March 14

How “Murder on Music Row” Became a Country Music Standard


Murder on Music Row” was supposed to be a fun song. It used to be like that according to Larry Cordle who co-wrote it with Larry Shell. Despite the fun element that the songwriters would like it to embody, the song was basically written as a lament to the changing country music sound. As Shell recalled,

“We actually noticed [the spurning of traditional country music] around 1994 or ’95.” We noticed that our country songs were not being accepted very well. A&R people were starting to call us back and using the phrase ‘too country.’ So I guess the song was written out of that frustration. We didn’t expect any of this.”

That was more than two decades ago. And over the years, this trend seems to have never lost track. In fact, the issue of the decay of the traditional country sound and the emergence of the mainstream music style has become more prevalent at present. This then makes the song “Murder on Music Row” more and more relevant to this date.

Murder on Music Row, George Strait, Alan Jackson
ARLINGTON, TX – JUNE 07: Musicians Alan Jackson (R) performs “Amarillo By Morning” and “Murder On Music Row” with George Strait (L) onstage at George Strait’s ‘The Cowboy Rides Away Tour’ final stop at AT&T Stadium on June 7, 2014, in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for George Strait)

“Murder on Music Row” Becoming a Country Music Standard  

It was in 1999 when the song was first recorded by the bluegrass group Larry Cordle & Lonesome Standard Time. When the King of Country George Strait heard the song, he invited fellow country superstar Alan Jackson to record it with him. Prior to that, they performed the song at the 1999 CMA Awards as an expression of disapproval to the invasion of pop music into the country genre.

This performance would further propel the song to worldwide fame and reach tremendous commercial success. Moreover, “Murder on Music Row” went on to win two CMA Awards, namely Vocal Event of the Year and Song of the Year in 2000 and 2001, respectively.

When Strait and Jackson’s studio version was out in 2000, the song became even more popular as radios began playing it. Their duet record was never released as a single; however, it still managed to enter the music chart peaking at No. 38. Eventually, the song became a country music standard. The country icons’ version was included on Strait’s Latest Greatest Straightest Hits compilation.

Watch the video clip of their live performance of the song at 1999 CMA awards below.


Alan Jackson, Country Music Standard, George Strait

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