Country music songs tend to explore a fixed list of topics such as heartbreak, incarceration and infidelity. However, just as often the mainstream country song turns to another topic, one that has held mankind in its sway since time immemorial — drinking alcohol. Despite the grim subject matter, the country drinking song remains an American institution, as integral to the fabric of this nation as apple pie and as redolent with cultural significance as a thick wad of chawin’ terbacky.
Country drinking songs feature different kinds of alcohol, but as yet there hasn’t been one in which Charlie Daniels opens a 1955 Bordeaux, sniffs the cork and enjoys it with the Arts & Leisure section of TheNew York Times. No, the country drinking song is normally about beer, moonshine and, most commonly, Jack Daniel’s Old Time No. 7 Brand Whiskey, the sour mash that’s one of the best-selling liquors on earth.
Artists in other musical genres have sung about it, including George Thorogood, who included a mention in his 1985 single “I Drink Alone.” However, the overwhelming majority of songs about Jack Daniel’s fall firmly into the country and western camp, and many of them recommend drinking it straight from the bottle with no chaser.
What are some of the classic country songs about Jack Daniel’s whiskey? Click ahead and find out.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 26 July 2011
CNBC Titans: Jack Daniel's premieres Thursday, Aug. 4 at 10p | 1a ET
If a dictionary were to define a term like “outlaw country” by using visual aids, it would use a photo of David Allan Coe to advance that aim. Coe was most popular during the 1970s and 1980s, and much of his material consists of lyrics so offensive they cannot be repeated here. However, he has also recorded his fair share of more wholesome weepers, such as “Jack Daniels If You Please.”
Coe sings that the whiskey is “the only friend there has ever been that didn’t do me wrong,” and asks it to “kill this pain that’s driving me insane since my baby’s gone.” The song’s lyrics touch on a common theme in country music — the power of liquor to dull heartache and offer friendship when everyone else has fallen by the wayside.
Many songs about drinking Jack Daniel’s are downbeat cautionary tales about its consequences. Bucking this trend is Miranda Lambert, whose bouncy and up-tempo “Jack Daniels” offers ecstatic praise of the beverage.
Lambert describes the whiskey as “the only man who’s ever knocked me to my knees” and sings that it “made a woman out of me.” She sings that it’s “the best kind of lover that there is…he takes me back no matter where I've been.”
Dottie West was an influential artist whose career began in the 1960s. She had big hits with the Grammy-winning "Here Comes My Baby Back Again” and 1973’s “Country Sunshine,” which she wrote for a Coca-Cola commercial and which went on to become her best-known song.
“Johnnie Walker, Old Grand-Dad, Jack Daniels and You” is a song she recorded that was written in 1968. It tells the story of a woman whose husband is an incorrigible drunk. He spends every night at the bar “till three or four,” but she tolerates his actions for the sake of the marriage and their child. It’s no “Stand By Your Man,” but it does a good job of depicting the archetypal long-suffering country wife just the same.
Jerry Lee Lewis was the first performer inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and he made his name as a piano-pounding miscreant in the early rock 'n' roll era. He was also no stranger to the bottle and by his own recollection he was already a heavy drinker by age 15.
In addition to his rock 'n' roll material, he also recorded a lot of country music, and his history with alcohol gave him the credibility to turn in a twangy number like “Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.” The song features lyrics about a woman whose drunken husband wanders the town of Lynchburg, Va., collecting bottles for deposit money.
George Jones is one of the finest singers in country music. He’s racked up countless hits over the last six decades, but his musical talent has been overshadowed on numerous occasions by his very public struggles with alcohol, which gave him a reputation among concert promoters as the highly unreliable “No-Show Jones.”
“Tennessee Whiskey” was originally recorded by David Allan Coe in 1981. However, Jones’ 1983 version is considered definitive, and it peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Hot Country Singles, beating Coe’s version by 75 places. It doesn’t mention Jack Daniel’s by name, but Old No. 7 is one of only three Tennessee whiskeys available on the market, with George Dickel and Collier & McKeel comprising the other two. It’s highly probable that the whiskey referred to in the song is Jack Daniel’s.
James Payne is a Nashville minister and Grammy-nominated songwriter. “The Night Ole Jack Daniel’s Met John 3:16” is his best-known song. It was a hit with gospel audiences that also crossed over to fans of non-secular country music. Since then he’s written songs for such artists as Ricky Van Shelton and even televangelist Jimmy Swaggart.
“The Night Ole Jack Daniel’s Met John 3:16” depicts the night Payne was saved from alcoholism in 1968 through Christianity. According to the song, he was “in a motel in Nashville, searching for hope” with a Bible in one hand and a glass of whiskey in the other. According to the song, Payne “poured out the whiskey, fell down on my knees,” and religion won the day.
The Reverend Horton Heat is a Dallas-based performer who’s been in business since 1985. He’s established himself as a popular live attraction, although mainstream success has sadly continued to elude him. He specializes in a genre known as “psychobilly,” an aggressive, high-octane hybrid of punk, rockabilly and country.
“Sue Jack Daniels” is a fast and aggressive song about bar fights caused by a failure to drink the whiskey responsibly. Of the punk, rockabilly and country genres that make up the Reverend Horton Heat’s sound, this song falls mostly into the first and second categories and not so much into the third. However, the lyrics are pure country.
Dallas Wayne is a singer from Austin, Texas, who’s been performing for almost 40 years. He’s spent his time as a country musician all over the world, at times living in such hotbeds of country music as Canada and Scandinavia. However, his native land soon called him home and he’s been a fixture of Austin’s vibrant music scene since moving there in 2003.
“Crank the Hank” falls into the traditional category of country songs for the brokenhearted. The song is about a man whose partner has left him, and only Hank Williams' music and Jack Daniel’s can comfort him. He sings, “She'll be coming home when George Jones sings rap, so crank the Hank, and crack the Jack.”
Before there was a “Weird Al” Yankovic, there was Ray Stevens, creator of such novelty songs as “Ahab the Arab” and “The Streak.” However, Stevens had his less comic side, too, and he penned the beloved song "Everything is Beautiful," which won him two Grammy Awards and was later recorded by the sullen alternative rock band Smashing Pumpkins.
Stevens also performed “Jack Daniels, You Lied To Me Again.” The song is about a man who picks up women, thanks to the temporary confidence provided by alcohol. However, the cockiness fades when he’s sober. “You said this was it, she was the one, and I'd still be in love when the morning comes,” he sings. “But Jack Daniel's, you lied to me again.”
Eric Church is relatively new on the country music scene, but he’s already established his hillbilly bona fides by recording a song about Jack Daniel’s. The song, appropriately titled “Jack Daniels,” is on his 2011 album Chief, and it recounts his rough and tumble ways. However, the whiskey is an adversary he can’t defeat.
In the song, Church describes Jack Daniel’s as his “kryptonite,” and compares it to an opponent who won’t fight fair. “That black label’s like black powder for my soul,” he sings. “My head feels like a bomb about to blow.”
Jack Daniel is an American legend, a man revered by rebels and rock stars around the world. In 1866, four years after Jasper "Jack" Daniel became a licensed distiller at the ripe old age of 16, he founded the nation’s oldest distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn.