Inspired by Oklahoma Today‘s September issue focusing solely on country music, we’ll be counting down the Top 100 Oklahoma Country Songs over the next several weeks.
Every weekday, we will unveil another five songs that helped shape the way Oklahoma country music is heard by the outside world.
20. Toby Keith – “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” (1993)
On his debut single, Toby Keith wrote and sang a wistful tune about living in a different era with this No.1 hit for 1993.
Name dropping singing cowboys like fellow Okie Gene Autry and Roy Rogers, Keith rode “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” until it became the most played country song of the 1990s.
19. Vince Gill – “I Still Believe in You” (1992)
Vince Gill’s pristine vocals had been on display for a decade before “I Still Believe in You” was released, but the Northwest Classen High School alumnus absolutely nailed it here, with one of the best and most heartfelt ballads you’ll ever hear.
The title track from his sixth solo album was Gill’s first number one and landed him two Grammy awards. “I Still Believe in You” was also named the Song of the Year by the Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association.
18. Patti Page – “Tennessee Waltz” (1950)
In 1945, Claremore’s Clara Ann Fowler was billed as Patti Page during her 15-minute Page Milk-sponsored radio show on KTUL. Five years later, she had her signature song and second No.1 hit.
Largely because of “Tennessee Waltz” (originally a B-side to “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus”), ‘The Singing Rage’ would become the best-selling female singer of the 1950s.
The song has also represented the biggest commercial success for the overdubbing technique, becoming a No.2 Country and Western hit and a No.1 Pop hit (for nine weeks).
“Tennessee Waltz” would later be covered by Les Paul and Mary Ford, Jo Stafford, Petula Clark and more.
17. Roger Miller – “Dang Me” (1964)
Is there anyone is country music history more fun that Roger Miller?
Some called “Dang Me” a novelty song. They are incorrect. “Dang Me” was a cleverly written song that comes off as light-hearted and fun, but is chock-full of dark undertones.
““Dang Me” is an essential example of Roger Miller’s ability to couch a sad subject in an up tempo song. The 1964 Top Ten million-seller lulls listeners into laughing along with Miller’s scatting, when the song is about man who is partying it up while his wife and month-old child are alone at home.” - Hugh Foley, author of the Oklahoma Music Guide
The song may have been dark, but the upbeat tempo fooled many – which might be why Miller was allowed to perform the song on The Muppet Show in 1979.
Miller claimed he wrote the future No.1 hit in four minutes in a Phoenix, Arizona hotel room. Johnny Cash would later recall Miller wrote the song at Joshua Tree in California, saying he got out of the car and started writing. When Cash asked what he was doing, Miller replied “I’m writing a song. You can’t come look.”
The song has since been covered by Johnny Cash, Johnny Rivers and Sammy Davis, Jr.
16. Sammi Smith – “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (1971)
Oklahoma City’s Sammi Smith befriended a janitor at Columbia Records in the late 1960s named Kris Kristofferson. A few years later, she recorded his song “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and won a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.
Smith (nicknamed ‘Girl Hero’ by Waylon Jennings) would become one of the few women linked to the outlaw country movement, mostly based on the success of this song. “Help Me Make It Through the Night” charted new territory in country music with its honest and brazen take on loneliness and sexuality.
Kristofferson said that his inspiration for the song came from a Frank Sinatra quote on what he believed in: “Booze, broads, or a bible…whatever helps me make it through the night.”
Though Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bryan Ferry also recorded the song in 1971, it was Smith’s version that was the most commercially successful. The song was also later covered by Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Loretta Lynn, Joan Baez, Mariah Carey and more.