Alan Jackson’s ‘Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow’: Story Behind the Hit Song About Following Your Dreams

by Katie Maloney
(Photo By Rick Diamond/Getty Images)

Did you know that one of Alan Jackson’s first hit songs was about his life before hitting it big in the country music world?

Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” was the fourth single from Alan Jackson’s first album, Here in the Real World. The song is about pursuing your dreams no matter what obstacles come your way. During the song, Jackson sings, “Singin’ in the bars and
Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow, Livin’ that honky-tonk dream, cause all I’ve ever wanted is to pick this guitar and sing.”

Jackson co-wrote the song with Jim McBride and released the song in 1990. The song soared to the number two spot on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart. Jackson even earned a Top 50 spot (number 48) on the year-end chart for the song.

Alan Jackson’s “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow”

Is The Song Really About Alan Jackson’s Life?

During an interview, Jackson’s co-writer, Jim McBride, shared his experiences with writing a song with Alan Jackson. He said that Jackson was on the road constantly. He would drive to Florida and play five or six sets a night. Then do the exact same thing in Arkansas the next week. However, by the time he paid the band and bought gas, he barely broke even. So, Jackson was complaining to McBride about how easily other musicians were getting their big breaks. And he wondered if he’d ever get his.

“I had had this song idea for two solid years that I never did anything with because I’d never been in a band. The title was called “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow, Livin’ That Honky-Tonk Dream,” said McBride. “I’d written it down and carried it around for two years in my notebook. As Alan was telling me what he was going through, I thought, ‘That’s what this song is all about.’ I told him the title and how I thought it was exactly what he describing.”

The Country Music Hall Of Fame Asked For The Songs Original Lyrics

Jackson agreed that the song was perfect for him. He teamed up with McBride to finish writing it. It was the first song the two ever wrote together. Years later, the Country Music Hall of Fame asked McBride if he still had the original lyrics. They wanted to place the pages in the museum along with the radio Alan Jackson mentions in the song.

“It was kind of embarrassing,” said McBride. “I told them they were a mess, and they said if I changed one single thing, they wouldn’t want them. Well, they were on four separate yellow pad pages – a verse on every page, and the chorus on another page. It was an unholy mess. When they displayed the radio, at first they displayed the lyrics with it, but now I think it’s just the radio out there. The lyrics are in the archives,” said McBride.