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From Napkin to Number One: Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places”

From Napkin to Number One: Garth Brooks' "Friends in Low Places"
by
  • Riley is a Senior Country Music Journalist for Country Thang Daily, known for her engaging storytelling and insightful coverage of the genre.
  • Before joining Country Thang Daily, Riley developed her expertise at Billboard and People magazine, focusing on feature stories and music reviews.
  • Riley has a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from Belmont University, with a minor in Cultural Studies.

Garth Brooks’ 1990 album No Fences collected four consecutive number-one hits, but one song undeniably stood out — his lead single, “Friends in Low Places,” which won an ACM and CMA award for Single of the Year. And it did for two reasons: the lyrical prowess of the track and, more importantly, Brooks’ phenomenal delivery of it. After all, you don’t get a chart-topper with just beautifully crafted lyrics. It also has to touch listeners. Without that connection with the audience, the song would just be a collection of words. 

And until now, it has remained one of Garth Brooks’s best and most popular songs. It has even cemented itself as a classic in country music. 

Meaning Behind the Song

“Friends in Low Places” was written by Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee. The two were out with songwriter friends for lunch at Tavern on the Row in Nashville. But when the check came, Lee realized he had forgotten his money. And so, the question to him was how would he pay for the meal?

He responded, “Don’t worry. I have friends in low places. I know the cook.”

RELATED: 15 Country Songs Celebrating the Simple Life

When he said that line, he and his songwriting partner, Blackwell, immediately knew the phrase “friends in low places” had potential. It remained an untouched idea for quite some time until they found themselves discussing it at a party. That night, they went on to write the song on a paper napkin.

It started with Brooks making his rugged introduction at what seemed to be an old flame’s engagement party or wedding reception, singing, “Blame it all on my roots, I showed up in boots.” He was sorry that his cowboy look ruined the black-tie affair, but that was just who he was. And he couldn’t be more proud of his origin. 

RELATED: 10 Country Songs That Inspire You to Live Life to the Fullest and Enjoy Each Day

The original song only had two verses, but a third was added to it in his 1998 live album Double Live. It was a repeat of the second verse, but instead of singing, “Just give me an hour and then / Well, I’ll be as high as that ivory tower / That you’re livin’ in,” he went for a diss. 

“Just wait ’til I’ve finished this glass / Then sweet little lady / I’ll head back to the bar / And you can kiss my ass!” He wasn’t sorry after all. 

Listen to Garth Brooks’s “Friends in Low Places” in the video below. You can also check out earlier versions of the song by David Chamberlain and Mark Chesnutt.

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