Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Shelly West, “José Cuervo”

“José Cuervo”

Shelly West

Written by Cindy Jordan

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

April 29, 1983


#1 (1 week)

May 7, 1983

I generally don’t like to refer to their famous parents when I am writing about successful second generation artists.  Call it a byproduct of me becoming a massive Pam Tillis fan long before I knew who Mel Tillis was. 

But it’s impossible not to acknowledge that both Dottie West and Shelly West counted glorified radio jingles among their biggest hits.  Granted, both of them were co-opted by national brands, and the songs weren’t written with that intent.  But “Country Sunshine” is synonymous with Coca-Cola and “José Cuervo” is straight up product placement without the brand even having to pay for it.

It ultimately did more for the liquor company than it did for Shelly West, as this was her only solo No. 1 hit.  It’s hard to hear it as anything more than a novelty record, and a pretty silly one at that.  You can only go so far with the conceit of having a direct conversation with a bottle of tequila.   

Thankfully, West doesn’t take herself too seriously here, and the production is the real star, with just enough of a “south of the border” flavor to give it some personality. I don’t believe for a second that she’s singing from personal experience, but I’m sure she’s had as much fun singing this song over the last forty years as the song’s protagonist had last night with José.

“José Cuervo” gets a B

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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1 Comment

  1. Easily one of the most heavily played singles on KEEY K-102 in the early eighties. I couldn’t escape this song. Like most of T.G. Sheppard’s hits, “Jose Cuervo” wormed it’s way into my influential country music brain with its skittery and brassy sound.

    Given the heavy play it received, I always imagined it had a much longer stay at the top of the charts than just one week.

    Dancing cowboys. Shooting out the lights. Little shooters. Salt and lime.

    This tequila world sounded so mysterious to a nine year old.


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