From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To see the second part of my column in which I reveal my top 10 Oklahoma country songs, click here.
BAM column: State website counts down the top 100 Oklahoma country songs
OklahomaRock.com is unveiling the list throughout the month of August.
In 1922, fiddlers “Uncle Henry” Gilliland of Altus and Alexander “Eck” Robertson of Borger, Texas, traveled to New York City and recorded four duets for the Victor Talking Machine Co.
They played “Arkansas Traveler” and “Turkey in the Straw” and in the process made what has become widely regarded as the first country music record.
Oklahoma and country music have a long, broad and deep history, and Ryan LaCroix has spent the past several weeks delving into it.
The intrepid founder/owner/editor of OklahomaRock.com has compiled a list of the top 100 Oklahoma country songs. He unveiled the first entries — Nos. 100 to 96 — Thursday on his website. He will divulge five songs from the list every weekday through Wednesday, Aug. 31, when the top five will be revealed.
“I thought it would be kind of interesting to do another countdown. We don’t really focus on country music on my site too much, so I thought it would be neat to put a little more focus on that,” LaCroix said. “But it’s a tough process for sure.”
The sheer number of country greats with Oklahoma ties makes such list-building daunting. But LaCroix is experienced: For the 2007 centennial, he ranked the top 100 state musicians, and in 2010, he counted down the top 100 Oklahoma albums of the 2000s.
To determine the top 100 Oklahoma country songs, LaCroix consulted with state experts such as disc jockeys, musicians and journalists, including yours truly; polled the public on Twitter and Facebook; and consulted chart rankings and non-Oklahoma-specific greatest country songs lists.
At LaCroix’s request, I developed a list of my 21 favorite Oklahoma country songs. Here are Nos. 11 to 21; I’ll unveil my top 10 next week:
21. “Thank God and Greyhound,” recorded by Roy Clark, written by Larry Kingston and Earl Nix.
I had to add one more to my top 20 list after my recent interview with the charming Clark. This hilarious hit perfectly matches the longtime Tulsa resident’s wily sense of humor.
20. “Pt. 1/Never That Easy,” written and recorded by Green Corn Revival.
One could argue that the opening tracks of the Weatherford band’s 2010 debut album “Say You’re a Sinner” aren’t really country. But I maintain that any musical number that so effectively invokes spaghetti Westerns and the plains of Custer County qualifies as country. (Hey, it’s at least as country as Kid Rock, and he not only gets played on CMT, he has twice hosted the CMT Music Awards. I rest my case.)
19. “Back in the Saddle Again,” recorded by Gene Autry, written by Autry and Ray Whitley.
“Back in the Saddle Again” is like “Happy Birthday to You” or “Home on the Range” in that we sort of assume that it always existed. Like Autry’s other venerable hit “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it’s one of those tunes that’s become so iconic that it’s hard to comprehend that someone actually wrote it and initially recorded it. But the legendary singing cowboy did just that, and it became his signature song.
18. “John Deere Green,” recorded by Joe Diffie, written by Dennis Linde.
As a sophomore at Lindsay High School in 1993, this funny story song seemed so true to life, like something that could happen any day if one of my schoolmates got their hands on enough beer and tractor paint.
17. “New San Antonio Rose,” written and recorded by Bob Wills & the Texas Playboys.
You can’t have a decent Oklahoma country music list without some Western swing on it, and if you’re spotlighting Western swing, you might as well feature the King of Western Swing. This classic enchants no matter who is doing the singing, and the list of stars who have sung it is pretty impressive.
16. “Brand New Man,” recorded by Brooks & Dunn, written by Ronnie Dunn, Kix Brooks and Don Cook.
Former Tulsan Dunn and Louisiana native Brooks, who became the best-selling duo in country music history, made an auspicious 1991 chart-topping debut with this earnest, uptempo ballad.
15. “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” recorded by Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn, written by Becki Bluefield and Jim Owen.
Oklahoma City resident Twitty did some of his best work with Kentucky native Lynn, and this Canjun-flavored duet has become a country classic.
14. “She’s in Love with the Boy,” recorded by Trisha Yearwood, written by Jon Ims.
The future Mrs. Garth Brooks broke out with this 1991 ballad that captures the resilience of young love.
13. “A Little Rain Will Do,” written and recorded by Greg Jacobs.
Maybe it’s just the weather getting to me, but this modern-day Dust Bowl anthem just rings true.
12. “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd,” written and recorded by Roger Miller.
Yes, I know it’s one of those funny novelty songs that tend to overshadow the Erick-bred artist’s true songwriting ability. But I really loved it as a kid, and it actually boasts a deeper message than it may seem on a casual listen. (On an only somewhat related side note, I’m not sure who had the nutsy idea to cast Miller as the rooster in the 1973 Disney animated version of “Robin Hood,” but his narration and songs totally made that movie for me, even as a kid.)
11. “All-American Girl,” recorded by Carrie Underwood, written by Underwood, Ashley Gorley and Kelley Lovelace.
As an all-American daddy’s girl, I can’t resist this anthem, which highlights the big voice of Checotah’s sweetheart.