In 1985, brothers Paul and Gene Nelson decided the final drive of a retiring trucker could provide an interesting storyline. They concocted the title, then left it for a year. They finally completed the song “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” in 1986. In the process, they substituted their uncle’s name, “Charlie” in place of Hop.
History of the Song
Pat Higdon of Warner Bros. Music put together a lengthy tape of the Nelsons’ material. He gave it to Kathy Mattea, who found “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” in the middle. Mattea then played several of the songs for her producer Allen Reynolds. She told Reynolds that she liked “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” best. After hearing the tape, Reynolds agreed that it was a winner. Mattea assumed that with the “truckin’” theme, a man would be chosen to record it. However, to Kathy’s surprise, Reynolds suggested that she cut it.
Kathy Mattea’s recording of “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” went down in one take. According to Reynolds:
“It was no problem. It just fell right into place, and when we came in and listened to the playback, everybody said ‘yeah, that’s the only cut we’re gonna need.’ Kathy said, ‘that was easy, what’s next?’ It’s a funny thing how some of those special ones come together just that way.”
“Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” was placed on Mattea’s “Untasted Honey” album, released in October of 1987. Radio programmers all over the country picked up on “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” and began playing it off the album. The response was so great that a campaign began. It had been a recommendation that the song becomes a follow-up single once “Goin’ Gone” finished its run.
Mercury quickly issued “Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” as a single. Thereafter, it had sailed to the No. 1 position on Billboard’s country chart on May 21, 1988. At the time the record peaked, Kathy was on tour with her band in Europe. She told the Music City News Magazine:
“When we left, things were normal but when we got back, the phones were smokin’
and everybody was going nuts.”
“Eighteen Wheels And A Dozen Roses” earned “Single Record Of The Year” honors from both the Country Music Association and the Academy Of Country Music, and the ACM also named it “Song Of The Year.” In addition, the title appeared in the dialogue of the movie “Rain Man,” which won for Dustin Hoffman his second “Best Actor” Oscar.