Every #1 Country Single of the Eighties: Kathy Mattea, “Goin’ Gone”

“Goin’ Gone”

Kathy Mattea

Written by Pat Alger, Bill Dale, and Fred Koller

Radio & Records

#1 (2 weeks)

January 1 – January 8, 1988


#1 (1 week)

January 30, 1988

Kathy Mattea hailed from West Virginia, singing in church and in her mother’s piano recitals as a child. By high school, she was starring in school performances and in college, she joined a bluegrass band.  When the band leader moved to Nashville, she went too, working everywhere from T.G.I. Friday’s to the Country Music Hall of Fame as she developed her craft.

Her work as a demo singer led to a contract with Mercury Records in 1983, and from there, Mattea began a slow climb to the top. Her first two albums featured a handful of top forty hits, but lacked a clear musical direction. She found that with her third album, Walk the Way the Wind Blows, which featured her breakthrough single, a cover of Nanci Griffith’s “Love at the Five and Dime.” It was the first of four top five hits from the album, including the title track, which earned a Single of the Year nomination at the CMA Awards in 1987.

Mattea fully came into her own on Untasted Honey, which became her big commercial breakthrough. The lead single became her first No. 1 hit, and though there was a bigger hit waiting in the wings, the label went with “Goin’ Gone” first because other artists had their eye on it.  (The Forester Sisters recorded it before Mattea, but their take remains unreleased.)

Mattea’s version is influenced by Nanci Griffith’s recording of the song, and as she did with “Five and Dime,” Mattea smooths out the edges just enough to make a folk song palatable for late eighties country radio. Mattea’s future work with Celtic sounds is already being foreshadowed on “Goin’ Gone,” while also capturing that troubadour style of singing that defined so many early Mattea hits.

It’s a gorgeous record that more than earned its chart-topping status, and Mattea ‘s banner year was just getting started.

“Goin’ Gone” gets an A.

Every No. 1 Single of the Eighties

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  1. The year of 1988 gets off to a great start with the first chart-topper from one of the most beautiful and recognizable female voices country radio has given us. Frankly I’m a bit surprised this was only her first #1, but it’s one of her most worthy entries. I knew “Love at the Five and Dime” was a Nanci Griffith cut but I didn’t know this one was too. The relaxed and soothing delivery is classic Mattea and gives me the warm fuzzies every time I hear it. I know she had a better run into the 90s at country radio that plenty of others who got their start in the mid-80s, but it was still not long enough. And that would be true even if her run of hits only came to an end last year!

    I don’t live in Minnesota anymore but every weekend I still go to the PBS website to check out the quirky “Minnesota Almanac” variety show that airs weekly. Every once in a while, they’ll get a big-name recording artist who pops by the studio and in May 2000, Kathy Mattea visited and gave a live performance. Even a quarter century later, almost every Memorial Day weekend they go back to the “vault” at the end of the show and dust off the old clip of Kathy.

    Grade: A

  2. …sheer beauty, the song and the album cover art. since my musical journey with miss mattea had only started in 1989 with her “willow in the wind” album, i only came across “untasted honey” with some delay, which made it actually all the more enjoyable – another great little discovery. a bit like finding a ten dollar bill in a jacket not worn in a while. actually, i can very well imagine “going gone” being the sort of material that would have given the forester sisters a field day. however, kathy mattea’s take doesn’t leave anything to be desired really. i’ve always preferred her version over nancy griffith’s, whereas when it comes to “love at the five and dime”, it was exactly the opposite. of course, we’re talking here of a rendition level pretty close to perfection. at least in my book.

  3. I purchased Kathy’s first two albums and while I liked her voice, as Kevin mentioned, the albums lacked direction. Frankly I was afraid that if she didn’t get it figured out quickly, that the label would lose interest and she would fall through the cracks.

  4. At the time, I had no idea I was sonically and emotionally drawn to folk-based/influenced country. I just loved the generally more quiet and subdued energy levels of the performances, combined with a more detailed sense of storytelling, by artists like Dan Seals, Michael Johnson, Michael Martin Murphy and now Kathy Mattea.

    This tendency of mine would soon tend towards my embracing mainstream acts like Mary Chapin Carpenter and alt-country performers like Slaid Cleaves and later career Stacy Dean Campbell.

    This Mattea song is gorgeous. It is relaxed. It is soothing.

    It is great music that still keeps me cozy in the corner listening to it today.

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