Every No. 1 Country Single of the Eighties: Hank Williams Jr., “Texas Women”

“Texas Women”

Hank Williams Jr.

Written by Hank Williams Jr. 

Billboard

#1 (1 week)

March 28, 1981

While Hank Williams Jr. had been a steady presence on the country charts throughout the sixties and seventies, it was the eighties in which he truly became a dominant artist.  After hooking up with producer Jimmy Bowen and releasing the classics “Family Tradition” and “Whiskey Bent and Hell Bound,” he’d enjoy an uninterrupted string of gold and platinum albums from 1979 through 1992.

His first chart-topper of the new decade came from his own pen. “Texas Women” is nearly a novelty song, a Lone Star state rewrite of “California Girls” that is elevated by three key elements, two courtesy of Hank and the other courtesy of Jimmy.

Hank wrote this song himself, and it’s got some playful turns of phrase that tie it directly to the time period, making Hank perhaps the first artist to take a derisive stab at at a certain John Travolta movie: “I’m a country plough-boy, not a urban cowboy.”  The songwriting element is heightened by his light, comedic performance of the lyric, which makes it clear that he isn’t taking himself too seriously.

That’s where Bowen comes in with the perfect arrangement.  It’s a modern day take on an old saloon number, and what makes it work so well is how clean and distinctive each musical element is.  As I’ve mentioned before, Bowen was instrumental in raising the production standards of Nashville records to the professional expectations of their NY and LA counterparts in pop, rock, and R&B.  Hank Jr. was the first big country beneficiary of his skills behind the board. Listen to this alongside even the best hits that we’ve covered this year, and you’ll notice the difference in clarity.

Pay attention to this as the decade progresses, because it’s one of the most underrated reasons that country music suddenly started competing at the same level as the biggest genres.  It had less to do to with style and more to do with higher production standards.  You could drop “Texas Women” on the radio with “Friends in Low Places” and “Killin’ Time” and it wouldn’t sound out of place.

Jr.’s Rowdy album would produce an additional No. 1 hit with its next release, and we’ll be seeing him throughout the entire decade as he becomes a superstar on the strength of his Bowen-helmed albums.

“Texas Women” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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3 Comments

  1. I’m so glad to see you pointing out how producer Jimmy Bowen helped bring country songs to a superior level. He improved the sound and quality of just about every artist he worked with during the 80s. I couldn’t agree more.

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  2. I had forgotten about this one. It’s very good! I agree that the outstanding production makes this stand out from other 80’s hits.

    Hank Jr. was my first exposure to country music as a young kid. My parents listened to mostly rock music but also loved Hank. It’s too bad that “Family Tradition” wasn’t a #1 because that’s my favorite of his. At least “If The South Woulda Won” didn’t make it to #1 so we won’t have to re-live that problematic mess.

  3. This song flirts with being a list song but Hank Jr. is too good a writer to give fully into that temptation.

    I am committing here to rummage through my “Country Music” magazine collection and find some of Patrick Carr’s rants against Jimmy Bowen. I mentioned in another post that as a kid I internalized a hatred for what Bowen did to Nashville based solely on Carr’s take on the effect he had on Nashville. Back then I didn’t even know what a producer did or what production was; I just knew Bowen had ruined things. He was the Grinch who stole country music.

    Kevin’s points about clean production values are well made and substantiated. This song songs great.

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