Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: The Judds, “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)”

“Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)”

The Judds

Written by Jamie O’Hara

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

April 4 – April 11, 1986


#1 (1 week)

May 10, 1986

Adulthood is hard, and when we’re struggling with the complexities of life, there can be comfort in the simplistic existence that is childhood.

“Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” is a one-sided conversation, where the silent grandfather hears his granddaughter beg him to tell her of days gone by.  You know, the good old days, “when the line between right and wrong didn’t seem so hazy.”

It’s easy to be cynical here, given those good old days weren’t so great for the kind of people who are still marginalized today.  But it’s easy to forget that the line between right and wrong was hazy enough to cause two world wars in the lifetime of anyone old enough to be Wynonna’s grandpa in 1986, and that in between them, there was a flu epidemic and the greatest economic depression in our nation’s history.

Does Wynonna really think that things were simpler in grandpa’s time? Of course not.  She’s asking for the comfort of the fairy tale, and to take solace in the idea that if things once were easier, they could perhaps be easier again.

Wynonna’s anguished vocal is the tell here, revealing that her questions are completely rhetorical.  “Did lovers really fall in love to stay? Stand beside each other come what may?”  Some did and some didn’t, just like it always was.  Nobody knew that better than Wynonna herself, who had been raised by a single mom for most of her childhood and deeply longed for the stability provided by her grandparents.

We never hear grandpa’s response to any of her questions.  His silence is an answer in itself.

Sometimes we need to believe in the fairy tale, if only for a few minutes.

“Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days)” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. …what a thoughful comment to a really good song. seriously worth reading. one thing only, in the broadest context one can easily be cynical about most anything – if one choses to be. this song, however, is as much about the moment this – rather one sided – conversation takes place as the (whole) human experience and history. therefore, it should only be really looked at and judged as a snapshot situation and not more broadly, from my point of view. although, that comes into play as well. maybe this intrinsic contradiction makes it such a fine piece of songwriting. as well as wynonna’s voice , capture and rendition of course.

    interestingly enough, cody johnson’s fine rendition of it – with the wonderful sonya isaac supporting him – on the recent “a tribute to the judds” album doesn’t quite do it for me as the original does. even though it sounds perfectly good too.

  2. My love affair with Jaime O’Hara’s songwriting starts here.

    My love affair with The Judds continues because Wynonna may be the only artist who could have interpreted the song so beautifully and sympathetically.

    A brilliant classic.

    Everytime I still hear this song it feels like I am hearing it for the first time.

    I cannot help but pay attention to what is being said and how it sounds.

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