Blake Shelton’s ‘Ol’ Red’: Story Behind the Hit Song

by Kayla Zadel
blake-sheltons-ol-red-story-behind-hit-song

Maybe Blake Shelton was “itching to have a little fun” with this country classic or he just knew what was best for his career. Either way, “Ol’ Red” is that song that gets stuck in your head. The hit song is now a major brand for the country crooner.

‘Ol’ Red’ is not a Blake Shelton Original

Yes, you read that right. The song about the prison hound and escapee was originally sung by George Jones in 1990. Jones’ version didn’t gain any traction, therefore, not many people know that he was the first to sing it.

Then Kenny Rogers took a crack at the song in 1993. He added it to his album If Only My Heart Had A Voice. But just like Jones, Roger’s version wasn’t successful.

It wasn’t until 2001 that Shelton recorded the song and made it a hit in 2002. “Ol’ Red” is part of his very first studio album. However, it didn’t come without some struggle to get the song where it is today.

“It’s so strange to me that was the very first song I ever found accidentally when I moved to Nashville. I held onto it for many, many years and had to fight to get it on my album. Once I got it on my album, I had to fight to get it released as a single. Then it was another battle to get them to put it out as a video,” Shelton said in a 2010 webcast, according to Song Facts.

“Even though they liked the song, nobody ever thought that it would be something accepted in country radio and by country music fans in general,” the singer continues to say. “I think they thought that type of song was dead and gone. To be honest, I wasn’t sure, either. I just loved it that much and, thank God, on the first album I was lucky enough to have two of the biggest hits of my career.”

“Ol’ Red” placed at number fourteen on the Billboard Hot Country chart, and it sold a million copies according to RIAA. Though it didn’t receive any No. 1 accolades, it’s still considered one of Shelton’s signature songs.

Why Shelton’s Version of the Song Worked

It might be like the age old saying goes, “right time, right place.”

But there’s credit due to singer that adopted the song that he’s since named a chain of his bars after.

Blake Shelton’s country sound fit the mold of the early 2000s. It was something that the Oklahoman used to his advantage in this song about an inmate.

“Well, I caught my wife with another man /And it cost me ninety-nine,” the first verse start. However, after making friends with the warden, the man is rewarded by taking care of his dog named Ol’ Red. Ol’ Red has a knack for tracking escaped prisoners, but that doesn’t stop this man from devising a plan to escape.

The narrator writes to his cousin in Tennessee and sends a female dog his way to distract Ol’ Red. His attempt to flee is successful, because “love got me in here and love got me out” as the song says in the end.

Other Versions of ‘Ol Red’

Listen to George Jones’ version here. While his version is great, it’s perhaps it’s just what the country music audience was wanting at the time.

Then there’s Kenny Rogers’ take on the track. His version has more of a rock and roll feel to it with the electric guitar in the background.

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