October 31

Ask me, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”?

The geniuses Troy Seals and Max D. Barnes wrote: “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”. American country music singer George Jones recorded “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”. He recorded it for his 1985 album Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes, which is also the name of his single. The first single, “Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes”, was released in late 1985. The song peaked at number three on the Hot Country Singles chart in mid-1985.

Really, Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes?

Jones’ hit was about the irreplaceability of country music legends Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, Ron Acuff, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Charlie Rich, Hank Williams, Marty Robbins, and Lefty Frizell. After remarking about these singers’ impacts on country music, he wonders who will replace them when they’re gone. In the 1994 video retrospective Golden Hits Jones recalled:

“Troy Seals wrote that…He saved the day for us…Songwriters were bringin’ things in and we were listening to songs and tapes, and Troy came in and told Billy [Sherrill, Jones’ producer] and me that he had this idea, and he sung a little bit of the chorus…He came back about ten o’clock or eleven the next morning before we went in to do our session at two o’clock, he had it all finished and it just knocked us out.”

The Music Video

The Nashville Network (TNN), Country Music Television (CMT) and Great American Country (GAC) aired a promotional video. Directed by Marc Ball, it also features Billy Sherrill in a cameo as the bus driver and CBS executive Rick Blackburn driving the Cadillac at the end of the video. It takes place at a roadside gas station. Here, the owner shares his extensive collection of albums and memorabilia from classic country music artists with Jones. At the end of the video, as Jones’ tour bus pulls away, a convertible pulls into the station. In it is a passenger who is a young man carrying a guitar. He was looking at the large tour bus in awe.

The video won Music Video of the Year at the 1986 CMA Awards, beating out videos by the Judds, Reba McEntire, and Dwight Yoakam—his first. However, with a new crop of country stars emerging, the song was quite unfortunate. Andrew Mueller noting in Jones’ Uncut obituary, “As it turned out, the song wasn’t brilliantly timed. A few of its protagonists still had decades left in them, as did Jones himself…”

Eugene Chadbourne of All Music describes the song as “the kind of mystical, self-serving necrophilia that country music is all about”. Jones’ biographer Bob Allen states, “It struck a strong enough chord of empathy with old-time country music lovers to end up number three in Billboard.”


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