Back in 1992, country icon Alan Jackson released a song that would resonate with listeners everywhere—except one. Fellow country legend Waylon Jennings didn’t quite understand what that muddy water meant to him.
Jackson posted a video to Twitter in which he shares his interaction with Jennings. Jackson sits stoically in a classic red Western shirt with intricate embroidery. As always, he has on his white cowboy hat and his guitar perched in his lap. Somehow, he always seems ready for his next album cover photo shoot.
Alan Jackson’s Award-Winning ‘Chattahoochee’
In the video, Alan Jackson laughed as he talked about Jennings’ reaction to his hit, “Chattahoochee.” Released in 1992 with his third album which got its name from lyrics in the song, Lot About Living (And a Little ‘Bout Love), “Chattahoochee” would become No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. After coming out with the entire album, the following year, producers released the song a single as well. In 1993, “Chattahoochee” won CMA Awards for Single of the Year and Song of the Year as well as the No. 1 spot on the year-end Billboard Country Songs chart.
While “Chattahoochee’s” message certainly applies to anyone’s hometown watering hole, the song got its namesake from the Chattahoochee River that runs through Georgia and Alabama. Given how close the river was to Jackson’s hometown of Newnan, Ga., songwriter Jim McBride knew the song would be perfect for the country star.
However, not everyone was as enthusiastic about the song’s message at first. In fact, Jennings didn’t even understand what the song was about.
“Waylon Jennings said, ‘What the hell is a Chattahoochee?'” Alan Jackson reported, chuckling to himself. Originally, though, this made the country star nervous to record and release the single.
“That’s why it was surprising to me when they decided to put ‘Chattahoochee’ out,” Jackson said. “I was reluctant because I said, ‘Nobody’s going to know what that is.'”
Why ‘Chattahoochee’ Became Such a Big Hit
According to songwriter Jim McBride, the Chattahoochee River was something he and Alan Jackson shared. Since McBride grew up in Alabama, on the other side of the water from Jackson, he knew how central of a role a muddy river can play to kids growing up in a small town.
Despite Waylon Jennings’ initial reaction, fans raved over the song.
“When the song was released as a single, I had never experienced anything like it before,” McBride explained. “It was amazing what happened and is still happening. The truth is, if Alan’s had a bigger impact single than ‘Chattahoochee,’ I wish someone would tell me what it is.”
As the song grew in popularity, the country icon realized what made his single so special to fans.
“[People are] just trying to do the same things. Make a living, raise a family, enjoy life,” Jackson said. “I learned that there’s a ‘Chattahoochee’ everywhere.”