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How Soulful Ballad “Tennessee Whiskey” Turned Into Modern Country

Tennessee Whiskey David Allan Coe

Chris Stapleton singing “Tennessee Whiskey” with Justin Timberlake in 2015 Country Music Awards was a defining moment in modern country music. The performance was so powerful it turned Stapleton into an overnight superstar.

The song reached number one on the Hot Country Songs chart and number 23 on Billboard Hot 100. In May 2016, the RIAA certified Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” as platinum, marking 1 million digital units sold. 

But did you know that “Tennessee Whiskey” is not even Chris Stapleton’s song? In fact, the song has been around for almost four decades. Let’s take a look at the song’s eventful life through the years.

Who Originally Sang ‘Tennessee Whiskey’?

David Allan Coe originally sang Tennessee Whiskey. It was first released in 1981 by outlaw artist David Allan Coe. Hall of Fame songwriter Dean Dillon co-wrote “Tennessee Whiskey” with Linda Hargrove in the early ’80s, after a night together at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe.


 “It was 4 o’clock in the morning, and I had been drinking all night, and I met a young lady by the name of Linda Hargrove, and we decided to go home together—but not for what everybody thought,” Dillon told Nash Country Daily. “I had the idea for the song, and we sat at her house at 4 o’clock in the morning and wrote that song. And the rest is history.”

The song was actually first pitched to George Strait but turned it down. David Allan Coe was the first country singer to cut the song and made it the title song of an album he released in 1981. Tennessee Whiskey by David Allan Coe was so strong that even it alone could get you drunk! 

However, David Allan Coe’s Tennessee Whiskey didn’t top the charts, it only peaked at No. 77 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. Two years later, George Jones released his own rendition of the song, and it was a major hit, reaching all the way to No. 2 on the Hot Country Singles chart.

In the 1985 Farm Aid concert, the unexpected happened. In the middle of George Jones’ performance of “Tennessee Whiskey,” Coe went up the stage and joined him for a duet on the first chorus. Although Jones and Coe only shared the stage for a brief moment, it was one of the highlights of the concert. The presence of two country legends made the crowd go wild.

After George Jones’ Tennessee Whiskey was released, the song practically faded into the history books.

“Tennessee Whiskey” Came Back To Light 

 “Tennessee Whiskey” is no doubt a classic country drinking song. David Allan Coe Tennessee Whiskey lyrics like “you’re as smooth as Tennessee Whiskey” and “you’re as sweet as strawberry wine” could truly make anyone gush. It’s a great story of how a lover was able to save someone from alcohol abuse.

David Allan Coe Tennessee Whiskey chords are of traditional country style. It’s this sort of style that many aspiring artists and other country stars enjoy when they cover the song. When Chris Stapleton revived “Tennessee Whiskey” in 2015, many others follow.

There’s Meghan Linsey, who belted out ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ during ‘The Voice’ semi-finals. She earned praise from none other than George Jones’ daughter. Australian singer Judah Kelly also covered the song on his debut album, Count On Me, in 2017. While artist Keke Wyatt released a smooth rendition of the song for her album of covers called “Keke Covers.” Wyatt carefully did an R&B inspired version of the tune without straying away from its original country vibe.

“Tennessee Whiskey” has undoubtedly a significant and growing presence until now, and we will never get tired listening to it. 

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