January 15

Back in ’84, This Song was No.1. ”Why Not Me” by The Judds

Back in ’84, This Song was No.1. ”Why Not Me” by The Judds 1

The long road that The Judds took led to a signing with RCA Records. In addition, a huge success in the summer of 1984 with the Kenny O’Dell song “Mama He’s Crazy”, the duo’s first No. 1 hit. The song was the centerpiece of their first introductory album release. After “Mama He’s Crazy” reached the top spot on Billboard’s country singles chart, RCA set them to work on a full album. After assembling material, producer Brent Maher felt they still needed something with a strong and mid-tempo groove. He turned to legendary songwriter Harlan Howard.


Howard wanted to go fishing, but instead, he and Maher decided to set up a Sunday writing session at Howard’s home. The two didn’t have any strong ideas, and Harlan suggested they call Sonny Throckmorton. Sonny protested, but he came over as a favor to Howard. Throckmorton brought along the foundations of “Why Not Me”. He had developed the melody months earlier and had attempted to write it as “How ‘Bout Me” but never could get anything. He set it aside and forgot about it, until that day at Harlan Howard’s house.

Meanwhile, Howard remembered hearing a couple of previously issued tunes called “What About Me”. The song was by Don Gibson way back in 1961 and a more recent 1973 release by Anne Murray. Both of these singles had reached the Top 30. However, by 1984 very few people remembered them, especially the original version. But, Howard was still familiar with those recordings. He used that title as the basis to come up with “Why Not Me”. He had doubts about it and felt that “Why Not Me” wasn’t a great title, nor were “What About Me” or “How ‘Bout Me” for that matter. Howard explained:

“To get a really good record, you’ve got to write a truly exceptional song when you’re dealing with an average title. The only thing I know to do with songs like ‘Why Not Me’ and ‘Busted’ – which I never thought was a good title – is to put the title in there often so that people remember it. The weaker the title, the more you gotta hear it.”

The Recording

Howard created the lyrics to “Why Not Me” around the Judds’ personalities, rather than any real-life events.

Maher and Throckmorton pieced together the musical elements and assembled a demo. At the session, Brent presented it to session player Don Potter. Potter immediately developed a “bent note” sound on his guitar that became the signature of the instrumental hook. Producer Maher also devised another unusual texture. He had an idea for “thumps” to be placed in the backseat during the song. He also has instructed keyboardist Bobby Ogden to develop the particular sound he wanted with a guitar, not a drum. Ogden thus tied a rag around the strings of a six-string guitar. Then he began experimenting in order to come up with the right-sounding “thumps”. He thumped his thumb in various places on the front of the guitar. Ogden ended up on the upper side just above the sound hole – to get the perfect tone for the track.

This additional component in the record’s sound also aided in the final results: The Judds’ second number one single in a row, their second consecutive Grammy award, and 1985’s “Single Of The Year” trophy from the Country Music Association.




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