Inspired by a Novel, “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams 1

The Inspiration

This hit by Don Williams was written by Bob McDill. So the story of this song starts from his fishing bud, Tom Connelly. He was a writer and Connelly wrote several books about civil war. Those books ignited McDill’s renewed interest in Southern literature. Connelly introduced McDill to Robert Penn Warren who won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for the “All The King’s Men”. McDill was fascinated with his material and his final novel “A Place To Come To”. The final novel was the inspiration behind the song “Good Ole Boys Like Me”.

McDill’s Story as A Songwriter

In McDill’s song, he threw in his radio–listening habits while growing up along the coast of East Texas. He was mesmerized by a radio station out of Nashville that came beaming into his area at night via its 50,000-watt skywave signal. A group of disc jockeys, John Richbourg aka John R., Gene Nobles, and Herman Grizzard & Bill “Hoss” Allen made up the staff that played these records on WLAC late at night. They were known as the “50,000 Watt Quartet.” Arguably, Richbourg was the most well-known of the group. It was not only for his unique on-air patter but also in his personal efforts to help struggling new R & B performers. The radio personality also maintained a second career as a record producer and promoter. McDill gives a heartfelt “tip of the hat” to Richbourg in “Good Ole Boys Like Me.”

When McDill reached adulthood, he migrated up to Memphis to break into the music scene as an R & B songwriter. He was doing his best trying to write the music that he felt he was destined for. However, late one night he went riding around town with some friends, and George Jones’ “A Good Year For The Roses” came on the car radio. It hit Bob like a ton of bricks.

He listened closely to the words and an instant and a powerful revelation overtook him.

There was a real rage bubbling underneath those lyrics. It was something McDill had never experienced before. It was at that moment that Bob decided to switch his musical focus and start writing country songs.

Pitching the Song

After McDill moved to Nashville, one of his staunchest supporters was Don Williams. In all, thirteen of McDill’s compositions became hits for Williams. McDill played “Good Ole Boys Like Me” for Don and to his surprise, Williams didn’t snap it up like he usually did when Bob offered him a song. Instead, Williams told him that he would take it upon himself to pitch it to Kenny Rogers. Williams was thinking it might be a bigger hit with Kenny since he was having a lot of crossover success at that time. Unfortunately, Rogers passed on to the song saying: “It’s too literary, it’s too esoteric”. So Williams called McDill and said, “Kenny turned it down, so I guess you’ll have to settle for me cutting it”. McDill Replied, “That’s fine with me!”

Don Williams’ release of “Good Ole Boys Like Me” was strong enough to reach No. 2 for three weeks. However, it didn’t quite manage to make the summit of Billboard’s country singles chart in the early summer of 1980.