Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: John Anderson, “Black Sheep”

“Black Sheep”

John Anderson

Written by Robert Altman and Danny Darst


#1 (1 week)

December 17, 1983

Can we just drop a copy of this vocal performance off at the Country Music Hall of Fame and ask them to induct John Anderson by universal acclamation?

“Black Sheep” is a tour de force, with a lyric as sharp as it is wordy.  If you saw them on paper, you’d say that there’s no way that Anderson could’ve slipped all his signature curlicues while also clearly communication all of those words.

Oh, but he did. His precision never wavers as he gives the loosest of performances.  He’s euphoric as he runs down the accomplishments of all his high achieving family members while he revels in his black sheep status.  Of course, he knows that he’s carrying on the best part of his father’s legacy by loving his wife and children, bank account be damned:

I drive me a big ol’ semi truck, I’m makin’ payments on a two room shackMy wife, she waits on tables and at night she rubs my backAnd I tell her what my papa said to my mama when he got off a highball trainWake me up early, be good to my dogs and teach my children to prayI’m sayin’, woman, wake me up early, be good to my dogsAnd teach my children to pray  

Anderson’s rarely sounded better on record, and it’s the best of his many eighties classics.  While this is his final No. 1 single of the decade, he came back with a vengeance in the early nineties. 

“Black Sheep” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. Just one of those really fun songs to listen to and I much prefer this over another similar novelty song like “Chicken truck”. I didn’t appreciate the vocals until you pointed it out. Seriously I would love to see anybody during that time frame that could pull off that country of a vocal on this song. Maybe George Jones (Maybe in the 50/60’s) but even then I don’t know if it would as good as what John does.

  2. The energy this record exudes is just stellar. Very similar to Razzy Bailey’s Midnight Hauler that was covered earlier this series where the vocal delivery and musicianship is loose and killer. My second favorite John Anderson song besides Seminole Wind, which as a central Floridian I am obliged to like the most.

    • “Straight Tequila Night” is my most played song by any male country artist. I love it so much. It’s going to be passed by “Whiskey Sour” soon, but it speaks volumes that a song from 1992 is so high on the list of what I’ve played the most over the last 11 years.

      “Black Sheep” is going to be flying up that list too, now. Preparing to write this was the first time I gave it a very close listen. Just. Wow.

  3. Anderson had a beautiful minor hit with a song called ‘1959’ that I loved. That was about it for me.

    Anderson always sounds like he’s out of breath, like he’s running on a treadmill. He’s got talent but I don’t enjoy most of his songs.

    • Caj, while I can’t relate to your take on John Anderson as a vocalist, I must echo the sentiment that 1959 is a great track.

  4. As a Central Floridian, I’ve always taken an interest in Anderson’s career. He has recorded a large number of really interesting songs, and while his vocal execution is not always perfect, it usually suffices. I think my favorite John Anderson songs are “I Just Came Home To Count The Memories”, “Wild and Blue”, “Seminole Wind”, “Lower on The Hog” and “1959”.

  5. Anderson better than suffices, he is a generational vocal stylist.

    I didn’t fully appreciate the singular strength of his skills until I listened to 30 songs of his back -to-back when I purchased his 2-cd “Anthology” collection on Audium back in 2002.

    “She Just Started Liking Cheatin’ Songs,” “Down in Tennessee,” and “Let Go of the Stone” are stand-outs for me.

    In the liner notes to the “Anthology” collection senior Billboard editor Ray Wadell astutley points out, “Another of Anderson’s best talents is his ability to introduce mood.”

    This song is case in point, as is “1959” … as is “Swingin'”….as is “Seminole Wind”…as is “Straight Tequila Night”….as is “Tuesday I’ll Be Gone.”

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