Ricky Van Shelton and “I’ll Leave This World Loving You” 11

The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer

Before Ricky Van Shelton’s success from this song came, the story of the song starts with the original artist, Wayne Kemp.

Wayne Kemp first appeared on the national scene when his song “Love Bug” went into the top 10 for the great George Jones in 1965. After three years, Kemp gave Conway Twitty his first major hit, “The Image Of Me.”  Conway Twitty liked the works of Wayne Kemp. He liked it so much he recorded several more of Kemp’s songs, like his first No. 1 “Next In Line,” “Darling, You Know I Wouldn’t Lie,” and “That’s When She Started To Stop Loving You.” Thereafter, Kemp was hired to play the guitar in Conway Twitty’s road band while he was also trying to get his own recording career. Between 1969 and 1975, Kemp gave Decca records several solid country records. Unfortunately, he never could hit a chart-topper as an artist.

The brilliant Ronnie Milsap used Kemp’s song to fill up his 1975 album, “(I’d be) A Legend In Time.” By 1980, Wayne changed his label and started recording for Mercury. He re-recorded his song “I’ll Leave This World Loving You.” However, it failed to become a hit.

Several years later, a staff producer at Columbia Records noticed the song. That producer was Steve Buckingham. He was in the process of saving songs that he particularly liked in hopes for someday, a signing singer to the label that he thought the material might be right for. That singer walked into Mercury Record’s for, in 1987, it was Ricky Van Shelton.

The Great Story Teller

The debut album of Ricky Van Shelton “Wild-Eyed Dream” had already produced three No. 1 singles and all was from Steve Buckingham’s stash of previous recordings. Thereafter, Shelton and Buckingham were working for Shelton’s second album and amongst the songs they selected was Kemp’s “I’ll Leave This World Loving You.” Shelton was familiar with the song as a waltz. He explained that if you take a waltz and re-work it to 4/4, then you essentially have a brand new song. If you phrase it differently and enunciate it differently, and for a country song, that format usually comes off sounding better. This particular idea achieved the desired results for Shelton’s cut of “I’ll Leave This World Loving You.” The single jumped to No. 1 on Billboard’s country chart November 19, 1988, for Ricky’s fourth of ten rides to the peak of the country charts.