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.
5. Reba McEntire – “Fancy” (1991)
Although Bobbie Gentry’s 1969 original earned her a Grammy nomination, it’s Reba McEntire’s version of “Fancy” that’s the most well-known. The drama builds throughout the song here, making the top 10 hit arguably McEntire’s signature song.
“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.” - Brandy McDonnell, The Oklahoman
4. Merle Haggard – “Okie From Muskogee” (1969)
While some state organizations may try to get you to believe so, Merle Haggard simply was not from Oklahoma. His parents were from here, sure, but he was not…no matter how you try and spin it.
However, “Okie From Muskogee” was co-written by Haggard and his drummer, Pryor native Roy Burris.
“Merle Haggard’s 1969 left-wing satire on the right-wing backfired into the right accepting it as an anthem. Either way, the song has gone on to popularize the name and stereotyped image of Muskogee, Oklahoma, from that day forward. Interestingly, the demo was recorded in the Muskogee Civic Center, in a dressing room, which became the official version of the song after Merle sent it back to Capitol, and they released it.” - Hugh Foley, author of the Oklahoma Music Guide
Haggard’s signature song was written on their tour bus after Haggard saw a highway sign indicating the distance to Muskogee, Oklahoma. Haggard woke Burris up and they finished the song in 10 minutes.
“We were traveling all over, and it just seemed like whenever we came back to Oklahoma, we didn’t hear about drugs; we didn’t hear about riots. Oklahoma wasn’t caught up in all that, it didn’t seem like. Every time we went into Muskogee, it was just a fine, clean town.” - Roy Burris
The song stayed a number one for four weeks and was named the Single of the Year by the Country Music Association in 1970.
A local favorite since Hosty released it back in 2003, “Oklahoma Breakdown” was shown to a whole new audience in 2006 when Stoney LaRue put it on his Live at Billy Bob’s Texas album.
“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.” - Brandy McDonnell, The Oklahoman
Whichever version you prefer, it’s fun to think about the mid-2000 era at The Deli in Norman, when Hosty would play the song during his Sunday night residency and LaRue would follow on his Monday night residency.
2. Garth Brooks – “Friends in Low Places” (1990)
The wireless headset-wearing, high energy arena-rocking Okie made himself a household name with the down-home hit “Friends in Low Places”. The lead single off his second album became one of the biggest songs of 1990, staying at No.1 for four weeks.
“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.” - Brandy McDonnell, The Oklahoman
In July 1990, Garth’s mother, Colleen Carroll, inadvertently forced the single and album to be released early when she leaked the song to an Oklahoma radio station.
“Not only did the song further establish Brooks as a major star of the period as he helped bounce the country industry out of it starched Wrangler stance, the hit played on the ancient country music dichotomy of a sophisticate vs. the plain-talking cowboy in all of us, and established Brooks as everyman’s country sing-a-along leader, nailing the ACM and CMA Country Song of the Year for 1990.” - Hugh Foley, author of the Oklahoma Music Guide
The song, originally offered to George Strait and Mark Chesnutt, caused high school students (who wanted to make the song their class song) to write letters to Brooks. The students had hoped Brooks would convince their high school principals to let them use the song, although the song was about drinking your blues away.
““Friends in Low Places” is the ultimate ‘aw shucks’ country drinking song that made me feel warm and nostalgic about alcohol before I had a sip of beer or was legally allowed inside of a bar.” - Nathan Poppe
1. Roger Miller – “King of the Road” (1964)
Written at a Boise, Idaho hotel, “King of the Road” is a classic nomadic tune about earning your keep and living on the road.
The song won four Grammy awards in 1966 – Best Country & Western Single, Best Country and Western Vocal Performance (Male), Best Contemporary (R&R) Single and Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance (Male). He won a fifth Grammy for Best Country & Western Album for The Return of Roger Miller.
The Grammy awards for Rock and Roll become even more unbelievable when you see what songs “King of the Road” was up against – The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and “Get Off of My Cloud”, The Beatles’ “Help!” and “Ticket to Ride”, The Byrds “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)”, Bob Dylan “Like a Rolling Stone”, The Who’s “My Generation” and The Beach Boys’ “Help Me, Rhonda”.
“King of the Road” even inspired #60 on our list, Jody Miller’s “Queen of the House”, which also won a Grammy award in 1966 for Best Country & Western Vocal Performance (Female).
The song has since been covered by George Jones, Dean Martin, Randy Travis and many others.