Updated: May 29
It's remarkable how a song can be so closely identified with an artist even though they didn't write it or even record it first. A great example is Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain. Can you really think of anyone else other than the iconic Willie Nelson singing the song? I can't! And that is also almost the case with That's The Way Love Goes.
Depending on when you were born, the song might remind you
of Johnny Rodriguez or Merle Haggard, both had No. 1 hits with the song which is unprecedented. The Hag has such a long history with Lefty Frizzell as shared in several other blog posts. It comes as no surprise that he covered several of Lefty's songs, and lived to see his hero cover one of his songs too. That had to be one of the biggest thrills of Merle's life! Merle may have truly been Lefty's biggest fan.
And though the song fits like a hand-to-glove when you hear Merle's soulful voice, his version of the song was not the first cover released. But first, let me provide some background information that might help fill in the gaps. Dallas Frazier was a songwriting partner, and good friend to Whitey Shaffer. Dallas had first come into music prominence when a song he wrote "Ally OOP" went to No. 1 on the Billboard pop charts.
When Whitey moved to Nashville from Texas, he moved to Hendersonville. His house was about one block from Lefty's house. He found this out because Doodle Owens, who was a songwriting partner of Whitey's, and also wrote with Dallas Frazier pointed out the house one day.
Whitey of course was a huge Lefty Frizzell fan, and wanted to meet him. So one day after a few beers, he showed up at Lefty's front door step, and then several drinks later they became fast buddies. Their camaraderie and general goodwill towards each other is clearly evident in the songs they wrote together which are now classics.
However, Whitey has shared in several interviews that Lefty, and he would never get together with the intention of writing. They were friends, and enjoyed drinking, and hanging out together.But sometimes as the beer flowed, so did the inspiration. It was typical of Whitey, and Lefty to click on words or phrases. We can find an example of their songwriting chemistry with how our featured song was written.
One day Lefty, and Whitey decided it would be a good idea to go to Dallas Frazier's cabin to hang out, and maybe write a little. Lefty had a group of songwriting friends he would write with which included Merle Kilgore, and Abe Mulkey, who also wrote with Whitey.
Whitey had been kicking around the phrase "I've been throwing horseshoes" to which Lefty answered "That's the way love goes.."
What you might not know is that was the first song Whitey wrote with Lefty. On that same day they also wrote another traditional country classic I Never Go Around Mirrors .
Lefty's intention was to record the song first. One night soon after at the Continental Inn Motel in Nashville Lefty was at a guitar pull with Dallas Frazier, Merle Haggard, Lewis Talley, and Whitey. According to Whitey, Lefty asked him to play the song they had just written, and Whitey did. Johnny Rodriguez heard the song, and recorded it on September 1, 1973. Lefty recorded it on September 18th..
Lefty's version of the song was a b-side, and never officially released as a single, but can be heard on his 1973 release "The Legendary" album, which in my humble opinion is one of his finest recordings. Whitey said "That's The Way Love Goes" was his all-time favorite song that he's written. Whitey went on to write hits for several people including "All My Exes Live In Texas" for George Strait.
In 1983 "That's The Way Love Goes" became Merle Haggard's 33rd No. 1 hit. He also received his first Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. The song has been recorded by over twenty artists throughout the years. The most recent recording comes by way of Alan Jackson, and can be found on his latest album "Where Have You Gone".
That's The Way Love goes--Lefty Frizzell