Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: The Oak Ridge Boys, “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”

“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”

The Oak Ridge Boys

Written by Donivan Cowart and Rodney Crowell

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

January 25, 1980

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

February 9, 1980

No less than three No. 1 country hits in the early eighties were Emmylou Harris covers, an artist who will be featured multiple times in the eighties with her own covers of previously recorded material.

“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” is a highlight of Harris’ Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town album.  It’s a spectacularly written song about a girl named Mary who runs off with a traveling man, with her irate father following close behind them.  Co-written by Rodney Crowell, who will also appear multiple times as a songwriter and a recording artist, the Harris version is plainly adorned.

In their hit version, the Oak Ridge Boys opt for a busier production that leans hard into Cajun instrumentation, and they increase the song’s tempo by a decent amount.  Because of hits like “Y’all Come Back Saloon,” “Elvira,” and “Bobbie Sue,” it’s hard not to hear most Oak Ridge Boys efforts as being novelty records, but they play it somewhat  straight here, letting the lyric do most of the heavy lifting early on. I guess you can’t have an Oak Ridge Boys record without those four part harmonies, regardless of whether they service the song by being there.  Once they kick in after the first verse, they weigh everything down, robbing the song of some of its charm.

Still, as Oak Ridge Boys records go, this is pretty good.  We’ll be seeing quite a bit of these boys in this feature.

“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” gets a B.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

Previous: Kenny Rogers, “Coward of the County”  |

Next: T.G. Sheppard, “I’ll Be Coming Back For More”

20 Comments

  1. I adore Emmylou’s version. A lot gets lost in this cover which I guess I’d have liked more if Emmylou’s didn’t exist. This almost feels like a kidz bop version lol

  2. Heresy to go against Emmylou, but my favorite version of this song is actually by Shovels & Rope. The roughness of their aesthetic is a perfect match for it, and Cary Ann Hearst’s warble makes for a great narrator for these characters and their story. I’m wondering if Leeann agrees with me on this one!

  3. Emmys was the first version I heard and the best. I’m a Emmy superfan with all her albums in my collection! However, I also quit like this version too! I’ve always found the cajon sound very enjoyable and I’ve always been a sucker for country music groups with tight harmony!

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  4. Like so many others, this was the first version of this song I ever heard, and it’s still my favorite.

    Rodney’s & Emmylou’s versions were great too, though!

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  5. No fair!

    I intentionally avoided the temptation to explore on my own what the first song of this series might be and, of course, it has to be a song from The Mighty Oaks. No band was more significant in my introduction to country music than the Oak Ridge Boys. Along with two Marty Robbins’ greatest hits collections, the first album I was ever gifted was the Oak’s “Fancy Free.” I joined their fan club and had an autographed glossy photo of them hanging on my bedroom wall. I had an 8-track version of “The Oak Ridge Boys Have Arrived Album.”

    This is the definitive version of this song for me. It wasn’t until years later that I even heard another version.

    I think the Oaks’ harmonies bring a charm, warmth, and charisma to their music. Their songs are infused with a palpable energy and enthusiasm. You can hear that they are entertainers in so many of their performances. Perhaps, some of the subtleties a songwriter brings to their own compositions is lost when the Oak Ridge Boys cover their song, but it’s hard to ignore the sense of showmanship, especially with this performance.

    Being objective with these hits is going to be a mammoth task!

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  6. I hadn’t heard this version, nor Emmylou’s, but I do love Rodney Crowell’s version. I think the song itself is great and will check this and Emmylou’s versions out.

    I can’t even list the artists I am sure will be coming up in this feature but I was listening in the 80s. I do know one of my favourites who will come up is Janie Fricke, though, and I look forward to revisiting a lot of her songs.

  7. The eighties were an interesting decade. I spend most of the decade in my thirties, so this wasn’t the music of my youth. On the non-defunct My Kind of Country blog I ran a seven-part series of ‘Favorites Songs of the Eighties’ in which I focused on a wide variety of songs, many of which were not gigantic hits

    • It’s going to be fun going through the No. 1 singles. A large majority of my most played country singles from the eighties didn’t go to No. 1 and there are many songs that I’ve never heard at all.

      At least with the nineties, I knew just about all of the songs from 1991 on!

  8. Hey Kevin,

    Out of curiosity I see the previous #1 single was “Coward of The County”. Is there a page for that one. I looked a Wiki (Def could be wrong) and it shows it was a #1 single in 1980. Or does it not count because idk maybe it peaked started at #1 in 1979 and was a multiple week chart topper?

  9. A solid, and surprisingly pretty country sounding (considering we’re starting in the Urban Cowboy movement) beginning to the 80’s feature!

    Like a few others here have mentioned, this is also the first version of the song I ever heard, and the only one I was really familiar with for the longest time. I recall hearing it on numerous occasions whenever my parents and I happened to be listening to late night classic country programs that our stations used to do in the 90’s and early 00’s. I particularly remember one night my step dad getting all pumped and excited when the DJ mentioned the Oak Ridge Boys coming up, and he was so sure it was going to be “Elvira,” which was his favorite song of theirs, but was disappointed when it turned out to be this song instead. Not that he disliked the song (as far as I know), but he was just so fired up to hear “Elvira,” lol.

    As for me, I’ve always enjoyed it pretty much, and the boys sound like they had so much fun recording it. I agree with Peter on their energy and charm coming through on much of their songs, especially the uptempo ones like this. The opening fiddle always gets me excited for this one, as well, and the signature four part harmonies compliment the fun Cajun arrangement very well, imo. Overall, it’s a toe tapping good time from beginning to end for me!

    In some of my earliest memories from the late 80’s and early 90’s, I remember me as a little kid occasionally playing an Oak Ridge Boys cassette tape that my parents had on the stereo while I ran around the house, lol. I don’t remember exactly what album it was (the tape got messed up sometime when I was still very young), but I do remember “Elvira” being on it. That tape was pretty much my intro to the Oaks. As a little kid, I also remember seeing some of their albums in the stores and William Lee Golden’s long beard always standing out to me.

    Btw, I just took a listen to Emmylou’s version of “Leaving Louisiana…”, which I hadn’t heard in a while, and I really enjoy that version, as well!

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