Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Charly McClain, “Radio Heart”

“Radio Heart”

Charly McClain

Written by Stephen Allen Davis and Dennis Morgan


#1 (1 week)

May 25, 1985

Charly McClain’s final number one single deserves to be an evergreen hit like her first one became.

For all of the lonely, hard working single women who have tuned into country radio over the years, they don’t get their stories told on that radio very often.  “Radio Heart” tells the story of one of those women with surprising intimacy, and McClain’s tender vocal performance completely embraces her.

It feels like she’s singing directly to her, and it’s easy to imagine this very woman listening to this very song on the radio: “She’s found a little salvation in a local station.”

The nervy grit of McClain’s performance of “Who’s Cheatin’ Who” couldn’t be any further away from the empathetic warmth of her performance here.  With such versatility as a singer, and a lengthy run on Epic Records, I’m not sure why McClain never got the credit or the accolades for her talents.

But she’s got a pair of number one hits that can rival anyone else of this era, so I can’t help but think there are more gems in her catalog waiting to be rediscovered.

McClain had a handful of hit singles with her husband, Wayne Massey, but she never had another big solo hit after “Radio Heart.”  She exited Epic in 1987 and recorded one album for Mercury before retiring from the profession at the turn of the decade.  

“Radio Heart” gets an A

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. This song is so beautiful and beautifully interpreted by Charly. One of my favourites of hers. She absolutely has a lot of gems in her back catalogue, yes. May I suggest – You’re A Part Of Me (also recorded by Anne Murray, written by Kim Carnes), It’s Too Late To Love Me Now, Dancing Your Memory Away and her excellent cover of Band Of Gold to start with. For a more fun song – Men.

    • It’s Too Late To Love Me Now

      I hd no idea Charly McClain recorded this, and until just now I also did not know it was the first recording! I had been under the impression that Jeanne Pruett was the one who originally recorded it, but that was actually a few years later. I remember the Lorrie Morgan version well, though.

      ”Dancin’ Your Memory Away” has always been a favorite.

  2. The production is so well constructed with her beautiful crystalline vocals riding right out in front of everything.

    Such a tenderly performed and believable story about a single mom, yet the real nod is to the emotional reach and saving power of music.

    Again, you can find the roots of later stars and songs, like Maren Morris’ “My Church,” in the almost forgotten music of ’80’s female country stars.

    Similarly, it is worthy companion song to Reba’s “Somebody Should Leave.”

    “She’s found a little salvation on a country station/ She’s got a radio heart.”

    I love what this song means and how it sounds.

  3. This is the first Charley song I remember hearing and I’ve always loved it! As someone who relates music to everything any song about music getting you through is gonna be a must for me! Sad that her song Still I Stay wast a big hit, that song cuts and is so real…. such an underrated talent.

  4. Charly McClain was an undeniably talented singer who recorded some really great singles including “With You”, “Sentimental Ol’ You” and “Surround Me With Love” being among the best traditional sounding songs.

    She was also capable of handling more pop-country songs like “Sleeping With The Radio On” and “Who’s Cheating Who”.

    Unfortunately, her career had already started to lose traction when “Radio Heart” became a hit – none of her three prior singles reached the top ten and two of them failed to reach the top twenty.

    Her next three singles after “Radio Heart” were duets with husband Wayne Massey and they did alright for a while (two top tens and a top twenty); however, the magic was gone from her solo releases – only “Don’t Touch Me There” reached the top twenty (I barely remember the song since it got no airplay locally).

    A change of labels to Mercury in 1988 did not get her career re-started. She had already completely faded away before retiring.

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