Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: John Anderson, “Wild and Blue”

“Wild and Blue”

John Anderson

Written by John Scott Sherrill


#1 (2 weeks)

December 25, 1982 – January 1, 1983

John Anderson should already be in the Country Music Hall of Fame, and “Wild and Blue” makes the affirmative case for that statement just as well as his signature hits “Swingin’,” “Straight Tequila Night,” and “Seminole Wind.”  

Like many of the most influential country artists that emerged in this era, Anderson first cut his teeth on rock and roll, heading up a local band when he was still in high school.  Once he discovered George Jones and Merle Haggard, he pivoted to country, infusing a rock sensibility into his pure country arrangements.  He moved to Nashville in 1971 and worked odd jobs while playing clubs.  After a few years of paying his dues, he earned his first of six major label record deals, signing with Warner Bros. in 1977.

Right out of the gate, he was recording compelling material like “What Did I Promise Her Last Night” and “She Just Started Liking Cheating Songs,” the latter of which went top fifteen.  His debut album was finally released in 1980, and it included his breakthrough top ten hit “1959.”  A second album followed, producing his first top five hit “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Someday)” and another top ten hit with “Chicken Truck.”

He furthered his creative vision by taking co-production responsibilities for his third album, I Just Came Home to Count the Memories. The title track and “Would You Catch a Falling Star” both went top ten.  Anderson was primed for a commercial breakthrough, and it came with the first single and title track from his fourth album, Wild & Blue.

From the opening fiddle and Anderson’s first line, “Wild and Blue” is the fullest realization yet of his distinctive style.  Listen closely and you can hear his undeniable influence on the phrasing of Jason Isbell, though Anderson’s voice remains completely different from any other singer in country music history. He really lets loose on this track, which takes a completely different sonic approach from Earl Thomas Conley’s number one hit that preceded it, but has the same lyrical sophistication and complex character development.

Randy Travis, The Judds,  and Dwight Yoakam are largely credited for the New Traditionalist movement of the eighties, but those multiplatinum-selling superstars built upon the foundation laid down by Anderson, Ricky Skaggs, and George Strait earlier in the decade.   “Wild and Blue” jumps off the speakers and demands to be heard, delivering traditional country music with the same urgency of the pop and rock records of the day.  

There have been a lot of pleasurable moments during the early part of this decade, with some underrated Urban Cowboy hits and the artistic revivals of sixties and seventies genre greats.  But now we’re getting into the hit records that helped make country music as widely beloved, critically acclaimed, and commercially powerful as the pop, rock, and R&B, moving it out of the genre ghetto for good.  “Wild and Blue” could be dropped onto the radio today and it would still sound as vibrant and fresh as it did forty years ago. 

“Wild and Blue” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. …on day 43, or so, god (perhaps) fancied creating a country singer with an absolutely unique voice… mission accomplished, i suppose. finally, we are learning how the dreaded verdict “too country” came into the world.

  2. It’s not terribly hard to see how influential John Anderson has been to the artists that followed him. The recent tribute album to him has certainly helped revive his legacy among a new generation, but the biggest hat tip to John is that Alan Jackson covered “She Just Started Liking Cheating Songs” on his Under the Influence album and this song on his bluegrass album. You are absolutely right, John Anderson belongs in the CMHoF.

  3. On the back of the ‘Wild & Blue” album sleeve Anderson wrote, “I would like to thank Emmylou Harris and Merle Haggard for helping make a dream come true. Because this was the last album recorded in Columbia “Studio B,” I would like to dedicate it to all the great artists, musicians, producers and engineers, past and present- especially Lou Bradley and Charlie Bradley – who made “Studio B” a part of Country Music history.”

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