Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties: Andy Griggs, “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely”

“You Won’t Ever Be Lonely”

Andy Griggs

Written by Andy Griggs and Brett Jones

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

May 14, 1999

An aspiring outlaw scores his first and only No. 1 hit to date.

The Road to No. 1

Andy Griggs pursued his love of music as he navigated personal tragedies, losing his father as a young child and then his older brother a few years later.  He worked as a youth minister and started a family, then moved to Nashville to fully pursue a recording career.  Signing to RCA, he released his debut album, You Won’t Ever Be Lonely, with the title track serving as his debut single.

The No. 1

This is a perfectly serviceable ballad that Griggs elevates with a strong vocal performance that hints at his outlaw influences.

It seemed to be a rule that a male artist could only break through with a love ballad during this era.  Sometimes it led to being a one hit wonder, and other times it led to long-running careers for people like Keith Urban.

Griggs wasn’t a one hit wonder, but his radio fare tended to be conservative, with the more interesting tracks being left as album cuts.  His debut collection even included a duet with Waylon Jennings.

He’d release some really great songs down the road, most notably the Gretchen Peters composition “If Heaven.”  But check out his albums to discover an artist that was far more interesting than you’d ever know by listening to the radio.

The Road From No. 1

On its way to gold status, You Won’t Ever Be Lonely produced the top ten hits “I’ll Go Crazy” and “She’s More.”  His second album, Freedom, included the top ten hit “Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man.” His final album for RCA, This I Gotta See, included two top five hits: “She Thinks She Needs Me” and the aforementioned “If Heaven.”   Griggs has recorded for independent labels ever since, getting some minor radio play for singles from his 2008 album The Good Life.  His most recent studio album, Naked, was released in 2013.

“You Won’t Ever Be Lonely” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Nineties

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3 Comments

  1. On my desk is a promotional cd produced by BMG Canada in 1999. The cd is titled “The Brand New Twang: An Interactive Roadshow.” The roadshow was a combination of audio-visual and live performances. As sales clerk, I was invited to the event by one of the music buyers at Tower Records.

    BMG at the time was promoting its roster of new artists which included: Sara Evans, The Warren Brothers, Brad Paisley, Andy Griggs, Shannon Brown, Clint Daniels and Prairie Oyster.

    As part of this show, I remember seeing Griggs perform at The Bohemian, a now defunct hipster bar at the corner of Avenue Road and Davenport Road in Toronto.

    The promotional material for Griggs reads:
    “From self-taught-beginner to self-assured performer, one can truly say that music is his soul and you can hear it in every note. Andy Grigg’s music is somewhere between old-country and rock and roll, t’s intense and heartfelt, it’s deep and it’s alive. Andy’s voice is bold and reminiscent of the great “outlaws” but he has the face of an angel- the combination is powerful and hard to forget.”

    Just like the original outlaw tag for Jennings, Nelson, Kristofferson, Cash et al. was as much a marketing gimmick as anything, so was its application to Griggs music and career. Nonetheless, a deep dive into his first three albums will be rewarding for listeners only familiar with this single.

    I consider Griggs a rock solid mainstream country artist with wide appeal. I am surprised his career didn’t run deeper.

    Griggs has a compelling voice and strong song sensibilities. His debut album is likely his best although “This I Gotta See” certainly has its charms as does “Freedom.”

    “If Heaven” is his career record in my mind but I also really enjoy: “I Don’t Know a Thing,” Ain’t Done Nothing Wrong,” “She Thinks She Needs Me,” “Freedom”, and “Where’s A Train.”

    • Love seeing that list of artists on that BMG cd!

      Clint Daniels and Shannon Brown definitely got the short end of the stick out of them all, since neither of them were able to release their debut albums recorded for Arista. For some reason, it just seemed harder for new artists to break through by the late 90’s.

      I’ve loved everything I heard from Clint Daniels, and judging by some of the songs from his unreleased debut floating around on YouTube, we were robbed of a great album and a very promising new talent. I especially adore “When I Grow Up,” which may be the country song that I can relate to the most, yet hardly anybody knows about it, sadly. I also really love his debut single, “A Fool’s Progress.” His smooth voice and traditional country style is overall such pleasure to hear, and he deserved better, imo.

      I actually did hear Shannon Brown’s debut single, “I Won’t Lie,” on the radio one afternoon after school around early 1999 while Dad and I were in the car. I really enjoyed it, especially the fancy, fast steel playing throughout (It sounds like Paul Franklin). The DJ even commented after the song, “Now that’s how a steel guitar should be played!” It’s still one of my favorite “hidden gems” of the late 90’s, and I was lucky enough to find a used copy of the cd single a while back. Again, it’s too bad she wasn’t able to release her debut album, A Tour Of My Heart. I enjoy a couple of it’s tracks on Youtube, which are “I Don’t Move You” and the title cut. I believe she’s also got another unreleased album after that recorded in the early 00’s, as well, which included “Untangle My Heart” (which I also like) and her remake of Deborah Allen’s “Baby I Lied.” I’m sure both of those albums would’ve been a lot better than the dreadful “Cornfed” song she came back with in the mid 00’s.

      The Warren Brothers were very underrated in the late 90’s and early 00’s, imo. I especially love their debut album, 1998’s Beautiful Day in The Cold Cruel World and its title track. My favorite single they released off that album is “Better Man” which was actually on the radio the same time as Andy’s “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely.” I also LOVE “Move On” from their second album, King Of Nothing.

      It’s also neat to learn that Prairie Oyster was still on BMG by the late 90’s.

  2. This is actually my personal favorite Andy Griggs song, with “She’s More” being right up there, too. Although he was heavily influenced by outlaw country, I happen to think he was equally great at the romantic ballads, and there’s a sincerity and charm to his vocals that always made them work for me.

    Sonically, I absolutely love everything about “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely.” For me, this is yet another example of why I love late 90’s country so much: It’s twangy enough for it to be unmistakably country (How can it not be with his voice?), yet it’s also smooth, sophisticated, stylish, and even atmospheric. Before I ever saw the music video, the first few times I ever heard it, I always pictured city streets at night similar to the ones in the video, because it just always gave me that kind of vibe. The main guitar hook also really makes the song and helps put that “city at night” image in my head, and that melody still gets stuck in my head hours after hearing it. I also really like that “swirling” sound of the synthesizer throughout, which gives the song a bit of a dreamy feel. Plus, I love the low sounding electric guitar during each chorus as Andy sings “For as long as I live, there will always be…” Finally, Paul Franklin’s smooth steel playing is as classy as ever, and the echo heavy, full sound of the drums on this track just sound so perfect to my ears. This song still always takes me to another place in my mind, every time.

    This is also personally one of my favorite love songs of the decade for how simple, straightforward, assuring, and comforting the lyrics are. And combined with Andy’s sincere performance with his distinctive twangy vocals, it’s always been a winner for me. And since the first time I heard it, I thought it was kind of neat that the bridge, “Here’s a shoulder to cry on and a love you can rely on,” was sung right before the second chorus, which was a nice break from the typical verse, chorus, verse, chorus pattern.

    On one winter afternoon in February 1999, I was finishing up recording the A-side to the second tape I did during my 7th grade year. I had room left on the tape for about three more songs. One of the first songs that came on the radio was “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely,” and it was the very first time I ever heard it. The intro with the main guitar riff had me interested right away, and I decided to record it right then and there, without even knowing the song or who sings it. That intro actually reminded me of a more contemporary sounding 80’s country song, like something that might’ve been played as a recurrent for us during 1990-1991. As soon as I heard Andy’s voice, though, I definitely knew this was somebody completely new I was hearing. Since I had no idea what he looked like yet, my mind ran wild, and for some reason his voice made me picture a bald guy with a goatee, similar to the wrestler, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin. Looking back, it’s kind of funny now to think about that, since Chad Brock, who also had his breakthrough hit at the same time with “Ordinary Life” actually WAS a wrestler and looked like one, but I never would’ve guessed that in a million years the first few times I heard it, lol. Anyway, after the first chorus of “…Lonely:, I was loving what I was hearing, and by the time it got to the bridge and Andy broke into the second chorus, that’s when I knew for sure I had a keeper. Also, since it was Winter, and I was loving the cold weather we were having, I really liked the line in the second verse: “It’s still gonna snow, and it’s still gonna rain. The wind’s gonna blow on a cold winter day.” Again, back when singles actually matched the seasons! At the end of the song on the tape, I still have the DJ mentioning Andy’s name right before it cuts into the next song I recorded.

    Sometime shortly after that, my mom, step dad, and I saw the Nicholas Cage film, 8MM, at the movie theater on a Friday afternoon. About somewhere in the middle of the movie, “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely” suddenly started going through my head, lol. Even today, whenever I watch that movie again, I always think about this song.

    And like Jo Dee’s “Stand Beside Me” and Martina’s “Wrong Again,” this song also makes me think of the Sundays my parents and I went to Springfield Mall in Springfield, VA throughout early 1999. Even around the holiday season in 2002 and into early 2003, I’d often listen to that tape I recorded in ’99 on my Walkman while walking around the mall, with both Jo Dee’s and Andy’s songs often on repeat, especially (which wasn’t hard since they were back to back on the tape). Andy’s song was perfect for that mall, especially when it was night time. :)

    When I finally got around to seeing the video for “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely” on GAC, I was caught off guard by his youthful, boyish look, which was the polar opposite of what I originally pictured him as, lol. Looking at it now, he kind of resembles Kurt Cobain here. But anyway, this music video is still one of my favorites I love watching on YouTube when I’m in a late 90’s mood. They just absolutely NAILED the atmosphere and aesthetics, and they couldn’t have picked better locations to film Andy singing this song. I especially love the night time city shots, particularly the cool flashing lights on the side of the building at around 0:17. My other favorite location, of course, is the one with Andy in the phone booth surrounded by snow. :) Even the green glow featured throughout much of the clip is so cool, and again, it just really fits the song’s atmosphere. For my money, this is simply one of the best and coolest looking videos of its time.

    Andy Griggs’ debut album of the same name was one I got for Christmas in 2002 when I was already nostalgic for late 90’s country and was collecting albums from 1997 and 1998 (Griggs’ album was a ’99 release, but close enough). I mainly got it for “You Won’t Ever Be Lonely,” but I always loved the other singles, too, especially “She’s More” and “I’ll Go Crazy.” Other ones I enjoy on the album are “I Don’t Know A Thing,” “Ain’t Done Nothing Wrong,” and “Waitin’ On Sundown.”

    The follow up single, “I’ll Go Crazy” shows a bit of the outlaw influence, especially with the Waylon like beat, which made it stand out some on the radio in 1999, before that beat became overused by the mid 00’s. The song is perfect for his voice, and I love the catchy melody and the pounding drums. That one was going through my head while my parents and I were watching For Love Of The Game (starring Kevin Costner and Kelly Preston) in the theater, and I still remember hearing it in Cracker Barrel during the holiday season in 1999. As “I’ll Go Crazy” was playing in the country store part of the restaurant, Mom and I saw one of those dancing, hip shaking Santa’s on a shelf in the distance, and to me, it looked as if it was dancing to Griggs’ song instead of the actual music that was likely coming out of the Santa, lol. I still occasionally picture the Santa shaking his hips whenever I hear it today.

    I also simply adore “She’s More,” which is once again perfectly produced by David Malloy and features another convincing and charming performance from Andy. I loved hearing it on the radio every time in early 2000, and it still brings back great memories of that time for me. Interestingly, it was co-written by Rob Crosby, who was one of the early 90’s artists I had rediscovered around that time when revisiting some of my old tapes.

    2002’s “Tonight I Wanna Be Your Man” is another one of my favorites, as well.

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