Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: George Strait, “Am I Blue”

“Am I Blue”

George Strait

Written by David Chamberlain


#1 (1 week)

November 7, 1987

I’ve scoured the internet for Billy Walker’s original version of “Am I Blue,” which was released on his self-titled Dot Records album in 1986.

I haven’t had any luck, which is a shame because I am truly curious how much George Strait adapted it in the studio. Because to my ears, the Strait cut sounds like him letting his Western Swing roots loose, channeling Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys so well that it’s hard to believe this song was first recorded in the latter half of the eighties.

Whether Strait brought that sound to “Am I Blue” or modeled it after the original, it’s a perfect fit for him. This is the least remembered hit from Ocean Front Property, which is a shame because it’s a truly wonderful record that showcases his continued growth as a vocal stylist.

I wish the lyric had a bit more meat on its bones, like Reba McEntire’s “How Blue” did a couple years back, but overall, it’s a captivating track that holds up well against the two classic singles that preceded it.

“Am I Blue” gets a B+.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. I think I’ve mentioned before how I would find myself humming country songs in the lunch line in elementary school, and then playing dumb when I was called out on it. Of the songs for which I was busted badly attempting to emulate in the fourth grade, Dwight Yoakam’s “I Sang Dixie” and this one from King George stand out in my memory. It was indeed an addictive Western swing, and I also assumed this was a remake of something from the Bob Wills era (just as I’d assumed Tracy Byrd’s “Heaven in Woman’s Eyes” was lifted from the Marty Robbins songbook). It’s even more impressive to learn that this was a late 80s contemporary cut by George. I just might keep the tradition alive and start inadvertently humming this one at work!

    This may have been my favorite year of George Strait’s career as I really got a kick out of all three of his #1s from 1987. I’m not surprised that of the three this one gets the least recurrent play but only because the other two were such timeless classics.

    Grade: B+

  2. I adore Western Swing music, so this version of George Strait is such an easy sell for me. I also really like Billy Walker, so I’d love to hear his version too. Let me know if you ever find it!

  3. I wouldn’t describe either the George Strait or Billy Walker recordings as being “western swing”. The two recordings are quite similar

    • Haven’t heard the Walker version, but the songwriter and Strait himself explicitly stated that this record fell into that category.

      “I was born and raised in Fort Worth, in the Bob Wills area, and grew up on swing. It took a while to write it. I really had George Strait in mind, and he turned it down twice.” – David Chamberlain

      “It was just one of those little swing tunes that I enjoy doin’ so much. I used to do all swing if I could in the old days, when we were playin’ the clubs. We almost did four hours of Wills and whatever else we could do.” – George Strait

        • Western Swing is somewhat of a movable feast (or floating crap game, if you will) as a genre. “Am I Blue” is western swing mostly due to the use of fiddles in the arrangement, but it is also of a kind with the sort of lightweight pop songs that Bob Wills would record with an arrangement that would suit his band.

          I like the song, but Strait recorded quite a few songs that scream ‘swing’ more that this song does. David Chamberlain wrote several songs that Strait recorded, but most of his songs were country rather than western swing. Gene Watson, Conway Twitty, Tanya Tucker, La Costa, Charley Pride, Johnny Paycheck, Keith Whitley, Dottie West, Connie Francis, Donna Fargo, Tammy Wynette, Billie Jo Spears, Sammi Smith, Larry Boone, Margo Smith and Barbara Fairchild are among the many who have recorded his songs and most are not associated with western swing

  4. Let the dancers on a sawdust floor decide if this thing swings or is a country two-step.

    Regardless, Strait is absolutely settling into his iconic phrasing here and establishing himself as a superstar.

    What a blast!

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