“Ol’ Red” is a song that James “Bo” Bohan, Don Goodman and Mark Sherrill composed. Originally, George Jones included the track on his album You Oughta Be Here with Me in 1990. Three years after, Kenny Rogers covered the single on his 1993 album If Only My Heart Had a Voice. In August 1993, Warner Brothers Nashville released Rogers’ version as a single. Lastly, Blake Shelton made his own version in 2002. It was the third and final single released from his self-titled debut album. In addition, “Ol’ Red” became a top 20 hit.
Shelton’s version of the song includes a backing vocal from Rachel Proctor. Although his cover did not reach the Top Ten, “Ol’ Red” is one of Blake Shelton’s most commonly requested songs. Also, Blake admitted that it is his signature song.
“Ol’ Red” and his Caretaker
The character in the song is a prisoner serving a 99-year sentence for committing a crime of passion. He murdered the man with whom his wife was having an affair. Two years into his captivity, the warden offers him a job taking care of Ol’ Red, a Bloodhound. The dog happens to be used by the prison guards to track escaping inmates. Having a great sense of smell, this watchdog has outwitted every breakout attempt on his watch. At times, to outsmart the prisoners with the creature’s antics, the warden dares the inmates to make such attempts.
After some time, the narrator writes a letter to his cousin. To have the mail delivered, he bribed one of the guards. Not long enough, his cousin delivers an unnamed female Bluetick Coonhound and places her in a pen not too far from the prison. During Ol’ Red’s evening exercise runs, the inmate pairs him up with the Bluetick. After Ol’ Red has become accustomed to these visits, the captive keeps him away from the female dog for several days. He intentionally does this in order to make him anxious to see her.
Soon enough, the prisoner escapes knowing that Ol’ Red will lead the pursuing wardens to the Bluetick instead of following his trail. At the last part of the song, the lines reveal that the getaway was successful as the narrator heads north to Tennessee. Ol’ Red and the Bluetick had a litter of puppies and they lived happily ever after.
And the warden sang
Come on somebody
Why don’t you run
Ol’ Red’s itchin’ to have a little fun
Get my lantern
Get my gun
Red’ll have you treed before the mornin’ comes
Now there’s red haired blue ticks all in the South
Love got me in here and love got me out
Blake Shelton, George Jones, ol' red
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