30 years ago: Alan Jackson wrote (and performed) “Chattahoochee”

If there’s one song that’s synonymous with Alan Jackson, it’s most definitely his super hit “Chattahoochee.” When released as the third single from her album Lots of life (and a little love) in 1993 (the album title was taken from the song) it went straight to No. 1, eventually becoming the No. 1 song for everything of 1993, and winning both CMA Single of the Year and Song of the Year.

But it was kind of a weird single from Alan Jackson, who until then had been best known for his slow and mid-tempo songs with a little more introspection than that summer hit whose video had him doing. waterskiing in jeans and a cowboy hat. Never quite recognized for having written most of his own songs, Alan Jackson struggled to write up-tempo songs that his label could play on the radio. He later commemorated these struggles sarcastically in the song “Three Minute Positive Not Too Country Up-Tempo Love Song”.

“Chattahoochee” was the exception, not the rule. And co-written by Nashville songwriter Jim McBride, there’s a pretty interesting story about how it happened and how it came to life, going from finished product to stage performance on the same day, the April 12, 1992, thirty years ago today. .

As a member of the “Class of 89”, Alan Jackson was already too old in 1992 to walk down Music Row with song ideas to co-write with others in the cabin offices. It would be overrun and cause a distraction. So Alan Jackson wrote on the road on the bus, and if anyone wanted to co-write with him, they had to go with him. That’s what Jim McBride did in April 2022 when Jackson was on tour. McBride had already written half a dozen songs with Jackson that had made it onto albums by then, so they were already close.

“At this point we were writing so well together, I had two notebooks,” explains Jim McBride. “When I have an idea, I jot it down in my notebook. But I had another one, and it was for Alan. If I even thought it was an idea he might like, I’d put it there -low.

A few days before meeting Alan Jackson in Tallahassee, Florida, Jim McBride had read a magazine article about the Chattahoochee River, and how it flowed not too far from Jackson’s hometown of Newnan, Georgia, and helped define part of Georgia and Alabama state line. It seemed like the perfect setting for an Alan Jackson song, and Jackson agreed when he was first presented with the idea in a hotel room in Tallahassee.

Jim McBride already had the melody in shape, as well as the first two lines, “Out there on the Chattahoochee, it’s hotter than a hoochie coochie.” Alan Jackson added, “We put rubber on the Georgia asphalt, we got a little crazy but we never got caught,” and soon the song began to come together.

The duo worked on the song a bit more when the tour bus pulled up in Pensacola, but it was the next day when they arrived in Thibodaux, Louisiana that the song would be finished just before Alan Jackson doesn’t have to rush for the sound check. Jackson was so enamored with the song that he worked it out with his band and performed it on location that night on stage.

Interestingly, the song was released as the third single from the Lots of life (and a little love), even though it was the first song on the track listing and the loaned title song. But its release on May 17, 1993 made it the perfect summer hit, and now “Chattahoochee” is synonymous for many with the summer of 1993.

But of course, the song (and waterskiing in blue jeans) didn’t come without a few grunts from mainstream country fans. Although Alan Jackson fared far better than Garth Brooks with the mainstream country crowd by keeping a close friendship with George Jones and sticking to more mainstream country material for most of his early career, some feared that “Chattahoochee” isn’t a bad direction for Jackson.

Alan Jackson revealed in 2021, “I think Waylon once said… ‘What’s a ‘Chattahoochee’?” (laughing). That’s why I was surprised when they decided to release “Chattahoochee”, I was reluctant, because I said: “No one will know what it is”. But working people, professionals, are just trying to do the same things, to earn a living, to raise a family, to enjoy life. I learned there was a Chattahoochee everywhere.

And sure enough, now the song sounds like classic country compared to many of today’s country hits, and has benefited greatly from the nostalgia. In fact, as the summer of 2022 looms in the not-too-distant future and ’90s country is in full resurgence, you won’t be surprised to hear “Chattahoochee” blaring from lake and river parties, maybe even in favor of any summer. song is on country radio today. In the end, the funny name wasn’t the demise of the song, it’s what made it memorable. And here, 30 years later, few if any have forgotten “Chattahoochee.”

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