“I Wish Grandpas Never Died” isn’t Riley Green’s debut single. But what it is is the song that made country fans take notice of the newcomer, and one he’ll probably have in his set list for all of eternity.
And like so many classic country songs, this one wasn’t even written in some official songwriting session in Nashville.
It was written on an airplane.
Green shared the story behind the song in the latest issue of industry magazine Country Aircheck, and while something good came out of the flight, he was on his way to something heartbreaking.
“’I Wish Grandpas Never Died’ is about my two grandaddies — how they were a big influence on me growing up and values they taught me as a kid,” Green said of the song.
“I wrote the idea down when I was flying back from Las Vegas to go to my granddaddy‘s funeral,” he said. “I didn’t think it was even going to make my record; my album was done, and we had another single going to radio. I don’t think I ever really judged a song of mine and said, ’Okay, this is a hit,’ when I wrote it, and I certainly didn’t (think that) about this song.
“But getting to play it live and seeing fans reacting to it the way they have and having a little bit of life of its own, even before we recorded it, was a pretty crazy thing.”
Here’s exactly what it looks like when fans react to a song this special:
Green gave songwriting credits to both of his late grandfathers — Buford Green and Lendon Bonds — on the song. The song is on Green’s debut album Different ’Round Here.
And before that album was released, Green was a contestant on CMT’s reality show Redneck Island, and in 2016, he and Becky Andrews won the $100,000 grand prize.