top of page
  • Writer's picture@Sunset_Sana

Tennessee Whiskey- The Backstory

Updated: Jan 20

Very few songs are as iconic, and easily recognizable as our featured song. But even more compelling is how it was written. The story itself encapsulates Nashville’s well established ecosystem for songwriters, and creatives alike. As the story goes, a then unknown singer from East Tennessee walks into the BlueBird Cafe, and strikes up a conversation with veteran songwriter Linda Hargrove.

By 1980, Linda had penned tunes that topped the charts by way of Johnny Rodriguez, and Olivia Newton John. The latter a pop star, and actress who made several successful country music  chart entries in the 1970’s, even winning multiple CMA awards in 1974. Which led to an outcry from the traditionalists in the industry. George Jones, and Tammy went as far as to form The Association For Country Entertainers (ACE) in response to Olivia’s win. 

Back to the song. Dean, and Linda hit it off at The Bluebird, and after a night of drinking went back to her place to expand on an idea Dillon had been kicking around for awhile. Past 4:00 AM, Dean, and Linda wrote one of the most enduring, and memorable songs in country music. Dean recalls that he pitched the song first to George Strait, who turned it down, but would eventually record some of his biggest hits by way of Dillon’s pen.

The song was eventually recorded by outlaw country singer David Alan Coe, but barely charted at 77. Here’s his version of the song..

Dean then pitched it to George Jones, who was experiencing a renaissance of sorts in his career. George included it on his Shine On album which incidentally, included his last chart topper “I Always Get Lucky With You”.

Many critics feel that the Billy Sherrill produced album was one of George’s finest.. The Possum’s version of Tennessee Whiskey reached all the way to number two. It is my favorite version of the song. 

It subsequently became one of George's signature songs.. The song's lyrics revolve around a comparison between the smoothness and allure of Tennessee whiskey and a loving relationship. It metaphorically expresses how both whiskey and love develop their rich flavors with time, becoming sweeter and more fulfilling as they age. 

In a quirky turn of events, Singer/Songwriter Chris Stapleton liked performing his version of the song live, but never officially released it. However, after performing it with Justin Timberlake at the 2015 Country Music Awards, the song topped the charts. It has since reached diamond status with an excess of 14 million in sales!  This goes to show as I’ve always said that great songs never die, and there is a treasure trove of hits just waiting to be discovered..


1 Comment

Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
Jan 21
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I didn't realize its been around for a long time.

bottom of page