How To Write A Top 10 Country Hit
Back in 1975, David Allen Coe came out with a cute little ditty about how to write the perfect country and western song. In it, he explained that the perfect country and western song had to make mention of momma, trains, trucks, prison, and gettin’ drunk.
Times have changed and poor David’s song is as out-of-date today as a Slip N Slide at a hi-tech toy convention.
Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s the new formula for writing a chart topping country music hit! The little elves in the hollow tree are much too busy making cookies, so one can only surmise that this formula was concocted in the deep, dark depths of hell and the devil owns a soul or two for having created it.
At the risk of setting off a firestorm of number one hits by virtually unknown writers, here it is;
1. Mention Lynyrd Skynyrd.
2. Use the words “Sweet Home Alabama” or “sweet tea.”
3. The lyric must include the magic word “crazy.” Five times is the minimum.
4. If the tune is for a female singer, it must be written so she has to sing at the very top of her register for the entire song.
5. There has got to be a place in the tune where the singer can hold one high note for at least four bars or ten seconds, whichever is longer. This is known as “The American Idol Clause.”
6. Sexual innuendo. Use the word tractor as a metaphor for a sex organ.
7. Name drop one of the following, Hank, Haggard, George Jones, or Waylon. Name drop all of them for bonus points.
8. And finally, the recording has got to have a fuzzed out guitar solo that sounds like it’s from a mid 70s to mid-80s rock band. Think Thin Lizzy, not Don Rich.
That ought to do the trick.
it’s a sad state of affairs. On one hand, you can’t blame Nashville for finding, then sticking to a formula that works, however, shame on such a lack of originality. And while we’re at it, shame on them for taking cute, innocent Carrie Underwood and dressing her like a whore. It probably sells more albums than having her sing “Jesus Take The Wheel” in a pair of overalls, but it aint necessarily art, and at least one writer thinks it’s a travesty.
Today’s country music has become to Americana what McDonald’s is to fine dining.
Dan King writes for Prescription Bluegrass and is the founder of: