes me about that performance now is not only is it much more laid back than usual for B&D (especially since both of sitting down and Kix is not running around like crazy like usual), but it’s also very refreshing to see and hear compared to the over the top and overproduced performances from more recent country award shows. You hardly ever see as many simple and classy performances like this on any of the award shows today, when everyone seems to think bigger is better. This ’98 performance by B&D proves that sometimes less is more, and just simply singing a great song from the heart gets the job done, as well. Oh yeah, and of course there’s also the fact that they’re singing a Roger Miller song from the 60’s, which I just can’t imaging happening today. Seeing it also makes me miss how most of the performers still really dressed up, as well. I particularly like the nice western coats Kix usually wore to these shows in the 90’s, and I especially love the red coat he’s sporting here, along with the white hat he’s wearing for a change. And dang it, I really miss Vince hosting these things!

    I also really love the follow up single, early 1999’s “I Can’t Get Over You.” It’s yet another one of my favorite singles from this late 1998/early 1999 period about not being able to shake the memory of a past relationship. Ronnie once again effectively nails the pain and loneliness in the lyrics. I remember Dad and I hearing it for the first time one Saturday night on the Weekly Country Countdown with B&D introducing the song themselves and saying that they hope it will be their next number one. That song also reminds me of when my step dad and I were really into the latest computer golf game that he had recently bought, Links LS ’99. I would enjoy that game throughout much of 1999, and even into 2000 when I’d name some of the players after country singers, lol. “I Can’t Get Over You” is also when I started noticing that B&D were releasing more melodic mid tempo cuts as singles instead of the honky tonk barn burners they were previously known for.

    I also really loved “South Of Santa Fe,” which I heard for the first time on the 1999 ACM Awards while my dad, step dad, and I were all watching downstairs. Shortly after that, I started hearing it on the radio, as well, and not only was it neat to finally hear a Kix lead song on the radio again, but just the title of the song was cool to me, as well. I would even have the song stuck in my head sometimes during the latter half of my 7th grade year in the Spring of ’99. I was so sure it was going to be yet another big hit for the guys, but unfortunately it just didn’t happen. I’m still surprised to see that it didn’t even make the top 40, since I did hear it a good number of times back when it was on the charts. Sadly, that pretty much sealed the deal on the label no longer taking any more chances on Kix’s songs for singles, which is a shame, because their follow up album Tight Rope has quite a few excellent Kix songs on it that would’ve sounded great on the radio, imo.

    I also love their cover of “Missing You” from Tight Rope, as well as “You’ll Always Be Loved By Me.”

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