‘Callin’ Baton Rouge’ by Garth Brooks: Story Behind One of Legend’s All-Time Love Songs

by Suzanne Halliburton
Photo by Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

With fiddles playing and Garth Brooks singing, “Callin Baton Rouge” makes you want to dance, or at least tap your feet.

So come on. Get up. It’s a happy song, a perfect country tune about love, drinking and driving trucks.

In the song, a truck driver is hauling down the highway. But all he can think about is the night he spent with a girl named Samantha, who he calls a “strange combination of a woman and a child.” He’s downright obsessed. Some of the details are hazy. But he’s determined to track her down back in Baton Rouge. Operator, won’t you find her, please?

“A replay of last night’s events, roll through my mind. Except a scene or two, erased by sweet red wine. And I see a truck stop sign ahead. So I change lanes. I need a cup of coffee and a couple dollars change. Callin’ Baton Rouge.”

New Grass Revival Recorded Song Before Garth Brooks

Brooks made the song famous when he included it on his “In Pieces” album in 1993. But the song has its roots in the late 1970s. Dennis Rinde wrote it. The Oak Ridge Boys recorded it in 1978.

Almost a decade later, New Grass Revival, a progressive bluegrass group, recorded “Callin Baton Rouge” for their album “Friday Night In America.” The song reached No. 37 on the country charts.

Four years later, the song was Brooks’ fifth single off his “In Pieces” album. His version of “Callin’ Baton Rouge” intentionally embraced the bluegrass. It hit No. 2 on the country charts.

In the notes released with the CD, Garth Brooks wrote that he’d been a long-time fan of New Grass Revival. That’s why he invited them to play on his album. The group had broken up about a year after they’d released “Callin’ Baton Rouge.”

Brooks wrote: “I have always been a fan of “Baton Rouge.” I was, still am, and always will be a fan of the members of New Grass Revival, four guys well ahead of their time (even if they came out thirty years from now).

“Baton Rouge” was a single for them about the time my first album was released. This song did not even break the top 30 and I believe it did not get a fair shot. When we recorded it, it seemed only natural to bring in the guys from New Grass Revival.

“This was the first time the New Grass Revival had been together since their breakup over a year prior to the recording of this song. It was a very good day and an extremely proud moment. And I think this is reflected in the cut itself.”

LSU Made “Callin Baton Rouge” Its Unofficial Alma Mater

The city of Baton Rouge is the capital of Louisiana. And as you’d expect, the folks in Baton Rouge love the song.

LSU, which is in Baton Rouge, claimed it as their unofficial school song. Playing the song now is a pre-game tradition at LSU home football games. Imagine 100,000 people singing it. It’s also the runout song for the LSU baseball team. The basketball arena plays it to close out the games. Brooks, though, is an Oklahoma State grad, but the song is so good, LSU fans can overlook that detail.

And, it seems fitting that bars near the LSU campus play “Callin’ Baton Rouge” at closing time. Somewhere a young man is pining for his Samantha.

Check out Brooks’ performance of the song on the Ellen DeGeneres show.