Crystal Gayle went in to cut “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” on October 27, 1976. She had to tackle it using a different keyboard player that she was familiar with. Her usual pianist, Charles Cochran, was recovering from a mild stroke and was experiencing some numbness in his hands as a result. Producer Allen Reynolds hired a substitute piano player for the session. However, this was no ordinary substitute. It was the legendary Hargus “Pig” Robbins, who had played so memorably on dozens of classic country hits. For “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue,” Robbins instantly devised the song’s signature acoustic piano riff, which gave it a “bluesy” feel. It probably contributed as much as anything to the record becoming the big hit that it was. Cochran had recovered enough to participate in the session.
“Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” brought its songwriter Richard Leigh his second “Song of the Year” award from the Country Music Association. Not only that, he also netted two Grammys. It was Gayle’s only million-selling single, stayed atop Billboard’s country chart for an entire month. In 1978, Crystal’s album “We Must Believe In Magic” became the first platinum album certified by the Recording Industry Association of America for a Nashville-based female artist. In 1999, “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” was recognized by ASCAP as one of the ten most-performed songs of the 20th Century.
The song has an unfortunate postscript. Richard Leigh wrote it while his dog, Amanda, sat at his feet, staring up at him with her big brown eyes. A few years later, a trash collector threw rocks at the dog, hitting her in one of her eyes. Amanda developed cataracts, and one of her brown eyes literally turned blue.
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