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Country's Top Ten Drinking Songs

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From “There Stands the Glass” and “White Lightning” to “Friends in Low Places” and “The Whiskey Ain’t Working,” drinking songs have always played an important role in country music. You can go all the way back to the Bristol Sessions of 1927, which many consider the Big Bang for country music, and a band called the Bull Mountain Moonshiners to see the influence drinking and drinking songs have had on country music from the very beginning. I’ve added a list of honorable mentions at the end to hopefully include a song or two that may be on your personal list that didn’t quite make my top ten.

1. "White Lightning" by George Jones

Album: White Lightning (1959)

Written by late rockabilly artist, J.P. “The Big Bopper” Richardson, “White Lightning” was released by George Jones on April 13, 1959. It became The Possum’s first No. 1 single just two months after the tragic plane crash that took the lives of Richards, Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens.

2. “Family Tradition” by Hank Williams, Jr.

Album: Family Tradition (1978)

Written and recorded by Hank Williams, Jr., “Family Tradition” details the reasons behind Bocephus’ notorious smokin’ and drinkin’ lifestyle. Apparently, it’s just a family thing. Released in 1979, the song peaked at No. 4.

3. “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind)” by Loretta Lynn

Album: Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind) (1976)

Loretta Lynn’s husband, Mooney, was the subject of many of her songs, and this one is no different. The title says it all. Poor ol’ Mooney. “Don’t Come Home a Drinkin’ (with Lovin’ on Your Mind)” was Loretta’s first No. 1 hit.

4. "Sunday Morning Coming Down" by Johnny Cash

Album: The Johnny Cash Show (1970)

The story behind “Sunday Morning Coming Down” is legendary. The song’s writer, a then unknown Kris Kristofferson, landed his helicopter on Johnny Cash’s lawn and gave him with a demo of the song. Cash loved it and recorded it. It won the 1970 CMA Song of the Year award.

5. "Friends in Low Places" by Garth Brooks

Album: No Fences (1990)

Garth Brooks’ third No. 1 hit, “Friends in Low Places,” was released in July of 1990 and spent four consecutive weeks at No. 1. It cemented his status as one of country’s up-and-coming forces.

6. “Whiskey River” by Willie Nelson

Album: Willie and Family Live (1979)

“Well, "Whiskey River" was written by Johnny Bush,” Willie said, “and he did it in the Johnny Bush style, which was Western Swing. I got to fooling around with it, and we did it a little rock ‘n’ roll, a little country. I didn’t start out to do it that way, it just sort of worked out that way.”

7. “Chug-a-Lug” by Roger Miller

Album: Roger and Out (1964)

Roger Miller released “Chug-a-Lug” in August of 1964 as a follow-up to his first No. 1 hit, “Dang Me.” The song reached No. 9. “I swallered it with a smile / I run ten mile! Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug / Makes you want to holler, ‘Hi-dee-ho!’ / Burns your tummy, don’t ya know / Chug-a-lug, chug-a-lug!”

8. “I Think I’ll Just Stay Here and Drink” by Merle Haggard

Album: Back to the Barrooms (1980)

The story goes that Merle Haggard was talking on the telephone with a friend when he invited his buddy to come over. His friend respectfully declined, saying, “No, I think I’ll just stay here and drink.” The Hag was immediately inspired, and just a few short minutes later he’d finished writing what would become his 26th No. 1 hit.

9. “There Stands the Glass” by Webb Pierce

Album: single only

of the most popular songs in country music history, “There Stands the Glass” was released in 1953 and spent a whopping twelve weeks at No. 1. It was Pierce’s fifth chart-topping single. Johnny Bush released a cover version of the song twenty years, which hit No. 34.

10. "Pop a Top" by Jim Ed Brown

Album: Just Jim (1967)

You know you’ve made it in music when you have more than one signature song. Jim Ed Brown’s first signature song, “The Three Bells,” was recorded in 1959 with his family group, The Browns. Shortly after going solo, Brown released “Pop a Top,” and it became an instant classic. A small bit of trivia: the pull-tab sound heard at the beginning and throughout "Pop a Top" is actually a can of Dr. Pepper being opened.

11. Honorable Mentions

  • “I Like Beer” by Tom T. Hall
  • “Tear in My Beer” by Hank Williams
  • “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” by Alan Jackson
  • “Whiskey Bent and Hellbound” by Hank Williams, Jr.
  • “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time” by Mickey Gilley
  • “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home” by David Frizzell
  • “Set ‘Em Up Joe” by Vern Gosdin
  • “The Whiskey Ain’t Working” by Travis Tritt
  • “Jose Cuervo” by Shelly West
  • “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me)” by Jerry Lee Lewis
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