Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Ronnie McDowell, “You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation”

“You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation”

Ronnie McDowell

Written by Jeff Crossan

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

August 19, 1983


#1 (1 week)

August 27, 1983

Ronnie McDowell’s final No. 1 hit was a popular variation on an enduring theme in country music songs: the footloose and fancy free ladies’ man who finally settles down.  Some of the biggest and best hits in the genre’s history, like “Forever and Ever, Amen” and “Brand New Man,” are variations on this concept. 

McDowell’s take is more explicit than most.  We get a somewhat disturbing window into how he’s conducted himself up until this point.  It’s been all bar fights and motel pseudonyms leading up to him meeting the woman who’s going to ruin his bad reputation.  He’s been a real wildcat.

Can he sell that persona? Not really. He’s too clean cut, so he comes off more as someone who was acting out of loneliness and unhappiness, rather than being driven by lust and violence.  

What is believable is that he’s loving staying home on Saturday nights with the love of his life. We talk a lot about how the perspective of women changed over the course of the eighties and nineties, and we’re seeing that right now in this feature with recent hits by Rosanne Cash, Janie Fricke, and Crystal Gayle.

But things were changing for the men too, and as the genre becomes more associated with suburbia than farms and honky tonks, the family man trope will become more common.  We’ve seen this in recent records too, especially efforts by Conway Twitty, John Conlee, and Earl Thomas Conley.  Cheating and philandering are still happening, but there are consequences for it, and the ideal of a man who goes home every night and is faithful to his wife is slowly becoming the norm.

McDowell didn’t top the charts again after this, but he remained a mainstay in country music, scoring radio hits for a few more years and becoming a staple of the TNN circuit in the nineties.  Shout out to everyone who remembers “Yippy Ti Yi Yo,” which I’ve always suspected was the inspiration for the rap at the end of “Any Man of Mine.”

“You’re Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation” gets a B. 

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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1 Comment

  1. This many years later, I can’t help but hear this a a lost Bellamy Brothers track.

    As it stands, it was one of those songs that shone brightly on its own. Sort of like B.J. Thomas, McDowell just drifted in and out of relevance for me.

    I have always loved the sly, tongue-in-cheek aspect of this single. Certainly an underappreciated gem from this decade.

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