Ryan LaCroix, intrepid founder/owner/editor of OklahomaRock.com, has compiled a list of the top 100 Oklahoma country songs, and he is unveiling five songs from the list every weekday through Wednesday, Aug. 31, when the top five will be revealed.
To compile the list, LaCroix consulted with state experts such as disc jockeys, musicians and journalists; polled the public on Twitter and Facebook; and consulted chart rankings and non-Oklahoma-specific greatest country songs lists.
He was kind enough to consider me an expert and ask me to share my list of favorite Oklahoma country songs. I revealed my list over the past two Fridays in columns that you can read here and here. For your convenience, here is the top 21 list all together, with a video of my all-time favorite Okie country song:
1. “Oklahoma Breakdown,” recorded by Stoney LaRue, written by Mike Hosty.
I’m a red dirt girl at heart, and this foot-stomping tribute to making romance country-style never fails to make me smile. I could listen to it all day; truth be told, I probably have put it on a daylong loop at least once or twice.
2. “Friends in Low Places,” recorded by Garth Brooks, written by DeWayne Blackwell, Earl Bud Lee (with a third verse penned by Brooks).
Not only is “Friends in Low Places” one of the biggest country songs ever by THE biggest country artist ever, it’s one of the songs that brought me back to country music in the 1990s.
3. “Fancy,” recorded by Reba McEntire, written by Bobbie Gentry.
There’s a reason that Reba uses this as the encore for her shows and has for years. This Southern gothic tale of a white-trash girl determined to become a lady by any means necessary crackles with power, especially with the Chockie-bred belter’s mighty drawl behind it. Dress Reba in a floor-length spangled red gown and play the memorable video, and it’s an epic encore.
4. “If You See Me Getting Smaller,” written by Jimmy Webb, recorded by Waylon Jennings; also recorded by Webb with Willie Nelson.
Elk City native Jimmy Webb wrote a slew of great country hits in the 1960s and ’70s, but “If You See Me Getting Smaller” remains my favorite. I used to think it was because I prefer the vocal stylings of Waylon Jennings to those of Glen Campbell, who cut Webb’s “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.” But when I heard Webb’s 2010 retrospective album “Just Across the River,” I still preferred “If You See Me Getting Smaller” to the others. This wistful song simply speaks to me.
5. “Kerosene,” recorded by Miranda Lambert, written by Lambert and Steve Earle.
We learned later on that she was made of “Gunpowder & Lead” and got to hear her softer side while touring “The House That Built Me,” but this scorching revenge yarn established the future Tishomingo resident as country music hottest firebrand.
6. “Skyline Radio,” recorded Cody Canada & The Departed, written by Tom Skinner.
Since I so dig the red dirt, I couldn’t imagine this list without a contribution from Cross Canadian Ragweed or new iteration The Departed, and I considered Ragweed favorites like “Alabama” and “Sick and Tired.” But This track from The Departed’s Oklahoma songwriters tribute “This Is Indian Land” gives you the fine songwriting of Skinner with the appealing vocals of Canada. Just try not to smile when you hear it.
7. “You’re the Reason God Made Oklahoma,” written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, Larry Collins and Sandy Pinkard; recorded by David Frizzell and Shelly West; covered by Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert.
This ballad from the 1981 movie “Any Which Way You Can” is quite possibly the best country song with an Oklahoma reference in the title. which is saying something if you really think about it. When the future Mr. and Mrs. Shelton performed it on a TV special, their chemistry was apparent, and they gave the original version a run for its money.
8. “Go Rest High on That Mountain,” written and recorded by Vince Gill (with Ricky Skaggs and Patty Loveless).
It’s hard to overstate Vince Gill’s talents as a songwriter, singer and musician, and he’s certainly crafted a bumper crop of great songs. But this majestic ode to a lost loved one soars high above the rest.
9. “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On,” recorded by Mel McDaniel, written by Bob McDill.
Heaven help us, but this catchy number gets stuck between your ears tighter than those blue jeans. Nah, it can’t help it.
10. “How Do You Like Me Now?!” recorded by Toby Keith, written by Keith and Chuck Cannon.
Be honest, we’ve all wanted to smugly crow this question to at least one person who gave us short shrift, and Keith’s bravado and brashness are perfectly suited for such vicarious vengeance.
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.
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 tended 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.)
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.
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 ballad, capturing the determination and resilience of young love.
15. “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man,” recorded by Conway Twitty & Loretta Lynn, written by Becki Bluefield and Jim Owen.
Oklahoma City resident Conway Twitty did some of his best work with Kentucky native Loretta Lynn, and this Canjun-flavored duet has become a country classic.
16. “Brand New Man,” recorded by Brooks & Dunn, written by Ronnie Dunn, Kix Brooks and Don Cook.
Former Tulsan Ronnie Dunn and Louisiana native Kix Brooks, who became the best-selling duo in country music history, made an auspicious chart-topping debut with this earnest, uptempo ballad.
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.
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.
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 signature hit “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” it’s one of those songs that’s become so iconic 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.
20. “Pt. 1/Never That Easy,” written and recorded by Green Corn Revival.
One could argue that the opening of the Weatherford-based band’s debut album “Say You’re a Sinner” isn’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.
21. “Thank God and Greyhound,” recorded by Roy Clark, written by Larry Kingston and Earl Nix.
I had to add one more to my list after my recent interview with the charming Clark. This hilarious hit perfectly matches the Country Music Hall of Famer and longtime Tulsa resident’s quick-witted sense of humor.