Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Judy Rodman, “Until I Met You”

“Until I Met You”

Judy Rodman

Written by Hank Riddle

Radio & Records

#1 (1 week)

June 20, 1986


#1 (1 week)

July 19, 1986

Judy Rodman might have gotten the rawest deal of the decade in country music.

This talented woman was significantly ahead of her time, and recorded albums that are thematically and stylistically similar to the ones that would make platinum-selling stars out of Kathy Mattea, Martina McBride, and Suzy Bogguss. These albums culled from the best and brightest contemporary songwriters of the day like Hugh Prestwood and Alice Randall, while  giving early cuts to future singer-songwriter stars like Pam Tillis and K.T. Oslin.

Rodman was on track for stardom herself, and got there for a brief period.  She was the musical prodigy daughter of a California couple that cultivated her eclectic love for music, and she sang many different styles that reflected the diversity of her experiences growing up, where her family moved often.  In college, she roomed with fellow future chart-topper Janie Fricke, and followed a similar path in Nashville, starting off as a demo and jingle singer before landing her own record deal with MTM Records.

That MTM stands for Mary Tyler Moore, and the label seemed to have a promising future (as well as Trisha Yearwood as their receptionist with a promising future.)  Her debut album, Judy, came just a year before Mattea broke through with “Love at the Five and Dime,” and its fourth single, “Until I Met You,” was an early predictor of that style coming into fashion.  It’s a remarkably tender recording, mostly unadorned, with Rodman’s effective vocal front and center.   The song is subtle enough to even suggest alternate readings that make it work as well as a wedding song as it could work as a breakup song, kind of like a country take on ABBA’s “The Day Before You Came.”

Rodman was on fire from that point on, winning ACM’s Top New Female Vocalist over a field that included Patty Loveless, and taking her next four singles to the top ten.  One of those, “Girls Ride Horses, Too,” was co-written by Randall, who became the first black woman to write a No. 1 single when Yearwood recorded “XXX’s and OOO’s” a few years later.  All of the singles from her second album went top twenty, and she was prepping a third when the label shuttered, leaving Goin’ to Work unreleased. The title track, co-written by Tillis, would later be covered by McBride.

Rodman should’ve resurfaced on a major label and been given another shot at the brass ring.  Still, she continued to flourish as a songwriter and teacher in Music City, and she returned to the top of the country charts a decade later as the co-writer of LeAnn Rimes’ sole No. 1 hit, “One Way Ticket (Because I Can.)”  She’s coached successful singers like Radney Foster and Bryan White, and has also worked in musical theater.  To this day, she is in demand for her instructional talents.  Her albums for MTM are difficult to find but worth seeking out.

“Until I Met You” gets an A.


Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. …got a new guilty pleasure clip: ms rodman live on “austin city limits” with “girls ride horses too. what a singer i had never heard of before (shame on me).

  2. I have her first album on an MTM vinyl – it is quite good but that’s all I have by her. Other than Holly Dunn and Paul Overstreet (part of SKO) not much good happened for the roster of MTM. Becky Hobbs wound up on RCA and they gave her very little promotional push, although she remained a successful live act.

  3. I certainly recall this song fondly for its gentle rootedness; Grandpa’s trunk felt very real and intimate to me.

    The song heralds a sound and sensibility that other artists would soon have significant success with, as Kevin mentions.

    It’s wild that an alternate country universe could have seen Judy Rodman and David Lynn Jones be promoted as the faces of a new generation of country music stars had the new traditionalists youth movement not turned Nashville upside down with what was possible, marketing the genre to a much younger audience.

    I was recently rifling through some old “Tune In” newspapers, publications produced by Starstream Communications Group that were distributed with participating radio stations in markets across the US. In my case they were associated with KEEY K-102 FM in the Twin Cities.

    In a January 1990 issue with Kathy Mattea on the cover, David Lynn Jones was being pushed as the next big country music star of the year along with Travis Tritt, Mary Chapin Carpenter , and…Butch Baker.

    In a November’s issue from the same year Jones is again featured in a sectioned titled “Wanted: by Popular Demand.” His profile shares a page with a similar puff piece promoting… Joe Diffie!

    In this second piece Sandy Adzgery shares that Jones’ “Tonight in America, a single originally from his 1987 debut, was “…being reserviced to radio, and the video will be reappearing on CMT and TNN….”

    How Nashville of Nashville to chase the success of re-releasing Randy Travis’ “On the Other Hand” by hoping to catch lightening in a bottle again with Jones.

    Whereas Travis’ career would supernova, Jones’ star would fade and fall from the Nashville sky.

    Both Rodman and Jones had significant industry support before it became clear the trail forward was being blazed by different artists.

    • …funny you should see it that way too: “The song heralds a sound and sensibility that other artists would soon have significant success with, as Kevin mentions.”

      my first impression after watching the clip was – without having read kevin’s introduction beforehand – that she had been great but actually too late in every obvious department. the sound was more like 83 crossover pinnacle sound, the stage outfit/appearance in line with the fashion at the time at best and the hairstyle janie-fricke-83 “love lies” – although, fitting perfectly with her facial features. no doubt, ms rodman was/is an attractive woman and mighty fine vocalist – but ahead of her time? i rather felt, she was at the harbor singing for her ship to come in, when the flights in a new, more traditional/organic direction were taking off more and more frequently, as the consequent rises of reba, tanya tucker, kathy mattea, k.t. oslin or paulette carlson (highway 101) were indicating at the time. the forester sisters and the sweet hearts of the rodeo were slightly different cases, since their harmonical strength was doing the trick there. so, what am i missing here regarding her sound heralding future things?

  4. Tom, the relevance and influence her artistry – her songwriting skills, her musical sensibilities and her recordings – carried on well beyond her success as a radio artist. Kevin highlights those later artists whom she is connected to in his writeup.

    Sonically, this single just sounds like early Kathy Mattea to me.

    What is also interesting to me is just looking at some of the song titles of her singles during her commercial run. Even if I had never heard them on the radio in the ’80s, I would connect them to similar titles from female artists finding success in the ’90s. I am not suggesting a straight-line path of causality, but there is something seemingly at play in terms of at least having made an impression.

    Just look at her next two singles to follow this one.

    It’s hard for me not to link Rodman’s “She Thinks She’ll Marry” with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “She Thinks He’ll Keep Her.”

    “Girls Ride Horses Too” brings to mind Terri Clark’s “Girls Lie Too.”

    The consistent themes and messages between the songs is really what is noteworthy.

    I think heer recording of Bob Dylan’s often covered “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” was unexpected at the time as well.

    It also is telling to me that the subject of Rodman’s songwriting appealed to an artist as young as Leanne Rimes.

    These connections to what came after her success are some of the reason I suggest Rodman having anticipated something bigger than the moment with her music.

  5. Watched some clips of her performing on Austin City Limits and enjoyed it very much. Surprised to hear that she was not picked up by another label to perform, seems like she could’ve had a few more years of chart success. Her version of “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight” is much better than Bob Dylan’s who I really don’t think can sing.

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