In December, Chris Young nabbed his first Grammy nomination when “Gettin’ You Home” landed in the best male country vocal performance category. He says the congratulatory call from his manager was completely unexpected.
“I had a rare night off and I was playing Call of Duty with three friends at my house. We weren’t doing anything productive at all,” Young recalls, laughing. “She said, ‘I just wanted to call and say you’re nominated for a Grammy.’ I was like, ‘What?!’ I started freaking out because I was blown away. Everybody in my house was wondering what was going on because they couldn’t hear anything on the other end. They just saw me losing my mind.”
During a recent visit to CMT, Young, who has since calmed down considerably, cordially chatted about 10 of his favorite Grammy-winning country classics.
“Behind Closed Doors,” Charlie Rich
1973, Best Country Vocal Performance, Male
1973, Best Country Song (Songwriter: Kenny O’Dell)
Vocally, that song is just amazing. That’s one that I’ve covered before. And it’s got such a cool melody, the way that song was done. I think that’s one of those songs you could sing 20 years from now and people will still love it.
“Big Bad John,” Jimmy Dean
1961, Best Country & Western Recording
I remember that was one of my favorite songs as a kid. I heard that when my grandfather was playing that at the house, and I was like, “That song is awesome!” I recently got to see Trace Adkins sing that with the Jordanaires at the [Country Music] Hall of Fame. Obviously that song is pretty dang perfect for him to sing. It was cool to hear that.
“Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain,” Willie Nelson
1975, Best Country Vocal Performance, Male
On top of being a Willie Nelson fan and the fact that I got to sing a duet with him on this last record, that was one of the first songs my grandfather taught me on guitar. We still play that. If I go over to their house for anything, we still sit down and that song ends up being played at some point.
“The Gambler,” Kenny Rogers
1978, Best Country Song (Songwriter: Don Schlitz)
1979, Best Country Vocal Performance, Male
I remember two years ago I was playing a sorority event with a crowd of people in their early 20s. It was this room full of people that I didn’t know. We were all goofing off and I thought, “What can we play that everybody’s going to know, that’s really country?” And we started out singing, “On a warm summer’s evening on a train bound for nowhere.” Everybody started losing their mind! Everybody loves that song.
“Go Rest High on That Mountain,”
1995, Best Male Country Vocal Performance
1995, Best Country Song (songwriter: Vince Gill)
One of the reasons I was excited to be nominated for country vocal performance, for me as an artist, [was because] I always wanted to be known as a good singer. I actually heard Vince Gill do that song. He kicked his band off stage and just played it by himself and smoked it. I mean, it sounded just like the record. He was always somebody that made me say, “That’s what I want to be able to do as an artist.”
“King of the Road,” Roger Miller
1965, Best Contemporary (R&R) Single
1965, Best Contemporary (R&R) Vocal Performance, Male
1965, Best Country & Western Single
1965, Best Country & Western Vocal Performance, Male
1965, Best Country & Western Song (Songwriter: Roger Miller)
To me, that’s the perfect example of a song that lives and breathes on its own. There’s not a lot to that. Where that melody switches, when it does that little modulation thing … there are so many things that are so simple, but so perfect and done at the right moment in the song. Some of the visuals in that song are so different, you know? “Trailers for sale or rent” … just that line, in and of itself, who would think, “This is how I’m going to start this song”? It’s such a great space that he had to be in when the song was written. Everybody loves singing that.
“Kiss an Angel Good Mornin’,” Charley Pride
1972, Best Country Song (Songwriter: Ben Peters)
To me, that song is so great because it seems like you should have written it. It’s like, “I could have written that song.” And that, to me, is what some of the best songs are, in any format. It’s like, “Why didn’t I think of this?” It’s a great melody on that song.
“Live Like You Were Dying,”
2004, Best Male Country Vocal Performance
2004, Best Country Song (Songwriters: Craig Wiseman and Tim Nichols)
Obviously, that’s one of the biggest songs ever. He broke sales records in the first week with that album because of that song. That song was such a moment. I really love the way it’s written. … This is one of those songs where, as a songwriter, you hope you write something that good. It’s beyond writing a No. 1. That’s like a career-defining song as a songwriter and for him as an artist. That’s such a simple message, but it says everything in the title. It touched so many people on so many different levels.
“Stranger in My House,” Ronnie Milsap
1983, Best New Country Song (Songwriter: Mike Reid)
That song singlehandedly made a lot of people want to learn how to play the B-3 [organ]. (laughs) I have to learn to play piano so I can play “Stranger in My House.” Ronnie Milsap is an insanely talented musician all the way around, as a vocalist and player. That’s another song when you start playing it, I don’t care how old or young the people are, they’re all going to recognize that song, and they’re all going to love it.
“Whoever’s in New England,” Reba McEntire
1986, Best Country Vocal Performance, Female
That’s a classic song that’s so well-written. As a songwriter or an artist, you’d kill to have a song like that. It really has that much power in it. I know so many people who say that’s one of their favorite songs. I don’t know that many people who aren’t the biggest Reba fans, but even if she isn’t one of their Top 5 artists, that’s still probably one of their Top 10 songs. I love the way it’s written. I really do. You talk about somebody singing, she sang her butt off on that song. She sucks you into that song. There’s a lot of emotion in her delivery on that.